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Cribbage makes a comeback

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Red Sox players (front, from left) Chris Young and Travis Shaw play cribbage before a recent game at Fenway Park, while teammates (back, from left) Deven Marrero and Marco Hernandez play cards.
Red Sox players (front, from left) Chris Young and Travis Shaw play cribbage before a recent game at Fenway Park, while teammates (back, from left) Deven Marrero and Marco Hernandez play cards.Boston Red Sox

Many of the Red Sox players love to play the game. Not baseball, but cribbage, the centuries-old card game with a board and pegs for keeping score.

"A good number of players play on a daily basis, among other card games," says Red Sox spokesman Kevin Gregg. "Most play early before games when they have down time in the clubhouse."

Cribbage is typically a two-player game, but three- and four-player games are also out there. Many New England cribbage clubs are local groups whose members gather to play at pubs and other spots where they can also score a brew. And there are also many grassroots clubs and tournaments organized through the American Cribbage Congress.

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The game is believed to have been invented by English poet Sir John Suckling in the 1600s. "It is a great game not only for the young for learning math but also for the older ones for keeping their minds sharp, and can be a great tool for rehabilitation for injuries, strokes, etc.," says Joan Rein, ACC Grass Roots Commissioner. "I've seen some amazing things at cribbage."

This fall, there are about 10 regional cribbage tournaments, according to David Campbell, ACC vice president of operations. "Here in New England we average right around 100 at each tourney we have," says Campbell. "The average age for the group is older, but younger people are starting to show up."

Here's a sampling of regional clubs and tournaments, as well as shops that sell unique cribbage boards, including Red Sox boards.

Somerville Skunks

John McKenna joined this now 24-member ACC-sanctioned club two years ago, following a cribbage-playing hunting trip with his dad. He then became a member of the American Cribbage Congress and participated in New England tournaments. Last summer, McKenna formed a meetup group "in the hopes of getting the word out about the club to people that like playing but didn't know such a place existed." Most members are at least 50 years old and from Greater Boston and the 'burbs. "I'd say a majority are retired or semi-retired," says McKenna, "but we also have professionals from nonprofit organizations to postmen to TSA agents playing with us, so it's an interesting slice of the community, and a great mix of characters." McKenna, who is 24, hopes that younger players will join the club. "If more people knew that baseball players play, maybe it would get some more attention to the game," he says. "I hope it does."

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The group recently relocated from Somerville, and meets Tuesday nights at the Irish American Club in Malden. Visit www.cribbage.org.

Throwback Brewery

Play cribbage and sip a Maple-Kissed Porter at this brewery housed in an 1860s farmhouse on a 12-acre working farm in North Hampton, N.H. Cribbage nights are held every two weeks, and tournaments every four. "We rotate the cribbage nights so one night is pretty casual, and then next time is the tournament," says brewery co-owner Nicole Carrier. www.throwbackbrewery.com

South Shore Cribbage

This group of 25 members meets in the Great American Pub in Raynham about two times a month for cribbage and a bite. The meetup group was formed six months ago by Cheryl Bowman, and is open to new members. "I started the group because there were no other groups in the area," says Bowman. "I love socializing over a game. Some of the better players coach me and other less experienced players. It's been a lot of fun." Reach her at cbowman8750@gmail.com.

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New Hampshire Open Cribbage Tournament

The 31st Annual New Hampshire Open Cribbage Tournament will be held Sept. 25 in Brookline, N.H. "Back in the heyday of the mid-1980s till the late '90s, we regularly had 150 to 300 players at tournaments all over New England," says tournament director David M. Statz. "With the passing of time, it has dwindled down to roughly 64 to 128 players or so at these tournaments. It's very difficult to get fresh players because of the fact that kids these days are either playing Texas Hold'em or are playing video games." Visit www.cribbage.org.

Cribbage in Maine

The Penobscot Peggers is an ACC club with about 20 members. The club's grassroots season begins in September and they play Monday nights at Seasons restaurant in Bangor.

Cribbage is a maritime game, says co-organizer Dave Leissner. "Any sailor, anyone in the Navy, anyone fishing for a living knows cribbage." Leissner started playing cribbage at age 6 when the family's television stopped working. "Our dad taught us how to play. He learned when he was stationed in San Diego during the war, which is a naval town."

The 1st Annual Lobster Peg-Off was held in July and raised money for House in the Woods, a retreat for military personnel in Lincoln, Maine.

"The best thing about cribbage is the people you meet," says Leissner. "It is a great way to learn about and communicate with others who love the game." Visit www.cribbage.org.

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Cribbage boards

The Horatio Colony Museum in Keene, N.H., has a permanent collection of 75 vintage cribbage boards from England, Asia, and the United States. They were collected by Horatio Colony during his lifetime, and the museum was his family home. Currently two boards are on display. (You can contact the museum to arrange to view the entire collection). www.horatiocolonymuseum.org

Cribbage boards also make a nice gift. At Hole in the Wall in Wolfeboro, N.H., you can get your Red Sox and Patriots cribbage boards. (www.nhholeinthewall.com.) The Artful Hand Gallery in Chatham sells whimsically carved and decorated cribbage boards, including an over-the-top cribbage table. (www.artfulhandgallery.com). And the Museum Store at the USS Constitution in Charlestown sells several boards, including one that's designed to resemble scrimshaw art with an engraved image of the USS Constitution. www.ussconstitutionmuseum.org


Laurie Wilson can be reached at laurieheather@yahoo.com..