TRAVERSE CITY — Picture this.
Go to a baseball game and discover the pitcher is called a “ballist.” The catcher is a “behind” and the infield and outfield players are “gardeners.” The umpire stops the game if a player spits or swears. He makes the player apologize to the ladies in the crowd of “rooters,” also called “bugs” or “cranks.”
There’s an opportunity to see all that and more this afternoon, when the Mossbacks of Petoskey and the Traverse City Hustlers gather for a vintage baseball “Battle of the Queen Cities” match, organized by the History Center of Traverse City.
The game is the first time the Hustlers have played in more than a century, and it’s part of the History Center’s autumn Jubilee, executive director Bill Kennis said.
The gates open at 3:30 p.m. at the Traverse City Softball Field at Pine and 13th streets next to Thirlby Field. The first “hurl” is 4:05 p.m. Tickets for the few bleacher seats can be purchased at the gate, but the event is free and fans are welcome to bring their own lawn chairs, Kennis said.
“Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes has wagered a lug of cherries that his Hustlers can win the match,” Kennis added, tongue in cheek. “And Petoskey Mayor Bill Fraser is staking a bucket of Petoskey stones that his Mossbacks will ace the Hustlers.”
The two teams will play by rules created in 1863 — years before “base ball” became one word, players wore gloves and the brand-new sport became a favorite American pastime. It was a time when “strikers” (batters) could not slide or overrun first base, outs were called “dead hands,” and innings ended after “three dead hands.”
Speaking of hands, the History Center will supply handouts that explain the 1863 rules.
Both teams will wear replica uniforms, but not baseball gloves. Most ballists played with bare hands until the mid-1890s when players began wearing gloves in the field.