Date Of Event: October 22, 2016
Location: Salem Commons, North Washington Square, Salem, MA (about 30 minutes north of Boston)
Parking: Parking Is Available at the Liberty and Congress St garages and on street parking is available.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Dog Friendly: Yes
Web Site: Mid Atlantic Vintage Baseball League
Seeing people in costumes and uniforms in Salem during the month of October is not unusual. However, the people in uniform at Salem Common this past October were dressed up for a very different purpose.
The Providence Grays, a vintage baseball club honoring the original pro baseball team of the same name, were playing their rivals the Brooklyn Atlantics on a crisp fall afternoon.
The Grays became the National League’s newest addition to major league baseball in 1878 when they adopted gray flannel instead of white for their home uniforms and consequently became known as the ‘Grays.’ They would remain in the league until they folded in 1885. During that time frame they won two tiles (in 1879 and 1884),
This isn’t your modern day. Players wear wool uniforms. They don’t wear gloves. And the rules were very different.
One of the rules that is starkly differently from today’s rules is that if you fielded a hit ball after one bounce, the batter was out. Of course, this rule does not exist today and if it did exist today a lot of batters would make many more outs. Another rule that no longer exists is that batters were given 3 balls to earn a walk rather than the 4 balls which is the rule in today’s Major League Baseball. Also, the pitcher pitched from a scant 50 feet away from home plate and there was no mound. In today’s mlb, the pitching mound is 60 feet and 6 inches away from home plate and, although it may vary, the mound is not supposed to be higher than 10 inches above home plate.
Unlike their somewhat drab uniforms, the Providence Grays have a very exciting past. For instance, they were the first team to integrate.
If you asked people who was the first professional black baseball player in major league baseball was many people would say Jackie Robinson, Many people would be wrong. According to Tim Norton , the founder and president of the Providence Grays. The first black American baseball player played for a professional baseball team played for the Providence Grays. William Edward White played as a substitute in one professional baseball game for the Providence Grays of the National League, on June 21, 1879.
Some fans, like the fans of the newly crowned World Series champs Chicago Cubs, are known for throwing home runs balls back onto the field if the opposing team hits a home run to express their dismay at the other team’s good fortune. The fans at Providence Gray games did the same. But for a very different reason.
At the time the team was formed in 1878, the league was still very green and not very profitable. The fans were asked to throw the balls back so they could be re-used.
The players also didn’t wear gloves. So, they pitched underhanded and would often lob the ball as it is easier to catch barehanded that way.
I’m full of all sorts of fun facts today, aren’t I?
On the day I saw them, the Providence Grays split their double header against the Brooklyn Atlantics (aka the Atlantic Baseball Club of New York). The Providence Grays are in the gray uniforms while the Atlantics donned white shirts and black pants.
I thought this resembled a baseball card.
Looking at the players in their floppy socks and uniforms that resemble loose fitting pajamas, I couldn’t help thinking about the characters on “Field Of Dreams.”
The foliage gave a good backdrop to the field.
The teams do take these games seriously and we saw some good baseball.
If you missed them this year, don’t worry. The Grays and other teamss have been playing in Sallem Commons for about 10 years. Check their web site and Salem’s web site for future game dates.
Freya, an 18 month Great Dane (weighing in at 130 lbs already), also enjoyed the game.
Below is a video from the game.