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A crank's guide to watching vintage 'base ball'

Plus, beneath the surface of Pa.'s biggest lake.


June 24, 2022
Inside this edition: Lake monster, gas up, mayoral meme, great wall, chicken out, weekend warriors, and the ghosts of baseball past. 

Life aquatic question: What is the largest lake that's contained entirely in the state of Pennsylvania? (Meaning Lake Erie doesn't count.)

(We'll have a real stumper in this space each week. You'll find the answer at the bottom, but don't miss all the good stuff in between.)

» One thing worth knowing: A Koch Brothers-aligned group subsidized $2.38/gallon gas at a station near Pittsburgh on Wednesday (the state average is around $5/gallon). It sold out in 45 minutes

» One meme worth seeing: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is a somber island in a sea of World Cup jubilation in a photo by The Inquirer's Yong Kim, which remind us: The World Cup is coming to Philly.

» One place worth pinning: The Barcade chain is opening a second Philly outpost, this one in Center City's historic Hale Building, the Business Journal reports, via NBC10. It's set to open early next year.

» One thing worth reading: Hurricane Agnes devastated Pennsylvania 50 years ago. In Sunbury, a trusted flood wall inspired an act of vandalism that became a "rallying cry of the city," per The Daily Item.

» One video worth watching: A chicken's dramatic escape from a very interested Pittsburgh cat — shared by @csnyderj on Twitter — was made possible by quick-thinking humans with an ad hoc plan.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

» Statewide Pennsylvania police hiring database hindered by loopholes, lack of enforcement

» Pa. House eyes expanding who can bring sexual misconduct complaints against lawmakers

» Top Pa. lawmakers have tentative deal to ban private money, increase funding for county election offices

» Wolf pushes $91M for nursing homes to offset costs of proposed new regulations, but industry says it’s not enough

On Saturday, a group of fielders will hide their cellphones, don the hottest wool uniforms imaginable, and play a game of "base ball" like it's 1859. 

It's happening at Pennypacker Mills in Montco, and it's the newest/oldest sports craze to sweep the commonwealth. (Games are also coming to Gettysburg in July and Washington County in August.) 

If you're planning to watch any of the gloveless, anachronistic, puffy-shirted action, here's what you need to know.

The jargon 
  • Fans are now "cranks"
  • At-bats are "licks"
  • Leftys are "portsiders"
  • Towering pop flies are "sky rockets"
  • Line drives are "whizzers"
  • Bad teams or players are "muffins"
  • Good players or hits are "corkers"
  • Pitchers are "hurlers" or "bowlers"
  • Bunts are "baby hits" 
  • Home plate is "the dish" 
There's lots more where that came from.

The rules
  • If a player catches a ball on the first bounce, the hitter is out
  • Walks require seven called "balls" instead of four
  • A hit ball that starts off fair but rolls foul is actually fair. It's called a "fair foul hit" and would have been playable until around 1876
  • Runners are always live and can't overrun first base 
  • Underhand pitching only and no fastballs (spitballs are A-OK) 
  • No leading off and no foot-first sliding
  • No spitting, no chewing tobacco, and no foul language
  • Only one ball was used in a game and the winning team got it at the end; that means if you caught a foul, you gave it back
Editor's note: Rules can vary based on rulebook, and there are many.

The women (or lack thereof)

Women played base ball in the 19th century, but the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball says co-ed teams didn't exist.

The group adds on its website: "Co-ed teams are a more recent innovation, and one we heartily endorse."

The name of the game

Wayne State University Professor Marcus Dickson told the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation that in the span of 100 years, the sport's name went from "base-ball" to "base ball" (likely to appease typesetters at the time), and back to base-ball before becoming "baseball."

That shift in common usage was reflected in The New York Times style guide, which adopted "baseball" as the preferred choice in 1884.

The teams

Pennsylvania is home to a handful of organized vintage base ball clubs today: the Keystone Base Ball Club of Harrisburg, the Pittsburgh Homesteaders Vintage Base Ball Club, the Anthracite Region Vintage Baseball Association in NEPA, the Allegheny Ironsides in Donora, the Addison Mountain Stars, and the Somerset Frosty Sons of Thunder.

Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA

A photo by Joed Viera of the view from Sier Hill in Michaux State Forest, which touches Adams, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania

» All weekend: Get free or reduced admission to Philly's Neon Museum, Masonic Temple, or Rodin Museum. Here's the schedule.

» Friday, June 24: It's Friday in Bellefonte, and that means Friday in the 'Fonte is coming back to Talleyrand Park with all the usual suspects. 

» Saturday, June 25: Erie's Pride Parade steps off at noon at The Zone Dance Club on W. 18th and ends with Pridefest at Perry Square. 

» Saturday, June 25: See Harrisburg's Slughead (the band) open for The Princess Bride (the movie) at Midtown Cinema. It's free. Donations will be accepted for the Ecumenical Food Pantry and GLO Harrisburg.

» Saturday, June 25: Catch a free day of music under the sun in Pittsburgh's Schenley Plaza, courtesy of the venerable WYEP. 

» Sunday, June 26: Minor league baseball meets an all-you-can-eat buffet as Crab Feast comes to York's PeoplesBank Park. Tickets are here.

» Sunday, June 26: Ride a train through the scenic Pocono Mountains, from Honesdale to Hawley and back. Tickets are $20 for adults.
The largest lake that's contained entirely in the state of Pennsylvania is Raystown Lake in Huntingdon and Bedford Counties. 

The 8,300-acre reservoir was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1973 on top of an older, smaller dam, flooding bridges, cottages, and roads that lined the older, smaller body of water. 

An early home of former Gov. Martin Brumbaugh was among those submerged, per the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission.

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? What do you want to see more of? Or, tell us your secret food recipes!
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