Base Ball, not Baseball

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Vintage base ball, played by more than 200 teams around the country, is still called base ball because it is played according to regulations and rules codified in the mid-1800’s. As you watch a game you will see subtle differences from the game played today. The field is grass, not a pre-cut diamond. The pitcher throws from flat ground and is closer to the batter. The quick pitch, throwing immediately after the ball is returned by the catcher, speeds up play. Uniforms and equipment are also consistent with the period. You won’t believe how heavy the bats are!

The Friends of the Farm at Hilltop are excited to welcome three of those teams to play in the pasture at Hilltop this month. Our home team, the Westfield Wheelmen will be playing the Hartford Bulldogs at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 4, and the Bovina Dairymen of New York at noon on Saturday, June 11.

Today’s Wheelmen are a revival of the original Westfield Wheelmen Base Ball Club, formed as the factory team for workers at Pope Manufacturing, the makers of Columbia Bicycles. The current team’s logo includes the image of a high wheel or penny-farthing bike like the one ridden by Hilltop Farm founder and world-famous bicycle racer George Hendee.

Why is today’s game called baseball instead of base ball? In 1884 The New York Times changed their style guide to refer to the game as baseball and that was it. Never underestimate the power of the press!

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