Players recreate Confederacy’s pastime at Jefferson

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2000

The rules, the dress, the playing field and even the name may be slightly different today than 19th-century &uot;base ball,&uot; but teams at a Vintage Civil War Base Ball game Saturday found the game holds an attraction that surpasses time.

&uot;No matter what’s going on in the country, whether in time of war, time of peace, good times or bad times, baseball is a relief from whatever is going on,&uot; Jimmy Allgood, event coordinator, said.

In its fourth year, the vintage base ball game drew players and spectators alike to the grounds of Historic Jefferson College in Natchez to recreate games played on the same soil during the Civil War.

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Players dressed in blue jeans, white dress shirts and Confederate gray military caps dotted the unlined field as &uot;strikers&uot; attempting to send a softened ball through magnolia trees that stood on the uneven field.

Julius Knotts, a softball enthusiast from Natchez, said he caught on quickly to the 1858 rules, which state a ball caught bare-handed on the first &uot;bound&uot; is an out.

Allgood said the &uot;gentlemen’s game&uot; of the past has many advantages over today’s sport.

&uot;It was not a deceptive game,&uot; he said. &uot;There was no tricks like we’ve seen baseball evolve into today.&uot;

For example, the first umpires were often dignitaries of the community who relied on players to tell them if an unseen ball was caught or dropped.

Dressed in a wool coat, top hat and carrying a wooden cane, Clark Burkett served as Saturday’s umpire.

&uot;In those days, there were no strikes or balls,&uot; Burkett said. &uot;I watch to see if a ball is foul or fair, make sure (the players) don’t spit and make sure they are polite to the audience.&uot;

Many of Saturday’s spectators were family members of the players, and all agreed they enjoyed watching the old-fashioned version of the game better than today’s sport.

&uot;To me, the rules make it more competitive,&uot; said Gary Nations, whose wife Jennifer’s female presence in the game was one of only a few variations from the 1800s sport. &uot;They even out the different players’ strengths.&uot;