Essay Project 2021: The Portland Blue Sox
By: Tycen Frohriep
Ernie Harwell once said, “Baseball? It’s a sport, business and sometimes even a religion. It’s as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. Yet, just a game-as simple as a ball and a bat.” Ernie Harwell was a hall of fame announcer in baseball for fifty-four years, forty-one of them with the Detroit Tigers. Harwell’s sport of baseball has been played for about 150 years and has not lost any value in the eyes of America. Baseball is known as America’s favorite pastime for a reason, almost everyone has played in one form or another. Examples include a father playing catch with his son or daughter, tee ball, softball, and even vintage baseball. Vintage baseball has been brought back to many small towns, and Portland is no exception.
Dr. Jason Williamson, team captain, manager and coach of the Portland Blue Sox, talked about the camaraderie among the competition. “We did get to play on Mackinac Island last year which was amazing,” Williamson said, “we played on the oldest baseball field in the state.” He spent time talking about the good times and the good people he met along the way. Overall, Williamson’s experiences with the Portland Blue Sox were of a positive nature and the things memories are made of.
The current Portland Blue Sox were founded in 2018 and started playing in 2019. The team is based off of the Portland Blue Sox from the early 1900’s. There are differences between today’s Major League Baseball and Vintage baseball. Many different rules in vintage baseball exist. There are no gloves, no stealing bases, no bunting, and there are no walks. The only way to strike out is three whiffs, a whiff is a swing and a miss. The balls are pitched underhand, as opposed to overhand. If a fielder fields the ball and it only bounces one time, it is still classified as an out. While the rules of vintage baseball are different, the excitement is the same.
Participation in Vintage baseball in the town of Portland has been enthusiastic since 2019. On their roster, the Blue Sox feature around twenty players that are of all ages, which includes players from high school to senior citizens. They are also very successful in the fanbase platform, with around three hundred people attending per game.
Over the Summer of 2020, the Blue Sox traveled to Mackinac Island to play the Fort Mackinac Never Sweats. Until 1895, the field was a battleground on the Island. In 1936, it became a baseball field. The field is now used by scouts across Michigan and has since 1934. The vintage baseball game in the Fort is played annually and has been a fan favorite since its inauguration in 2003. They also use the terminology from 1880 “base ball,” instead of baseball.
The Blue Sox hosted a game at Bud Plant Field in Portland, at the area known to locals as “The Flats” on a Friday night in late August. They did enforce social distancing due to COVID-19. The Blue Sox also hosted one game in 2019 for the Sesquicentennial Celebration for Portland, hundreds of fans showed up. Although the Blue Sox were defeated, it was a giant win for the town of Portland.
Watching the Blue Sox play is enjoyable and all baseball fans are encouraged to go to at least one of their games. From the old fashioned rules to the modern day friendships formed, Vintage baseball in Portland has it all.
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.