Official Rules Regulations Customs & Strategies


The VBBF has adopted the most interesting rules in use from 1860 to 1900.   All other rules are familiar from today’s game.

1. BALLS & STRIKES:   7 Balls = Walk. 3 Strikes = Out.
2. FOUL BALLS: Not counted as strikes.   Any foul tip caught by catcher is an out, regardless of the number of strikes. Note: This can be a real rally killer.
3.FOUL BOUND RULE: Any foul ball caught on one bounce is an out. A fielder may not drop the ball to catch it on one bounce. Foul bounces must be caught within the designated area of play.   Runners may not advance.
4. FOUL FORCE RULE : On a foul ball that is not caught for an out, a runner (anticipating a hit) may be forced out if the ball is returned to the pitcher, and relayed from the pitcher’s box to the base before the arriving runner.   If a pitcher's throw is errant, runners can advance at will.
5. HIT BATSMAN: No base awarded. Counted as a ball.   Dead ball.No base advance for runners.
6. LIMITED BALK: No balks on throws to any base. Fake throws to any base, while in or out of the pitchers box, are allowed. Pitchers may fake one or more throws to a base, then throw home. A balk only occurs when a pitcher starts to pitch, then throws to a base.
7. NO INFIELD FLY RULE:   A fielder can purposely drop a pop fly to start a double play.
8. NO TIMEOUTS: Only a Club Captain and the umpire can call for a timeout.   A batter who steps out of the box can be quick pitched.   And a runner can be picked off.
9. NO INTENTIONAL WALK:   Pitcher must pitch around the batter.
10. GENTLEMAN'S RULE: In the event the umpire has "missed" a play, due only to a blocked view, a Captain can request a "Gentleman's Ruling" to reverse the call. The umpire will then announce, "A Gentleman's Ruling has been requested." Only players involved in the play must truthfully relate what transpired and a call can be reversed. Also, either club Captain can challenge a rule interpretation by requesting a meeting with the umpire and both Captains, and a call can be reversed.
11. CRANK CALL: If the Gentleman;s Ruling fails to resolve a difference of opinion about a play, the umpire may appeal to the fans, or Cranks as theyre called in the jargon of vintage base ball. Note: This is often a highlight of any game


Once the umpire announces Striker to the line,and the batter steps into the box, the umpire will ask the batter for his "Desired strike zone preference."   The batter can call for a low strike (belt to knee) or high strike (belt to armpits).   The umpire will then announce to the pitcher "Striker has requested low (or high) strikes." Throughout the at bat, only low or high strikes will be called. If a batter does not make a request, both high and low strikes will be called.   Note: Belt area is a strike for either zone.
There is no mound or rubber. Pitchers throw from a box that measures 4' wide x 6' deep and is outlined in chalk. The front line of the box is 50' from home plate (if the field has a mound, the back of the pitchers box will have a slight slope). Important: the pitcher must begin and end inside of box on each pitch. If not, the umpire can call a no-pitch violation. If violation occurs twice in same at-bat, batter is awarded first base. 
3: HOMEPLATE: Home plate is a 12"x12"x1/2" wood base, painted white, that sits loosely on the ground, with a corner point facing the pitcher’s box. A modern home plate is permitted if a game is played on a modern field.
4: BASES: Bases are square bags filled with sand or sawdust that sit loosely at each location. No stationary bases unless field has stationary bases in place.
5. FIELD:Modern diamonds are acceptable. However, the ideal vintage field is all grass, which can sometimes be found in public parks. Such a field will likely require a simple backstop constructed of wood and heavy chicken wire.   An outfield fence is not required, but a temporary snow fence can enclose the outfield, with distances of 275' to 300.'
Players must use VBBF sanctioned uniforms and equipment including baseballs, bats, gloves and catchers gear. Modern baseball shoes are permitted but must be all black with logos blacked out. Metal or rubber cleats are permitted.
Catchers gear includes glove, mask and chest protector – but no shin guards. As a substitute for shin guards, catcher may wear soccer shin guards under uniform socks, or kneepads stacked from ankle to knee. Catcher's mitt must be VBBF. Catcher may also wear a half-finger glove on throwing hand.
:Game balls may be replaced only if lost or defective. Traditionally, one ball was used for an entire game. Note: This may not be possible in all locations and new balls may be needed to expedite play.
One base coach only. No coaches are required. A coach may move from the first base box to the third base box, depending on the situation.
: Each club needs a Captain who knows the vintage rules and is team spokesman and organizer. Captains may wear the letter on uniform shoulder.
One umpire only. Positioned behind the pitchers box or 15' behind, and at a 45 degree angle to, the batter. Umpire will move from side to side depending on whether the batter is a lefty or righty. Calls are made in a slightly raised voice with simple hand gestures. The umpire must wear period dress and may smoke a cigar. Note: Contact local Umpire's Association for candidates who might be willing to learn about vintage base ball.
Determined by the umpire, flipping a coin at home plate between the clubs Captains just prior to the game. This is done at all games, home and away.
Pinch Runners are permitted only in case of injury. The Pinch Runner must be the last player to have made an out. Pinch Runners may not be used simply to replace a slow player. The runner being pinch run for may remain in game.Note: Pinch Runner rule not allowed in VBBF playoffs or World Series. 14. NOT PERMITTED: Exterior protective gear, including batting gloves, helmets, wrist bands, elbow pads, shin guards (except catcher), etc. Also, no uniform numbers, player names, sponsor logos, sunglasses, or jewelry

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CODE OF CONDUCT: Sportsmanship is paramount in vintage base ball. Arguing with the umpire, charging the pitcher, taunting, and fighting are not permitted. Clubs that breach this code risk being barred from the VBBF.

: Respect must be shown for the game. There is no berating the umpire, the fans, or the opposing club. Celebrations are limited to handshakes. No posing at home plate, curtain calling, chest bumping, or high fives! Applauding an opposing player is proper. And the umpire must always be addressed as ;Sir.

To make the 19th Century game come alive, players should adopt the period base ball jargon:

cranks = fans... hands down = out... striker = batter... ballist = player... captain = manager... hurler = pitcher... behind = catcher... garden = outfield...
muff = error... sky ball = pop up... ginger = determination... ace = run... striker to the line = batter up... daisy cutter = grounder

Calls from the bench might include: "Nice ginger!”... Let’s get a “daisy cutter.”   We’ve got “two hands down.” ...Sounds like “the cranks” are restless.

Most clubs adopt the name and uniform style of an actual 19th or early 20th century club that played in their town or county. A little research at the local library or historical society office will turn up many details that can be incorporated by your club.   Connecting with the history of the town will also build community support.

Nicknames should have a 19th century flavor.   Examples: "Crazy Legs" for a fast runner, "Big Train" as tribute to pitcher Walter Johnson, "Short Order" for a player whose last name is Cook.

HIP! HIP! HUZZAH! At the end of each game the clubs gather on opposite sides of home plate, and the winning Captain makes a short speech congratulating the losing club on their fine play or effort. The winning club, with caps held aloft, cheers HIP, HIP HUZZAH! T hen the losing Captain gives a similar speech, his club cheers HIP, HIP HUZZA! and the players all shake hands. Note: Extra "HIP, HIP HUZZAH!" cheers are often given for the umpire or the town where the game was played

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With gloves no bigger than a man's hand, there is no such thing as a routine play. A vintage game is a wonderful mix of routine plays gone awry and difficult plays executed perfectly. Nothing is taken for granted. Every play is an adventure.

SMALL BALL: All the elements that make baseball a great game are magnified in vintage base ball. The bunt, the steal, the hit and run, and the squeeze are frequent occurrences. With the slightly deader ball, batters must hit'em where they ain't. The smaller catcher’s glove forces pitchers to use finesse instead of power. The outfielders need to use both hands. And for infielders, the game is catch and flip, rather than pump and gun.

QUICK PITCH: Because quick pitches are legal, the pitcher can pretend not to be ready, and then suddenly fire the ball to the plate. Multiple fake throws to a base can lull a batter into relaxing or stepping back from the plate, setting him up for a sneaky fastball. A pitcher can take a return throw from a fielder and suddenly spin and fire the ball to the plate.

HIDDEN BALL TRICK: Since there is no rule requiring the pitcher to have the ball in his hand while he’s in the pitchers box, and no time outs between plays, there are many opportunities to successfully pull this off. Crafty infielders will also slip the ball into a back pocket while showing free hands, inviting the runner to lead off base.

THE WAY THE GAME WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED : In vintage base ball there are no batting gloves, helmets, wrist bands, elbow pads, sun glasses, logo shoes, pajama pants, gold chains, or earrings. No arguing with the umpire, stepping out of the batter’s box, calling time out, charging the pitcher, posing at home plate, curtain calling,  trash talking, chest bumping, high fiving, pointing to the sky, or kissing jewelry. Just baseball.

Vintage Playoffs World Series

The Vintage Base Ball Federation, whose goal is to spread the charms and values of 19th century base ball (originally two words), will stage the second annual Vintage Base Ball Northeast Regional Playoffs and World Series at Bullens Field in Westfield this summer. The Playoffs and World Series will extend over two weekends (July18-20)...(August 14-18). The World Series will take place (August 14-18).

In addition to the Westfield Wheelmen, the Regional Playoffs will include local teams like the Hartford Senators, Whately Pioneers, Springfield Mass Mutuals, Bridgeport Orators, New Hampshire Granite, and Boston Colonials. The four-team World Series will feature teams from California and Michigan, plus the Northeast Playoff winner, and host Westfield Wheelmen. ESPN Classic may televise the championship game.

With assistance from WOW, the Boys Girls Club, the Babe Ruth League and the Westfield Wheelmen, the Vintage Base Ball Playoffs and World Series will be as much a festival as a sports event. Westfield arts and historical groups are invited to participate with their own period plays, readings, quilting bee, pie baking contest, etc. The citys youth will serve as paid ushers and ticket takers, with younger children, wearing newsboy caps and suspenders, handing out programs.

The VBBF will create a 19th century atmosphere, with period music, costumed actors, barbershop quartet, calliope, jugglers and clowns, etc. Billboards will have hand-painted, vintage style ads designed to make the ballpark look more like a movie set. Prizes will be awarded to fans judged best examples of 19 th century manners and dress.

These weekends of premier vintage base ball events, combined with the tradition of the local Wheelman, could brand Westfield as the capitol of Vintage Base Ball.

c 2006 The Vintage Base Ball Federation