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Sluggers send fans back in time
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 13 July 2011 13:00

The striker sent a sky ball out to the garden bringing the count to two hands down to the celebratory applause to the crowd and a round of “huzzahs.” Or maybe the ballist missed fielding a daisy cutter for a muff.

Sheila Stubler, park manager for Fort Verde State Historic Park, hunts Saturday, July 9, for the newer uniforms of the Fort Verde Excelsiors, a vintage baseball team made up of area residents and fort volunteers. The state park is hoping to increase interest and participation in the fort through promoting its vintage baseball team.That’s something a person might have heard at a baseball game 120 years ago, back when the game was still America’s Pastime, but when the terminology and the rules were somewhat different than what a modern baseball fan might recognize.

It was a popular game for men out on the frontier, particularly where soldiers stationed in places like Fort Verde had little else to do in terms of entertainment.

“We know they enjoyed things like foot races and particularly baseball,” said Terri Leverton, an employee at Jerome State Historic Park who used to work with the park service at the former 19th century military post at Fort Verde.

The staff at the fort has tried to revive the tradition of vintage baseball with some success. Leverton said the first game at the fort with a return to the rules of old was played on the parade ground in May 1996.

Today, Fort Verde State Historic Park Manager Shiela Stubler said the fort’s own Fort Verde Excelsiors have carried on playing the game at events like Fort Verde Days and CornFest.

Vintage Baseball Terminology

  • cranks: fans
  • ballist: player
  • behind: catcher
  • sky ball: pop up
  • daisy cutter: grounder
  • striker: batter
  • striker up to the line: batter up
  • hands down: out
  • captain: manager
  • garden: outfield
  • ginger: determination
  • ace: run
  • hurler: pitcher
  • muff: error
Additionally, it used to take six balls to get a walk, although three strikes were still an out. Foul balls were not counted as strikes, but a foul tip caught by a catcher was an out regardless of the number of strikes.

They share a name with the Brooklyn Excelsiors, a popular baseball team founded on the East Coast in the 1850s, but Stubler said being a professional isn’t a requirement to join Fort Verde’s team.

“It’s really just about having a good time,” Stubler said.

With budget cuts forcing the fort and many other state parks to cut back on hours and manpower while relying more and more on volunteers and other sources of funding, the fort is hoping its vintage baseball team can participate in a larger regional league.

The team is a way to help promote the fort and other participating parks and organizations, said Stubler, who has turned to Lance Bush, a member of the Arizona Territories Vintage Base Ball League, for support, advice and assistance in getting a league set up in this part of the state.

“We figured we’d be a perfect hub for a Northern Arizona league,” Stubler said. Opponents could include teams from Williams and Flagstaff, and hopefully even Fort Whipple, which used to have a baseball rivalry with the soldiers at Fort Verde back in the day.

Stubler said she’d like to field a roster of about 20 or so people who could participate so the same nine people wouldn’t have to step up for every game.

Watching the players step up to bat in their vintage uniforms could be a draw for visitors who just want to step back in time for a bit and see how the game used to be played, Leverton said.

For information on vintage baseball at Fort Verde, call 567-3275.

 

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