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It’s a throwback! Antique baseball to open Prospect Park anniversary

Play ball!: Members of the Atlantics Brooklyn Baseball Club will play two games using 1860s rules to celebrate Prospect Park’s 150th anniversary.
Brooklyn Paper
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It’s a whole old ball game!

Sluggers with the historical Atlantics Baseball Club of Brooklyn will knock ‘em out of the park — Prospect Park, that is — for the green’s “150th Opening Weekend Celebration” on April 1. The old-timey baseball club will usher in the spring season with a pair of games played by 1860s rules — and shed light on the roots of America’s pastime, said one of the club’s captains.

“We’re living history and we want to make sure that we’re playing the game 100 percent accurate to teach people,” said Dean Emma, who teaches physical education at a Mapleton high school. “Before, during, and after the games we’ll teach people about the rules and share interesting stories that’ll keep the crowd on their toes.”

The first game will be played with rules from 1864. The most striking difference from the modern game is the absence of gloves, said Emma, but pitchers will also hurl the ball underhand — overhand throwing didn’t arrive until the 1880s — and the pitcher’s mound is only 45 feet from the striker instead of today’s 60 feet.

All those tweaks are a real curve ball for those used to today’s game, said Emma.

“Since the mound is closer, if someone really rockets a pitch, the ball can get up on you pretty quick,” he said. “It’s a lot of little things that’ll surprise people.”

The rubber ball is slightly larger than today’s baseball, and the bats are a hodgepodge of lengths, depending on the batter’s preference. Home plate was a flat disk, and the batter must stand somewhere along a six-foot line drawn on the ground.

Unlike modern b-ball, the pitcher wastes no time lobbing the ball back over the plate, meaning the game is far more action-packed than its contemporary incarnation, said Emma.

“Our games go faster than regular baseball,” said Emma. “There’s a lot less time in between pitches. The pitchers will just catch the ball and fire it back in there. Nowadays they take forever — with us it’s action-packed, and the crowd really loves it.”

The historical re-creation baseball club formed in 1997, and is named for the historic Atlantics team from 1855. The Atlantics team changed its name several times, and from 1932 to 1956 the team was known as the Brooklyn Dodgers — before betraying its home city and becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The second game of the day will be played by 1867 rules, in honor of Prospect Park’s opening that same year. Those rules are mostly the same as the 1864 version, said Emma.

The game will connect modern sluggers with the roots of their sport, said a spokeswoman with the Prospect Park Alliance.

“We just thought having the Atlantics come by would be a wonderful opportunity to bring a historical flavor to baseball,” said Grace McCreight. “I hope that the kids and families watching the game feel connected to the park that they play in and the borough in general, and I hope it serves as a fun opportunity to see a form of baseball they don’t know about.”

The games will be preceded by a 10 am parade of seven teams from Prospect Park’s youth baseball league, marching from Seventh Avenue and Second Street to the Long Meadow Ballfields, where the historic games will take place.

“Brooklyn Atlantics Exhibition Game” at Prospect Park, Long Meadow Ballfields (enter at Prospect Park West and Prospect Park Southwest, www.prospectpark.org). April 1 at 11 am. Free.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Sounds like a fun day of baseball. I've played an even older variant at a historic re-enactment site in Connecticut. Much more action than today's game.
March 23, 2017, 12:03 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
This sounds like fun. Hope the weather is nice for it.
March 24, 2017, 10:45 am
Gary from Fort Greene says:
Saw it a couple years ago on Governor's Island. A real throwback to the Elysian Field.
March 25, 2017, 8:24 pm

Comments closed.

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