The History of Base Ball
The New York Knickerbockers was the first club to write down the rules of what has become modern baseball. The New York Knickerbockers organized their gentlemen's club in 1845 in the Lower Manhattan area of New York City, and played what is often cited as the first base ball match between two clubs the following year when they met a group known as the New York Club at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. Base ball then began to spread, with other clubs forming, first in the New York area and then in other cities on the East Coast. The Civil War (1861-65) promoted the growth of the game beyond the eastern cities, as soldiers played base ball for recreation and enjoyment in their free time in camp, looked forward to occasional games between army units and local clubs, and even made prison camp life more endurable by organizing ball games. When the war was over, dozens of new clubs were formed in Ohio and throughout the Midwest.
The emphasis in the early game was on courtesy among the gentlemen and, occasionally, ladies, playing the sport for exercise. Initially, only a few rules governed a match. The rest was left up to the players’ sense of honor and good sportsmanship and the umpire’s decisions as he judged players' actions by the gentlemanly code of the Victorian era. Clubs played to win, with the players conducting themselves in a sportsmanlike manner, creating an atmosphere where spectators cheered for good plays by either side.
In 1981, the Ohio History Connection organized the Ohio Village Muffins to show how recreation and base ball were becoming a part of life in the mid-nineteenth century. The team was the first in the nation to play a regular schedule of vintage base ball matches and the Society has assisted in the formation of nearly 50 other vintage teams in Ohio and beyond, including Colorado, New York, Georgia, and Canada.
In 1996 the Muffins hosted the founding meeting of the Vintage Base Ball Association to further the historical interpretation of the game. The Muffins play in uniforms patterned after the Currier and Ives lithograph The American National Game, on display at the Ohio Historical Center. The uniforms consist of plain long pants, a white shirt with a bright shield containing the team emblem, a pill box hat, a leather belt with the team name embossed on it, and a bow tie.
The name "Muffin" originates from the organization of 1860s gentlemen's base ball clubs. The best squad was known as the "first nine," the second-string players were the "second nine," and those not well skilled were the "muffin nine," a muff being the term for an error.
The pieces of equipment used by both the Diamonds and the Muffins are reproductions. Bats are no bigger than 2.5 inches in diameter, but may be of any length. Balls are 10 inches in circumference with a single piece of leather covering them. Bases are at least one square foot and are filled with sand or sawdust. Ball gloves and protective equipment had not been invented.