Reporter, Hart Co. News-Herald
This year’s Civil War Days brought an all new experience. After the traditional battle reenactment at the Historic Preserve, spectators were treated to an 1860’s style baseball game, with authentic uniforms and rules.
During the game, the Georgetown Gentlemen, a vintage baseball team based in Georgetown, Ky.,, played the Volunteers of the Ohio 9th Regiment, a group which formed in 2021 from the merging of the Blackbottom 9 and the New Richmond Generals.
Players used the rules of 1867 and had no gloves, since baseball gloves weren’t used until 1875.
They used no umpire for this game but instead played the sport “as gentlemen.” All pitches also had to be underhanded.
Currently, there are only two vintage baseball teams in Kentucky, and a few in the Cincinnati and Dayton area of Ohio, so it was a unique treat for this event to come to Hart County.
To bring the event to the area, it took making the correct connections.
One of the players on the Georgetown Gentlemen had been to Civil War Days in the past and thought it would be a natural fit. He had met Greg Ard, of the Hart County Historical Society, and asked him about the possibility. Ard agreed and thought it would be a great addition.
“There are other reenactments that host these games,” explained Ard, regarding the game. “The Georgetown Gentleman reached out to us about hosting them. The (Ohio 9th) has ties to the battle, as there were Ohio troops here during the battle.”
“We were more than happy to join in,” said Tommy Druen of the Georgetown Gentlemen. “My dad is from Hart County originally, so it was something I was especially excited about doing.”
Druen oversees the Georgetown Gentlemen, but his involvement in vintage baseball was due to sheer happenstance.
“I was flipping through the television and happened upon a vintage baseball game,” said Druen. “It looked really neat, so I just started reading about it on the internet. I’m on the board of directors of the Ward Hall Preservation Foundation in Georgetown, which is a historic home and surrounding 40 acres. We had been looking for more events to do other than just home tours, so I proposed having a vintage baseball game. 2010 was the first game we ever hosted.”
Georgetown held an annual game for ten years and played against teams from Ohio and Indiana.
“Those two teams always remarked about the crowd and encouraged us to start our own team. It was something I was interested in, but I kept putting it on the back burner,” said Druen. “I hadn’t played organized baseball since I was in 5th grade. When the pandemic hit, it gave me more time to plan out some things. And, at the time, I was 43 and figured if I was ever going to play, time was slipping away. So I reached out to four or five friends and they were very interested. We just kept building it together. We played an abbreviated schedule in the fall of 2021, just to get our feet wet and make sure we weren’t going to completely humiliate ourselves. This is our second full season.”
Druen explained that the most noticeable differences in the game are that the pitches are underhanded, there are no called balls or strikes, foul balls can be caught on the bounce for an out and, of course, they don’t wear gloves.
“The less noticeable, but equally as important characteristic is the gentlemanly manner in which the game is played,” said Druen. “Most games don’t have an umpire and wouldn’t have in the 1860s either. If it was a close play, the players just decided themselves. Games are competitive, but not to the point that there are disagreements. No team ever sets out with the goal of losing, but most of us don’t really care if we do. This version of baseball is truly about the history, the camaraderie, and the fun of playing baseball. We’ve got to meet some great folks from all around the country and play some unique games…(At the Civil War Days) there was a great crowd watching us play, so we definitely hope to play in Munfordville again, either as part of Civil War Days or a stand alone game. The Hart County Historical Society seemed very interested in that prospect, so we will work with them to figure out what the best date will be for the future.”
The Georgetown Gentlemen borrowed Hart Countians Jeff Riggs and Jason King to play with their team.
“I’ve been a baseball fan all my life,” said King. “I love the history of the game, and was honored to have been asked to play. These guys take it very seriously. Everything has to be period correct, from the uniforms down to the rules. The fact that these guys play this game with no gloves just amazes me. I’m looking forward to next year and I’m hopeful that we can have a team from Hart County.”
Jeff Riggs, who was invited to participate by King, described the event as a completely different experience than the way baseball is played today.
They rounded out Georgetown’s team, giving them the numbers they needed to face the Ohio 9th.
The Ohio 9th was eager to participate because of the historical significance of their ties to the area and our local battles.
“The Ohio 9th would like to thank the the Hart County Historical Society and the Georgetown Gentlemen for inviting us down to play a match in front of the wonderful fans as the game of baseball was played in 1869,” said Co-Captains James Breen (Tugboat) and William Segrist (Elmer). “Our connection to the Civil War runs deep with our namesake coming from a Cincinnati volunteer infantry regiment called the 9th Ohio Infantry Regiment, nicknamed (Die Neuner) The Niners. The regiment was comprised of mostly German-Americans and at one point in the civil war was encamped at Lebanon, Ky. It was our first time playing at this event and we look forward to many more in the coming years.”
Reception among spectators was positive, and according to both Ard and Druen, additional opportunities to watch vintage baseball right here in Hart County might be in the works.