‘Tally one ace’ for New Castle
Post Independent Sports Editor
NEW CASTLE — The grand town of New Castle, Colorado, brought on a spectacle of base ball on Saturday.
This spectacle allowed only prescription spectacles to be worn by ballists on the base ball playing field, shunning plastic-rimmed eyewear which didn’t exist before the turn of the 20th Century. “Cranks,” who today are known as spectators, surrounded the field of play, though cranks under the age of 6 were issued warnings when they wandered either near or onto the field.
Strikers were also issued warnings when hurlers gave them appropriate tosses, and hurlers were treated likewise when the official deemed a toss unhittable. And politeness wasn’t lost regardless of who tallied more runs than another team, as ballists had to politely ask the head scorekeeper to “tally one ace” upon crossing home plate.
Such was the spectacle of the Vintage Base Ball Tournament at VIX Park, which drew in cranks aplenty to watch base ball games played under Civil War-era rules. The tournament was a part of the 125th anniversary of New Castle’s founding, though rules which ballists played under predated the town’s inaugural year of 1888.
The rules of that late-century era, however, countered the goals of the people running the tournament. That spurred the usage of the above-mentioned rules, which some find more amusing.
“The rules of 1888 are very similar to the rules of current-day baseball,” stated Larry McDonald, New Castle’s Recreation Director who can claim responsibility for the tournament’s existence this weekend. “Those earlier rules are more fun and interesting. The rules from the early 1900s were all about the same as the rules are today. When we looked at that, we said, ‘what’s the point?’”
One of the teams in the three-team tournament scored many more points, or runs, than others. The Silt All-Star team had a wealth of experience on the two teams from New Castle, though the New Castle Blues had gotten the best of Silt and its town counterparts, the Miners. The Blues proved triumphant in the tournament, prevailing, 13-4, in its title bout against Silt.
Though scores may have been lopsided during the tournament — one of the Blues’ victories was a 22-0 destruction of the Miners — ballists who have been returning to play for years on end continue to take the field with no hard feelings regardless of the scores.
“This is just fun,” said Silt’s Jon Nestor, 47, who helped organize the Silt team 19 years ago. “I could go out and play competitive rec ball if I really wanted to, but everyone there is playing for a trophy. This is fun no matter what.”
Even anchored into the lineup cards were the nicknames of each player. Some were creative, such as Dan “Corndog” Leifelo, Tom “Lumpy” Baker, or Luke “Super Nova” Novaseo.
Umpires would issue first and second warnings to hurlers who threw unhittable balls to strikers, and three more unhittable “balls” would prompt a pass to first base. If a striker was hit by a ball thrown by the hurler, the only warning given would be to the striker in the form of “you should have gotten out of the way.”
Some ballists in that time frame also could bribe umpires to get calls to go their way. One ballist from the Miners attempted to do that — to no avail.
“We try to keep the game as authentic to the time period as possible,” said Bruce “Old Hoss” Foster, who officiated the tournament with his twin brother, Richard “Rube” Foster. “We’re out here having fun just like everyone else.”
The Fosters are part of the contingent who founded the Colorado Vintage Base Ball Association in 1993. Since then, five teams have sprung up on the Front Range, but Silt is the only town on the Western Slope which has a team.
And though only three teams were formed for the tournament, McDonald is inspired by the weekend’s enthusiasm that it could return.
“This has been fun,” he stated. “I’d like to do this again.”
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