Baseball is widely known as America’s pastime, but a deeper dive shows that there have been multiple versions of the game over the decades. A group of ballplayers traveling across the country made a pit stop at Turlock to publicize the early days of the game using their own newly invented game: Townball.
Townball is a game based on a version of baseball played in Massachusetts before the Civil War. The Massachusetts style was one of the two most popular versions of the game, joining the traditional New York style. Unlike New York, the Massachusetts game had no foul territory, any ball hit by the batter was considered live, there were five bases around a rectangular field, and baserunners were not required to stay within the base paths while advancing from the base. base.
Daniel Jones is the mind behind modern Townball. As a baseball historian and math teacher at University High School Fresno, Jones thought of combining Massachusetts-style baseball and aspects of cricket to create Townball for his students to play in their spare time. Jones now teaches at the Veritas School in Newberg, Oregon, a town that has embraced the game and adopted its own team. Jones and several of his students tour nationwide to help develop the game.
“One of the main things that draws people to the game is how fun it is…It’s controlled chaos, which is what people love about anything fun,” said Jones.
Jones explained that many vintage baseball groups and organizations today don’t cover pre-Civil War baseball history, which is why he thinks it’s important to educate as many people as possible.
The equipment used by many Townball players is another way to preserve the game’s early history. Participants can be seen donning flannel jerseys, vintage baseball gloves and playing with soft, stitched baseballs by hand.
“We tapped into what other vintage bands were doing in terms of vintage jerseys and old-school balls. We want some legitimacy as a vintage prom organization,” Jones said. “Just because we don’t play New York style doesn’t mean we’re any less vintage.”
On June 18, Jones’ Newberg team invited members of the community to Christoffersen Storm Basin Park in Turlock to play Townball. The stop at Turlock was no coincidence however, as one player has deep ties to the town.
Grant More was born in Turlock and has a number of family members residing in the town. At age three, More and her family moved to Los Angeles. Four years later, he moved again to Oregon, where he discovered Townball.
“I always felt a grounded relationship with Turlock,” More said. “It’s special to bring this game that I love back to my birthplace, especially in a time when modern baseball – at least in the rest of America – tends to lose interest in Gen Z. During For the past 10 years, we’ve seen Townball bring young and old back to the game of baseball through the takeover of this style from Massachusetts, but especially young people.
More’s words were evident during their scrimmage in Turlock, as several local little leaguers had the opportunity to join in the fun.
“Above all, we want people to have fun,” Jones said. “At the same time, we want to show people that the history of baseball is much deeper than they realize. If possible, we’d like to see this game become bigger than classic New York-style baseball.
Plus explained that Townball’s return to Turlock is very likely, and if there’s enough interest, a travel team like Newberg’s could be in their future. In addition to the Newberg team, there are teams in Fresno, Clovis, Berkeley, and Hillsdale, Michigan.
For more information on 21st Century Townball, visit www.21ctownball.com or @21ctownball on Instagram and Facebook.