SANDWICH – One hundred and twenty-five years ago, the Sandwich baseball team refused to play its counterpart in Somonauk because the winnings would have been too small.
That’s not the case anymore.
Since 2006, the Somonauk Blue Stockings have played the Sandwich Millers in commemoration of the game that never was around the Fourth of July. At stake: bragging rights, a traveling trophy bat and $10 – the same amount for which Sandwich refused to play.
“We took the name Blue Stockings and our uniforms are a little more reflective of that period, even though we play most of our games by 1858 rules,” said Blue Stockings founder Mike “Ace” Adrian. Everyone who played during Sunday’s game has a nickname.
Newcomers to an 1858-based game saw similarities between it and a modern game of baseball. The layout of the field is the same, players bat for nine innings and there are three outs an inning.
But none of the players wear gloves, a ball can hit the ground once and be caught for an out and the ball has to hit the ground. Tom “War Pig” Carroll knows that last rule from experience; during one game, a ball ended up in his wife’s lap. Because it had not hit the ground yet, it was considered a fair ball.
Carroll got his start playing for the Somonauk Blue Stockings when he came to watch his son play. They needed an extra player, so Carroll volunteered. That was four years ago.
“It’s a good time,” Carroll said. “The teams we play with are fun. There’s a lot of friendly ribbing back and forth.”
Adrian said the rules hearken back to when baseball was a gentleman’s game. As if to emphasize that point, each game is overseen by an arbitrator. Tom “Bull” Abens said he is not an umpire that calls “safe” or “out,” he handles disputes between players if a situation cannot be resolved.
“The players know the rules,” Abens said. “I make sure the rules are followed.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the worth of a dollar going back as far as 1913. Taking into account inflation, a $10 prize would have been worth at least $235.30 today.