Victorian base ball returns to Fort Sill
July 19, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (19 July 2012) -- As play-by-play announcer Clive Siegle spoke to the crowd about the virtues of the civilizing influence of a base ball game July 14 at the Old Post Quadrangle on Fort Sill, some less than savory sorts sought to upset the day's events with a little simulated gun play.
Fortunately, the long arm of the law stepped in and brought peace to the diamond as Fort Sill again stepped back in time for the annual base ball reenactment game between the Fort Sill Cannonballs and the Fort Sill Indians.
The annual contest re-enacts the first installment of the grand ol' game here on post in 1869. Back then 7th Cavalry Soldiers formed a team and played against the 19th Kansas Volunteers. When that opponent left to return home, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Indian prisoners of war, and later Fort Sill Soldiers, created their own team. Over the years, descendants from that original Native American team continued to play in the annual re-enactment forging the ties of good sportsmanship and mutual respect.
This year a new nine graced the diamond made up with Native Americans from five tribes: Wichita, Comanche, Kiowa, Caddo and Shawnee.
"My players play softball together, but none have ever played vintage base ball before," said Marland Delaware, a Comanche Indian and Fort Sill Indians coach. "We just hope we give them a good game."
As it turned out, the Cannonballs took an old fashioned horse whipping as the Indians ran roughshod to a 21-6 mercy-abbreviated contest.
Both teams featured a lot of new faces on the OPQ diamond. First up, the Cannonballs fired some powerful salvos as each batter hit the ball hard. However, fly balls and even line drives became easy outs due to rules peculiar to the old game. Three Cannonballs went to the dish, and each returned to the bench as they were retired 1-2-3. Because baseball gloves had yet to be invented, fielders caught the ball bare handed. They recorded outs by either catching the ball in the air or after the ball one-hopped the ground.
Grounders still required a throw to first base, but batters, shod in slick soled shoes, had to control their run to the bag. Those who sped past the bag, such as modern rules allow, were considered out if tagged.
Between innings Siegle pitched state-of-the-art Victorian products such as liver treatment and a resort where tourists could go polecat hunting.
The Indians strikers set the tone for the game in the bottom of the first as Siegle announced the players' names as they took the dish (home plate) inserting a colorful nickname as might have been used in that long ago time. The announcement of John "Spitball" Scott, the Indians' leadoff striker, resulted in hearty laughter from the Indian bench. Scott legged out a base hit and scored after the following two strikers rapped solid grounders. Crossing home plate Scott rang the tally bell to report his run to the scorekeeper.
"Although the bell doesn't appear to be historically correct, it has been a favorite with those who come to watch the game and the players from each team," said Wendel Dickason, Texas Vintage Base Ball League umpire who has called the annual game for many years.
The Cannonballs responded with a significantly "short fuse" courtesy of a fair-foul hit. According to Dickason, a ball hit into fair territory that immediately spins into foul ground is a base hit. With a runner on first base, a fair-foul that barely went three feet before rocketing back into foul ground ultimately led to a 2-1 Cannonballs' lead. Despite some errant throws on that play, Indians' fielders settled down.
Indians hitters then continued to pound the baseball and built a three-run cushion at 6-3 after five innings.
However, the Cannonballs answered with a barrage of their own off the bat of Maj. Sheriff "Outlaw" Olalekan. With two runners on base, the long-legged major sent a line drive up the middle.
"When I saw it hit the ground, I knew they had no chance to get an out, so I just turned on the wheels," he said. "Then, I hit third base and ran out of gas, but I just plowed through and crossed home plate."
Slicks are certainly good on an asphalt track, but since automobiles had yet to be invented, the slick-soled boots
Olalekan wore proved an adventure for a ballist intent to round the bases.
"I'd never ran on such slick soles before, but I made it," said the Cannon-ball striker, with a huge grin of relief filling his face. "I had a great time playing; the Indians were amazing hitters and great sportsmen."
The close contest changed significantly as the Indians strikers found base hits about as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
Eight Indians crossed the dish in the seventh inning before Dickason called for a mercy end to the inning. Both captains agreed, and the Indians took the field. However, after another defused Cannonball at-bat, the Indians added another 7-spot for the 21-6 final score. Both teams welcomed the end and the return to cooler, lightweight modern attire.
Following the game the two teams shook hands, all competitors received commemorative medals and the two captains exchanged gifts from their respective teams.
"All my players enjoyed the game. It took us a while to get used to how to play, but the competition was good, and we'll come back again if we're asked," said Delaware.