The oldest continually used base ball field in the state will be well-worn after the Fort Mackinac Never Sweats take on the Rochester Grangers. Part of the annual tradition of vintage base ball on Mackinac Island, this isn’t the home-run-derby we are used to seeing, but a gentlemanly display of athleticism mixed with history and plenty of laughs.
The game first appeared on Mackinac Island in 1871 when soldiers from Captain Leslie Smith’s 1st Regiment of Infantry, many of whom were Civil War veterans, received permission to play the game (“match”) in their spare time. Over the next two decades base ball grew in popularity across the country and, with liberal amounts of free time and officers who encouraged physical fitness, Fort Mackinac soldiers enthusiastically joined in.
By the mid 1880s baseball was all the rage. Even the officers caught the fever and took an increasing role in supporting the fort team. Lieutenant Edward Pratt helped form the Fort Mackinac Base Ball Club in 1885. The 32 year old lieutenant became the team captain and contributed the first $4 to the club fund that paid for two new bats at forty-cents each and a “league” baseball which cost one-dollar and twenty-five cents. By mid summer the team had several bats and balls, three bases, a catcher’s mask, and a carefully laid out diamond on the large parade ground behind the fort. With a copy of Spaulding’s Base Ball Guide in hand, Pratt and his men took the field.
Now, all you cranks (the word used to describe fans) have a chance to yell “Huzzah” for your favorite player as the Straits Area Band plays nearby, accompanying you in singing the well-known “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
John Hiller, former ‘68 Detroit Tigers player, will also be back again this year to pitch for the Never Sweats. Come out and see who takes the winners title. Pick a team and cheer them on while learning the ins and outs of a vintage ball game.
The game will take place on Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. on the Scout Barracks Field. For more information visit mackinacparks.com. The cost for a Family is $10, or you may purchase adult tickets for $4, and Youth (5-17) tickets for $2. Children 4 & under and Mackinac Associates above Heritage level.