There's A Meeting for That

The Old Ballgame

The Vintage Base Ball Association puts a whole new spin on the 'ol ballgame.

Illustration by Carmen Segovia.

No one is exactly sure how old baseball is, but the Vintage Base Ball Association (VBBA) stakes itself to the classic varieties of 19th-century Americana. Member clubs dress up in period uniforms — down to the billowy jerseys, snub-brimmed caps, and, for some of the fellas, mutton-chop whiskers — and play games based on the rules of the era.

The Chicago Salmon, for example, use the 1858 rulebook, which among other things means fielders don’t wear gloves and the pitcher’s mound is flat and located 45 feet from home plate instead of modern baseball’s 60 feet, six inches. “I go back to when I was a kid that just played street ball,” said VBBA Vice President Gary “The Professor” Schiappacasse, who manages and plays for the Salmon. “You didn’t always get enough kids for two full teams, so you modified the game. For me, that’s kind of what vintage baseball is. It’s a modification of the current, modern game.”

CATCHING UP More than anything, the VBBA Convention is an opportunity to see what everyone else is up to. “It’s a chance for teams from around the country to touch base with each other,” Schiappacasse said, “kind of picking each other’s brains to see what the others are doing that you might adopt into your program.”

FAMILY OUTING “Many of the vintage teams will be fathers and sons,” Schiappacasse said. “In some cases, it will be fathers, sons, and daughters. On our team, our umpire — his nickname is ‘Never Wrong,’ because he’ll tell you he’s never wrong. His son is nicknamed ‘Jumbo Shrimp’; I can’t remember his real name, we never use it. His daughter’s nickname is ‘Man Hands.’ They both play on our team.”

NEXT SEASON The 2016 VBBA Convention will take the field in Des Plaines, Illinois, outside Chicago, in April; Schiappacasse is heading up the planning process. So far he’s lined up a panel discussion of veteran VBBA teams, a keynote on vintage baseball cards, and even a breakout session on the history of the jockstrap, which was invented in Chicago in 1874. Schiappacasse said: “I’m trying to put a Chicago/Midwest touch on the program that we’re going to present.”

VBBA (Vintage Base Ball Association) Convention

March 27–29, 2015
Franklin Marriott Cool Springs
Franklin, Tennessee


In the Lineup
Vintage Base Ball Umpire Roundtable
Handmade Base Ball Workshop
Wet Plate Photography:
A Demonstration
Banding Together, Branding Together: Building a Successful League
Baseball in Literature
History of Baseball in the South

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.