JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's a Fouth of July tradition that began in 2007.
In the Jacksonville neighborhood of Springfield, they played the 13th annual throwback baseball game. The game pits the neighbors from the east side of the neighborhood, the Reds, against their "rivals" from the west side, the Giants (the neighborhood is divided by Main Street.)
It's a friendly rivalry and one that brings an already tight-knit community even closer.
“It's heated two days a year,” Brendan Haney, who played for the East team for the fifth straight year, said. “One of them is today. We divide ourselves to play baseball on the Fourth of July and we have a throwback football game on Thanksgiving. It's friendly. We talk a lot of smack and kick dirt at each other. Once the last pitch is thrown and it’s over, we shake hands and we still love each other.”
The game includes some nods to Springfield's status as a historic neighborhood. They use bats and gloves from near the turn of the century — the kind that Ty Cobb or Honus Wagner might have used. The players admit that it makes the game harder to play, but it's also an event that they wouldn't miss for the world.
“Springfield is a tight-knit community as it is,” West captain Ben Alcorn said. “We’ve done some really great things, SPAR (Springfield Preservation and Renovation) has done some great things, and the area has really improved. This is a way for us to celebrate.”
The uniforms look like turn-of-the-century baseball styles but are not made of wool, as there were for big leaguers in the 1900s. Instead, they are polyester. Still, on a day with temperatures approaching triple digits, it didn't take much for the players to break a sweat, even before the game.
But all of the sweat will be worth it for the team that wins the game.
“Bragging rights is the big thing. The trophy goes back and forth. We’ll let them know day to day who won. It will be a lot of fun,” Alcorn said.
For the next year, neighbors on the west side of Main Street will be able to hold their heads high. The Westside beat the Eastside 14-12.