Play ball--1860s style


Two SADO attorneys play for Chelsea teams using 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.

"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," says Peter, who clerked for Judges George Bashara and Dorothy Comstock Riley in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

As in all Vintage Base Ball teams, the players sport nicknames - Peter Van Hoek is "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, Dawn Van Hoek sports the Merries moniker "Loose Cannon." 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 enjoy 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 festival in Gettysburg, Pa.

The team has also played at as Greenfield Village, where a World Tournament of Historic Baseball will be held August 8 and 9, featuring teams from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

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 will feature a performance by Chelsea House Orchestra, historic demos, kids' games, farmers' market, and historic memorabilia.

Published: Mon, Jul 13, 2015