Local baseball enthusiasts Jeff Puglia and Jim Oeschler have formed a non-profit club called the Southern Delaware Base Ball Club in order to promote the game of baseball and provide a venue in which to share their love of America’s pastime with future generations. The pair have recruited local players to compete in the Mid Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League, a league comprised of teams from Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
Players compete in uniforms and equipment from the 1860s era as well as play by the earliest rules of baseball. Unlike today’s game, players do not wear helmets or pads, play with wooden bats and catch the ball with no gloves.The ball, which is considerably softer, is thrown underhand and fielders can create an out by catching the ball after one bounce. Strange rules for any baseball player or fan, non-profit organizer Jim Oeschler states that vintage base ball is a “competitive, gentleman’s game that requires players to use the language of the time period.”
Milford has a long love affair with the game of baseball including its own base ball club during the 19th century. According to John Medkeff, President of Diamond State Base Ball Club, the first documented club to play in Milford was the the Excelsior Base Ball Club, forming in Spring 1866.
“ [The Excelsiors] boldly declared themselves the Champions of Delaware until someone was able to defeat them, despite having never played a match game against any other club,” commented Mr. Medkeff. “ The experienced Atlas BBC of Delaware City, who had formed in 1865, immediately took up the Excelsior’s challenge and on May 3,1866 the two clubs faced off in Middletown in what was then the first championship baseball match in Delaware’s history.” The game wasn’t much of a challenge for the Atlas, who handed the Excelsior a 47-15 defeat.
Professional players have also made their mark on Milford as Philadelphia Athletics owner, manager Connie Mack found his way to Milford on several occasions. On June 28, 1926 the Athletics played a game at the ballpark in Milford for a packed crowd, in exchange for oral examinations by Caulk Dental Research Department. This was arranged by Mack’s great friend and Milford doctor Walter Grier.
The Southern Delaware Base Ball Club’s vision is to raise funds to build a vintage baseball stadium reminiscent of the stadiums from the early 1900s to attract tourism and commerce to our community. A baseball museum is also envisioned at the site. The stadium could be used for multiple purposes such as baseball games, concerts, business expos or charity events.
“We are in the earliest stages of this,” commented club organizer Jeff Puglia. “Our vision is to build an old fashion stadium in Milford with a village around it. The stadium could also serve as a keystone for an early 20th century era village promoting the shipbuilding heritage which would present a unique tourist attraction for the Mid Atlantic region.”
The club is raising funds through memberships which include collectible stock certificates. Thirty local businesses will have the opportunity to advertise their company on the backs of the team’s baseball cards, much like the original baseball cards of the 1880s. For more information on the Southern Delaware Base Ball Club , individuals are encouraged to call James Oechsler at (443) 745-2575, or Jeff Puglia at (302) 381-0875.