Huzzah! Today you might consider this an odd exclamation to use when cheering on your favorite baseball team, but in the 19th century it would have been a common expression. In fact, if you visit Ramsey House this summer for a vintage base ball game, you will hear phrases and terminology that are quite different from today’s sport. You might have already noticed the difference in spelling; in the 1860s, it was spelled base ball, not baseball, and a group of players were called clubs, not teams. Games are known as matches, a home run is a four baser, and you might call the ball an apple, an onion, or even a horsehide.
The local motto “No Spitting, No Swearing, No Gloves” gives a few hints at how a vintage base ball game differs from its modern counterpart. Clubs wear period uniforms, play by 1860s rules, and use period reproduction equipment. Regionally, there are twelve clubs under the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball and over 400 groups in the United States and Canada. The Tennessee Association of Base Ball was founded in 2012 not only to be a source of entertainment, but as a way to return to core values including honor, teamwork, and true sportsmanship. Knoxville has two clubs, the Emmett Machinists of Knoxville and the Knoxville Holstons. Both clubs take their names from original Knoxville clubs of the 1860s. The Holstons and the Machinists play other vintage teams from around the state on a bi-weekly schedule during the spring and summer months.
Ramsey House serves as Knoxville’s playing ground for both the Holstons and the Machinists, offering a historical backdrop with a scenic countryside. Ramsey House was built in 1797 by Knoxville’s first builder, Thomas Hope, for Francis Alexander Ramsey. The structure is significant for original interior and exterior architectural features and its period decorative art collection. The Ramsey Family was one of the first families to settle the Knoxville area. They played vital roles in developing civic, educational and cultural institutions. Colonel Francis A. Ramsey was one of the founding trustees of Blount College, now the University of Tennessee. One of his sons, Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey authored an early history of the state, The Annals of Tennessee. Another son, William B.A. Ramsey, was the first elected mayor of Knoxville. Ramsey House is also part of the Historic Homes of Knoxville, a partnership of seven historic house museums that together tell the history of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Now in its fourth season, Vintage Base Ball at Ramsey House offers an afternoon of free family fun. Food and beverages are for sale at all matches, and proceeds from the sales help Ramsey House continue to bring this great educational event to our community. There are still seven matches remaining this season, so be sure to check the schedule and mark your calendars for an entertaining and historical afternoon. Lawn chairs and blankets are encouraged.