When Scott Alberts & Ryan Berley first met to discuss forming a Philadelphia 19th century base ball club, the consensus was clear from the start: authenticity was to be a non-negotiable trait of the club. Interpreting the history of base ball in the 19th century for the public comes with the collective responsibility of accurate portrayal of past rules, practices, traditions, equipment, uniforms and methods of manufacture. Simply put, if we play 1864 rules base ball in old timey uniforms that evoke the past but only paraphrase it, we are playing 1860s base ball in rules only but not in body.
- If our hands hurt or fingers get broken because we don’t wear gloves for authenticity, then why not wear gloves for comfort and safety
- If our uniforms are hot or uncomfortable for authenticity, then why not wear a more modern fabric for comfort?
There are plenty of old-timey base ball teams, but Athletic BBC of Philadelphia is not one of them. As a member recently noted, we represent the GOLD STANDARD for authenticity in the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League. Athletic is consistently being photographed and interviewed for our commitment to authenticity, recognized above others at festivals for our appearances. Going forward, we would like to be the standard bearer for the national game of the 19th century base ball as a whole.
Part of the reason Athletic BBC can set the standard for 19th century base ball is that we have a wealth of primary source material describing and depicting the early uniforms of the 1860s Athletics. Below, this 1866 Harper’s Weekly etching shows Athletic standing above the Atlantic BBC of Brooklyn. Bowties and base ball belts are clearly distinguishable.
New players, try-outs or “muffins” often need a quick fix for an 1860s appropriate uniform to wear during match play. Athletic BBC will have an inventory of non-team-specific uniforms on hand at home matches to loan out when required. Such players will be asked for a deposit (TBD) while the loaner uniform is in their possession, until returned in good condition, laundered or dry cleaned to the club Quartermaster. If a loaner uniform component is damaged while on loan, the player will be responsible for having it mended at personal expense.
Loaner uniforms as ordered by the Quartermaster, to be specified as:
- 19th century style white linen or cotton shirt, partial button down with cuffs
- black silk or moire cravat
- 19th century style dark blue cotton denim trousers, buttoned fall front (Gohn Bros.)
- simple black or brown leather belt with roller buckle
- Athletic BBC regulation cap
- Shoes to be supplied by wearer
UNIFORM REQUIREMENTS FOR MEMBERS
When a prospective becomes a dues-paying member of the Club, he/she has 60 days to order a uniform through the Quartermaster. Typically orders for caps take 2-4 weeks and orders for jerseys and trousers require 8-12 weeks lead-time. During this 60-day grace period, a club member may wear a Loaner Uniform or a Quartermaster-sanctioned uniform of his/her own procurement.
The uniform is comprised of several components.
Page 485 – “The Book of American Pastimes” in the section “The National Game”
UNIFORM.–Caps: white trimmed with blue; blue star in middle of the crown. Shirts: white flannel, trimmed with blue; the letter “A” (German text) in blue, on the breast. Pants: blue cloth with white cord down outer seam. Belts: white and blue, with German-silver clasps in front, and the word “Athletic,” in blue letters on white morocco, in the center of back.
(Download the sizing chart located here)
Jerseys are ivory wool flannel, with dark blue woven tape piping to cuffs and shield, the latter bearing a dark blue appliqued German
Gothic “A” to the center. The shield is to be buttoned to the front of the jersey, utilizing 1860s appropriate pewter, hard rubber or mother-of-pearl buttons. Jersey is to be tucked into trousers during match play.
Soft off-white wool with blue piping and blue felt star appliqued to the center of top.
These can be worn in a myriad of ways, but look smart when pinched in the front tight, like a golf cap.
Cravats are to be made of black silk, moire, cotton or other 1860s appropriate material and may vary in length and style, based on availability and the individual wearer’s preferences.
These are to be tied similar to a modern bowtie, with instructions to be found online. Cravats to be worn during match play on the exterior of the jersey.
Trousers are dark blue or navy wool, cut as pantaloons, with white corded piping running the vertical length.
Three tin cuff buttons terminate the ankle of the trousers. Fly is button-up utilizing the same tin buttons, with large belt loops to accommodate an ATHLETIC base ball belt or other sanctioned buckled belt.
Peverley’s 1866 description of an ATHLETIC uniform describes the belt as follows:
“…white and blue, with German-silver clasps in front, and the word “Athletic,” in blue letters on white morocco, in the centre of back.”
Morocco is a 19th century term for leather, specifically goatskin. While many Athletic players wear a faithful quality reproduction of this belt (Dell’s Leather Works of Kingston, NY), they are not required for play due to cost. ($200) It is highly recommended, however, as these belts set our club apart and are a constant source of pride and compliments.
Additionally, at least two other belt styles are suggested for authentic wear, both from Dell’s Leather Works:
North Carolina Roller Buckle Belt ($48)
Civilian Double Buckle Belt ($48)
Classic lightweight cotton shirt from the Civil War period. Plain off-white was most common, but there are many variations in plaids, ginghams and calico patterns.
These keep the itch from the jerseys but are lightweight enough to not absorb too much sweat. Also, these look good to warm up in before donning a jersey.
Highly recommended. $40
19th Century Base-Ball Shoes, Belts, Trousers and Socks
1870s – 90s Advertisements for Base-Ball Shoes
1860s/70s Base-Ball Boots
Copied from an early Spaulding ad this Vintage Baseball boot is made for use. It is made from doubled canvas duck with harness leather toe caps, facings and heel counter. Vintage Baseball grew out of Civil war reenacting. We use the same last as our civil war brogans available in 8 thru 13 in d and ee width. We do not have spikes but can offer hobnails. Each boot is custom-made to the wearer’s foot.
$145. from Mattimore Harness of Cody, Wyoming.
This is one of the most important pieces of equipment for a hot summer day. Canteens hold about 1/3 gallon of water and are easily carried around the shoulder via strap.
Civil War Union Army issue, in either gray, navy blue or kersey. Smooth side or bullseye pattern is acceptable.
Stainless steel construction is recommended over tin for longevity.