Kennett ‘base ball’ team celebrates 140 years

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Southern Chester County Weeklies‘ website.
Mike “River” Spaziani, president of the Mohican Base Ball Club, stands at home plate during the team’s 140th birthday doubleheader. (Candice Monhollan)

Mike “River” Spaziani, president of the Mohican Base Ball Club, stands at home plate during the team’s 140th birthday doubleheader. (Candice Monhollan)

WEST MARLBOROUGH — If you build it, the living historians and athletes will come.

Like out of a scene from “Field of Dreams,” vintage base ball players put on a doubleheader on a diamond surrounded by a field of corn at the corner of Upland and Newark roads in Kennett Square.

The Mohican Base Ball Club of Kennett Square, in only its second year of play in the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League, had its 140th birthday July 24 and celebrated Saturday with the doubleheader against the Brandywine Base Ball Club of West Chester.

“(‘Field of Dreams’) is exactly what we were going for,” said Mike ‘River’ Spaziani, the club’s president. “We picked the perfect spot and the Walkers want to help us out in anyway they can. We wanted to bring what it was like to play in 1864 to this area. It’s just an amazing thing.”

… [Please continue the story on the Daily Local News website by clicking here.]

Started in 1875, the Mohicans played base ball back during a time before gloves, cleats and helmets. In a short time, it became one of the preeminent amateur clubs in Pennsylvania.

Though people today have probably never heard of a Mohican outside of the Native American tribe, the club churned out some great players over its history.

Mike Grady, a major-league player, received his start with the Mohicans and, surprisingly enough, the Brandywines as well, in the 1890s.

Once his professional career came to an end, he couldn’t quit the game as Grady returned to the Mohicans to catch and teach in 1911 and 1912.

Now, 140 years later, “ballists,” as the players were called in the day, have taken to the field in their new off-white, cream uniforms and red socks, caps, lettering and piping.

“It was absolutely amazing to bring the history of baseball in Kennett Square back,” Spaziani sad. “It’s really what it’s all about — educate the fans and spectators about how the game was played.”

“It’s a mixture of athletic competition and living history,” said Matt Bartnicki, Vintage Base Ball Association trustee. “Players of all ages and skill sets are welcome to play. Nineteenth-century base ball has the unique ability to bring people of all ages together to play the game we love.”

As compared to other clubs that play in the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League, the Mohicans are a very young team.

But that doesn’t stop them from having a full, talented roster.

“Spaziani was able to put a youthful club on the field,” Bartnicki said. “The Mohicans are a dedicated group of ballists. Most of them grew up together, so they all know each other well. They also have a great mix of players who have previous baseball experience, yet they have other guys who have never played, but are quality athletes.”

As Bartnicki alluded to, not everyone has to be a former player.

The team — and league — is open to anyone who has an interest in history and the sport, though, at the moment, the Mohicans have a solid roster.

“Believe it or not, this offseason, the league pointed players in Brandywine’s direction because the Mohicans had enough players,” Bartnicki said. “The Mohicans received numerous inquiries, but they had enough players recruited in-house by ‘River.’”

So far this season, and after two wins over rival Brandywine during the birthday-celebration doubleheader, the team is 9-1.

And the Mohicans will take the two wins Saturday over Brandywine, which was a huge rival of the Mohicans back in the heyday.

“Modern day, we’re all good friends, but back in the day, they did not like each other,” Spaziani said. “It was the West Chester area versus the Kennett Square area. It really made this day more special to be able to play our rival.”

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Categories: Baseball, Community, History, Sports, Vintage Base Ball

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