Exhibition Vintage Base Ball Game a winner
for Goshen Township Historical Society
By Chuck (Crazylegs) Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (August 18, 2021) – The “Field of Dreams” Saturday, August 14, 2021 was the Goshen High School practice soccer field. The field was the site of the exhibition Vintage Base Ball Game featuring the visiting Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings Club versus the Goshen Schoolmasters Vintage Base Ball Club.
It could not have been a better day for Base Ball 1860’s style. The sky was mostly sunny with bags laid out in a diamond; 90-feet apart just like it was then and is today. There was plenty of difference though. The pitcher stood only 45 feet from the home bag (not 60’-6” like today’s modern game) and delivered the ball underhand to the “striker” aka: batter. The fielders were positioned at each of the three bags (bases, as we know it today) and three outfielders in left, center and right field, but the player we call shortstop is called “short scout” and can play anywhere.
The most critical difference: all the fielders, pitcher and catcher (called “back” in the 1800’s) were barehanded. Nobody wore a glove. Though slightly larger than a modern Major League baseball, the vintage ball is still equally hard and features a different pattern of stitching. Catching it barehanded requires some practice to guide a well-struck ball gently into your hands for an out without injury.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the 21 players appearing for the Goshen Schoolmaster Club captained by Darrell Edwards (Superintendent of Goshen Schools) and his co-captain Chief Bob Rose. By the way, Chief Rose offered up a most inspiring “Win one for the Gipper” pregame pep talk in great comedic style bringing laughter to every player. In the spirit of good fun and support for the Goshen Township Historical Society, it can be said for certain a gentlemen’s game of vintage Base Ball provided fun for everyone.
“The Goshen Township Historical Society has been a huge supporter of our schools and our students by providing local history educational experiences to our students and community,” said Edwards. “Today (Saturday) was another example of an outstanding family event where everyone could step back in time and enjoy baseball and the year 1869 and learn a little bit of history while having fun with friends and family members.”
We all had a real good time. Putting on the uniform of the Goshen Schoolmasters (Team named to honor the nickname of the famous Goshen Major League Baseball Player Sam Leever) was a proud moment for me. Leever had a stellar pitching career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but earned the nickname “Goshen Schoolmaster” because he taught in Goshen Schools before finally earning a spot with the Pirates in Major League Baseball. His excellence on the mound helped the Pirates to the first baseball World Series. I’m pretty sure each one of us was proud to put on the jersey and represent Goshen against the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.
“It was an honor to contribute to the event along with members of the local schools, fire department, police department, clergy, businesses, and others,” Edwards said. “The Red Stockings have a great team but I was really proud of the Goshen Schoolmaster’s team spirit, efforts, and camaraderie.”
Edwards had every reason to be proud of his Schoolmaster’s Club. There was pre-game warm up, team introductions (every player introduced with a nickname – mine was Crazylegs –whether we wanted it or not) the presentation of colors by the Boy Scouts and singing of the National Anthem. After that, in old time style, a bat toss between me and Red Stockings team captain Jason “Cool Papa” Patterson decided who would take the field first and who would bat first. I lost the bat toss.
Hey, I still say Cool Papa cheated putting his thumb on the bat knob. Oh well, they chose to be home team and took the field first. Our club failed to score in the first at bat. We fell behind failing to get three hands down before the Red Stockings got a couple runs across in the first inning. In vintage Base Ball a hand down is the same as what we call an out today. Three hands down ends the inning.
Our Schoolmaster’s struck the ball well in our second at bat. I was thrilled to strike a line drive into left field for a base hit, but was doubled up off first on a swinging bunt pop out by our next hitter. We were competing. In fact, we gave the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings a real run for their money as we began to field without making muffs (errors) getting hands down without allowing runs. I was able to handle everything thrown my way at second base recording two hands down in two defensive innings played without a muff. With 21 players, we rotated innings on the field. The game moved along, the Schoolmasters struck the ball well and ran through the bags safely scoring runs until we went to the bottom of the seventh (7th) inning holding four run advantage over the Red Stockings 11-7.
The Cincinnati Red Stockings captain Cool Papa was not worried about winning. His real name is Jason Patterson, and he grew up in nearby Loveland. He still makes his home in the area. He grew up watching the Reds, with Pete Rose and all the Big Red Machine and other Reds players over the years.
“When I joined this team, it was strictly for my love for baseball and my love for the Reds,” said Patterson. “Baseball has just always been my life.”
After joining the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings vintage club, things changed. Participating in events, like the exhibition Saturday to benefit others, gave the game new meaning for Cool Papa. A few years ago, they played an exhibition at Wright State University to benefit the Wounded Warriors.
“Doing events like that is more fun than playing the game,” Patterson said. “There were some children up there, amputees, missing legs and missing arms; I’m telling you, to see the smiles on those kids faces when we got to go out and play some ball with them, nothing beats that-absolutely nothing. I love being able to help other people and give back a little bit.”
Patterson and the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings gave back more than a little bit on Saturday. I don’t know the final tally, but there is no doubt the crowd donated to the Goshen Township Historical Society. They enjoyed great refreshments from the concession stand – all from generous donors and volunteers. One more lesson from vintage Base Ball before we go. The fans, as we call them today, were known back then as “cranks” and we had plenty of cranks out to support the cause Saturday while enjoying some vintage Base Ball. Now, back to the game.
Saturday was great fun, but the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings lived up to their history. That team was undefeated at 57-0, and this vintage club was not going to go down easy. Short story: They came back with a vengeance striking the ball well and scoring until they secured an 18-11 victory when the bats of the Schoolmaster’s fell silent. Cool Papa and the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings are ready to come back for more.
“I really hope we make that an annual event,” said Patterson. “I had a blast out there Saturday. That was one of the most fun days of Base Ball I’ve had since being on this team.”
He’s not alone. I had a blast even if I only hit one single and made an out on a fly ball foul my second at bat with the implementation of a vintage “one bounce” rule allowing the left fielder to catch my foul fly on just one bounce to make me one hand down.
It was truly a great day with a whole bunch of great gentlemen and ladies playing the glorious game of Base Ball. For the love of the game sure, but this one was a win for the Goshen Township Historical Society. Darrell Edwards summed it up best.
“What a great time was had by all,” concluded Edwards.