Crestline Highlanders Victorious In Vintage Baseball Showdown - Mountain News : Sports

Crestline Highlanders Victorious In Vintage Baseball Showdown

By Zev Blumenfeld, Reporter | Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 9:00 am

On Aug. 10, the So Cal Vintage Base Ball League (SCVBB) returned to Twin Peaks’ Harich Field, as the Crestline Highlanders (4-0) battled the Riverside Smudge Pots (2-4) in a baseball game resembling one from the 19th century.

From the rules to the players’ uniforms to the bats and balls, the game mimics the American pastime as it was played in 1886. The wooden bats weigh over 40 ounces, compared to modern bats used by Major League Baseball (MLB) players, which range from 33 to 36 ounces. Every player, with the exception of the catcher, wears a padded, leather glove that conforms to their fingers the way a winter glove might. The catcher wears a mitt, chestpad, and facemask for protection, however, none of the players wear helmets.

The announcer, Travis Leland, stepped out to the pitcher’s box--the 1886 equivalent to a pitcher’s mound--wearing a top hat, red bowtie and white dress shirt. Over his shirt, he wore a button-up vest with a single albert watch chain connected. He spoke into a conic megaphone as he announced the rules of the game.

SCVBB follows the Spalding Rules of 1886. Balls and strikes are counted differently than in the rules of modern baseball. Instead of four balls resulting in a walk, a pitcher must throw seven balls. Unlike current MLB rules, a foul ball is not counted as a strike. Leland warned players and audience members to watch for the “hidden ball trick,” a maneuver used at the end of a play when the fielder fakes giving the ball back to the pitcher, and instead keeps the ball and uses it to tag “out” an unsuspecting baserunner.

After the announcement, Julie Lake, fitted in a bonnet and dress, sang the National Anthem, and the teams took the field.

Riverside began the game at bat, but failed to score a run in the first inning. Crestline came out swinging in the bottom of the inning, scoring two runs. In the second inning, the Smudge Pots crept back into the game. With the bases empty, a Riverside player with the nickname “Popeye,” launched a home run over the fence. Daniel “Kentucky” Burton ended the inning with a barehanded grab and throw to Crestline’s first baseman who tagged the Riverside runner “out.” Crestline failed to score a run at the bottom of the second, but maintained their lead at 2-1.

After “Franky” from Riverside began the third inning with a walk-off home run, tying the game at 2-2, momentum swung in Crestline’s favor. Crestline’s captain, Wes “Commish” Abarca hit a single, followed by a double by Corey “Lefty” Foye. With two runners on base, Joe “Ripper”  Billheimer came to the plate and hit a homerun, scoring three. Dylan “Pickle” Sweet followed Ripper’s lead with a homerun of his own, making it a back-to-back homerun for Crestline.

“Is this Coors field?” said Crestline’s Manny “Two-times” Darby to his teammates as they celebrated, referring to the the Colorado Rockies’ stadium, a stadium where the most homeruns in MLB history have occurred. Crestline closed the inning in the lead, 7-2.

Both teams went scoreless during the fourth inning. Crestline would score one run in the fifth inning with Riverside countering with one run in the sixth. The game ended in dramatic fashion, with the umpire Roy “The Sir” Watson signaling the Riverside runner “safe” but allegedly calling the runner “out.” The final score was Crestline 8, Riverside 3.

SCVBB, currently in its inaugural year, is composed of five teams from Southern California. The season has been split in half with the spring portion beginning in March and ending in April. The second portion began in May and will continue through September, concluding in October with the playoffs and Southern California League Crown.

The Highlanders will travel to Long Beach to take on an undefeated Oilers team on Aug. 24, before returning to Twin Peaks for their final two games on Sept. 14 and Sept. 28. Admission is free to all SCVBB games. For the complete SCVBB schedule, visit, www.scvbb.com.