Boys of Vintage Summer
The Milwaukee Cream Citys team, circa 2011
"The Grangers play in what I feel is a true vintage field," Westgate said. "It was a huge dairy farm in the family for centuries. [The field] was the old cow pasture. You can't get much more vintage than that--that's what they actually used in the 1800s."
In such an environment, obstacles can come into play, quite literally. Trees, rocks, gullies in the field can affect the outcome. According to Jeff (The Gent) Paige of the Milwaukee Cream Citys, a ball that lands between the foul lines, but in a tree, is still a live ball.
"One time the ball got stuck up in a tree. We shimmied one of our guys up there, and it hadn't hit the ground yet, and it's an out," Paige said.
A game of gentlemen
The vintage base ball clubs see part of their mission as educating the public about the early days and evolution of the sport. Fans, called "cranks," are encouraged to ask questions of the players and umpire in order to understand the rules that govern that day's game. In addition to sticking close to those rules--whichever set they may be--vintage clubs also try to stay true to what they believe was a more gentlemanly culture. After playing competitive baseball in college, Jason "Bird Dog" Ramaley was looking to keep in the game, and said that softball wasn't satisfying him.
'You take your opponent as your friend before your enemy. Have fun and be a gentleman first, and be competitive second.'
Jason (Bird Dog) Ramaley
"I heard 'vintage base ball' and the first thing that popped into my mind was Ty Cobb--gut-wrenching balls-out baseball to the wall," Ramaley said. But the real pleasure of playing with his Pittsburgh Franklins, he said, comes from the game's camaraderie.
"You take your opponent as your friend before your enemy. Have fun and be a gentleman first, and be competitive second. That's what really intrigued me and a lot of guys who play on teams around the country. You can go out there and hit a line drive and [an opposing player] makes a heck of a play, and you and your team are cheering the guy on, because it was a heck of a play," Ramaley said.
Bonding by nickname
Nicknames also foster camaraderie among and between teams.
"We always address each other by our nicknames. Always. Socially, at a Brewers' game, always," Paige said. Heller, of the crosstown rival Grays, agreed.
"I like it because it invokes a team-ship bonding," he said. "Instead of calling me Dave, you call me 'Night Owl' or 'Owl.' For the first year, I couldn't remember half the guys' real names."
Nicknames are usually chosen by the ballists--Heller, for example, works nights as a sports producer for a Milwaukee newspaper. But as always, nicknames can be earned.