Welcome to the VBBF web site

While we're still under construction, we'd like to introduce ourselves and give you some idea of what we plan to offer players, clubs, and fans of vintage base ball.

 

 

 VBBF MISSION STATEMENT

To spread the charms and values of vintage base ball, and accelerate the formation of vintage clubs and leagues around the world, by codifying the rules and equipment of the game's 19th century roots, and organizing competitions that include an annual, six-team Vintage Base Ball World Series tournament.

BRIEF HISTORY

Vintage base ball is a fast growing sport (225 clubs from 32 states), which features amateur clubs adhering to the rules, uniforms, equipment and gentlemanly competitive play of baseball's 19th century roots. Until recently the game has been mostly a local phenomenon, with clubs playing weekend games in open parks under a variety of rules.

The game is marked by an array of historical details that are enjoyed by both players ("ballists") and fans ("cranks"). Players in baggy uniforms wield fat handle bats at lemon peel stitched balls that are caught with what appear to be gardening gloves. Above all, it's a gentleman's game in which there is no showboating or taunting, and the umpire is always addressed as "Sir."

The first vintage games were played in Old Bethpage, NY, in 1980 between groups of friends who shared a love of baseball and history. These were 1860s style games that dictated bare hands and underhand pitching. Recently, however, vintage clubs have been gravitating to the 1880s overhand style, which allows the use of a glove that is no bigger than a man's hand.

(In 1995, an organization called the Vintage Base Ball Association was formed to help vintage clubs across the country communicate with each other. Most Association members play the 1860s underhand glove-less game. For more about this organization go to VBBA.org.)

On July 3, 2004, vintage base ball took a quantum leap forward when Jim Bouton and VBBF board member Chip Elitzer staged a special vintage game event that drew 6,000 fans to Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and was nationally broadcast live by ESPN Classic. The 1880s style game, in which Martin's Hartford Senators beat Bouton's Pittsfield Hillies 14-12, featured an antique car parade, period music, and costumed actors, and received national media attention.

"It was a picture postcard come to life," wrote Joe Palladino of the Waterbury (CT) Republican, "a jittery old black and white newsreel that burst into living color, and a stroll through a museum where you were permitted to reach out and touch the history."

This is the magic that the Vintage Base Ball Federation seeks to foster in communities worldwide.

CLUBS

After a certain amount of practice, anyone who plays baseball or softball can play vintage base ball. VBBF club rosters - 15 to 20 amateur players - are limited to three (3) former minor leaguers.

There are two ways to start a club: 1. Hold tryouts and create one from scratch. 2. Have your softball or baseball team convert to vintage base ball, or just add vintage games to your summer play. Most vintage clubs play between 6 and 12 games per season.

Approximate cost to outfit a vintage club (uniforms & equipment) is $6,500. The best source for sponsor money is a local business group or Chamber of Commerce, since weekend vintage games are a very nice tourist attraction.

For more details about Rules, Uniforms, Customs, FAQ's, Equipment, etc., check out the START A CLUB section.

FEDERATION

The VBBF is an umbrella organization that provides substantial benefits to member clubs, while exercising minimal control. The benefits (with links to more details) are listed below. (Note: Our website is under construction and some links are not complete.)

Club Member Benefits:

  1. Belong to a family of clubs (START A CLUB)
  2. Compete in tournaments and special events (SPECIAL EVENTS)
  3. Qualify for annual VBBF World Series (WORLD SERIES)
  4. Below market prices for uniforms & equipment (START A CLUB)
  5. Sell WS club merchandise on VBBF website (MEMBER FORUM)
  6. Design your own uniforms on VBBF website (START A CLUB)
  7. Post schedules and results on VBBF website (MEMBER FORUM)
  8. Enjoy monthly newsletter on VBBF website (MEMBER FORUM)
  9. Links to club websites
  10. Town Liability Insurance

Club Member Obligations:

  1. $500 annual membership fee ($350 toward World Series prize money and $150 for Town Liability Insurance)
  2. Purchase VBBF uniforms & equipment (note: existing vintage clubs may use their current uniforms)
  3. Adhere to VBBF Rules and Codes of Conduct

Note: If you are interested in starting a club, please CONTACT US immediately! For a list of clubs and club interest in your area, go to CLUB CONTACTS in the START A CLUB section. The VBBF will be prepared to accept memberships beginning November 2006.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Jim Bouton - VBBF Chairman / CEO

Bouton was an All-Star pitcher and won twenty-one games for the Yankees in 1963. The following year he won 18 games and beat the Cardinals twice in the World Series. Bouton's diary of the 1969 season with the Pilots and Astros, Ball Four, was selected by the NY Public Library as one of the "Books of the Century." In 2004, Bouton and partner Chip Elitzer staged a vintage base ball game at historic Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, MA, that drew nearly 6,000 people to Wahconah Park and was broadcast live by ESPN Classic.

Dennis Donovan

Donovan was a former baseball standout at the University of Connecticut and participant in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Donovan, who played in the Yankee organization in the early 1980s, now coaches for the Hartford Senators Base Ball Club. A founding investor in the Vintage Base Ball Factory, Donovan is currently an Executive Vice President at S. H. Smith and Company, an insurance brokerage operation in West Hartford, CT. Donovan Is a long time resident of Rocky Hill, CT.

Frank Deford

The author of fourteen books, Deford is a weekly commentator for Morning Edition on National Public Radio, the Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated and a correspondent on RealSports With Bryant Gumbel on HBO. Deford has won many honors including an Emmy, a George Foster Peabody Award, National Magazine Award, and election to the Hall of Fame of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters. A television biography of his life and work appeared on ESPN in August of 2005.

Chip Elitzer

Currently a private investment banker, Elitzer was Vice President in Corporate Finance at Rothschild Inc., an officer of Chase Manhattan Bank, a management consultant to the Ford Foundation, and developer of a consumers' and producers' cooperative in the Amazon jungle. Elitzer is founder and chairman of the Berkshire Hills Technology fund, which ensures that all students and teachers in the Berkshire Hills Regional school district have home-based computers connected to the internet.

Sam Hollander

Hollander is a strategic media specialist, counseling clients in media and investor relations, brand development, emerging media platforms, strategic partnerships and business affairs. He has been a producer for ABC's World News Tonight, Turning Point, 20/20, CBS News and Court TV. Hollander created one of the first broadband channels, and his production of the first interactive political webcasts from the July 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia was honored by the Smithsonian Institution.

John Thorn

Thorn is a baseball historian of long standing. His baseball titles over the past three decades include the forthcoming Baseball in the Garden of Eden, Total Baseball, and dozens more. Total Baseball was designated the official encyclopedia of Major League Baseball. He was a major on-screen presence in and chief consultant to Ken Burns's PBS film, Baseball, and is a regular on-air commentator for ESPN, the History Channel, and network television and radio. Thorn is also a chief consultant at the Museum of the City of New York.

Andy Zimbalist

The Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College, Zimbalist has published eighteen books and several dozen articles in the area of sports economics. His books include the widely acclaimed Baseball and Billions, and Sports Jobs and Taxes: The Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums. Zimbalist has also consulted for numerous Players' Associations, teams, leagues, and sports business companies. The Village Voice chose him as the 1998 Sports Journalist of the Year.