The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

August 18, 2013

Vintage base ball makes a comeback

Vermilion Voles host teams from Ind., Illinois

The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — On any given night, you can see a Major League baseball team pulling out their vintage uniforms for a turn-back-the-clock night.

And while those games have an entertainment value for the fans, you will never see a professional team go back to 1858 base ball.

In that era, the players played without gloves, the batters were called strikers and a striker was out if the fielder caught the ball on one bounce.

On Saturday afternoon, the Vermilion Voles hosted the seventh annual Uncle Joe Cannon Base Ball jamboree at Kennekuk Cove County Park.

“It’s a bare-handed game,’’ said Jim Knoblauch of the Vermilion Voles. “Gloves hadn’t been invented in 1858. Because it was bare-handed game in that era, they played a one bound rule. The batter was out if the fielder catches the ball on the first bounce.

“That levels the playing field for everyone involved. Because we have players that are all the way from teenagers to guys that we can just say aren’t teenagers any more.’’

The game is played much like the current-day game with a few exceptions.

All of the Voles play under the nicknames from “Ghost” to “Tumbleweed” to “Wheels.” And one of the biggest exceptions to current-day game is requirement of a base runner to ring the bell upon scoring to notify the tally keeper (scorer) of the run.

Unfortunately on Saturday afternoon, the hometown Vermilion Voles didn’t ring the bell as many times as their opponents.

“If anyone has followed the Voles or played on the Voles, they know that the end result is not the vital to our existence,’’ Knoblauch said. “We’re just happy to have a beautiful day and three really good teams here to share in our fun.’’

The Deep River Grinders out of Hobart, Ind., was back this year for the Uncle Joe Cannon jamboree and joining them were the Indianapolis Hoosiers and for the first-time ever, the Belleville Stags made the trip to Danville from the St. Louis area.

“The Vermilion Voles have been playing for 11 years and the number of teams in our region has varied,’’ Knoblauch said. “This is only the second year for the Belleville team and on the other end of the spectrum are the Deep River Grinders, who have been doing this for 17 or 18 years.

“I think St. Louis area has five different teams playing vintage base ball, Chicago has a number of teams and there are three teams in Indianapolis — the Hoosiers, the Blues and the White River Base Ball Club.’’

The growth of vintage base ball can also be seen in our region. On Saturday afternoon, the Vermilion Voles had the largest squad in the jamboree as their roster currently lists 19 players.

“We’ve tried to make the Voles more of family kind of thing,’’ Knoblauch said. “It’s grown over the 11 years and we’re happy to still be here playing.’’

Knoblauch said the Voles are close to having enough players for two complete teams, and they have actually held exhibition intrasquad scrimmages.

“A few weeks ago, we held one at the VA Medical Center,’’ he said. “And, we are going to be playing another one at the Westville Labor Day Parade.’’