While NASCAR is gaining popularity in some quarters of the country, baseball is still the Great American Pastime here. And Bridgehampton’s history with the sport will be underscored this weekend with an old-fashioned baseball game played by 1864 rules.
The Bridgehampton Historical Society will host the game on the broad field behind their headquarters on the corner of Corwith and Main streets this Saturday, September 20, beginning at 11 a.m.
“Bridgehampton has a long and rich history with the game,” said Stacy Dermont, program director for the historical society, and she has been going through old records and reports for information about the many teams who called the hamlet home.
One article she recalls reported on Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders playing an exhibition game against a local nine at the end of the 19th century.
The Rough Riders lost, she said, but the report noted they had a handicap: “They were sick and wore boots,” said Dermont.
The game this Saturday will be between the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Bridgeport Orators, two teams that compete in a league of other clubs that play by vintage rules and in period costumes. For example, the players do not wear mitts, despite the fact they play with hand-stitched balls that are just as hard and travel as fast as the ones used today.
The original Brooklyn Atlantics, organized in 1855, were recognized as national champions in 1864, and played through the 1881 season. Reformed in 1997, they have had a home field at the Smithtown Historical Society grounds since 2000.
The original Orators, led by the versatile Hall of Famer James H. O’Rourke, who was player, manager and owner of the team, won their league pennant in 1904. Recreated in 2007 the team plays home games in their city’s Seaside Park.
Dermont also pointed out that Bridgehampton was home to one of the most celebrated players in the history of the game, Carl Yastrzemski, who played on one of several traveling teams in the days when each town had their own. Noting that many of Yastrzemski’s own family played the game as well, Dermont said it was quite possible his father may have been the better ball player.
“He turned down a chance to play pro ball because it was during the war and he had to work on the farm,” said Dermont.
She said she has been “digging and begging for information” about Bridgehampton’s baseball past, and said the game was played there as long as any other local village.
“Games like rounders and other stick and ball games were played for centuries,” she said.
In addition to baseball, the society will have a blacksmithing demonstration and will also bring a vintage ice cream truck to the game for refreshments.
“This is entertaining for us, and it was entertainment for them,” she said, “in the days when there was no MTV.”
Dermont hopes the day will spark some enthusiasm from the crowd, “We’d love to see Bridgehampton be able to field its own vintage baseball team.”
Photo above shows the Bridgehampton playing fields at the end of the 19th century.