You remember the movie, A League of Their Own? Well, we have a “league of their own” right here in Detroit…. the Detroit River Belles Vintage Base Ball team.
The Detroit River Belles is Michigan’s first All Ladies Vintage Base Ball Club. It is based at historic Fort Wayne and competes with other women’s teams around the Midwest to promote the history and love for America’s national past time.
You can see them play this Sunday, July 13 against the Ann Arbor Derby Dimes in a charity match to benefit Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit-based charity for homeless and at-risk young women. The game starts at 2:00 p.m. at Navin Field at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull in Historic Corktown.
It should be great fun. The players, who are sometimes called ballists, wear period reproduction uniforms and play the game based on rules used in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.
It’s a casual affair. Donations for Alternatives for Girls will be collected at the game by the passing of a hat and be sure to bring your own seating. Hot dogs and Faygo will be available. Concession proceeds will benefit the Navin Field Grounds Crew.
“This is a match near and dear to many of us, so please, come out and support strong women helping women get stronger,” says Evette “Scrappy” Giffore, team captain for the Detroit River Belles.
I want to point out here that base ball was not misspelled earlier in this blog. In Vintage Base Ball it is two words. Not familiar with the rules and regulations of this sport? You can brush up here.
You may not have heard about Vintage base ball before but it’s been around since the 1980s and early 1990s. The Ohio Village Diamonds were the first club. Nearly all the Midwest groups have adopted the 1858 rules interpretation originally used at Ohio Village. The 1858 rules are commonly thought of as the “gentleman’s” rules, a style of play based on the “Old Knick” club of gentlemen players in New York.
According to the Ladies Vintage Base Ball website, ladies base ball thrived until the Great Depression when many clubs (both male and female) folded in hard times. In addition, the game of softball was starting to take hold in the 1930s and women stopped playing base ball for the most part. The last gasp of air for ladies base ball was the The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, 1943-1954 which was the inspiration for the movie, A League of Their Own.
Here’s a little more history. The first professional men’s baseball team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings (no, not our Tigers). They took the field in 1869. They were the first boys of summer. The first women to be paid play baseball competed in their first game in 1875, before women had the right to vote. Guess what … they often played in an outfit that weighed as much as 30 pounds and included a floor-length skirt, underskirts, a long-sleeved, high-necked blouse, and high button shoes.
These were the first girls of those summers. The Detroit River Belles are certainly carrying on that tradition. Go River Belles!