Extra innings go in favor of interlopers
The annual contest, played by 1860s rules on the Rock Ledge hayfield, kept an estimated crowd of 700 on the edges of their (ahem) lounge chairs on a clear, sunny day with temperatures in the 80s. It was nip-and-tuck all the way, with first the All-Stars taking a 5-1 lead, then the Rock Ledge team - known either as the Camp Creek Sluggers or Cloud Busters - storming back for a 6-5 edge going into the top of the ninth.
This was the moment of truth for the invaders from the Denver area (invaders, that is, except for their four ballists from this region), who had lost the Labor Day game to the Sluggers the past two years and three of the last four. But they showed their pluck this year, tying the score in the ninth on hits by “Fast Eddie Phelan and Justin “Case” Breese, then pushing home the two winning aces in the 15th on RBIs by “Bike Mike” Roberts and Roger “Digger” Hadix.
Meanwhile the Sluggers - whose comeback in the fifth through seventh innings had followed an exhortation from captain Andy “Anvil” Morris, who quite possibly used such vintage phrases as “Thunderation” and “Good gravy” - turned into “slugs” with their bats in the late innings.
“We stuck together and played the game with perseverance,” Hadix said.
The winning team members play for squads in Denver-area vintage league. “Rock Ledge is one of our all-time favorite venues,” Hadix said. “The guys love to play there, and the place has a historic aspect in and of itself.”
Cloud Buster Hurler Dave “Pappy” Harmon, who pitched the entire 15 innings for the home team, took the loss. He said afterward, “My arm's OK, but it was getting hot out there.”
The game featured various aspects that might not be seen at, say, a Sky Sox game. For instance, Morris, who is also the Rock Ledge manager, released the ranch's sheep herd into the outfield, a group of sign-carrying suffragette demonstrators disrupted the game in the fourth inning, and various “cranks” (fans) lining the field got involved under the old-time rules that allowed them to catch balls and toss them to their favored team for outs (or hold the ball, in the opposite case).
Afterward, Morris grudgingly offered compliments to the All-Stars. “It was a well-fought competition,” he said. “They didn't complain about the suffragettes, the sheep or the heat.”
Despite the loss, Morris did take a certain pleasure in the contest having lasted longer than normal (the first time the annual set-to has gone to extra innings). With two other outdoor events scheduled later in the day at the ranch, he had expressed hope beforehand that the game would not end too quickly so that people would leave. “You never thought I had this up my sleeve, did you?” he chuckled to a reporter as the game went on and on.
As it turned out, attendance for the later events - a Willie Houston blues concert and a big-screen preview of a new National Parks documentary at sunset - drew about 800 people, Morris said.