Aurora cops’ vintage baseball team makes home debut Sunday
By Matt Hanley firstname.lastname@example.org August 16, 2012 12:22PM
"Flash" Abbs of the Aurora Town Club blasts a double to deep right field as part of a big seventh inning rally against the Chicago Salmon. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
First home game
What: First home game for the Aurora Town Club vs. The Milwaukee Grays
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: Randall Park, Indian Trail west of Randall Road, Aurora
There are no stands at the field, so guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.
Updated: September 18, 2012 6:07AM
For years, Paul Nelson had been intrigued by vintage baseball. The game intersected with two of Nelson’s passions: history and the national pastime.
When he heard two teams would be playing under 1800s rules at Aurora’s Blackberry Farm in June 2011, Nelson finally got a chance to see the game in action.
“I remember that morning I told my wife, when I retire, this is what I want to do: Play vintage baseball,” said Nelson, a commander in the Aurora Police Department. “When I got home, I said: Change of plans, I have to try this now.”
A little more than a year after Nelson attended that first game, the Aurora Town Club vintage baseball team will make its home debut in a Sunday afternoon game against the Milwaukee Grays. The game, scheduled to start at 1 p.m., is free and open to the public.
Besides being the first vintage baseball team in Aurora, the squad has another distinction: it is made up entirely of Aurora police officers.
Nelson was captivated by that game he saw at Blackberry between teams from Somonauk and Oregon, Ill. Afterward, he talked to the manager of the Somonauk squad about possibly joining their team. The manager mentioned that he was surprised that Aurora, with its rich baseball history, didn’t have a team of its own.
Pretty soon, Nelson was talking to other baseball fans in the Police Department, asking whether they’d be interested in a vintage version.
“Not a single one said no,” Nelson recalled. “In a week I had the team put together.”
Nelson worked with the Aurora Historical Society to design the uniforms, which match an 1870s photo of the oldest known baseball team in Aurora. Nelson, a Revolutionary War recreationist, was meticulous about building a uniform as close to authentic as possible.
The team’s name comes from a Beacon-News article that referred to memorable Fourth of July game between a Naperville team and the “Aurora Town Club.” Nelson said the team’s name may have changed through the years, and “Town Club” was probably a way to distinguish the team from lesser neighborhood squads.
Fans at Sunday’s game will notice that the broad outlines of the game are the same, although some of the particulars are unique to vintage baseball. There are no gloves and no called balls or strikes. Base runners can’t slide and can’t overrun first. Balls caught on the first bounce are considered an out and runners can’t be doubled up on a caught fly ball.
The Aurora team has 15 members, many former high school or college baseball players. Aurora has played four games so far, losing three and winning one.
“Early on, we had problems with our defense adjusting to the new rules,” Nelson said. “That’s the last challenge we have to overcome: to make use of the rules. If we can finally get past that hurdle, we’ll be a very good team to beat.”
More information about the Aurora team be found by searching for “Aurora Town Club Vintage Baseball Team” on Facebook. More information about the Midwest’s Vintage Base Ball League is available at vbba.org.