The Fort Mackinac Never Sweats
Courtesy Mackinac Parks
You can almost smell the baseball Americana in the fresh grass behind Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, the oldest continuously played ball field in Michigan and where, 125 years ago, a grandstand for 500 baseball cranks [fans] stood. The Never Sweats team formed in the 1880’s, when members of the 23rd Infantry stationed at Fort Mackinac played teams from Mackinaw City, Sault Ste. Marie, Harbor Springs, Petoskey, and Reed City.
July 18, Representative Bart “Stretch” Stupak and 1968 Detroit Tigers World Champion John “Ratso” Hiller will lead the modern-day Fort Mackinac Never Sweats in a game of authentic base ball (vintage spelling) against the Rochester Grangers. Teammates play the game—in wool shirts and padded cotton britches—as it was played when it first became popular after the Civil War. That means: No sliding. A ball caught on one bounce is an out, just like a fly ball. No baseball gloves allowed (the antique base ball is a bit softer and bigger than the modern one, but broken fingers do happen). “Gentlemanly behavior is required,” says Phil Porter, Director of Mackinac State Historic Parks, who plays shortstop. “We always congratulate the other team on good plays, and the hurler [pitcher] asks the batter where he’d like the ball delivered. No swearing, spitting or smoking—if you do, there is a fine and you must apologize to the cranks before you are back in the game.”
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