Westside Pioneer Home Page

Looking down a somewhat creative right-field foul line, the annual Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Labor Day base ball game Sept. 4 is seen during the first inning from the upper balcony of the Rock Ledge House, with the fans ("cranks") lining the field. The Camp Creek team is in the field, with the visiting Canon City Inter-Oceans at bat and a runner on first base.
Westside Pioneer photo

Rock Ledge Ranch base ball game entertaining (don't look at the score)

      
Rock Ledge Ranch concessionaires Sierra (left) and Maggie (first names only allowed because they are junior docents) offer snacks to the crowd during the game. Note: They're also in the lower right of the photo above.
Westside Pioneer photo
For the second straight year, one big inning wrecked the hopes of the Camp Creek Cloudbusters in the annual Labor Day “base ball” game at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Sept. 4.
       But most of the several hundred fans (“cranks” as they were known in the 1800s) didn't care. They got to see a game on a hayfield, with old-time uniforms and rules. On top of that, the ranch cow was brought out to graze, and there were portrayals of suffragettes, Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt and an escaped "convict" getting a face full of a pie he "stole."
       The latter bits are features added over the years by Rock Ledge Ranch officials to enhance the event's historic flavor. Happily, anachronisms are also welcome, as seen by the sneakers (even on a few players), sling chairs, cell phones and coolers, and the use of a loudspeaker system for the first time this year to keep the cranks lining the outfield informed.
       For those who keep score, in 2016 it was an 11-run fourth inning that turned the tide in what became a 28-1 loss to the Denver & Rio Grande Reds. This year it was a 10-run first inning by the Canon City Inter-Oceans in the 17-3 downfall for the home team.
       “They had more howitzers [line drives], and we weren't hitting enough daisy-cutters [well-hit ground balls],” summarized Cloudbuster captain Danny "Duke"
A side view while the Camp Creek team was batting shows most of the players in their haybale "dugout." Note the bare feet of one of the players.
Westside Pioneer photo
Summers, in his best 19th century style. “And we didn't have as good a defense as we could have had. But we settled down after the first inning.”
       The Cloudbusters are made up mostly of ranch staffers, volunteers and supporters who practice a few times before the Labor Day game.
       If it's any consolation, their opposition team plays a full schedule in the Colorado Vintage Base Ball Association - as does the Denver & Rio Grande club. So it's not as if the locals were up against a group of muffins (untalented players).
       As for the Inter-Oceans' curious name, it has two sources. According to the team, the moniker is based on the prehistoric Cretaceous period, when much of southern Colorado was under water; also, there actually was a late 1800s Canon City team that called themselves that.
       Major rule changes were commonplace in the 1800s, but those used for the Labor Day game stem from around 1870, before most pitchers were seriously trying to get batters out, when gloves weren't worn and (partly for that reason) balls on a bounce were still outs.
       Another old rule in effect was that balls going into the crowd were still in play. This led to the game's only true argument, when a Cloudbuster smacked a drive into left-center that wound up in a crank's hands. An obvious home-team supporter, he spurned the urgent appeal from a Canon City outfielder to give him the ball and instead fired the pill in the opposite direction.
       This let the batter, Matt “The Bear” Bingman, score an apparent home run, but the umpire's ruling was a ground-rule double, which had been a pre-game agreement, should such an incident occur.
       “If that happens again, the batter should be called out,” ranted Drew Frady of the Inter-Oceans.
       “Ah, you're a milk-boy,” came the appropriately 19th century sally from the Cloudbuster side, who, down 13-2 at the time, were unmoved by the visitors' dismay.
       Eventually, the spat came to nothing, other than causing a delay in the suffragette demonstration. The game - or at least the show - needed to go on.

Westside Pioneer article and photos
(Posted 9/5/17; Outdoors: Rock Ledge Ranch)

A blooper falls into short left field among three Camp Creek ballists (from left) Garrison "Goose" Summers, Simeon "Shotgun" Johnson and Matt "The Bear" Bingman.
Westside Pioneer photo
Game attendees sit along the edge of the outfield, in front of a dirt road that goes between it and the Rock Ledge House (out of view to the right). The right and center fielders for the Canon City team can be seen in the background, standing a short distance in front of the "cranks."
Westside Pioneer photo
To huzzahs from many on the Camp Creek team, Rock Ledge Ranch foreman John Winters leads Punkin, the ranch cow, onto the field during the latter part of the vintage base ball game Sept. 4. Leaving the cow in the outfield for an inning or two is a typical gambit for the game - the argument being that the field is factually one of her grazing areas. Winters usually plays in the game, but last year Punkin got a little rambunctious on her own, so this year he stayed with the cow during her grazing, holding her on a tether.
Westside Pioneer photo
Abraham Lincoln (Mike Houston) smacks a line drive base hit in the sixth inning. The umpire (in keeping with 1800s style) is the man standing at far left. Lincoln has taken an at-bat for the Camp Creek (Rock Ledge) team most years since his first appearance in 2011. Unofficial scorekeepers determined that in that span he is batting 1.000 (the stating of which will probably jinx him for next year).
Westside Pioneer photo
Suffragettes (seeking voting rights for women) are a regular feature at the annual 1800s game, but a new shtick this year was the revelation that a Camp Creek player was (gasp) a woman. That's Mel "The Fox" Keown (far left), just after she shook her long hair out from under her cap. The observed rules from the 1800s forbade female players on established teams. Rock Ledge has had fun with that in games over the years. Keown said afterward that she hadn't researched to see how often there might actually have been secret women players on teams from that era, but she believes it could have happened.
Westside Pioneer photo

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)