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Vintage-Rules Baseball May Be Played At Fort Trumbull

New London — Baseball at Fort Trumbull? Starting this summer, it could be a reality.

No, the idea isn't the latest brainchild of the NLDC, nor are the Norwich Navigators planning a move to the Fort.

Instead, a group of baseball enthusiasts hope to form a local club to play in a vintage-rules league, with Fort Trumbull as the “home” field. The team would be named after a past professional team in New London, the Pequots.

Edward Baker, who played for a similar team in Mystic that disbanded last summer, said on Sunday that the team has permission to play at Fort Trumbull and would be sponsored by the New London County Historical Society.

The team's biggest obstacle is in finding funding, however, and Baker said if the club can find a sponsor to help it buy uniforms and equipment, it will play ball this year. The club would join the Vintage Base Ball Association, a league whose member clubs play the game according to 1861 rules.

On Sunday, Baker had a front-row seat to listen to sports historian William Ryczek speak at the Shaw Mansion. Ryczek is a member of the Society of American Baseball Researchers and has published two books: “When Johnny Came Sliding Home: The Post-Civil War Baseball Boom, 1865-1870”; and “Blackguards and Red Stockings: A History of Baseball's National Association, 1871-1875.”

Ryczek also plays for the Middletown Mansfields of the vintage league. Ryczek was fresh from a vintage baseball conference, where, he joked, audience members were the type who could, without pausing, shout out the number of people who attended the last game at Ebbetts Field (6,702).

Ryczek took the audience through the game's origins – though the popular theory has Abner Doubleday inventing it, baseball was actually spawned from a variety of people and games, including a British game called Rounders – to its major transformations, including professional athletes, the formation of the National League, and the first World Series.

Ryczek described the early teams, which were really social clubs akin to the country club crowd. Baker, in an article he wrote for the historical society's newsletter, described early “game stories” that ran in the New-London Daily Star in which the social events that accompanied a club's arrival were given as much space as the game.

The vintage league operates much the same way, with club managers arranging “matches” and players addressing umpires as “sir.” Catchers don't wear masks and players don't use gloves. Catching a ball in the air or after one bounce is an out.

Baker hopes to have an answer on the team within weeks. Its nearest competitors include Middletown, a new team in Columbia, and teams in Coventry, Bristol, and Providence, Rhode Island.
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