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Is this heaven?

8/28/2013

See the Walnut Hill Bluestockings play historic baseball on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Living History Farms, 1:30-3 p.m. Courtesy of Living History Farms

See the Walnut Hill Bluestockings play historic baseball on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Living History Farms, 1:30-3 p.m. Courtesy of Living History Farms

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! America’s true pastime can be found in heaven… er, Iowa. Let’s face it, baseball has lost some of its luster with today’s generation, and the incredibly long playing time amounts to very little action. Last year the NFL pulled far more fans to the stadium than the ballpark for baseball. So what’s a fan to do? Get back to the root of why you fell in love with baseball in the first place. It’s time to see a historic game.

Living History Farms historic baseball has been going on in one form or another for a long time. So long, in fact, that manager and captain Aaron Haywood isn’t absolutely sure when the team was organized, though he remembers its popularity before starting his seven-year stint with the team.

“We have given presentations to local schools and even traveled to play against historic teams at other museums in the past,” Haywood said. “Many of those museums have ended their baseball programs, so Living History Farms is one of the few places where visitors get a chance to see a historic baseball game.”

Baseball is a long-established American tradition that was hugely popular on the prairie during the 19th century. It was seen in political cartoons, advertisements and was even played in prisoner-of-war camps during the Civil War.

“Without including baseball as part of the Living History Farms experience, we would be leaving out a huge part of our own cultural history,” said Haywood. “People did more than just toil away on the farm and work in their shops in 1875. Local baseball clubs were an important part of the community. Besides the cultural aspects, it is also just a fun time!”

The unique aspect about Walnut Hill Bluestockings Historic Baseball Program is not only the historic games but also that anyone can be part of it. As the players warm up, people are encouraged to ask questions and learn about the differences between vintage and modern baseball. After the game, spectators can come down on the field and take a few swings to show off their skills.

One thing all would be wise to remember, fans and professionals alike, is that Victorian-era baseball was a gentleman’s sport. That meant no drugs, spitting, fighting, swearing or gambling. The umpire vigorously enforced the rules governing the conduct of players and spectators, especially in small towns. It was even more of a family affair than it is today.

Once the game is underway, it’s easy to stay excited. Because strikes and balls aren’t called and it is underhand pitching, it’s common to see 20 or more runs scored by each team in a full nine-inning game.

“Long-ball home runs tend to be rare in our games, but we’ve had to clear the bleachers and have spectators wade through tall grass beyond the outfield to find the ball a few times,” admitted Haywood.

No matter who you decide to root for, just be sure to let out the classic Victorian-style cheer that works for most any occasion: “Hip-Hip Hazzah!”

Now play ball! CV

Volunteer teams are needed to play the Walnut Hill Bluestockings. For more information, contact Jan Milroy at 278-5286.                 

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

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