The hurler throws the ball toward the striker as the cranks look on.
If the striker rounds the bases he must politely ask the blind Tom for permission to ring the bell.
No stealing. No sliding. No bunting. No gloves.
This is the game of baseball, 1860s style.
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Sunday’s mild temperature was just right for baseball at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site in Olathe. Staff members in period clothing helped visitors get the hang of it.
Several members of the Brauner family of Kansas City tried their skills in an informal game. Even 3-year-old Sofia Brauner scored, although in the 1860s girls would not have been at bat.
Nor would Mahaffie volunteer Brooke Burris or events coordinator Alexis Woodall have been allowed to pitch to summer staffer Nicholas McCreight.
The striker, or batter, could tell the umpire, or blind Tom, whether he wanted the pitch to be low or high. All the pitches were underhand. The fans, or cranks, might be asked to make a call. The first team to score 21 was the winner.
“It was more of a gentleman’s game versus the cutthroat baseball we have today,” McCreight said. “If the pitcher hit the striker with the ball, then the striker would not get a free walk. Instead, the pitcher would just have to apologize to him.”
Some things haven’t changed. No guns or knives were allowed on the field.
“They would basically play in whatever open field they could find,” Woodall said. “Ottawa had a team. Lawrence had a team. It was loosely based on when people could get together to play each other.”