Folks in South Orange were living in the past today — if only for a few magic hours — when the South Orange Villagers took on the Flemington Neshanock for a game of baseball played with 1864 rules at Cameron Field.
The game was sponsored by The Gateway of South Orange and organized and hosted by the South Orange Historic Preservation Commission and the Recreation Department to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Cameron Field, where many baseball greats once played after retirement in semipro leagues or while “barnstorming” during the off season.
In fact, both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played for the South Orange Villagers in New Jersey’s semipro championship game on October 27, 1929. (Read more about it in a the document attached below.) The Villagers beat New Brunswick that day by a score of 7-6.
Unfortunately, today’s Villagers lost to Flemington by a score of 15-2. The Neshanock had a significant advantage, however; they play 40-45 games of 1864-rules baseball per year as they travel around promoting baseball history.
Here are some more tidbits from today’s event, courtesy of The Village Green’s intrepid photographer Claire Sinclair. Enjoy her photos below:
- Back in the day, semipro players wore “bibs” because if they were traded, all they’d have to do is change the bib and their cap for their new team.
- The daughter and granddaughter of Larry Doby, the 2nd African American to play in major league baseball, were present at today’s event.
- Legendary sports broadcaster Lee Leonard also attended today.
- No mitts were worn back when baseball began (or while playing by 1864 rules). They weren’t invented yet.
- Pitchers back in the 19th century had to pitch underhand.
- Umpires were not allowed to smile.
- Every year, the owner of Bellin’s Boys’ Town, a local clothing store owner, would give a pair of sneakers to the first ball player to hit a home run over the fence at Cameron Field.
- The reason K is used as the symbol for strike out is because it is the last letter in the word “struck.”