One of the best-known annual events in Gettysburg is the three-day battle re-enactment, but the word re-enactment does not equal the reality of what the actual soldiers endured during those fateful days.
While another historical July event fails to produce ground-shaking blasts or a massive crowd, it trumps the re-enactment in one important area.
It’s the real thing.
The Second Annual 19th Century Base Ball Tournament will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Hickory Hollow Farm on Crooked Creek Road, three miles northwest of town, off Route 30.
The event, sponsored by Gettysburg Eddies, Hickory Hollow Farm, the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Gettysburg Foundation, is being managed and promoted by the Elkton (Md.) Base Ball Club and will feature nine teams from across the country. All teams play the game as it existed in 1864, even down to the customs and language of the period.
This tournament is not for those expecting to see monster home runs (the bats are far too thick to produce much power) or defensive “web gems” (there are no gloves).
“It’s a family-oriented event and there’s enough stuff to keep your interest,” said Bruce Leith, who is the president of Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elkton, as well as the manager of Concessions Development for the Philadelphia Phillies. “It’s more gentlemanly – there’s no high fives and each team cheers when the other makes a good play. The great thing is that it’s different from everything else. We’re showcasing what civilian life was like during the 1860s.”
The nine teams will play in three pools. Saturday’s action starts at 10 a.m., while the championship match will take place at noon on Sunday.
The event will also feature displays on “Gettysburg” Eddie Plank, the Hall of Fame pitcher who played from 1901-1917, and Eddie Plank III will throw out the first pitch before many of the games. Fans can also purchase the same balls that the teams will use and get (Continued from Page B1)
their photographs taken by 1860s tintype.
Some “special guests” in period attire will be in attendance, including Abraham Lincoln, General Grant and General Lee.
The 19th century teams play up and down the east coast from April through the end of October. Leith said a total of 1,500 fans walked through the grounds during last year’s inaugural tournament, which was far above their draw in other locations.
“My club’s been around for six years and we wanted to get it as big as we could and as popular as we could,” he said. “A lot of us have always liked Gettysburg and we figured it was a natural. The Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau said it’s their second biggest weekend (for tourism), but nothing was going on. It was really well received. The whole town got on board.”
The defending champion Talbot Fair Plays club from Maryland is looking to make it two in a row, but the Mechanicsburg Nine - the lone club from Pennsylvania - will try to take advantage of playing on their home turf.
For those spectators coming specifically to watch the games, Leith knows they’ll get a kick out of the colorful players they will see.
“The age range is 21 to 67,” he said with a smile. “The great thing for the older guys is the ball is coming in pretty slow under-handed. Back then, the name of the game was hitting it in holes or certain spots. The younger guys are in there trying to hit a home run, but they usually foul out to the catcher or pop out in the infield because you have to hit it just right.”
Adrian Martin can be reached at email@example.com