The Ohio Village Muffins are a group of enthusiastic lovers of the game who carry on the tradition of the sport as it was played in mid-nineteenth-century America. The first thing we tell people new to “vintage” base ball is that, historically, “base ball” was two words. This is important because we like to do everything as the base ball players of 1860 did it: We play by their rules, dress in their uniforms, and exemplify their gentlemanly behavior.
Games are played against other vintage teams from Ohio and across the country, as well as teams of local community members. Each season the Muffins play over 40 matches and travel all over Ohio and out-of-state. The home field for the Muffins, Muffins Meadow, is in the Ohio Village, and many games are held there each summer. Everyone is welcome to come and cheer on all the participants during these family-friendly events. Before, during and after the games, various members of the team are available to answer questions about the differences between the game of the 1860s and the game of today.
In addition to the men’s team, the Ohio Village also hosts a women’s team, the Diamonds. As women of the period pursued higher education, they participated in physical education outdoors and played base ball in secluded areas of a campus, as participation in such a strenuous sport as base ball was considered unladylike. But the sport caught on, and by 1866 ladies' teams were forming in colleges. Early women's teams played in exercise outfits or work dresses. Later on, women's teams would tour and sometimes join traveling shows.
If you would like to play base ball with the Muffins or Diamonds, we would love to hear from you. Before each new playing year begins, the Muffins and Diamonds accept new members. In addition to ballists (players), we are very interested in recruiting volunteers as sideline interpreters, scorekeepers, and umpires—no prior experience necessary.
New members are asked to participate in the winter seminars at the Ohio History Connection. The winter seminars seek to familiarize new and returning members with types of interpretation, base ball of the 1860s, the time period of the 1860s, vintage base ball as it is being played today and the Ohio History Connection, the Ohio History Center and Ohio Village.
For information on the Ohio Village Muffins or Diamonds Program or the training seminars contact Susan Brouillette at the Ohio History Center in Columbus at 614.297.2616.
From the Rules and Regulations of the Game of Base Ball Adopted by the National Association of Base-Ball Players March 14, 1860:
The New York Knickerbockers was the first club to write down the rules of what has become modern baseball. The New York Knickerbockers organized their gentlemen's club in 1845 in the Lower Manhattan area of New York City, and played what is often cited as the first base ball match between two clubs the following year when they met a group known as the New York Club at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. Base ball then began to spread, with other clubs forming, first in the New York area and then in other cities on the East Coast. The Civil War (1861-65) promoted the growth of the game beyond the eastern cities, as soldiers played base ball for recreation and enjoyment in their free time in camp, looked forward to occasional games between army units and local clubs, and even made prison camp life more endurable by organizing ball games. When the war was over, dozens of new clubs were formed in Ohio and throughout the Midwest.
The emphasis in the early game was on courtesy among the gentlemen and, occasionally, ladies, playing the sport for exercise. Initially, only a few rules governed a match. The rest was left up to the players’ sense of honor and good sportsmanship and the umpire’s decisions as he judged players' actions by the gentlemanly code of the Victorian era. Clubs played to win, with the players conducting themselves in a sportsmanlike manner, creating an atmosphere where spectators cheered for good plays by either side.
In 1981, the Ohio History Connection organized the Ohio Village Muffins to show how recreation and base ball were becoming a part of life in the mid-nineteenth century. The team was the first in the nation to play a regular schedule of vintage base ball matches and the Society has assisted in the formation of nearly 50 other vintage teams in Ohio and beyond, including Colorado, New York, Georgia, and Canada.
In 1996 the Muffins hosted the founding meeting of the Vintage Base Ball Association to further the historical interpretation of the game. The Muffins play in uniforms patterned after the Currier and Ives lithograph The American National Game, on display at the Ohio Historical Center. The uniforms consist of plain long pants, a white shirt with a bright shield containing the team emblem, a pill box hat, a leather belt with the team name embossed on it, and a bow tie.
The name "Muffin" originates from the organization of 1860s gentlemen's base ball clubs. The best squad was known as the "first nine," the second-string players were the "second nine," and those not well skilled were the "muffin nine," a muff being the term for an error.
The pieces of equipment used by both the Diamonds and the Muffins are reproductions. Bats are no bigger than 2.5 inches in diameter, but may be of any length. Balls are 10 inches in circumference with a single piece of leather covering them. Bases are at least one square foot and are filled with sand or sawdust. Ball gloves and protective equipment had not been invented.