On October 2nd, 1865, a group of Wilmington attorneys formed the Diamond State Base Ball Club, today the club is still playing and teaching the history of America’s pastime.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon on the grounds of the University of Delaware’s Goodstay Center in Wilmington, two teams took the field for a game of 1865-era baseball, The Diamond State Base Ball Club and the Mohican Base Ball Club of Kennett Square.
The original Diamond State Base Ball Club was formed on October 2nd, 1865 – they would play their first game 5 days later on October 7th.
The club was the first created expressly for the purpose of playing baseball games and having challenge matches with other baseball clubs.
Watching these guys play looks just like “modern” baseball, but on second glance you’ll start to notice a few differences. One of the biggest differences is the lack of gloves.
“We don’t use gloves, that’s a real education in and of itself, we do usually wind up with about one broken finger a year,” Jeff Kabacinski of the Diamond State BBC said.
But much of this historical game is the same: 9 fielders, 9 innings, 3 outs to a side, three strikes and you are out.
There are some other less obvious differences as well.
A fly ball can be caught on one bounce and the batter will be called out – this has the added benefit of helping keep hands healthy, since there are no gloves to cushion the blow. Foul balls are determined by the first bounce, so if it goes out and then bounces back in, it’s called a fair ball.
Even the pitching is different, with the pitcher standing closer to the batter and pitching the ball underhand.
The equipment used for the game are historical reproductions. The balls are cut from one piece of leather with a softer core than balls that are used today.
The bats are made to historical specifications, as well. How did they get those specifications?
“There were many advertisements in newspapers back in the [1860’s] they would advertise how thick it was at the barrel, how thick it was at the handle, what kind of wood it was made out of,” Kabacinski said.
The description of the uniforms worn by the Diamond State BBC also came from newspapers. There aren’t any pictures of what the team looked like back in 1865, so this is their best guess as to how they would have looked.
“We do have descriptions in the newspaper that they wore black pants, a blue and buff colored shirt and a blue newsboy cap,” Kabacinski said.
What keeps 18 guys sweating it out on a field playing a game using outdated rules for a few spectators?
Many do it to keep the history alive. Others just like to get out and exercise, play a little ball with the guys, and hit, of course.
“When you take that bat and you swing it and you hit a ball, nice and square, that feels good,” Kabacinski said.
Never knowing who might show up to take in a game keeps these guys playing hard. They are more than happy to discuss the history of the game with anyone who is curious about the differences between then and now.
“I hope they take away from the experience that we’ve put on a historically accurate game, they are learning something about the history of baseball,” Kabacinski said.
The Diamond State Base Ball Club will be holding a talk on the history of the club at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1108 N Adams St, Wilmington, DE, the site of that first game on October 7th of 1865.
On October 10th the club will be hosting a 150th anniversary game in Rockford Park in Wilmington. Spectators will have a chance to take part in the second game if they wish.
You can find more information when you visit the Diamond State Base Ball Club on the web.