Vintage Baseball is Family Affair for Barehanded Catcher

Cincinnati Buckeye Daniel Goodwin shares the field with his father and brother to play gentleman’s baseball the 1869 way.

CINCINNATI, Ohio - While the Major League Baseball season is played with packed stadiums, 24-hour TV coverage and endless statistics, Daniel “Babyface” Goodwin and his Cincinnati Buckeyes teammates, including his father and brother, are playing baseball, old-school style.

The Goodwins are part of a “vintage baseball” team and their version is the way it used to be played – based on the game’s rules in 1869. The most notable difference from the current game: The game is played barehanded without gloves. 

Buckeyes’ vintage baseball is a family tradition for Daniel, 29, a data architect of business intelligence technology at PNC Mortgage in Miamisburg, Ohio.  His 63-year-old father, Charlie, has been playing for 13 years and his older brother, Noah, 35, also play on the team same team. While his son, Oliver, is only two years old, Daniel hopes someday he will take an interest in the family sport as well.

Daniel Goodwin (left) with his son, Oliver and father, Charlie 

Umpires in Top Hats  

As the catcher, Daniel does not use a catcher’s mitt or any protective gear, but says he’s learned to move quickly to avoid renegade balls. The vintage game is played more gentlemanly and sometimes uses no umpires, depending more on player respect and appreciation for the game and its participants. 

When umpires are used, their attire is the traditional uniform of that day complete with top hat and cane.  Bats must be wooden, pitching is underhand and players must have no piercings, tattoos or jewelry.  Since field lights were not available 150 years ago, the 30-40 game season is played in the mornings or afternoons from April to October. 

In 1869, the umpire (left) wore a top hat

100 Teams Nationwide

What started as a townball club in the days of the Civil War, the Buckeye Base Ball Club (back then, baseball was two words) predated by one year their famous rivals, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.  Vintage baseball was all but forgotten to history as the Red Stockings became the nation’s first all-professional baseball club in February 1869 when The National League was formed with the Cincinnati Reds as a charter member, making the city a one-team town.

Today, the Vintage Baseball Association (VBBA) serves as the sport’s governing body with about 100 teams throughout the U.S. overseeing the historical integrity of the game. The VBBA hosts an annual conference where team members join together to meet new people and schedule games with other teams.  

In vintage baseball, bats must be wooden, pitching is underhand and every game is played in daylight – just like the 1800s

Big League Stage

With close ties to the Reds, the throwback Buckeyes have been fortunate to host an annual 30-minute exhibition at the Great American Ball Park prior to the start of a Reds game.

'I have been fortunate to participate in this event for several years, playing on the grandest stage of all,' Daniel said. 'I may not have made it to the big leagues professionally, but I still get to fulfill a dream of playing at Reds stadium once a year, and that means a lot.'

Daniel "Babyface" Goodwin plays vintage baseball with his father and older brother

Playing vintage baseball for six years with my father and brother, I’ve learned a lot about the game and am glad we can spend time together doing something we all enjoy.