Water pails, a 'stolen' chicken, suffragettes and, oh yes, a baseball game
Trailing 7-0 before they even got to hit, the home-town Camp Creek Cloud Busters battled back and even led after three innings (and as late as the fifth), but eventually wound up on the short end, 22-16, at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Sept. 3.
Based on a time in the 1800s when pitchers were supposed to throw softly underhand, fielders didn't wear gloves and balls caught on a bounce were outs, the vintage “base ball” (old-time spelling) game is an annual Labor Day feature on the ranch's hayfield.
“At least we didn't get killed,” ranch manager Andy “Anvil' Morris, a member of the Camp Creek "ballists" (an 1800s term), said after the contest. He was referring to the previous two years, when the scores (with his team on the losing side) were 17-3 and 28-1.
The Cloud Busters are made up of ranch staffers, volunteers and other ranch supporters who get together once a year to practice a few times and then play the
The rival team was listed in the game program as the “Canon City Inter-Oceans” - the Cloudbusters foe in 2017. However, Roger “Digger” Hadix, a local baseball writer and player who usually lines up the opposition for the Rock Ledge game, said the team this year was actually made up of ballists he'd recruited from around the state.
The team's name for the Labor Day game was the Star Baseball Club of the Colorado Territory, Hadix related.
Half-jokingly, Morris said after the game that he was “surprised Digger hadn't gone all over the country” looking for players.
Several hundred people bought tickets for the game, sitting around the diamond in decidedly anachronistic sling chairs. Some got chances to participate, as not too infrequently hard-hit balls landed among them. Under an old-time rule used for the Labor Day game, a ball caught by a “crank” (a fan), is still an out if it's tossed cleanly back to a player.
Morris and Hadix exploited the oddity of that rule for a shtick in the fifth inning, starting with Hadix acting irate when a crank helped the Cloudbusters during the Club's at-bats,
But during the Cloudbusters' turn at the plate, when the Club benefited from a similar circumstance, Hadix announced he was going to give money to the accommodating crank. As he strode onto the field, ostensibly for the pay-off, Morris again grabbed a pail and chased after him, cornering Hadix along the right-field foul line. With several cranks seated just behind the offender, it looked like a whole lot of people would get wet, except that Morris's pail this time only had confetti in it… and the game went on.
Also adding extracurricular flavor to the event were:
- An “escaped convict” (Richie Thompson) caught stealing a chicken by a "theft victim" (docent Rachel Tomaselli) near the pitcher's mound. In past
- Two “presidents” - Abe Lincoln (Mike Houston, who made his first out after batting 1.000 in once-a-game appearances since 2011) and Teddy Roosevelt (Don Moon).
- A group of sign-waving, flyer-disseminating suffragettes (mostly played by ranch docents), interrupting the game to advocate women getting the vote. They were supported by the two presidents and opposed by players with such historically accurate 1800s-era insults as “Get back in the kitchen.”
A related historical inaccuracy, though no cranks have ever been heard to object to it, is that for the past several years Rock Ledge's team has usually included one or more women. Mel “The Fox” McKeown, a female participant the past two years, said she thinks that women playing on official men's teams could have happened in the 1800s, though she doesn't know of any actual instances.
However, she did note that there were women's baseball teams traveling the country back then. Their difficulty was finding opponents, she said, because men's teams were worried that they'd be criticized for beating the women too badly… or getting beaten themselves.
Interviewed after the Labor Day game, McKeown summed up the experience, that (despite losing), “we competed, we played well, and everybody had fun.”
Westside Pioneer article