Re-creations of the early game are common in the Midwest. There are several dozen clubs throughout the rust belt playing almost exclusively by 1860's rules, or as we call it, "the underhand game." However, when Jim Willison, captain of the Oaks of Locust Corner - an 1860's vintage team from the Cincinnati area - announced that they would host a National Showcase of Vintage Base Ball in Batavia, Ohio (spitting distance from Cincinnati, where our founder Julius Flesichmann was Mayor and his father co-founded the Gaff & Fleichmann Co. in 1868), I believe we were the first club to sign up.
Several box scores and write ups from the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1900 illustrate that the M.A.C. (playing as the Mountain Tourists as they were often referred) visited the Queen City on three occasions 121 years ago under the tutelage and on the dime of 28 year-old Julius Fleischmann who served from 1900-1905 as Cincinnati's youngest Mayor in history. The last of those trips came in late September when journeyman pitcher, Black Jack Keenan -who only appeared in one major league game in his career - held the major leaguer Cincinnati Reds to five hits while clubbing "eleven bingoes" of their own off "the great southpaw" Theo Breitenstein en route to a 4-3 upset. Appearing in the lineup that day was Max Fleischmann in rightfield (having missed the trips earlier in the year), along with future major leaguers Red Dooin behind the plate, Whitey Rohe at first base and Miller Huggins (playing under the pseudonym 'Proctor') at second base.
Despite not being able to travel in the luxury of a Pullman rail car as our forbearers had long ago, the M.A.C. were thrilled to take the road trip. Having done some research on several former M.A.C.s that were Cincinnati kids and knowing that the Fleischmann family's mausoleum was in Spring Grove Cemetery (the third largest cemetery in America) we made sure to stop and pay our respects to Messrs. Fleischmanns as well as our Hall of Famer, Miller Huggins. Several other notable M.A.C.'s are buried in Cincy including Nick Altrock, Bug Holliday, and Whitey Rohe, but those will have to wait for another visit.
We left the cemetery in haste to meet the rest of the M.A.C. waiting for us at the Reds Hall of Fame Museum where the museum staff treated us to free admission (honoring the past connections between their one time owner Mayor Fleischmann and our Club). My favorite item in their collection is a catcher's mask designed to accommodate a good spit of chewing tobacco...Think of all the time that is saved when the catcher doesn't have to flip up his mask to spit. Apparently, even back then (ca. 1910) they were trying to speed up the game while also promoting good oral hygiene.
That evening we also took in a Reds game at the Great American Ballpark where they were hosting the Colorado Rockies. It was the first Friday night game at the ballpark to allow a full capacity crowd since the COVID-19 restrictions were instituted across professional sports. It was also a historic night in that it marked the first time since joining the National League in 1890 that the Reds hit a home run in each of the first five innings and each with a different player. I have to believe that the pre-game visit to pay our respects to the Fleischmanns had channeled some magic into the Reds lineup that night. Next time we'll have to schedule a match with the 1869 Red Stockings.
The first match on the following day was with the Dayton Clodbusters. A team whose been in the Midwest vintage circuit for over 30 years and ironically, look just like our perennial cross-county frenemies, the Bovina Dairymen . The match proved to be a challenge due in large part to the M.A.C.'s post-Reds game tailgate party and intense baseball strategy meeting that extended into the wee hours of the morning in the hotel parking lot. Thus, we dropped our first game of the season 13-11 after staging a late innings comeback that proved to be too little, too late.
From there on out, the M.A.C. won the rest of their matches and many players (when not engaged in our own games) plugged holes in other team's lineups. At one point, there was at least one M.A.C. member on each of the four fields in play. The National Showcase proved to be a festival worth returning to at some point down the road and yours truly was invited to give a future talk at the Reds Hall of Fame about the connections between the Fleischmanns M.A.C., Cincinnati and the Reds.
Some additional highlights from the M.A.C.'s season included:
Our first matches with the newly revived Delhi Base Ball Club...a team that dates as far back as 1873. The Delhi BBC has since redubbed itself the Delhi Polecats - paying homage to the Hamden Polecats where they play their home games while managing to keep their ties to the County Seat with many players from Delhi proper).
Our inaugural match with the Little Falls Alerts during the weeklong Canal Days Festival. The Alerts are a throwback to a team that formed in Little Falls, NY in 1885 and disbanded a year later. The reboot of this club is being led by Andrew "Crutches" Krutz who grew up in Little Falls but is currently serving as the M.A.C.'s pre-eminent backstop.
Watching from Centerfield as our mid-season acquisition, Winston "Winnie" Marquez fanned 18 Dairymen through eight innings for a 10-8 victory at the M.A.C. Grounds.
Sweeping both games played during the inaugural Cowtown Scramble held on a banner October day at the Creamery Field Vintage Base Ball Park in Bovina, NY.
The M.A.C. 2022 schedule will be released shortly and will include appearances at the infield of the Goshen Historic Track for a match with the reformed Kingston Guards, tournaments in Gettysburg, PA and Rocky Point Park, RI, and the 3rd annual Bovina Town Bicentennial. Until then, stay healthy and think Spring!