Longball contest to follow meeting

Last July, the officials who lead Schoharie County’s government met in Revolutionary War era garb to
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Last July, the officials who lead Schoharie County’s government met in Revolutionary War era garb to act out a 1777 meeting of the Schoharie District Committee of Safety deciding militia issues at the Old Stone Fort in Schoharie.

This Friday, the 16-member Board of Supervisors will play with history in a traditional Indian game of longball at the Iroquois Indian Museum.

There’s no costumes this year, and dress will be casual, according to county spokeswoman Karen Miller. The game will still follow tradition, said Mike Tarbell, Native American educator at the Iroquois museum.

“I just finished making the ball,” Tarbell said Tuesday.

Stitching deerskin around other scraps of hide, he made a ball “about the size of a peach” that will be pitched to designated hitters during a game expected to include county supervisors and members of the museum staff and directors.

“It’s a game that we played as kids,” said Tarbell, remembering a time about 50 years ago when he was 11 on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in Franklin County.

“An old man, an elder, came to show us an old game,” he recalled.

The last time Tarbell played longball was about 15 years ago while teaching Native American studies in the Syracuse public schools to classes that included students from the nearby Onondaga reservation.

Friday’s game is expected to start about 1:30 p.m. on the museum grounds, a couple of miles off state Route 7 east of Interstate 88 Exit 22.

The game will follow the monthly Board of Supervisors session starting at 10 a.m. under a tent covering the museum’s outdoor amphitheater.

A county-catered picnic for county officials and staff will follow the session, according to museum Director Erynne Ansel-McCabe.

The board meeting is open to the public, as will be the game.

The museum is waiving its normal admission charges and allowing the public to view museum exhibits without charge during the event, Ansel-McCabe said.

A major reason the museum’s board invited the supervisors is to draw attention to the ongoing exhibit of Baseball’s League of Nations: A Tribute to Native American Baseball Players. The exhibit, which has attracted national media attention, opened in April and runs through December.

“It’s a great opportunity to share each other’s company,” Ansel-McCabe said.

To help publicize the county’s history and tourism attractions, she said the supervisors have “expressed interest in traveling and finding an attraction to meet at each year.”

Also, since the county gives the museum $1,000 per year to help with operating expenses, “It’s a great opportunity for them to see their dollars at work,” she said.

With weather forecast to be humid and in the 90-degree range Friday, how long the game will last is an open question, according to Tarbell.

There’s a lot of running involved, so picking the right players will be a key to scoring, he noted.

The idea is for two teams of 10 people each to line up about 150 feet apart.

One pitcher per team will stand in the center and pitch to one batter for each team. The batters, armed with a stick or club, will try to bat the relatively soft deer-hide ball.

When a ball is hit, all the team’s runners will race to the opposing team’s line.

If they make the other line without being tagged by the ball caught by opposing team members, they’re safe, Tarbell said. “If they’re fast enough, they can run back to their home line and score a point.”

Tarbell plans on using a baseball model to pace the game with three outs to an inning.

“With it expected to be in low 90s, after a couple of innings everybody will probably be petered out,” he predicted.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Ansel-McCabe, who plans to try her hand at longball. “It’s a great, relaxing, fun thing to do. We don’t have fun together enough,” she said.

In case of rain, the board session and luncheon will be protected by open-side tents. The board sessions are routinely videotaped by Schoharie Public Educational and Government television and will be available by closed-circuit television for viewers inside the children’s portion of the museum during Friday’s session, according to Ansel-McCabe.

Categories: Schenectady County

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