Baseball in "A Field of Dreams*"

"There’s nowhere more fun than our new place in Iowa,” says Billy Carter, Joshua's kid brother in Just Following Orders. “You come here some afternoon, and first thing I’ll do is take you out between the barn and cornfield to play baseball with the Johnson brothers from over at the freedman’s village in Leetown. We’ll even let girls play if we don’t have enough to make two good teams.

“If you want to know the history of the game, I can tell you all about that after supper.

“So let’s get started with the rules. The “house rules,” that is—the ones we consider official in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. If you want to know all the different sets of rules that have been used through the years, I can even give you that. By the time we got through, though, the sun would be settin'. There’s really no official rules for the American game yet. Accordin' to Mr.Wornall, some folks up north are workin' on 'em. One thing for sure, if they stay true to American history, we're highly unlikely to end up just playin' some old British version.

”Here at our house, we’re usin' the rules Joshua saw posted last year in Harper’s Weekly. So listen up.

”The one who hits the ball is called the striker. He doesn’t have to stay on home plate to bat. In fact, he can get close to first base if he chooses. The pitcher doesn’t have to stay anywhere in particular either, so that makes it real interesting. There’s one thing he must do…..He’s got to throw underhanded balls. No fancy sideways or overhead allowed. If the striker hits the ball and gets all the way around the bases and back to home without stoppin', we call that an ‘ace.’ If he gets home, but has to wait for others to bat him in, we call that a ‘count.’ Watch out for those hard pitches ‘cause nobody uses a glove in this game.

“Now, when a striker swings that bat and misses three times, we call that a “hand. “ Three hands and the teams switch, and they keep switchin' until one team gets 21 points—or counts. Whoever gets 21 first is the winner. That happened once on my team before the one we were playin' ever got up to bat! See, I’m about the best striker in eastern Iowa. Almost never get a hand. Mr. Mullins says if this keeps up, I might find a way to make a good livin' someday playin' ball. That is if they get teams organized like they’re talkin’ about up in New York. Can you imagine, gettin' paid for just havin' fun?"

”So how about you come on up. You can be captain of one team and me the other?


*Note: Perhaps you’ve seen the famous 1989 movie, called Field of Dreams, about a baseball field beside another cornfield in Iowa? If not, try to find it.

To learn much more about Billy Carter and his amazing family, check out Just Following Orders: Escape from Guerrilla Warfare in 1863