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COLUMBUS -- Former Newcomerstown resident Dan Lehman is a member of The Ohio Village Muffins, a vintage base ball club that lives and breathes vintage base ball circa 1860.
The Ohio Village Muffins are a group of enthusiastic lovers of the game who carry on the tradition of the sport as it was played in mid-nineteenth-century America, according to the Ohio History Connection website.
"The first thing we tell people new to "vintage" base ball is that, historically, "base ball" was two words," said the OHC. "This is an important because we like to do everything as the base ball players of 1860 did it: We play by their rules, dress in their uniforms, and exemplify their gentlemanly behavior."
Games are played against other vintage teams from Ohio and across the country.
Each season the Muffins play over 40 matches and travel all over Ohio and out-of-state. The home field for the Muffins is in the Ohio Village, and many games are held in Muffin Meadow each summer.
"Everyone is welcome to come and cheer on all the participants in this family-friendly event," said the Ohio History Connection on its website.
During, after and before the games, various members of the team are available to answer questions about the differences between the game of the 1860s and the game of today.
The New York Knickerbockers was the first club to write down the rules of what has become modern baseball.
The New York Knickerbockers organized their gentlemen's club in 1845 in the Lower Manhattan area of New York City, and played what is often cited as the first base ball match between two clubs the following year when they met a group known as the New York Club at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The emphasis in the early game was on courtesy among the gentlemen and, occasionally, ladies, playing the sport for exercise. Initially, only a few rules governed a match.
The rest was left up to the players' sense of honor and good sportsmanship and the umpire's decisions as he judged players' actions by the gentlemanly code of the Victorian era.
Clubs played to win, with the players conducting themselves in a sportsmanlike manner, creating an atmosphere where spectators cheered for good plays by either side.
In 1981, the Ohio History Connection organized the Ohio Village Muffins to show how recreation and base ball were becoming a part of life in the mid-nineteenth century.
The team was the first in the nation to play a regular schedule of vintage base ball matches and the Society has assisted in the formation of nearly 50 other vintage teams in Ohio and beyond, including Colorado, New York, Georgia, and Canada.
In 1996, the Muffins hosted the founding meeting of the Vintage Base Ball Association to further the historical interpretation of the game.
The Muffins play in uniforms patterned after the Currier and Ives lithograph The American National Game, on display at the Ohio Historical Center. The uniforms consist of plain long pants, a white shirt with a bright shield containing the team emblem, a pill box hat, a leather belt with the team name embossed on it, and a bow tie.
The name "Muffin" originates from the organization of 1860s gentlemen's base ball clubs.
The best squad was known as the "first nine," the second-string players were the "second nine," and those not well skilled were the "muffin nine," a muff being the term for an error.
The pieces of equipment used by the Muffins are reproductions.
Bats are no bigger than 2.5 inches in diameter, but may be of any length. Balls are 10 inches in circumference with a single piece of leather covering them. Bases are at least one square foot and are filled with sand or sawdust. Ball gloves and protective equipment had not been invented.
And the game is played by the rules of 1860.
The Ohio History Connection lists the Game of Base Ball Adopted by the National Association of Base-Ball Players March 14, 1860, as follows:
The ball is pitched underhanded from anywhere behind the pitcher's point.
The striker must stand on or straddle a line through home plate.
Pitches are not usually judged as balls or strikes, but the umpire may call a strike if the batter persists in not swinging at well-pitched balls.
The ball is judged fair or foul according to where it first touches the ground (people, structures, and trees don't count as the ground).
Articles of clothing such as a hat may not be used to catch a ball.
An out is declared if:
■ A hit ball is caught on the fly or on the first bound, including foul tips to the catcher.
■ A striker misses swinging at three pitched balls and the third strike is caught by the catcher on the fly or bound. If the catcher misses the pitch, the umpire will declare the ball to be fair and the batter must make his run to first base. Foul tips do not count as strikes.
■ A ball arrives in the hands of a baseman whose foot is upon the base prior to a base runner who is required to make that base.
■ A ball in the hands of an adversary touches a base runner not safely on his base.
■ A base runner does not return to his original base before a caught fly ball reaches the same base.
■ A base runner overruns any base (including first) and is touched by the ball in the hands of an adversary.
A base runner may not advance on any foul ball and must return to his original base. He may be tagged out if not there after the ball has been settled in the hands of the pitcher.
A base runner may advance at his own risk on a fair ball caught on the bound.
A base runner may advance after a fair fly ball is caught provided he has tagged his most recent base after the ball is in the hands of the fielder.
A base runner must run for the next base if the ball is hit, and the force remains on even if an out is made behind the advancing runner.
Vintage base ball customs include:
Uncivil language, ungentlemanly or unladylike behavior, spitting or any actions that would offend a true lady are not tolderated on pain of a fine -- up to a day's wages.
After scoring an ace, a base runner should report to the scorer to help insure that the proper person is given credit for the ace.
Infielders should play within a stop or two of their base. The shortstop plays inside the baseline but may play on either side of second base. Outfielders may play as far in or as far out as dictated by a batter's perceived ability.
The first striker called to the line in the following inning is the person in the striking order after the player who mae the last out, even if the last out was made by a base runner.
It is too ungentlemanly to do the following: bunting, sliding or intentional fair/foul striking.
A base runner can choose to try to "steal on a muff" (pitched ball not caught by the catcher on the first bound or fly).
The spectators cheer for a good play by either side. The ballist making an exceptional play earns handshakes and a good word from both teammates and opponents alike.
The call "Striker to the Line" indicates that the next battter should appear at home plate.
A tally bell announces aces (runs) to the crowd.
A base runner may take a lead from his base but cannot advance until the ball passes the batter. The base runner must be motionless when the pitcher delivers the ball to the batter.
The Muffins remaining schedule includes:
■ July 8, Mechanicsburg Indians, Mechanicsburg High School Field (Parkview Road), 12:30 p.m.
■ July 9, The Worthingtons, 847 Adena Road, Chillicothe, 2 p.m.
■ July 14, Pleasant Valley Dutchmen, 370 N. Chillicothe St., Plain City, 7 p.m.
■ July 15, Local Club, 561 W. Laurel St., Willard, 2 p.m.
■ July 22, Cincinnati Redstockings and Cincinnati Buckeyes, Sharon Woods Park, 11450 Lebanon Rd., Sharonville, 1 & 2:30 p.m.
■ July 23, Club Match, Ohio Village, 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, 2 p.m.
■ July 29, Portsmouth Rockinghams and Lowell Base Ball Nine, Spencer Peirce Little Farm, 5 Littles Lane, Newbury, Mass., TBD.
■ July 30, Newburyport Clamdiggers and Lynn Live Oaks, Spencer Peirce Little Farm, TBD.
■ Aug. 5, Lutheran Strikers, James Brat Fest, 5660 Trabue Road, Columbus, 4 p.m.
■ Aug. 12, Local Club, New Athens Bicentennial, 2 p.m.
■ Aug. 19, Ohio Village Diamonds (DH), Canal Park, 51 Park St., Carroll, 2 p.m.
■ Aug. 20, German Village Cupcakes, 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, 2 p.m.
■ Aug. 26, Blendon Brigade, Ridgewood Park, 5484 Buenos Aires Blvd., Westerville, 3 p.m.
■ Sept. 1, All-Club Match, Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival, 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, 6 p.m.
■ Sept. 2, various clubs, Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.