The Simsbury Taverneers opened their ninth season of Vintage Base Ball (that's right, two words) with a visit from a baseball legend Sunday.
Jim Bouton, a former star pitcher with the New York Yankees and author of the controversial best-selling book Ball Four, took the mound for the visiting Whately Pioneers on the Babe Ruth League field at .
Bouton, 73, fed the Taverneers a steady diet of his trademark knuckleballs in the game, which was played under 1886 rules.
Vintage Base Ball features amateur teams adhering to the rules, uniform styles, equipment, customs and competitive gentlemanly play of the 19th century game. Fielders wear tiny leather gloves that barely cover their hands, strikers (batters) use heavy wooden bats, and the umpire is always addressed as "Sir" by the players.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Each player is called by a vintage nickname; Sunday's game featured "Babe", "Lefty", "Stretch", "Buck", "Pickle" and "Pugs", among others. Bouton was called "Dog", a variation on his Yankees nickname of "Bulldog."
Prior to starting an at-bat, the striker tells the umpire if he wants a low strike (belt to knee) or high strike (belt to underarms). The umpire then announces to the hurler (pitcher), "Striker has requested low (or high) strikes." Throughout the entire at-bat, only low or high strikes are called against the striker.
Unusual rule differences between Vintage Base Ball and the modern game include: foul balls are not counted as strikes; hitters walk after seven balls, rather than four; a hit batsman is counted as a ball, with no base awarded; and the behind (catcher) does not wear shin guards.
The Taverneers have a 10-game schedule, including four home contests. After traveling to Whately for a rematch with the Pioneers on May 20, the club returns home Sunday, June 3 to face the Westfield Wheelman. That game will be played at Town Forest Field at 10 a.m. There is no admission charge.