NEWBURY — Methuen’s Brian Sheehy was smiling even more than usual.
The sun was shining brightly, there was a cool breeze and he was in his glory, combining two of his greatest loves on one field, at the Spencer Peirce Little Farm.
Here, as the captain of the Essex Base Ball club in the 19th Century Base Ball Association (yes, baseball used to be two words), the North Andover High history teacher was combining baseball with history.
“It’s a lot of fun and I’ve always been interested in the history of the sport,” said Sheehy, a 1999 graduate of Central Catholic. “This brings it to life.”
Sheehy, as one of the founders of Vintage baseball as it’s called in New England, is in his 12th year playing baseball by 1864 rules and showing anyone even remotely interested all about it.
“It’s a competitive game, but it’s a thinking man’s game,” said Sheehy. “There’s a lot to it if you want to be successful.”
Some of the unique rules force players to think before acting rather than just relying on instinct.
One of the biggest differences with today’s game is that outs back in the 19th century could be recorded by catching the ball on one hop, even in foul territory.
Thus, with runners on base, if the batter hits one to the outfield that might be caught one way or the other, they must delay. If it’s caught in the air, they can be doubled up, but not on balls caught on one hop.
Runners must judge not only the trajectory and how far away the fielder is from the ball, but how hard it’s hit. After all, none of the fielders wore gloves in 1864.
Some of the unique rules get some getting used to. They include: