Old-time base ball gets modern-day coverage at John Deere Historic Site

Ganymede Mike "Mouth" Benesh fields a hlt as the ceterfield cameraman zeroes in on the play during a vintage base ball game against the DuPage Plowboys at the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

GRAND DETOUR — The cameras were rolling Saturday at the John Deere Historic Site as two old-time “base ball” teams met up to play with modern-day TV coverage.

Even Mother Nature waited for the final out of the Oregon Ganymedes vs. DuPage County Plowboys game before spattering the historic site with a steady rain.

The Ganymedes, a vintage base ball club based in Oregon, hosted the Plowboys of Downers Grove at the Deere home and museum under partially cloudy skies and mild temperatures.

“Despite the threat of rain, more than 400 spectators came to Grand Detour to watch the teams play early rules base ball,” said Ganymedes Captain Mark Herman. “A three-camera television crew from KCRG television in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who normally film high school, college and professional league sporting events, streamed the entire event live. They also brought a great play-by-play announcer who interviewed players during the match. The game was also broadcast on KWQC in the Quad-Cities and other sites from coast to coast.”

Ganymede Justin "Butter" Early fields a throw to second during a vintage base ball game against the DuPage Plowboys at the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour on Saturday, June 8, 2024.

The John Deere Historic Site upped the promotion of the historic base ball event in local newspapers and the media, especially in the Quad-City area, where the John Deere corporate headquarters are located, Herman said.

“We counted 394 people come through the front gates and had many more enter through the back side of the site,” said Judy Webb, Operations Lead at the John Deere Historic Site. “This is my favorite event of the 30-plus years that I have been working here.”

Saturday marked the first time the KCRG crew covered a vintage base ball game.

“This was really fun and the John Deere site was a beautiful backdrop for the game,” said Erin Rooney, KCRG executive producer.

Vintage rules base ball (spelled as two words in the 1800s) is played with authentic wool uniforms, no gloves, underhand pitching and gentlemanly conduct. Other rule differences include outs for balls caught on one bounce, no called balls or strikes – unless the batter swings three times and misses – and a requirement that players call themselves out on close plays. Base paths are still 90 feet, there are three outs per inning, and games are 9-innings long.

Comprised of volunteer players, the Ganymedes have been playing vintage base ball with 1858 rules for 20 years. Saturday marked the second time the team plated at the historic site, located 9 miles south of their home field in Oregon.

A link to the broadcast was also made available on the Ganymedes’ Facebook page so fans of the team could watch the game.

“We put the link to the live broadcast on our Oregon Ganymedes Vintage Base Ball Facebook page,” said Oregon Ganymedes scorekeeper Debbie Herman. “We had texts all during the game from our friends who were watching it live in Los Angeles, California; Tacoma, Washington; Louisville, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri; Cleveland, Ohio; Peoria, Illinois; Springfield, Illinois; Connecticut and Rhode Island.”

The Ganymedes won the game 12-3 in a contest that produced entertaining and unusual plays on a tight, challenging field of play that was bordered by fences, trees and other greenery.

Memorable plays included a Ganymede player accidentally somersaulting across home plate to score a run and the entire Plowboys team searching for the game ball in several large bushes in far right field.

A recap of the game will be available on demand in a few days, with the Ganymedes posting the link on their Facebook page as soon as it is available.

The Ganymedes’ next games will be on their home field in Oregon at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, against the McLean County Prairie Chickens Base Ball Club of Normal, Illinois.

DuPage County Plowboys search for the game ball in large shrubs during a vintage base ball game with the Oregon Ganymedes at the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour on Saturday, June 8, 2024.
Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.