Tournament recalls how baseball was played in 1800s

Baseball has come a long way since 1864. In those days, there were no overhead pitches, bats were thicker and heavier, no one wore a glove, and uniforms were made of wool — no matter how hot the day was. The same ball got pounded through all nine innings, so the softer it got, the less it flew.

But when you play baseball by old-time rules, as a half-dozen teams did Sunday at a tournament in Harford County's Jerusalem Mill Village, your respect for history trumps everything else, including personal comfort and soaring, late-in-the-game fly balls.

Still, that doesn't mean there isn't some rule-bending here and there, especially in pitching. There was a time when balls could only be thrown from below the belt, so pitchers simply hiked their pants up to mid-chest.

"It was always a gentlemen's game, but ball players have always found a way to get around the rules, to see what suited them best," said Jon "Killer" Kilpatrick, a member of the Elkton Eclipse. It's one of seven such tradition-bound outfits in Maryland and by the end of the day, it had won, for the third consecutive time, the Maryland 19th Century Base Ball Championship Tournament.

Also for the third year in a row, the vanquished team was the Talbot Fair Plays, this time by a 15-7 score.

"They got the best of us again," said Scott "Curly" Murphy, the Talbot captain, whose nickname — they all use nicknames, as in the old days — is a tribute to his bald head. "But win or lose, it's a boyhood game. We're men and still able to play — that's what counts."

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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