Going, going ... Bygone era!


SADO attorneys enjoy ‘America’s Pastime’ with Civil War-era rules

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Away from their work at the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit and Lansing, attorneys Peter and Dawn Van Hoek enjoy summer weekends playing Civil War Era Base Ball games.

Peter, an assistant defender at SADO, plays for the Chelsea Monitor Base Ball Club; and Dawn, the Director of SADO, plays for the Monitor’s sister team the Merrimacs, a.k.a. the Merries.

It’s a family affair: the Van Hoeks, both University of Michigan grads and alumni of Wayne State University School of Law, got involved with the Chelsea teams when their son Jon Van Hoek started the Monitors five years ago, resurrecting one of the actual baseball clubs from Chelsea’s 19th century history. Formed in 2014, the Merries are captained by Jon’s wife Liz. Both teams, named in honor of iconic Civil War battleships, are under the auspices of the Chelsea Historical Society. 

“I played Little League as a kid and then softball in the old Lawyers’ League at Softball City for a long time, and Jon played Little League when he was growing up. He always wanted to play softball with me, but the league and our team disbanded before he was old enough,” explains Peter Van Hoek, who has taught as an adjunct professor at Wayne Law, Cooley Law, and the University of Michigan Law School.
After Jon started playing Vintage Ball with the Royal Oak Wahoos, he enlisted Peter; and when Jon later moved to Chelsea, he started the Monitor Baseball Club with Peter, Peter’s son-in-law, and others. Jon also was instrumental in helping a friend start the Union Baseball Club in Dexter. 

“We practice with them and play them several times a year. It’s a lot of fun — we’re all pretty relaxed about playing, but still are competitive,” says Peter, who clerked for Judges George Bashara and Dorothy Comstock Riley in the Michigan Court of Appeals, and was an attorney in Prehearing Division. “Both Dawn and I have been involved in athletic activities our whole lives, but vintage baseball gives us a chance to be part of a team of like-minded players who enjoy being together and playing, but are relaxed about the pastime and do it mainly for the fun and camaraderie.”  

As in all Vintage Base Ball teams, the Monitor and Merries ballists sport nicknames — Peter Van Hoek bears the nickname “Stonewall,” immigration attorney and club umpire Jason Eyster goes by “Egghead,” and teammates include “Honest Jon,” “Hawgcooker,” “Gear Head,” “Crusher,” “Ice Box,” “Grizzly,” “Walleye,” “Quickstep,” “Stick Boy,” “Squirrel Bait,” “Doc,” to name a few.   

President of the WLAM Foundation and a board member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, and Criminal Advocacy Program of Wayne Circuit Court, Dawn Van Hoek sports the Merries moniker “Loose Cannon.”  Her teammates include “Pepperbox,” “Skedaddle,” “Trixie,” “Top Shelf,” “Snapdragon,” “Maple Leaf,” “Jungle Cat,” “Cha Cha,”  “Fireball,” “Shotgun,” “Bear-a-cuda,” “Gingersnap,” and “Half Pint.”

“Each name has special meaning to the player,” Dawn explains. “In my case, you never know when I’ll bust loose and be dangerous at the plate — either getting a nice hit or striking out.”

Rather than purchasing old style uniforms from companies that produce them, both teams put together uniforms from more common sources and spiced them up with sashes, logos, and old style striped caps. 
“They are more comfortable than classic wool uniforms, but still look appropriate to the sport,” Peter says.

Players take to the field in friendly games against teams from Detroit, Royal Oak, Port Huron, Flint, Dexter, Kalamazoo, Bay City, Northville, and Okemos, have played in festivals in Ohio, and hope to play at a large festival of games in Gettysburg, Pa. 

The team has also played at as Greenfield Village, home to two teams, the Lah-De-Dahs and Nationals, and where a World Tournament of Historic Baseball will be held August 8 and 9, featuring teams from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Mike Ossy — a.k.a. “Oxbow” — an attorney with the Detroit firm of Blake Kirchner Symonds Larson Kennedy Smith, is the coordinator of historic base ball at the village.

The World Tournament harkens back to1867, when the Detroit area hosted the World’s Base Ball Tournament, with 24 clubs from the United States and Canada taking the field, attracting about 5,000 enthusiasts over the three-day event. Tickets were 25 cents, (grandstand seats extra) and parking 50 cents.

A family friendly amateur sport emphasizing camaraderie, hustle and sportsmanship, Vintage Base Ball attracts “ballists” across a wide range of ages and professions and an array of “cranks” or “rooters” (fans).

In the 1860s, the game was becoming more structured with codified sets of rules. Today’s clubs play with slightly different variations of 1860s rules, but club captains meet before a match to negotiate the rules (see related story).

On Saturday, July 18, the Monitors and Merries will host a free “Ironclad Base Ball Festival” 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Chelsea High School, 740 N. Freer, featuring four fields of play and games. The men’s clubs are Chelsea Monitors, Royal Oak Wahoos, Port Huron Welkins, Dexter Union, and Sidney Stars from Michigan and the Ohio Village Muffins and Wyandotte Ghostriders from Ohio. The four ladies’ clubs are Chelsea Merries, the Detroit River Belles from Historic Fort Wayne in downtown Detroit, and Benton Harbor Lil Fillies, and the Columbus Lady Diamonds from Ohio.

The festival also will feature a 1 p.m. performance by the Chelsea House Orchestra Celtic ensemble, historic demos, kids’ game zone, farmers’ market, and items from the Chelsea District Library local history collection.

1860s vs. 21st Century rules

Some notable differences from modern baseball:

• Bound Rule: The striker (batter) is out if his hit is caught on the fly or on the first bound (bounce). Base runners may advance at their own risk on a ball caught on the bound.

• Fair/Foul: A struck ball is deemed fair by where it first strikes the ground, no matter where it rolls or bounces. There is no “dead ball.”

• Balls & Strikes: The hurler’s obligation was to deliver a “hittable” pitch to the batter, so no balls or strikes were called. Three swing-and-misses do constitute a strike out.

• Role of Empire: He played a much lesser role in the 1860s. Today he will likely only call out foul balls, and on close plays, will ask the fielders and runners to make the call “on their honor.”

• Base runners may only steal on a catcher’s muff (error).

• Players may not over-run first base unless weather or field conditions dictate a relaxation of this rule.

• Gloves are not worn, nor shall a fielder catch a ball with his cap.

• Clubs may freely rotate and substitute fielders during a match.

• All of a club’s ballists strike (bat) in one continuous batting order.

Learning the Lingo: Be “in the know” with these expressions:
• Ace or Tally: Run
• Apple, Pill, Horsehide or Onion: Ball
• Behind: Catcher
• Blind: No Score
• Blooper or Banjo Hit: Weak Fly Ball
• Boodler: Ungentlemanly Maneuver
• Bowler, Hurler, Feeder: Pitcher
• Break One Off: Throw A Curve Ball
• Club Nine: Team
• Cranks: Fans
• Daisy Cutter: Grounder
• Dead: Out
• Dew Drop: Slow Pitch
• Dish: Home Plate
• Duff or Muff: Error
• Foul Tick: Foul Ball
• Huzzah!: Hooray!
• Leg it: Run
• Muffin: Player Of Less Talent
• The Line: The Batter's Line
• Match: Game
• Ginger: Enthusiastic Play
• Side Out: Three Outs
• Sky Ball: High Pop-Up
• Stinger: Hard Hit Ball
• Striker: Batter
• Striker To The Line: Batter Up
• Talley Keeper: Scorekeeper
• Hands Dead: Number Of Outs
• Whitewash: Scoreless Inning
• Baller or Ballist: Player
• Base Tender: Infielder
• Willow: Bat