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Vintage ‘base ball’ coming to Rocky Mount

(Photo courtesy of Jamie Wright/Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball, 2015)
(Photo courtesy of Jamie Wright/Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball, 2015)

From Staff Reports

Anyone interested in history and America’s national pastime is invited to witness a match of bare-handed base ball at noon on Saturday, June 4, at Rocky Mount State Historic Site, 200 Hyder Hill Road.

At that time, two teams from the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball (TAOVBB), the Knoxville Holstons and the Emmett Machinists of Knoxville, will play nine innings of 1864 base ball, wearing period-appropriate attire and following the rules and customs of the Civil War-era, according to a press release from East Tennessee State University.

The fun, educational event is the result of a partnership between the Rocky Mount Historical Association, the East Tennessee State University Department of History and the TAOVBB.

“The Emmett Machinists are looking forward to playing on such a beautiful field,” says Jeremy “Haymaker” Hubbs, co-captain of the team. “The Machinists are ready to take the grounds of Rocky Mount with vim and vigor, as we aim to put on a splendid showing for the good people of Piney Flats and beyond.”

Attendees of the match will be transported back to a time when “base ball” (two words in the 1860s) was in its infancy. Gloves were not yet used. A ball could be caught on the bounce for “one-hand dead” (an out). And one umpire oversaw the entire field, at times calling on members of the crowd to help determine close plays.

“The Holstons enjoy playing before a lively crowd,” adds Ken “Molasses” Mayes, co-captain of the Holstons. “It is our hope that many families will come out to this special match, the first for Northeast Tennessee. Feel free to interact with the teams.  We love to greet fans, share the history of the game, and take likenesses!”

The match will take place in the field near the entrance gate of Rocky Mount.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate another element of America’s heritage by inviting people to our grounds for a wonderful celebration of baseball history,” said Gary Walrath, Rocky Mount’s executive director. “Rocky Mount has proudly showcased our region’s history with our first-person interpretation of life in 1791, and we are now excited to help people understand the early days of one of the nation’s most beloved sports.”

Dr. Tom Lee, a history professor at ETSU, shares the enthusiasm.

“Come see the bowler hurl the apple and the strikers swinging for stingers and aces,” Lee said. “Bring your family, your friends, and your baseball or softball team. Show your support for local history while having a fun day and celebrating an American tradition!”

Since its inaugural season in 2013, the TAOVBB has grown to include 10 vintage base ball clubs in Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. As revived iterations of Tennessee’s historic base ball teams, TAOVBB member clubs combine living history with sport, organizing barehanded, Civil War-era base ball games to educate and entertain their communities.

TAOVBB ballists, or base ball players, adhere to rules and customs of 1864, wearing period-appropriate uniforms and using historically-correct equipment. All regular season matches of the TAOVBB are free and open to the public. The TAOVBB is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization supported by donations and organized by volunteers.

Rocky Mount’s gates will open at 10 a.m. Festivities will begin at 11 a.m., including games for children, crafts, opportunities to meet the ballists and music by members of the Johnson City Community Band. The match will begin at noon with a parade of the nines (teams) to the field, a ceremonial throwing of the first pitch, and a bat toss to determine which club will strike first. After the game, ballists will be available to talk with fans and pose for photographs.

Concessions will be available on site, but attendees are invited to bring blankets or lawn chairs and a picnic and enjoy dinner on the ground while watching the spectacle unfold. Picnic tables are available near the museum.

There is no charge to attend, but donations to cover expenses are welcomed. The museum and historic buildings at Rocky Mount State Historic Site will be open for tours at the regular charge.

Except in the event of heavy storms, thunder or lightning, the game will go on as planned. Should the game be cancelled, it will not be rescheduled this season. The field area and the museum are handicapped accessible. Temporary bathroom facilities will be provided near the field, and restrooms in the museum will be available for use.

For more information, call Rocky Mount at 538-7396 or toll-free at 1-888-538-1791, or [email protected]

More information about the TAOVBB is available at and on Twitter (@TaoVBB) and Facebook ( Additional information on Rocky Mount may be found at