Cloud Buster ballists sky-high after triumph
The visiting ballists from Denver had “aces” up their sleeves - in the form of cranks (fans) to catch local strikers' smashes - but few aces (runs) in their bats at the
annual Rock Ledge Ranch Labor Day vintage baseball game Sept. 3.
The final tally was 11-3, in favor of the Camp Creek Cloud Busters, a group of manly, properly raised Colorado Springs men and (ahem) three women, who celebrated their second victory in three years with ice cream.
The local band “grabbed the leather in style” (as good fielding was described in the old days) to keep the game close in the early innings; then, trailing 1-0 in the sixth, the ‘Buster bats woke up, lining corker after corker to grab an insurmountable lead over the Territorial All-Star nine.
“This puts the 'u' back in Cloud Busters,” enthused player/manager Andy “Anvil” Morris (referring to a yellow journalism slur that had somehow found its way into the Westside Pioneer the week before the game). “The defense was, jeeminy christmas, there were some wonderful plays.”
He shrugged aside kudos for his key decision to bring Patches, the Rock Ledge cow, into the infield during the fourth and fifth innings. The idea was to have the bovine - sporting a painted bullseye on her side - block balls hit by the All-Stars. (Of course, Morris' argument to the umpire was that the mowed-down hay field where the game was being played is her normal grazing spot, so it was really the cow's idea).
He had used the same tactic to spark a late rally in last year's losing cause. Patches has yet to be hit, but her presence may have loosened up the home team, which started its scoring binge shortly thereafter.
“I thought she did a wonderful job,” said Morris, who also manages Rock Ledge itself, an 1880s-era, city-owned working ranch. “The umpire was so worried that animal was going to get hurt. I said nothing we do is going to hurt that cow. I was more concerned about her heading to the barn” (which actually happened when the food Morris had supplied her ran out).
The contest was played by late 1800s rules, which included such stipulations as no gloves or mitts, and outs being called on hits caught on a bounce. Outs could also be called when cranks caught struck balls and handed them to fielders - a rule that backfired on the Cloud Busters a couple of times when All-Star supporters along the third-base line, including youngsters wearing (horrors) baseball gloves, helped out.
“Those little potlickers were killing us,” Morris said. “One of them even ran onto the field to make a play. But all that makes it fun and the umpire did talk to him.”
Unfortunately, attempts by the Pioneer to incite post-game acrimony between the two teams (which has worked in past years) were unsuccessful this time. Not only was Morris saying nice things afterward (not once repeating his pre-game description of the Denverites as “drunkards and reprobates”), so was Roger “Digger” Hadix of the All-Stars.
“I give all the credit to the Cloud Busters,” said the long-time vintage ballist and Rock Ledge vintage game participant, who had helped the local club learn the rules at practices in recent weeks. “Congratulations on a fair game played.”
Asked about his team's active young cranks, Hadix grinned, “It's amazing how far cookies and baseball cards will go.”
He could have offered one excuse - that several of the All-Stars from past years couldn't be on hand because of a simultaneous vintage-ball tournament in another city. The Denver bunch usually has an edge coming in (note that they never lost in the first six years of the Labor Day game) because their players compete in a vintage league all summer long.
Their short-handed situation may have been why, for the first time, they included a couple of kids in their line-up. Such has been a standard practice by the Cloud Busters, which also typically consists of ranch volunteers, City Parks employees, and even a yellow journalist or two.
In addition to bragging rights, the game was good for Rock Ledge from an attraction standpoint. Morris said about 500 people were at the ranch for Labor Day, which may have been the most ever.
Westside Pioneer article