Play ball! Old World Wisconsin goes retro

A fevered pitch is:

(a) What Francisco Cordero hurls, when he does his job well in the ninth inning.

(b) One way to describe the level of interest in Milwaukee baseball this summer.

(c) A dandy level of play, full of ginger, with easy tallies and one peach after another.

The correct answer is (d) – all of the above. Many of us are enchanted with the continuing success of the Milwaukee Brewers, and a handful of summer events fuel these positive vibes.

A peach is a remarkable play, according to base ball slang from the Victorian era. Yes, the sport used to be two words, and Old World Wisconsin staffers and volunteers teach a few other history lessons as they play.

Vintage base ball teams are playing by 1860s rules this summer, which means wool uniforms, no mitts, a “behind” instead of a “catcher,” a “hurler” instead of a “pitcher” and foul balls that never count as strikes.

The home team at Old World Wisconsin, a state historic site, is the Eagle Diamonds, whose uniforms and playing conditions were inspired by the Waukesha Diamonds, whose winning record included a 49-34 win over the Oconomowoc Clippers in 1868.

As the Diamonds play today, their kranks (fans) learn long-ago rules and lingo of the game.

A shout of “Whip the onion” shows support for the pitcher. “Knocked the apple out of the orchard” explains a home run. It’s gentle, amusing, family-friendly entertainment.

Remaining Diamonds’ games are at 1:30 p.m. July 21 at Old World Wisconsin; Aug. 4-5, for a seven-team tournament at Midway Village & Museum Center, Rockford, Ill.; and 1:30 p.m. Aug. 19, Old Wade House, Greenbush (Sheboygan County).

For info about games in other cities and states, consult the Vintage Base Ball Association at

For more about Old World Wisconsin – whose 65 historic buildings and 576 acres (most wooded) make a pleasant, daylong destination even without base ball – consult or 262-594-6300. Old World Wisconsin is in Waukesha County, off Hwy. 67, south of Eagle.

Best baseball souvenir of the year, I predict, will be the limited edition baseball card set that the Wisconsin Historical Museum has developed in honor of the 1957 World Series winners, the Milwaukee Braves.

Only 2,500 copies of this 96-card set have been printed, and pictures don’t just include baseball players. “This is the first set to have a Bud Selig card,” notes museum publicist John Lemke. The Major League Baseball commissioner in 1957 was a college student who cut class to see a World Series game.

The cards go along with “World Series Wisconsin,” an exhibit about the 1957 Braves and 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, to open July 17 at the downtown Madison museum.

“Every 25 years baseball heats up in Milwaukee,” the museum observes, in a press release. “Could this be an omen for the Brew Crew in 2007?”

Artifacts for this extensive presentation come from museum archives and private collectors who live as far away as Hong Kong. A Hank Aaron jersey, cap and bat used in the World Series are particularly valuable. So are Joe Adcock and Warren Spahn jerseys, Duffy Lewis’ World Series ring and the original Bernie Brewer mascot head.

Audio and visual clips are reminders of game highlights. Historic photos have been enlarged to life size. A couple of Milwaukee County Stadium seats, part of the scoreboard and a home plate add authenticity.

For more:, 608-264-6555. The Wisconsin Historical Museum is at 30 N. Carroll St.

Exhibit souvenirs – T-shirts and baseball books, plus the baseball cards – can be ordered online. Johnny Logan, shortstop for the ’57 Braves, and Jerry Augustine, pitcher for the ’82 Brewers, will talk baseball at a museum fund-raiser from 2-4 p.m. July 22. Tickets are $100; registration recommended.

Major League Milwaukee: Braves, Brewers, Baseball” opens July 22 at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, featuring 55 years of team artifacts and photos, hands-on activities, fan art and bobble heads.

The display, in place until Dec. 2, fills the society’s mezzanine level. A vintage base ball tourney at Trimborn Farm, Greendale – held in conjunction with this exhibit – is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 4-5.

For more:, 414-273-8288. The Milwaukee County Historical Society is at 910 N. Old World Third St.

The Rockford Peaches, subject of the film “A League of Their Own,” will reunite Oct. 24 in Rockford, Ill., whose Midway Village and Museum Center has a tribute exhibit called “The Girls of Summer.”

The reunion, for some former players, will be their trip to Rockford since their league disbanded in 1954.

For more about the exhibit:, 815-397-9112. Midway Village is at 6799 Guilford Road.