photo Lawrence Major
n the 2018 movie Kodachrome, protagonist Matt Ryder (played by Jason Sudeikis) reconnects with his estranged father, Ben (Ed Harris), who is in the final throes of terminal cancer. A famous photographer with an impossible ego, Ben weasels his son into embarking on a road trip with him to Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, to develop his last remaining rolls of Kodachrome film before the December 31, 2010 deadline. After that date, Dwayne’s Photo — the last facility in the world to still process Kodachrome (which Kodak discontinued in June of 2009) would no longer develop it. Part of what makes the story so enchanting is its central character: Kodachrome film itself, a beloved yet doomed American icon swallowed up by modern technology, including changes in the medium like digital photography and competing film formats with less complex processing requirements. Kodachrome evokes the rich colors of a romanticized past. Today, everything vintage—from cocktails to Pyrex
glassware to midcentury furniture—is enjoying an exuberant renaissance. An unlikely participant in that renaissance is the game of baseball. And West Chester has a league of its own. Rick Stratton has been a member of the Brandywine Vintage Base Ball Club since it was restarted in 2013, after a 148-year hiatus. Wait…what? One hundred and forty-eight years?! “The Brandywine Base Ball Club existed back in 1865, when base ball started gaining popularity after the Civil War,” Stratton explains. Teams formed when soldiers came home from battle. With more leisure time, it became a gentlemen’s game, where businessmen would gather together for exercise. The club was active until somewhere between 1915 and 1919, when it fizzled out, lying dormant until 2013.
LOOKING BACK Stratton traces the origins of vintage base ball (note: it’s “base ball” in its vintage form, not “baseball”) to the late
1980s in Long Island, where it grew in popularity over the next decade or so. Around 2010, the Mid Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League was formed, comprised of a dozen teams spanning Washington, DC to Long Island. Locally, a team in Delaware had been playing for three or four years, and the members were looking to grow a league so they didn’t have to travel so far. Stumbling upon West Chester’s rich history with the game, they pushed a couple of their guys to form their own team, which they did, taking out a newspaper ad to solicit players. “I saw the ad and walked into the Historical Society on a February morning not knowing what I was getting into,” Stratton recalls. “And the next thing I knew, I was vice president.” Although he had participated in Little League as a youth, he had not played competitively for 20 years. It turns out, none of that mattered.
T H E P L AY E R S Corduroy. Shaggy. Wrinkles. Donut. Stonewall. Everyone gets a nickname.
NOVEMBER 2019 THEWCPRESS.COM
Voice of the Borough