By: Eric Boston @EricBoston3
Published: November 20, 2017
For many teams it was the last games of the 2017 season. For Branson the Legacy Days Festival, held over Veterans weekend, marked the beginning of a relationship with the Vintage Base Ball Association (VBBA). Clubs from Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas traveled to Branson to help the newly formed Branson Boomers and Ozark Mountain Legacies play America’s pastime by the rules of 1860.
The idea to bring vintage base ball to Branson was explained by Jory Rolf of Ozark Mountain Legacy, “We saw it in Tennessee and it is just a feel good, family friendly [event] that fits with our core values perfectly. The vision is an annual ‘Legacy Days Festival’ where we celebrate our legacy, featuring vintage base ball. There are 400 vintage base ball teams across the country; we are looking to eventually have a national conference where those teams are invited to come to Branson.”
Right now the hope for a national conference in Branson would be to start in 2019. For now the next regional tournament is scheduled to be held September 21-23, 2018 in Branson. In order to get vintage base ball off the ground, Branson need a place to meet and train its players. Bob Sutcliffe and the Ballparks of America (BOA) stepped up to help accomplish this. “It started off as a meeting place. They needed a spot for demonstrations and I said to use the fields, whatever they needed. What I really like about it is that it isn’t your college player, it’s your 60 year old dad that had trouble running down the first base line - laughing as he hit a ball.”
Doug Ernst, the Secretary of the VBBA, came to Branson to teach the basics and differences in how the game was played in 1860. For starters, there were no gloves involved. “The ball we use is softer than a modern baseball. However, it could still do you an injury”, stated Ernst. There are also no called balls or strikes, “In 1860 the only strikes were clean misses; you were also allowed to catch the ball on the first bounce [to record an out]. If you did so, any runner was able to run at will”
Vintage base ball is mostly played in fields and pastures where a tree in the middle of the infield is not an uncommon sight. On November 11-12, 2017 it was played on the soccer fields of the Branson RecPlex, after an opening exhibition between the Branson teams at the BOA on Friday the 10th. Branson has already been invited to participate in other tournaments next season. In order to do the teams need support.
Not only are there open roster spots remaining, but people can get involved as scorekeepers or simply as supporters/spectators. The public is encouraged to get involved and remember it is not really about competition or skill (although there is plenty of both), but as Sutcliffe stated, “It reminded me a lot of golf. I play golf not because I play it well, I just like the etiquette part of it. It takes away the competitive nature and focuses on having fun. It’s about an experience.”