Most people were cooling off at the beach on Saturday, but a dedicated few came to Bridgehampton to watch the nostalgic, real and often messy re-creation of 19th century baseball.
For the second straight year, two vintage baseball teams faced each other on the field off Corwith Avenue. Smithtown’s Atlantic Base Ball Club and Connecticut’s Bridgeport Orators made such an impression last summer, they were invited back to the Bridgehampton Historical Society’s annual Heritage Fair this year.
Players with nicknames, including “Dean the Dream,” “Hawk,” “Trotter,” “Hammy,” “Flash” and “Bones” scrambled around the bumpy grass, chasing balls and rounding bases. The teams play baseball as it was in its infancy, with uniforms, equipment and rules straight out of 1864, and umpire Ed “Pigtail” Elmore, who is also an Atlantics captain, was on hand, wearing his top hat and tails, to enforce them.
The teams don’t use gloves or wear helmets and they joke that they don’t use steroids either. If a foul ball is caught on the first bounce, the batter is out, but if it lands inside the third and first baselines and bounces out, it’s considered fair.
Pitchers throw underhand, home plate is small and round and batters are out if a fly ball is caught on the first bounce, though runners don’t have to tag. The topography of each rustic ballfield is clearly a major factor in every match and unlucky or fortuitous bounces often dictated how a play was resolved.
The Atlantics handily defeated the Orators in both matches of an entertaining doubleheader, but both teams were model sportsmen throughout 18 innings. Bridgeport logged runs in every inning of match one except the third and ninth, and the boys from Long Island scored in all innings played, finishing with a solid 25-14 victory.
Despite his proclamation that the match was the worst of his career, Rich “Tree” Ness, named for his love of the shade, pitched the distance and earned the first win on Saturday. His son Sean “Toothpick” Ness, along with Frank “Shakespeare” Van Zant, Dean “The Dream” Emma and 6-foot-four-inch Kevin “Flash” Harrison each had four hits and Greg “Hawk” Dengel and Frank “Hammy” Obidienzo had three hits each.
The Orators took an early 8-0 lead in the first three innings of the second match, but the Atlantics fought back and took another big win. They allowed the Connecticut team to score only three more runs in the remaining innings, while scoring seven runs in the seventh and the ninth to finished ahead 24-11. Anthony “TC” Cannino led the Atlantics dugout with five hits, including two doubles and five aces, or runs. Nick “The Butcher” Baruso had four hits, while Dean the Dream and Flash had three hits each. Flash used his massive frame to crush the ball out to left field, earning a triple and a home run. Hammy pitched match two and earned the second Atlantics win.