Rising Sun Library holds history of baseball event
Special to the Whig
— The Rising Sun Branch Library hosted a “History of Baseball” event June 13, led by members of the Elkton Eclipse, a local club baseball team that plays America’s past time using rules from the year 1864.
Bruce Leith, the club’s current president and team member, formed the team in 2006. According to team member and event presenter John Kilpatrick, the squad is a re-creation of an 1866 baseball club out of Elkton known as the Elkton Eclipse.
Kilpatrick, along with founding member and club captain, Glyn Richards, discussed the evolution of the game’s rules, equipment, playing style, uniforms and much more. The team members also brought with them period bats and balls that they have either found or recreated.
The 1864 “lemon peel” style ball that the Eclipse play with is made of fine leather and features a core different than the kind found in baseballs today, making it more durable. The rules of the 1864 version of the game vary greatly from the rules used in today’s game.
The biggest differences between “base ball” and today’s version is the fact that players wear no helmets or gloves and pitching is un- derhanded to increase both offensive and spectator thrill.
Another major difference is that teams played the original game with only one ball.
Yes, that’s right. If a ball had been hit into a creek, they’d grab it. A thorny bush? They’d grab it. If the ball had been hit so hard that the seams ripped? Play on.
Kilpatrick explained to the audience at Rising Sun Library that the word “baseball” actually began as “base ball.” The word is split into two words on the players’ gear to recapture that feel of 1864 base ball.
Richards recalled that first season with the Eclipse as “interesting.”
“There were a lot of growing pains,” he said. “There had been teams playing for three, four, five years already, and were above us.”
Since then, the Eclipse have become a dominant team, recording over 200 wins against clubs ranging from Maine to Tennessee and anywhere the Eclipse can find an opponent willing to play the classic game in the manner team members call “the correct way.”
The club always plays a doubleheader each day they have a game, hosting their contests at the Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton.
The Eclipse went a very respectable 8-8 during their inaugural season, resulting in increased interest in the club and the game.
Richards and Kilpatrick cited that season-opening victories that year over the New York Mutuals— one of the most storied and best base ball clubs in the country, according to Kilpatrick—was a huge boost for the club, spurring them forward to success.
“We haven’t really slowed down,” Richards said. “We talk about the game evolving, our league has evolved into these big tournaments and games, and it’s good to get different perspectives from the West Coast and various regions. It’s great to see.”
Kilpatrick added that interpretations of the game has led to a good debate of the origins and original rules of base ball.
“There are more voices, more research and our game really seems to grow from that [debating],” Kilpatrick said.
Despite the event at Rising Sun not garnering a very large audience, the Eclipse were still able to help people increase their knowledge of the history of the game and learn more about their local clubs.
“There is quite a community out there now,” said Kilpatrick. “We really have grown.”
John Kilpatrick, a founder of the Elkton Eclipse Base Ball Club, speaks with the audience during a history of baseball event held at Rising Sun Library on June 13.