The student weekly of St. Olaf | Monday, September 15, 2014 | Subscribe
ISSUE 117 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/30/2004

Quicksteps come to the Hill to re-enact 19th century game

By Ken Foote
Sports Editor

Friday, April 30, 2004

Legendary author Jacques Barzun once wrote, Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America, had better learn baseball. His words ring as true today they did when he wrote them in 1954s two-part essay Letters in the Dirt.

Todays baseball players are multi-millionaires with a league minimum salary set at $300,000 a year. They play in ballparks more aptly called palaces, use the finest and most expensive equipment and spare no expense in travel or accommodations. Above all, the game has turned into a business where money equates to power and those who have it, say the Yankees, spend as much as they can to insure victory.

There was, however, a simpler time when players did not wear gloves, sell out stadiums or take home more weekly pay than a third-world countrys Gross National Product. And certainly players did not put wining over the rules of the game and always played in a gentlemanly manner. That time was the post civil war 1860s.

Those days have clearly passed. For one thing, Honest Abe is not in the Oval Office anymore and technology has advanced slightly even though Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents, infamously said, Everything that can be invented has been invented" in 1899, a few years before the discovery of the radio.

The days may have passed, but they are not gone, thanks to the Quicksteps.

Formed in 1993, the Quicksteps, an 1860s baseball re-enactment troupe, set out to play the game the way it was meant to be played. They wear period-appropriate uniforms and play by 1858 rules, one of the earliest known sets of baseball rules. Theses rules extend beyond just the regulations of play, they incorporate field specifications, behavior, language and equipment appropriate to the era.

Now in their 11th season of putting on exhibitions for people all over Minnesota, the Quicksteps are a member of the Vintage Base Ball Association (VBBA), which seeks to not only present the game of baseball according to 19th century rules, it seeks to educate the public regarding the character, history, and growth of the game as it was originated and developed.

In other words, these re-enactments serve to remind the oft-detached public about the roots of Americas Pastime. Before big dollars and the public frenzy turned the Pastime into an entertainment entity, there was only the field, the ball and the soul of the game. And, of course, the players and officials who formulated a leisurely game so successful that it is nearing its sesquicentennial anniversary.

Along with their membership to the VBBA, the Quicksteps are proudly sponsored by Halsey Hall, a local chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The chapters name commemorates the late great Minnesota Twins broadcaster of the 1960s and early 70s. Among several other distinctions, Hall was the first broadcaster to use the phrase Holy Cow when calling a baseball game. Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray, who is immortalized with a statue outside Wrigley Field, made the phrase famous during his decades as the play-by-play man for the Chicago Cubs.

Part of the spirit of 1860s baseball was getting everyone involved, and the Quicksteps have accounted for that too. Students are invited  nay, encouraged  to participate in the re-enactment set to take place Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Thorson Hill, on the corner of Lincoln and Greenvale. No gloves or extra equipment is needed to partake; the Quicksteps recommend participants wear jeans and a tee-shirt to the festivities.

The event, sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta, St. Olafs History Honor Society, is perfect for the Hill. Participants will get a little exercise, be part of something fun and maybe (gasp) learn something that is both fun and useful.

The times have changed, as they inevitably must, but thanks to the Quicksteps and efforts of organizations like the SABR and VBBA, the spirit of traditional baseball will live on forever, and on the St. Olaf campus for at least one day.

Printer Friendly version of this page Printer friendly version | E-mail a Copy of the Article to a Friend Email this | Write the editors | More articles by Ken Foote

Related Links

More Stories

Page Load: 32 milliseconds