Since 2006 the Gold Country Vintage Baseball League has grown from two teams to six. Their rule book adheres fairly rigidly to the rules of 1886. That means heavy, collared uniforms, knickers, and early versions of today's equipment -including the ball, which is hand-stitched and takes the shape of an egg after it's hit. Dan Duran pitches for the Gold Country Miners.
"It's interesting because it's neat to see the way baseball originated," he says. "And it's also kind of fun to see guys basically at a field of dreams who step out from the corn field and look like they should be in some museum."
A catchers mask and throat guard are the only modern amenities. The gloves have only fingers and little padding. Duran says the catcher's pain tolerance dictates how hard the pitchers throws.
"We have guys that can throw 80-85 miles per hour. We have to dial it down a little bit."
Duran says the layout of the field is a little different, too. There is no pitcher's mound and a pitch is thrown 50 feet from a batter instead of 60' 6."
"The idea behind the game of 1886 was it was a hitters game. The scores were 20-18. They're not like the pitching duels of today where you see a 1-0 shutout. It wasn't that way at all. It was all about fielding, all about hitting. And that's why there were seven balls to a walk instead of four."
The Amador County Crushers and Rancho Murieta Bandits are part of a four-team season-ending, championship tournament at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco this weekend. They will play against two teams from the Bay Area: the San Francisco Pacifics and the Santa Clara Stogies.
Gold Country League teams have won the past five northern California championships.
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