No Gloves, Major Fun: Playing Base Ball in the 1860s

A ball cracks off the bat. The pitcher points out directions to the infield. Someone yells, “I got it. I got it.”

Paints a picture of summer at the ball field, doesn’t it?

Summer baseball is a hobby for many, Alexander Jakstys goes a step further and transports back to the 1860s to play base ball on the weekends.

As Associate Engineering Manager, he plays for The Wahoo Base Ball Club of Royal Oak. The team spends spring and summer enjoying the sport … historically.

“We play with no gloves, wooden bats, and wear vintage uniforms,” Jakstys said. “We play with underhand gentleman’s pitching where the pitcher delivers a hittable pitch. There’s no sliding and limited stealing. Another big difference is we play the ‘bound rule’ where a ball caught off a single bounce is considered an out.”

The game was even spelled differently in the 1860s, with vintage players quick to point out “base ball was two words back then,” while the one-word variation of baseball wasn’t common until nearly the 1900s.

After college, he was looking to start playing baseball again. Jakstys watched vintage base ball as a kid at Greenfield Village. He held a fascination with the sport. It was an easy fit when a friend’s father, who plays for the Rochester Grangers Base Ball Club, introduced him to the league.

Last year, after being a substitute for several years prior he joined The Wahoo Base Ball Club of Royal Oak. However, the transition from baseball to the vintage base ball isn’t easy.

“Playing barehanded was probably the hardest thing to get used to, especially if you’re playing the infield,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times a ground ball rolled under my hand because I was used to scooping it up with my glove.”

Before he knew it, he took the field at Greenfield Village.

“Getting to play at Greenfield Village last year was really special,” he said. “You’re surrounded by all the old buildings and the other reenactors that work there. It helps you feel like you’re in the time period. Not to mention you end up playing in front of a pretty large crowd.”

The memories he’s made with the team have been unforgettable.

The Wahoo Base Ball Club of Royal Oak

“We played in the Ohio Cup last year down in Columbus, which is one of the largest vintage base ball tournaments in the country,” he said. “There were more than 20 teams in attendance including a few women’s teams. It was fun getting to interact with players from other states and seeing how large and tightknit the vintage base ball community is.”

Many of his teammates played baseball as a kid or in high school and thoroughly enjoy the sport. The family-friendly atmosphere is a big draw as well, with team luncheons for both competitors and their families after every game.

Like many of the players, he got a nickname during a game against the Mansfield Independents from Ohio. After finding out that he was an engineer, they decided to give him some light razzing.

“When they found out I was an engineer they started calling me ‘Boy Genius’ and the name stuck,” Jakstys said. “Some of my teammates go by ‘Shoeless,’ ‘Dizzy,’ ‘Hammer,’ and ‘Chops.’”