HARTFORD — Underhand pitching? Strikers? Pitchers 45 feet from home? What game is this?
It’s vintage “base ball” as played 150 years ago, and the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site will host a game at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7.
The gentlemen of the Vandalia Old Capitals, Springfield Long Nines, Alton Baseball Club and the Belleville Stags will compete. Visitors are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets and enjoy the free entertainment.
Vintage base ball (it was two words back then) is played by rules and customs from long ago.
The games at Lewis and Clark will be played by rules from the 1860s, when the ball was pitched underhand and the guy with the bat was called a striker. Balls caught on the first bounce, as well as on the fly, were outs. The distance from the pitcher to home was just 45 feet, not the modern 60 feet, 6 inches.
The competition was more kind than cutthroat. Players cheer good plays by the opposing team and help umpires make calls at the bases. The game closes with each team offering a cheer to the other.
The event is presented in cooperation with the Lewis and Clark Society of America.
The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site marks the spot where the Corps of Discovery wintered before launching the historic expedition to the Pacific Ocean. It is Site No. 1 on the National Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail and features an interpretive center about the Illinois role in the expedition.
It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday for free public tours and is along Illinois 3 a few miles north of Interstate 270.
The site is operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. IHPA protects the state’s historic resources, which contribute to education, culture and the economy. IHPA sites include ancient burial mounds, forts and buildings erected by settlers, and homes connected to famous Illinoisans.