Murphysboro, Ill., team bringing 1860s-style baseball to Jackson this month

Thursday, April 8, 2010
The Clarkes vintage base ball team will take the field in an exhibition game against a group of local men on April 24 in Jackson City Park. (Photo courtesy of Clarkes home page)

Baseball fans will see how the game was played in the 1860s when a team from Murphysboro, Ill., comes to Jackson City Park to play this month.

Scheduled for April 24, the game will feature the Clarkes vintage baseball team, dressed in 19th-century-style uniforms, playing a group of local men.

Vintage baseball rules and terminology differ from those in modern baseball. According to the Clarkes' page at www.murphysboro.com, in vintage baseball the sport is spelled "base ball," a run is an ace, an umpire is called an arbitor, spectators are called cranks and pitchers are known as hurlers.

Hurlers throw the ball underhanded, all bats are wooden, players are not allowed to argue calls with an arbitor and players cannot wear gloves to catch the ball. Additionally, a ball is ruled an out if it is caught in the air or bounces off the ground once before landing in a player's hands.

General manager Russ Wright, who helped found the team that played its first game in 2005, said the Clarkes and other vintage teams allow men to continue playing a game they love.

"We call it going along the track one more time," Wright said.

Wright said he hopes the exhibition game will be the start of something bigger. He envisions teams from Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Perryville and Sikeston in Missouri and from Du Quoin and Marion in Illinois one day playing against each other in a vintage league.

When the team visits Jackson, Wright said, he and Clarkes players would be available to answer any questions about vintage baseball or starting a team. He said startup costs for a team of 15 averages about $2,000, though sponsors can offset some of that cost.

"Our visit to Jackson will hopefully stir up some interest from people interested in starting a league in our area," Wright said. "This area loves its baseball, and we would like to have those passionate about the game to play each other on a regular basis."

The game is part of the 20th annual Mississippi River Scenic Drive, said Estelee Wood of Jackson, one of the organizers of the drive. The event allows for others to visit events at various landmarks in Southeast Missouri as those communities celebrate spring April 24 and 25.

Wood said she has four men committed to play on the local team when the Clarkes visit. She hopes to get six or seven more players, possibly more, between the ages of 25 and 50. No entry fee is required to participate.

For more information on playing in the game, call Wood at 275-7487.

"This game will be strictly for fun and education of vintage baseball," Wood said. "As long as everyone is laughing and having a good time, we'll call it a successful day. The vintage team loves to play baseball and show others in this area how the game was played years ago."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

243-6635

Pertinent address:

Jackson, MO

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