Baseball in Allenstown will move back to its roots 

  • Dennis Fowler and the Allenstown Historical Society will host a free baseball game, a traditional symbol of innocent, small-town America this Sunday at the Farley Field. And this game, actually, will take that innocence a step further, utilizing 19th-century rules and trends and uniforms to recreate a sandlot-style game that featured ‘strikers,’ not batters, and ‘two hands dead,’ not two outs. “I’m hoping that this will be an annual thing,” said Dennis Fowler, a member of the Allenstown Historical Society. “It really depends on how many people think that this is worth it.” GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dennis Fowler and the Allenstown Historical Society will host a free baseball game, a traditional symbol of innocent, small-town America this Sunday at the Farley Field. And this game, actually, will take that innocence a step further, utilizing 19th-century rules and trends and uniforms to recreate a sandlot-style game that featured ‘strikers,’ not batters, and ‘two hands dead,’ not two outs. “I’m hoping that this will be an annual thing,” said Dennis Fowler, a member of the Allenstown Historical Society. “It really depends on how many people think that this is worth it.” GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dennis Fowler and the Allenstown Historical Society will host a free baseball game that will abide by the rules of a different era. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • A photo of a vintage baseball player. Allenstown Historical Society

Monitor columnist
Published: 10/9/2021 9:59:45 PM

This baseball game, complete with old rules and historic uniforms, aims to be a symbol of innocent, small-town America.

Hosted by the Allenstown Historical Society and played next Sunday, the game will utilize 19th century rules and bygone uniforms to recreate a sandlot-style game that featured ‘strikers,’ not batters, and ‘two hands dead,’ not two outs.

“I’m hoping that this will be an annual thing,” said Dennis Fowler, a member of the historical society. “It really depends on how many people think that this is worth it.”

It’s baseball, in a strange form. Fowler, 77, is a retired civil engineer, and his son, 47-year-old Kris Fowler, is a state employee for the Department of Revenue. Together, they are the muscle behind the plan.

They’ve lived in Pembroke since Kris was a little boy, and both volunteer for the town’s historical society. They’re conscious of the role they play in making their hometown unique and attractive, and Vintage Baseball is what they cooked up to continue that spirit.

“It came up when we were trying to think of things to do for the town,” Kris said. “We had posted it on the community page on Facebook and, within just a few minutes, we were getting all kinds of comments, and they said thank you and how cool they thought this was.”

The Fowlers said they’ve invited two teams – the Massachusetts Beaneaters and the Maine Dirigos – to play each other on Oct. 17 at the field on River Road in Allenstown. There’s no charge; donations will be welcomed.

The teams are affiliated with the Vintage Base Ball Association, an informal network that includes about 130 teams from across the country. These are nostalgic looks at another period of time, before the American Pastime had evolved into what we see today.

But unlike, say, a reenactment of the Civil War – an exhibition with all the trimmings but without a real conflict or real weaponry – those in the Vintage Association play for keeps, just like members of any adult summer league do.

But this is different. In this form of baseball players revert back to the game as it was played when Lincoln was president, in the 1860s. When they can find them, and they are expensive to make, players wear the old-school uniforms, made of 100% wool, which are stiff and hot on summer days.

In this sport, players don’t wear gloves, and a ball caught on a bounce is an out, making the no-glove rule less painful. Elsewhere, pitchers toss meatballs to batters, giving them easy pitches to hit. Also, bases resemble pillows, part of the makeshift nature of this brand of ball.

There’s chirping and banter between the teams and fans, corny, Vaudeville style. For example, the catcher, known as ‘the behind,” hears remarks from opponents, tying his identity to his derriere.

“I like seeing the interaction with the players, and the players would come to the stands and joke around,” Kris said. “It’s cool to see something from the 1800s, the uniforms they wore and to see no gloves.”

Kris is a big Red Sox fan. He and his Boy Scout troop saw Carl Yastrzemski’s final game at Fenway Park in 1983. He grumbled when asked about Bill Buckner and the 1986 World Series. His favorite Sox player ever is Phil Plantier, and only a serious Red Sox fan would mention that name.

He and his father have made their mark on their hometown. They volunteer for the Allenstown Historical Society. They repair stones at local cemeteries. They helped produce an annual car show in Bear Brook State Park.

When that event became too expensive, another was needed to fill the gap. As it turns out, Dennis and Kris had seen a vintage baseball game a few years ago in Portsmouth. They remembered liking it.

“It looked like they were having fun,” Dennis said.

The Fowlers called Jacob Newcomb, a league umpire and the president of the Dirigo Vintage Baseball Club of Maine. He couldn’t be reached for this column, but a recent story on vintage baseball by Maine writer Rob Sneddon explained that vintage baseball there began 16 years ago.

A Civil War reenactment group chose to form a team, remaining in the same time period while switching to baseball, 19th century style. A team from Massachusetts came north to play in a game mixing theater with a competitive spirit. The score was kept. Winning was important.

Players today vary in age, 20s into their 60s, and come from all walks of life. Teachers, salespeople, attorneys.

The game on Oct. 17 will start at 11 a.m. – Suncook Little League is opening its snack shack. There’s no entry fee, but donations will help pay the $250 the Allenstown Historical Society agreed to pay the teams for travel expenses.

Bring a chair, or a blanket.

“We’re covering the cost, so hopefully everyone likes baseball,”, Dennis Fowler said. “Or even if you just like history. Maybe we can make it an annual event.”


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy