Clean-living Sluggers face ‘reprobates’ in vintage baseball

       The Colorado Rockies may think they're under pressure, trying to battle their way into the Major League Baseball playoffs. Imagine how it feels to be Andy Morris, player/manager of the Camp Creek Sluggers (aka the Cloud Busters), as they prepare for their annual 1860s-style Labor Day game against the Territorial All-Stars Monday, Sept. 6 at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.
       His team had won three of the previous four years in a row before last year's tough 15-inning loss to the All-Stars. “It was difficult for me to face the press after the game last year,” he mourned in a recent interview (although barely understandable because of his tongue in his cheek). Plus, this year, as Morris pointed out, the opposition promises the same types of Denver-area “reprobates, shifty-eyed devils, gamblers, draft dodgers and saloon frequenters” that his clean-living, farm- working, family-devoted Sluggers had to face last year.
       The game will begin at 1 p.m., with the ranch itself opening at 10 a.m. Admission is $6, with discounts for seniors and youths.
       Morris, also the Rock Ledge Ranch manager, pooh-poohed criticism he's heard about his own team, namely the fact that in at least one inning in every game in recent years the ranch's sheep have mysteriously appeared on the field when the opponents were batting. “What are you going to do?” he said, innocently. “Sheep are going to graze where they want to.”
       The local ballists (to use 1860s lingo) consist mainly of ranch employees and volunteers, with an occasional “ringer” thrown in, while most of the Denver athletes play all season in the Colorado Vintage Base Ball Association.
       The game will be played on the hay field (mowed for the occasion) in front of the Rock Ledge House. People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and make a picnic of the day.
       Key aspects of vintage baseball include: Fielding gloves are not used, outs can be recorded for balls caught on one hop, spectators (cranks) are allowed to catch balls and toss them to fielders for outs and the umpire stands to one side and sometimes asks the cranks for advice on close calls. Otherwise, the game is like modern times, with nine on a side, nine-inning length and three outs to an inning.

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