On a Saturday afternoon in late May, Chelsea’s Timber Town Park was
transformed into a field of dreams as the Monitor Base Ball Club of Chelsea resumed play after a 140-year hiatus. Made up of local businessmen and sponsored by the Chelsea Area Historical Society, the Monitor club (named after the famous Civil War battleship) hosted the Royal Oak Wahoos. With the Chelsea squad dressed in white shirts and wearing gold sashes around their waists, and both teams wearing vintage-style hats, the players looked the part—and even sported appropriate nicknames, such as “Stonewall,” “Quickstep,” and “Walleye.”
Monitor co-captain Brian “Waterlogged” Thomas (a graduate of Dexter High, former resident of Chelsea, and current resident of Manchester) told the small crowd that the Monitors were one of two squads organized in Chelsea following the Civil War. He and co-captain “Honest Jon” Van Hoek, who played with the Wahoos before moving from Royal Oak to Chelsea last year, joined forces to revive the team.
The captains tossed a bat to determine whose hand would grasp it topmost; the visitors clawed the handle and chose to bat last. It being a warm afternoon, Captain Thomas sought the permission of the ladies in attendance for the “ballists” to roll up their shirtsleeves; all agreed.
The Wahoos proved to be adept at catching “struck” balls bare-handed on the bounce; these counted as outs but did not bar base runners from advancing. A batter was also out if the catcher caught a foul tip on any number of bounces. One of the Monitors, poorly prepared in the rules of yore, impermissibly overran first base and was called out after being tagged. (The teams had agreed in advance not to allow “soaking”—retiring a runner by hitting him with a thrown ball on the basepaths—although some vintage games do allow this.)
After the first inning, the Wahoos led 4–3, and the Monitors, try as they might, could do no better than even the score. The teams exchanged “hip-hip-huzzah”s, then retired from the field to the pavilion, where the Monitors treated the Wahoos to a vintage supper of Cottage Inn pizza.
The Monitors have home games scheduled for June 23, July 24, and July 31, and exhibitions at the CAHS Community Picnic June 11 and the Dexter Civil War Days at Gordon Hall June 12 (see Community Events, p. 22). For more information, see chelseahistory.org.