Take Me Out to the Old Ball Game
As part of the weekend celebration, Needham hosted the Mudville Nine vs. Melrose Pondfeilders in a display of 1860s baseball.
Needham continued its yearlong 300th birthday celebration on the nation's birthday—Monday, July 4—by welcoming the Mudville Nine of Holliston and the Melrose Pondfeilders to Memorial Park for a game of baseball using 1860s rules. Mudville left with the victory, 10-7.
Both Mudville and the Pondfeilders are a group of men who play games throughout the year, celebrating their love of the history of the game. This particular event was brought to Needham by Carol Stento and Doug Reddington and went along with the other Fourth of July festivities held in Needham on Independence Day.
“We wanted to do a vintage game and Doug did the research and contacted them,” Stento said.
Prior to the game, the story “Casey at the Bat” was read over the public address system. Then Cpl. Brian Smith, a 2005 Needham High School graduate and combat engineer with the U.S. Marine Corps, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Mudville player Jimmy “Pipes” Cormier then sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the game got underway.
Among the biggest rule changes used in this mid-19th century version of America's favorite pastime was the lack of balls and strikes; everyone had the opportunity to hit the ball.
Also, a ball caught on the first bounce was an out. Because the players did not wear gloves, this led them to use a strategy on a hard hit ball of letting it bounce and then catching it.
The ball used in the game was of the "deadball" variety, meaning it is softer and the stitching is not wound as tight. Baseball fans in the modern era refer to it as a "deadball" because it is not as "lively" in terms of how well it carries.
Melrose took an early lead in the game, scoring two runs in the first inning and then another four in the second to go up 6-0. But Mudville slowly came back, and when they scored five runs in the fifth inning it put them up, 9-6, and Melrose couldn’t come back from that.
After the game, Cormier sang the Mudville victory song while
playing the guitar to conclude the event.