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.

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