What is Vintage Base Ball?

batter-up1Vintage Base Ball is a pastime, with its beginnings and progressions mimicking those that occurred in America over 160 years ago.  Teams competing today wear period reproduction uniforms, use period authentic equipment and follow baseball rules from the 19th century in order to accurately present the history of baseball to the public.  Matches can be seen almost 12 months out of each year at open-air museums, living history villages, Civil War re-enactments and city parks and is played in over 20 states including Canada.

The mission of the VBBA is to preserve, perpetuate, and promote the game of base ball as it was played during its formative years in the nineteenth century and other historic eras. Proper rules interpretation is an important aspect to our game. VBBA member clubs have access not only to vintage rules with interpretation but also to game historians and more.

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Most vintage base ball clubs in the VBBA play the game of base ball according to the rules of the late 1850s, 1860s and 1880s.

The mid-nineteenth century game was considerably different than today’s game. The game evolved steadily from the 1850s through the turn of the century into the game as we know it today.

In the 1850s

  • New_York_Knickerbockers_Baseball_Club,_circa_1847Early baseball meeting
  • Very few clubs were in existence in the early and mid 1850’s.  Each followed slightly different playing rules.  The three most established clubs met to establish a common set of playing rules in 1854.“At a meeting held November 19, 1853, a communication was received from the Eagle Club, asking for a committee to join them in arranging a set of rules for playing and Dr. [Daniel] Adams, [Duncan] Curry, and [William] Tucker were appointed.The annual meeting, for 1854, was held at Smith’s, 35 Howard Street, on the 1st of April.  The committee on rules presented the following as having been arranged to govern the three clubs, viz. the Knickerbockers, Gotham, and Eagle.” – Peverelly, Charles A., The Book of American Pastimes; 1866, p. 346.
  • All three appointed members were from the Knickerbocker Club, the second oldest operation club to this point.

In the 1860s

  • 1869HarpersWeeklyBaseballRedStockingsBaseball gradually over took cricket as America’s favorite pastime and by 1866; there were hundreds of base ball clubs competing throughout the east coast and mid-west.
  • Due to the competitive nature and the revenue that touring clubs generated, the Cincinnati Red Stockings announce that they would pay their players for the 1869 season, thus becoming the first openly professional base ball club in America.

In the 1870s

  • The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP) began operating in 1871.  This was the first professional baseball league in America
  • After the National Association ended operation in 1875, the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (NL) began business in 1876 and is still in existence.

In the 1880s

  • The American Association of Base Ball Clubs (AA) began competing with the NL in 1882.
  • In 1884, a third baseball business, the Union Association of Professional Base-Ball Clubs (UA) challenged the NL and AA for the public’s money; however, folded after one season.
  • The NL and AA agreed to use the same playing rules, starting with the 1887 season.


In the 1890s

  • The Players’ League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (PL), spear-headed by player John Montgomery Ward, opened operation for the 1890 season.  Although the PL had better attendance than either the NL or AA, it too ended operation at the end of one season.
  • The AA ended its 10-year existence at the conclusion of the 1891 season, with four clubs being absorbed by the NL.  The new league was named the National League and American Association of Base Ball Clubs.


Today’s vintage base ball began on Long Island at Old Bethpage Village Restoration in the summer of 1979.  The Ohio Village began their program in the summer of 1981.

Close to 400 clubs are in existence at any one time today and the VBBA is constantly working to increase that number.

Read more about the history of vintage Base Ball.

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