FREEPORT — At a makeshift diamond cut into the fields of Pettengill Farm a la “Field of Dreams,” hundreds of cranks and crankesses sat along the bullpen and cheered while ballists for the Dirigo and Ipswich nines faced off in a celebration of 1860s baseball.

The vintage-style game, a double-header in which home team Dirigo also played the Portland Eons, was part historical re-enactment and part serious sporting event.

“Recreational re-enactment – that’s what I like to call it,” said Dirigo team director Jacob Newcomb.

Newcomb said he got into vintage baseball through a friend who was heavily involved in Civil War re-enactments.

The event is not a re-enactment in the truest sense of the word, he said, because the outcome is undetermined until the better team wins, just as in real baseball.

Still, the participants strive for historical accuracy in their dress, style of play and speech.


“We are trying to emulate the way the game was played in vintage times,” Newcomb said.

The players all wore vintage uniforms on Sunday, and the games were played by 1860s rules, which differ considerably from those of modern baseball.

For instance, the players, or “ballists,” as they were known back then, don’t wear gloves. They have to catch stunners (hard hits), daisy-cutters (ground balls), cloud hunters (fly balls) and everything else bare-handed.

The hurler (pitcher) throws underhand, and the ball is filled with horse hair and is somewhat softer than a modern baseball. Runners must stop on first base, and a ball caught after a single bounce is still an out.

During the games, participants used terminology and expressions of the 1860s. Fans were referred to as “cranks” and “crankesses,” and teams were called “nines,” or “clubs.”

The ballists uttered common expressions of the day such as, “Striker to the line!” (“Batter up!”) and “The batter is dead!” (“The batter is out!”)


The vintage games, hosted by the Freeport Historical Society, have been held annually since 2011.

On Sunday, Maine Baseball Hall of Famer Mort Soule kicked off the double-header with a lively recitation of “Casey at the Bat,” the famous baseball poem written in 1888 by Ernest Thayer.

Dirigo mid scout (center fielder) Scott Hastings said that Sunday was his third time participating in the event.

“We’re going to play competitive, but also with a sense of sportsmanship,” Hastings said before the game.

The unfamiliar rules take a bit of getting used to, Hastings said, but vintage baseball is an enjoyable way to combine two of his passions.

“I’m a history teacher and a baseball coach, so this seemed like a good fit,” he said.


Steve DiNapoli, third base-tender (third baseman) for the Ipswich, Massachussets, team, said he has been involved in vintage baseball leagues for the past five years.

He said playing by 1860s rules actually has enhanced his understanding of America’s favorite pastime.

But more important, playing 1860s-style baseball is fun, he said.

“It’s just a really good bunch of guys that we play with,” DiNapoli said.

The games were a hit with spectators, too. More than 250 showed up for Sunday’s games, with some sitting in the bleachers and others lounging on the grass in folding chairs or on blankets.

Portland resident Katie Way, 25, said she was intrigued by the prospect of seeing how people played baseball 150 years ago.

“I’m not really one to go to sporting events, but the historical aspect of it drew me in,” said.

Portland resident Steve Johnson, 27, said he decided to attend the vintage event despite having tickets to Sunday’s Sea Dogs game.

“I’m interested in baseball history,” he said, “And they still have beer here, too.”

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