Guest column: Baseball is ingrained in Summit County culture
Summit Historical Society
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the time of the Summit Historical Society’s Vintage Baseball Game.
The Summit Historical Society’s third annual Vintage Baseball Game is set to take place Aug. 27, continuing a long history of baseball in Summit County.
From the early days as a mining and farming community all the way through to today, baseball (or softball) has been a huge part of leisure time in the county. Much like today’s summer league softball games, baseball teams in the early days of Summit County were organized by towns, businesses and any local groups that wanted to get out and play. On the Dillon side of the county, this often meant farmers and local business workers getting together to play whenever the opportunity presented itself. An 1886 advertisement in the Summit County Journal even shows the Montezuma baseball team offering to play any team, anytime in exchange for “three kegs of beer.”
The most organized teams even grew to include uniforms as part of their setup. These uniforms were not the breathable lightweight gear you see professionals wearing today, but were often made of wool and could be cumbersome on very hot or rainy days.
For many teams, this meant pinning a logo on dress shirts while others would collect for new uniforms every year. In Breckenridge, the Fireman’s Ball would often include a donation bucket where citizens of the town could donate funds to the team for uniforms, equipment and to help with travel expenses. Being along the railroad helped to make sure both Breckenridge and Leadville had a regular influx of equipment and professional players.
For the Summit Historical Society Vintage Baseball Game, teams will be playing by 1864 rules, which might have some surprises for fans of today’s games. For one thing, when hitting, a player is out if the fielder catches the ball on the fly or off of one hop. The ball can also still be considered in play if it flies into the stands. Meaning, if you catch a foul ball at the game, check with the fielders before handing it off to the nearest kiddo for a souvenir.
The Vintage Baseball Game is free to attend and will be played at noon, Aug. 27, at Rainbow Park. There are no bleachers for the game so bring your chairs or blankets. As a fundraiser for Summit Historical Society, concessions, beer and nonalcoholic beverages will be available for purchase. For more information on the game, visit SummitHistorical.org.
Susan Gilmore is a local writer, history buff and fan of anything baseball. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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