Cloudbusters change Labor Day luck
‘Whole, raw milk’ (and a little help) credited for vintage diamond triumph
Sports history was made at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Sept. 5.
In their eighth year of trying, the ranch's Camp Creek Cloudbusters (aka Sluggers) bested a team of Denver-area All-Stars in the annual old-fashioned Labor Day game at the Rock Ledge hayfield.
“Euphoric, I think is the word,” exulted player/coach Andy “Slugger” Morris afterward. “We finally did Rock Ledge proud.”
He denied that any kind of 1880s-era steroids had contributed to his team's hard-hitting and clean fielding, asserting that “whole, raw milk” was the key to success.
The Labor Day game ends the Rock Ledge summer season, in which the ranch was open to the public five days a week. The ranch will only be open for special events until next June.
The score in the nine-inning contest was 14-9, an outcome that drew lusty cheers from the several hundred “cranks” (1880s jargon for “fans”) who were sitting around the field.
The Cloudbusters might in turn have cheered the cranks, considering that twice in the game All-Star short scout stop (shortstop) Drew “Wilkes Booth” Frady hit balls over outfielders' heads, only to have them caught in the air by an onlooker and tossed back to a Cloudbuster player for an out. This was especially key in the first inning, when the All-Stars, batting first, were threatening to blow the game wide open. They had already scored twice when Frady's “corker” (a line drive like a champagne cork) to right center was neatly “bottled” (caught) by spectator Dave Rhody, who flipped it to Cloudbuster center gardener (center fielder) Scott “Red” Thompson.
That the ball went to Rhody, of all people, was a sure sign it was the Cloudbusters' day. An athletic sort, he coaches football (defense) at the Classic Academy. Although he said it was “at the back of my mind” to help the home team (having attended last year's game), his foremost thought was to “protect the crowd” sitting around him, Rhody informed the Westside Pioneer.
Given a reprieve, the Cloudbusters racked up five runs in their half of the first and never trailed from that point on.
“They did a lot better this year,” commented Ian “Traveler” Tinney of the All-Stars afterward . During the game, Tinney introduced some old-West excitement by “shooting” one of his players with blanks from a handgun after the man made an out. He said that was nothing new; he also umpires vintage baseball games in Colorado, where he routinely does the same to players who question his rulings.
The game was played by early-baseball rules, including underhand pitching, no fielding gloves and outs being called if a ball was caught on one hop.
The All-Stars' Roger “Digger” Hadix, who said he's played in all eight of the Rock Ledge Labor Day games, recalled there was a tie one year, but otherwise the Denver “ballists” (players) - who wear their own old-timey uniforms and play all summer - have always won. The last two years, the one-sided scores were 30-9 and 25-9.
“This year, youth and exuberance beat age and deceit,” Hadix dead-panned.
The All-Stars are well-practiced, playing in a Denver-area old-fashioned baseball league and traveling around the state for games.
Morris said his team, as usual, was made up almost entirely of people from City Parks, although he had a few younger people than last year. The youth very nearly tipped the scale the other way: Morris' team included two boys, ages 9 and 11.
Despite falling behind in the game, the All-Stars were gracious in rules interpretations and did not adamantly dispute the umpire calls that went against them - including one nullifying a hidden-ball trick on Morris' 9-year-old son, Parker. The cranks booed loudly at the stunt, then cheered after the umpire said it was not in the “spirit of the game” and let Parker return to the base.
Frady, who made sure to hit the ball less far in his later at-bats, said afterward that the Cloudbusters played a good game, then laughed, “But we let up on them a little bit this year.”
Hearing this, Morris grinned, “That's a taste they're not used to. But it was a lot of fun. They're a good team and gentlemanly.”
Westside Pioneer article