I’m a clod

The Dayton Clodbusters play 1860s baseball

Yes, there are tryouts to play for the Dayton Clodbuster Baseball Club, but they’re not what you think.

This isn’t a competition to find the best “baseball” players.

“We want to make sure you aren’t going to get hurt,” said 71-year-old retired industrial machinery salesman, Richard Moran, who also acts as the Dayton team’s public relations director, and has nicknamed himself, “Good News.” “We’re not trying to find the best three players.”

He says that like there’s some kind of danger in playing this “vintage” game, and maybe there is, a little, if you consider the Clodbusters play a brand of baseball popular in 1860, which is even before the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional club in 1869.

Baseball in the 1860s was played with heavy wooden bats, balls slightly larger than baseballs used today (and spongier) and no glove protection. Players catch fly balls or field grounders with their hands the way they are, leading, sometimes, to stubbed fingers.

Players are dressed in farm outfits, as if they just came out of the fields, although you wouldn’t see too many contemporary suspendered farmers.

Other than that, it’s the same game you see at Fifth Third Field or Great American Ball Park, except players aren’t harvesting soybeans just before the first pitch is thrown.

“We’re affiliated with Dayton History and play our games at Carillon Park (in the space between the bell tower and the Kettering Welcome Center),” Moran said. “It’s strictly for fun.”

The Clodbusters have a full schedule of more than 20 games—most on Sundays (but not Easter, Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day)—eight of them scheduled at home from Apr. 29 through Sep. 30. Road games are nearby, mostly in the Cincinnati or Columbus areas.

Moran says his team has 20 or 21 members, but is looking for a few new members, younger if available.

“We’re getting older and older, and slower and slower,” Moran said with a hint of a laugh. “And we’re scoring fewer runs.”

That doesn’t mean all the players are in their 70s. Some are in their 20s, and the team wants more.

So winning does count.

Playing for fun doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive. Three teams will gather in one location, or two places a few miles apart, want a game, and suddenly doubleheaders are played.

“We usually don’t let dentists or doctors play in the field,” Moran says. “You can hurt your hands without gloves. And for some people, it’s difficult to commit to our schedule.”

True, it’s not a long schedule, but there are games during all the summer months. That hinders a family vacation.

There are at least two other teams in the Dayton area—the Eastwood Iron Horses and Tippecanoe Canal Jumpers—plus teams from Springfield, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Moscow, Ohio, that play the Clodbusters every summer. The Clodbusters are entering their 29th season, and, yes, it appears every one of them has a nickname more fitting to 1860 than now. So if you already have a good nickname, you’ll be ahead of the, uh, game.

Two open houses will be held before Opening Day, on Feb. 4 and Mar. 4, and both are at 1 p.m. at Carillon Park. There are openings for players (ballists), interpreters, and umpires. Interpreters are necessary, since there have been many rule changes in the game since 1860…and there are even at least four sets of rules used in the 1860s which the Clodbusters use from time to time, including calling a batter out if a ball he hit is secured on one bounce.

Uniforms for the games are usually field jeans with Henley shirts and suspenders and caps.  A complete outfit runs about $100, unless you’ve got one in your closet. There are still companies that make “vintage” wear for those who want it.

Games usually last 2 to 3 hours. Small bags of peanuts, pretzels, hard candies, lemonade, and root beer—things you might have purchased in the 1860s—are provided for a small fee.

There is no charge to see matches at Carillon Park. The Carillon Brewing Co. and Culp’s Café are both available during play. There is no charge for admittance to Culp’s during games.

For those interested in playing, contact Moran at 937.694.4011 or at richmorane68@gmail.com, or just show up at the open houses.

If you’re only interested in watching the games, the home portion is all on Sundays at 1 p.m. at Carillon Park on Apr. 29, May 27, July 15 and 29, Aug. 12 and 19 and Sep. 9 and 30, 2018.

If all you care about is vintage, Dayton History also has something else for you, promoting a 1920s inspired boxing exhibition that will be held on Feb. 24 from 7 p.m. to midnight at Dayton’s downtown Memorial Hall.

The event was held last year as well, featuring local celebrities with well padded gloves and headgear in short matches, followed by music and festivities in the basement.

The cost is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. One of the fighters is expected to be Sugarcreek firefighter, Aaron Gosser, who also plays for the Clodbusters.

Gosser lives in the moment, but has an eye for the past.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

 

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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