Meet Our Other Baseball Team, the Mid Atlantic Base Ball League

The vintage team plays by the rules of 1864.

By J.F. Pirro
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 10 | Posted Oct. 10, 2012

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Photo by Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia

Scott Alberts plays right field or second base—anywhere he’s less likely to make a throw. He’d play first base if he could wear a baseball glove to catch his teammates’ throws. But on his Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia—which is to say, playing under the 12-team Mid Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League’s rules from circa 1864, when “base ball” was two words—fielders play bare-handed. The catcher receives the ball on a bounce, but moves closer with runners on base, and pitches arrive underhanded at top-notch Little League speed.

It’s an offensive game, so .600 batting averages aren’t unthinkable. Yet as Philly’s vintage team wraps up its season, it’s apparent that the intervening century and a half of pro baseball in this city hasn’t changed much as far as outcomes go. Philadelphia can boast just eight final championships: two World Series titles from the Phillies in 1980 and 2008, five from Connie Mack’s Athletics between 1910 and 1930—and, back in 1871, the original Athletic BBC won the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. The three-year-old Athletic revival squad hasn’t won squat yet; in fact, it went 0-10 in Federal Conference games this season. “If you’re hoping for a bright light, you won’t find it here,” says Albert, the club president. “We’re upholding the finest traditions in Philadelphia sports.”

So while the league plays its championship tournament this weekend, the Athletic team will be looking ahead to next year, hosting a recruiting tryout at 1 p.m. Sun., Oct. 14, at its field in Fairmount Park adjacent to the Please Touch Museum (that’s Memorial Hall to the retro-minded). Alberts is OK with that: Competition, he says, plays second fiddle to promoting the league and 19th-century baseball history. The baseball itself is a “leisurely thing… We do all we can to win, but we also have a great time losing games, too.” Even Charlie Manuel couldn’t—or wouldn’t—mumble that.

Alberts, a history major turned financial administrator at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, co-founded the Athletic BBC with brothers Ryan and Eric Berley of Franklin Fountain, an old-fashioned soda fountain parlor on Market Street in Old City. Hailing from a family of antiques collectors, the Berleys have a “good eye” for antiquity; they were invaluable in selecting the team’s uniforms, authentic wool reproductions with pearl buttons and leather belts. “We’ve built this team on history nerds, so it’d be nice to get a few more ballplayers,” Alberts says. “We’re always recruiting, but we’re no beer league. We’re adding to the city’s social fabric.”

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Comments 1 - 10 of 10
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1. Scott Alberts said... on Oct 10, 2012 at 08:29AM

“We may not have won any games in our conference, but we did win four games outside of our conference. It's a tough league and we've got the expansion blues, but we'll be in the mix soon enough. Thanks for the coverage!”

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2. hipstersmustburn said... on Oct 18, 2012 at 07:10AM

“more hipster posing. wasting your parents trust fund money so that people can look at you. good job idiots”

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3. FedUpInPhilly said... on Oct 18, 2012 at 08:15AM

“Dear GAWD!!!! What an attention starved clan of interlopers!! Get real jobs & real lives. Soon enough your meal ticket money from mommy & daddy will run out and the shock of earning of living (for real) will hit you like vintage piano dropped from an organic, sustainable, artisan grown, rooftop turnip farm. Then somebody ought to smack your enabling patents over the head with an Allen Ginsberg book.

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4. Anonymous said... on Oct 19, 2012 at 10:00AM

“You're "no beer league". Yeah, right, you're probably the artisanal ale team. Ugh. Yes, everyone is looking at you, but they're more than likely rolling their eyes.”

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5. Cletus said... on Oct 19, 2012 at 10:15AM

“1864 rules = no "negroes"”

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6. Fisty said... on Oct 23, 2012 at 03:37PM

“Go to ren faire, get over yourselves.”

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7. Daddypay$myrent said... on Dec 20, 2012 at 03:06PM

“Yet another glimpse into the life of the "look at me", permanent vacationing, trust funded hipster-parasite. Go back to Arkabama and play dress-up there.”

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8. Cockerel said... on Feb 2, 2013 at 01:47PM

“I wonder is their team segregated along racial lines in accordance with the true authentic experience of 1800's baseball? Now there's a hipster conundrum.”

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9. AnyNameIWant said... on May 31, 2014 at 10:04PM

“Wow, it's great to write such harsh comments while remaining anonymous. Truly remarkable to rant about hobbyists, taking an interest in local history. I suppose all history enthusiasts are freeloading slackers.

We sure could use more Tea Party mentality like this in Pennsylvania. Glad the frackers, (actually) draining our state don't pay taxes.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Jun 18, 2014 at 09:55PM

“Get a grip! I know these guys. They are anything but Trust Fund Babies!. They are all working stiffs, just like you. Or maybe you negative creeps are just stiffs!”


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