By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY – Staff Writer
The Southern California Vintage Base Ball League Champions, the Crestline Highlanders, played their local opening day of the 2023 SCVBB League season, matched up against the gentlemen from La Verne, the Lordsburg Trolleymen, last Saturday.
This was the first game played locally in a while and will be followed by three double-headers at Harich Field in Twin Peaks, beginning Aug. 12 with the Arrowhead Loggers playing one game against a down-the-hill team and the Highlanders playing their game the same day.
The teams welcomed the “cranks” (fans) to enjoy their 19th century style base ball at the 11 a.m. game. They play vintage base ball seriously and to win. These men love the history of baseball, so these games have been compared to a historical re-enactment of an earlier period of time, since they use period costumes, 1880s era equipment, mannerisms and 1886 rules. To add to the fun, each player plays under their nickname, earned from some aspect of their personality or playing ability.
Some of the differences in vintage base ball and modern baseball are visually obvious, since they use replica gloves, not mitts, to catch the balls, so fewer fly balls are caught, although the hand-sewn ball does get softer as the game progresses. In addition, they use heavy 44-ounce wooden bats. The Arrowhead Loggers have been known to make their own bats.
The umpire, who is located next to the “hurler” (pitcher), is called “The Sir” and he cannot be argued with. The man up to bat is called the “striker.” This central location enables The Sir a better spot to see the plays at the bases, as well as the pitched ball. Historically, The Sirs were the judges or doctors of the community.
These adult men could be considered to be in their second childhood, enjoying playing a game for fun and bragging rights, as they must also buy their own uniforms and equipment, and even the replica balls are expensive. If you want to see the trophy the Crestline Highlanders won last season, it is in the Crestline Chamber of Commerce office, along with an autographed bat on display.
The old rules include no cussing, respect for the top hat-wearing Sir, wearing old-style uniforms and using 1886 replica equipment. Seven balls earn a walk, but three strikes and you’re out. Foul balls are called unfair balls and don’t count as a strike, plus getting hit by a pitch counts only as a ball. They play for seven innings (formerly called frames referring to the score board), not nine innings.
The game is played with a fast, overhand-style hurling the ball so, when the hurler gets tired, another player from the field switches places with him. Even then, the hurler could not hold onto the ball very long after it is returned to him from the catcher.
When the striker comes to the plate, he gets to request the type of ball he wants thrown, such as a high or low ball within the strike zone. There is no pitcher’s mound, just a box drawn in the dirt where the hurler should stand, with The Sir standing just slightly beside and behind him.
Under the 1886 rules, it is a respectful game, played vigorously but without swearing or arguing with The Sir. The game is played politely but seriously, although the hidden ball trick is an acceptable play.
At the games last week at Harich Field, the Trolleymen played the Crestline Highlanders. There were many great plays during the game, and the cranks on both sides enjoyed the fast-moving game in the early afternoon. One of the Highlanders’ newer players, Anthony “Ant-Man” Finno, hit a three-run home run, out of the park, over the left field fence. That home run in the bottom of the 6th inning, brought in two other runners, Captain Chris Dodd on first base and Casey Anderson, who was on second base, making it a six-run inning. It was Ant-Man’s first home run. The ending score was Trolleymen 11 and the Highlanders 34. The season standings for Crestline are now 3-1-1, putting them one-half game out of first place. In the first three games of this season, the Crestline Highlanders have outscored their competitors 81 to 16, with most of those runs scored by the Trolleymen.
The Arrowhead Loggers also use Harich Field as their home field. They are an expansion team, created out of the players from the Highlanders when they had too many players and more still wanted to play. The split was generally chosen by location of residences. The Arrowhead Loggers are also generally considered a younger team as their team members are also younger in age. Last season, the Loggers played for the championship of the league, ending up in second place.
The Crestline Highlanders and Arrowhead Loggers will be playing three double-headers at Harich Field in the next few weeks. On Saturday, Aug. 12, the Highlanders will play at 11 a.m. against the Temecula Dear Bros. Then the Arrowhead Loggers will play the second game at 2 p.m. against the Riverside Smudge Pots.
On Saturday Aug. 26, the Arrowhead Loggers will play the first game at 11 a.m. against the Fullerton Fire Knockers, with the Crestline Highlanders playing against the Perris Prospectors at 2 p.m.
The third double-header will be on Saturday, Sept. 9, when the Highlanders will play the Riverside Smudge Pots at 11 a.m. and the Arrowhead Loggers play at 2 p.m. against Temecula. All of these games will be played at Harich Field at 675 Grandview in Twin Peaks. This ballpark is at the 5,777-foot elevation level. Harich Field has been the site of three SCVBB League championship games during the league’s history.
Because it is the smallest of the fields that the SCVBB league plays on, it has gained the nickname as the “home run stadium” of the league. For more information on vintage base ball, see their website https://www.socalvbb.com/. Harich Field is operated by the Rim of the World Recreation and Park District.
Highlander team “Captain” Chris Dodd added, “The games are free to attend, and these double-headers should have food trucks for the cranks. It is good fun family entertainment. We hope to see you at the ballpark! Huzzah!”