Vintage baseball finds its way to Boonville 1860 style, 300 fans attend game at Twillman field in Harley park

Chris Bowie
Boonville Daily News
A player for the Kansas Westerns stands at home plate ready to make contact while playing the St. Louis Browns Stockings during a 1860 game Saturday at Twillman field in Harley park.
The St. Louis Browns Stockings and the Kansas Westerns played a doubleheader 1860s style Saturday at Twillman field in Harley park to a crowd of 300 fans. In addition to learning how the game was played back then, the crowd also found out that hitting a bigger ball  and fielding with no glove was a lot harder than today’s game.

Vintage baseball at its finest was on full display Saturday, 1860 style, as the St. Louis Browns Stockings battled the Kansas Westerns in a doubleheader at Twillman field in Harley park.

Dressed in uniforms that depicted how baseball players suited up in 1860, Boonville fans were given a taste of how the game was played and how different the baseball language was back then compared to how it is in today’s game.

Boonville Chamber President Laura Gramlich said approximately 300 fans turned out to watch the St. Louis Browns Stockings play the Kansas Westerns.

“The weather was perfect for baseball and we had a great turnout,” Gramlich said. “It coordinated perfectly with the opening day ceremonies in Cal Ripken. Boonville is a baseball community and definitely showed their support. We can’t thank all the countless volunteers and the spectators enough who helped make this a great day.”

With admission at 50 cents per person with goodwill donations, fans were also treated to good old fashion baseball and two local announcers Jim Ray Kluck and Richelle Kluck, calling the game from the press box. The Boonville Pirate Booster Club also provided lunch and the local youth sold peanuts and Cracker Jacks throughout the crowd as a fundraiser for the Cooper County Baseball Association.

Gramlich said she hopes to make this an annual event.

“Denise Greis-Solomon and Michael Watts did an outstanding job coordinating and take care of all the various things that made this a successful event down to very fine details,” Gramlich said. “The Boonville Parks Department made sure the field was perfectly manicured and marked to the 1860’s specifications. The Chamber Board members volunteered to help make sure the entrance to the field was decorated with patriotic bunting, to man the gate, to man the gate taking money, handling out programs and various other jobs.”

In addition to the game, Gramlich said both teams were very accommodating and allowed the youth to have a chance to hit the ball and run the bases for them.

Watts said the 1860’s game was overwhelming. “Everybody that I talked to was very excited and thought it was a wonderful experience,” Watts said. “”We’ve already made plans to have it again next year. “They were great at letting the young kids come down there and run the bases with them. I think the kids, even at the high school level, were amazed at some of those old time rules. The balls they used back then to play were a lot bigger and a little softer than today. They also pitch it underhand. They still hit it hard but they know how to play it. It also helps what they call bound out, where if it bounces once, no matter where it's at on the field, they catch it, you're still out like it's a line drive.”

Some of the names given to the players is also different than today. Names for some of the Kansas Westerns were Rook, Foghorn, Pinto, Speedy, Hornet, Big Train, Shotgun, Butcher, Hammer. Meanwhile, for the St. Louis Brown Stockings, they had names like Lightning, Twister, Capo, Sparky, Toon, Kaiser, Law Dog, Pee Wee, Crackin and Weeble. 

The base ball terms were also different with stinger and whizzer meaning hard hit ball. Kicking and chafing was also a slang term for complaining. 

“It was just a fun thing to watch,” Watts said. “I think the people enjoyed it. I know I did.”