Baseball Like You've Never Seen It, As It Was Played In 1864

governor's island baseball gotham

Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

On Governor’s Island, in New York City, men gather to play one of America’s oldest pastimes. But unlike many local leagues, these men play baseball as it was in the old days.The Gotham Baseball Club of New York play baseball according to the rules in place in 1864 and have done so for 11 seasons. Governor’s Island is the ideal place for the league as it has an old world feel—especially this weekend during the Jazz Age Lawn Party.

New York City played an important role in the invention and development of baseball and the Gothams take their name from baseball’s second oldest team (the oldest were the Knicherbockers), which used to meet at 298 Bowery and play at the St. George Cricket Club on Staten Island.

Today, players come from all over and range in age from early mid-20s to mid-50s. Some are there for the history, the love the recreation while others are there for the love of baseball and the game.

There are a few important rule changes, including:

  • No gloves! Bare handed was the way they used to play.
  • Balls can be caught off one bounce and the batter is still out – this helps even out the no gloves.
  • You can’t overrun first base – i.e. you need to slide in there or stop on the base – because if you overrun and the first baseman gets the ball and tags you, you are out. 

It’s fun, nostalgic, and a little bit quirky and open to all. So if you are in the area check it out, but if you can’t we have pictures. 

First, you need to get to Governor's Island. Take the ferry from the Battery Maritime Building (next to the Staten Island ferry). Beware, the ferry line can get long!

We started seeing people in costume on the ferry. Later we learned there was a big 1920s-themed party going on.

The view from Governor's Island has changed over the years. A reminder that you aren't actually travelling back in time.

We had to walk a bit to find the field, but once you see the sign you know you are in the right place.

The baseballs look old, but familiar.

And the basic game setup is the same.

But the uniforms are a bit different.

The team provides some useful info for the many curious passer bys.

Meanwhile the team was getting ready to play.

Pitching is done under hand, as it was in the 1860s.

Batting still works the same way though.

But there are no gloves...not even for the catcher!

Just looking at the field you might forget what time period it is, but the buildings in the background provide a reminder that this isn't 1864.

It was a beautiful day and the players were all decked out in their gear.

While players try to stick to being in the 1860s, for the purposes of documenting the event they will allow some technology on the field.

Family members often come to support the team, and there is Joe's sister, Jackie Soria.

The game gets exciting.

Team mates watch with concern.

Soria gets ready to bat.

A solid connect.

And he is rounding the bases.

Safe at third...and he actually converts this into a full run around the bases.

The bags look like they came from the 1860s and that is exactly the point.

Monk keeps track of game development while his team is at bat. The guys are very serious about keeping track of stats and scores.

The field is a truly scenic location.

The scenic location is also popular for non-players and occasionally they have to deal with some interruptions.

But at the end of the day it is all about a love for the game.

And you can see it in their faces.

At the end of the day the group gathers round for a wrap up and some inspiring words for the captains.

And then it is back to the city - we shared a a ferry ride with these old school cars. But the time warp ends when you get back to Manhattan, at least until next week.

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