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See how 19th century baseball was played at Gettysburg festival

Watch a game, try on a vintage uniform and learn to hit with an old-fashioned bat at Gettysburg's 19th Century Base Ball Festival.

This weekend, 18 clubs of ballists from across the country will converge on Gettysburg's gardens for two days of 19th century base ball matches.

Didn’t quite catch that? Let me translate.

Eighteen teams of 19th century base ball players are headed to Gettysburg’s baseball fields for the Gettysburg National 19th Century Base Ball Festival. And, yes, they’ll be speaking in traditional 19th century base ball (spelled with two words back then) terms all weekend long. So, you might want to study up before you go.

The Elkton Eclipse, of Elkton, Md., started the festival in 2009 to give six area 19th century teams, like the Keystone Base Ball Club of Harrisburg, a place to compete. Seven years later, the festival has grown to become one of the top vintage base ball events in the country, organizer Bruce Leith said.

Each year, it brings different teams from across the country – each dressed in time period uniforms – to Gettysburg to compete for local spectators.

This year, for the first time, locals can get in on the action, too.

The festival kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday with a kids' clinic at Gettysburg Recreational Park that teaches children under 18 how to catch the ball with bare hands and hit with an old-fashioned bat. Those 18 and older can also join in the fun by playing in the festival’s first-ever All Clubs Match (similar to an all-star game) after the fourth inning.

Then, bring your blankets, chairs and coolers for Saturday’s games from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Schroeder Family Farm in Gettysburg. There, you can check out 19th century equipment displays, get your picture taken in a 19th century uniform and enjoy ballpark food throughout the day. The public can also join Saturday’s base ball walk down Steinwehr Avenue at 8 p.m., where they’ll learn all about the teams, uniforms, rules and other aspects of the 19th century sport. Games continue on Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Remember, the matches will all be played according to the rules of 1863. So, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t quite look like an Orioles game.

Here are some of the biggest differences you’ll notice.

1. Pitchers throw the ball underhand.

The pitcher’s goal is to put the ball in play, not to strike anyone out, Leith said. So, don’t expect to see 90 mile-per-hour fastballs.

2. Players don’t wear baseball gloves or catcher’s equipment.

In 1863, they played with their bare hands.

3. If a player catches the ball on one bounce, it’s an out.

But, it’s considered more “manly” if they can catch a pop fly or “sky ball” in the air, Leith said.

4. There’s no strike zone.

A strike is any pitch that the umpire thinks is hittable.

5. Chances are, the umpire is also your pastor.

Teams needed someone they could trust to be honest when calling foul and fair balls, Leith said. So, they usually chose the town’s minister or pastor.

6. The uniforms resemble those of fire companies.

Firefighters were one of the only groups of people who wore uniforms in the 19th century, so base ball teams modeled their uniforms after them, Leith said. The uniforms consist of a long-sleeved poly wool shirt with a shield and the club name on the front, long pants and either pillbox or jockey-style caps.

7. The terminology.

Possibly the biggest difference and the most confusing one for fans is the language the players use during a match, Leith said. Here’s a guide to some of the most frequently used terms, so you understand what’s happening on the field – er, garden.

  • Striker – batter                               
  • Striker to the line – batter up        
  • Mascot – bat boy                      
  • The garden – the outfield
  • Muckle – power                       
  • Kicking – complaining to the umpire
  • Inshoot – screwball  
  • Ballist – player                            
  • Arbitrator – umpire                    
  • Hurler (or feeder) – the pitcher   
  • Club Nine – team                        
  • Leg it– run hard                     
  • Side out – three outs                  
  • Match – game                            
  • Willow – the bat                    
  • Tally – to count an ace
  • Muffin – unskilled player
  • Muff – error
  • Hand Down – out
  • Ace – run
  • Jimjam – wild pitch
  • Sockdolager – a long hit
  • Outshoot – curveball
  • Cake – player of little skill
  • Apple (or pill) – the ball
  • Daisy cutter – low line drive
  • Dish – home plate
  • Hand out – player is out
  • Stinger – hard hit ball
  • Sky ball – high pop up
  • Whitewash – hold a team scoreless in an inning
  • Three hands out – side retired

If you go

What: Gettysburg National 19th Century Base Ball Festival

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 16 and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, July 17

Where: Schroeder Family Farm, 965 Pumping Station Road, Gettysburg. (Friday’s festivities will take place at Gettysburg Recreational Park, 545 Long Lane, Gettysburg).

Cost: Free

More information: Visit for more info.