By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Menlo Park resident Dr. John Eliot thinks it was a shame that kids growing up following baseball these days are unaware of the past stars of the game. He wanted today's youth to become reacquainted with the players their fathers and mothers followed.
That's how the Vintage9 foundation was born. Eliot serves as Chairman and Melanie Hellmann is the Executive Director. The foundation, based in Redwood City, encourages interaction between older players and children through "Vintage Base Ball World Series," a series of baseball games played in small venues based on the 1886 rules of the game.
Four teams, each with a pair of former major league players, gathered at Santa Clara's Washington Park to participate in such an event over the weekend, with a total of seven games played. Kids loved it and their parents did too, bringing back memories of their own childhood.
"There's so much to learn from the older players that I wanted to create a forum in which we could reintroduce them to a new generation of fans," said Eliot, who formed the non-profit organization in 2009. "It's gotten popular and helps us raise money to create opportunities for kids who would otherwise not be able to afford to play the game."
A free youth clinic is included in every event and retired players are more than happy to come back, play the games and share their experiences with the younger fans.
In 1886, there were no errors. If you reached base safely it was ruled a hit. Foul balls were called unfair hits and were not called strikes. Of course, it also took seven balls before a batter walked.
The outfield was called the garden and the outfielders were scouts. Base Tenders made up in the infield, with rover (shortstop) being the toughest position.
The hurler threw the ball to the behind, who was catching, and the ballist was trying to hit. You could start your motion anywhere in the hurler's box, which was a foot behind and a foot in front of the rubber and you could try to catch the ballist off guard with a quick pitch. Balks also did not exist, so a hurler could fake to any base, even first.
The umpire, or arbitrator, stood off to one side when making his calls and if there was a close play questioned by a player, the umpire brought the captains (managers) together to discuss the decision in an orderly fashion.
If the umpire could still not make a proper decision, he would enlist the help of the cranks (fans), who yelled loudly their thoughts.
The Talley Keeper (scorekeeper) and announcer also sat on the field and each team was allowed on base coach, though there were no coaches boxes and the coach could wander, in foul territory, between first and third.
In addition to Felder, other former major leaguers included Mike "The Remedy" Remlinger, Fred Breining, Brian "Lightning" Hunter, Kevin Mitchell and Dmitri Young.