Vintage Baseball

  • Come one, come all! The vintage base ball Silver Stars will play the St. Croix Base Ball Club on the Saturday of the festival at 1 p.m.
  • Location:  Sibley Elementary School Soccer Fields at Maple and Birch Lane.
  • Button Event: No

The game of base ball played in the 1860s was much different than the game we watch today. The baseball was softer and larger than the tightly wound ball now used. There were no gloves or catching equipment (mattresses and cages). The pitcher was required to deliver the ball underhand so the batter could hit it. Strikes were not called and foul balls didn’t count as strikes. There was no such thing as “out of play” and an overthrown ball allowed the runners to advance as far as possible. There was no leading off, no sliding and no bunting. If a fielder caught a ball on one bounce, the batter was out.

Most historians acknowledge that the game we know today as baseball was born in 1845 when Alexander Cartwright published the Knickerbocker Rules for teams in Manhattan. The game’s popularity soared in the 1860s, thanks in large part to the Civil War. Soldiers played baseball in camp and brought this exciting, new game back home when the war ended.

By 1868, Northfield had a formidable team called the “Minnehaha” club. It was good enough to contend for the state title that year, losing in the end to the dynastic “Minneapolis Unions”. That same year, the St. Paul Dispatch noted that the Northfield nine twice defeated the nearly invincible “North Star” club of St. Paul.

The Minnehaha club faded from view in the early 1870s, but was quickly replaced by the legendary Northfield Silver Stars. According to the published recollections of Charles Taylor, who grew up in Northfield in the middle of the 19th century, the Silver Stars were organized in 1874.“This club, for several years, was considered the champion baseball team of the state and it seldom lost a game,” Taylor wrote in 1950.

The Silver Stars were revived in 2003 to help promote the State Amateur baseball tournaments that were played in Northfield and Dundas that year. The Silver Stars have found a number of vintage teams to play. Teams currently “striking” in Minnesota include: The St. Croix Base Ball Club of Stillwater, the Quicksteps from Minneapolis, the Roosters from Rochester and a number of others from southeastern Minnesota.

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