195 years ago to the day, the first mention on record of our beloved game appeared in the Delhi Gazette. The Hamden “Nine” challenged any town in Delaware County to produce their finest upon the property of Edward B. Chance for a game of “BASS-BALL”—a misprint that has become famous among locals and baseball scholars alike. Only the imagination can conjure the epic clash that most surely ensued, for comb as scholars might by candle, gas lamp, and the electric bulb, no record of the match has ever been unearthed. The farmboys, store clerks, and carpenters who met on that fateful day may have faded into history, but 195 years later, their spirits live on. Legend has it that if a ballplayer listens closely at Hamden’s Crawford Field, at the exact moment when the sweaty curses of the ballgame fade, but just before the chuckles and groans begin, there comes a moment of perfect harmony. True silence. Some call it Zen, or Nirvana, or simply the afterglow. Photographers call it the Golden Hour, but on Crawford Field it only lasts a breath. But for 195 years, the hollow has held onto its secret and only let slip a tease to those who would chase it—a Siren’s call to the ballplayers of Delaware County.
Last Sunday’s chase began humid, but not muggy—just enough to make the boys work for it. The BASS BALL gods smiled upon the Dairymen in the first, when singles by Alex “AT” Taylor and Captain Nick “Roughcut” Frandsen put Bovina up by a score of 2-1. But the old gods are fickle—or perhaps more accurately they are demanding—and through the third inning they found the Dairymen sacrifices lacking. Dairymen miscues at the plate and in the field allowed the Mountain Athletic Club—a ballclub as shrouded in the mists of history as they are in documented glory—jumped to a six-run lead.
But the heathens from Bovina Valley refused to give in. Every culture has a god of mischief and patron of tricksters—the Nordic peoples called him Loki; the Greeks called him Hermes. On this day, the Dairymen would call him Ben “Diesel” Cairns. In the fourth, with the Dairymen listing after Justin “Juice” Betterley drew a leadoff walk but was erased by a perfect throw, Diesel took a low fastball into the woods of left field for his first home run of the year. Flashing his trademark devilish grin while rounding third base, Diesel breathed fiery life into the boys in black and white. Bovina went on to score two more in the frame behind singles from John “Chico” Finn and Dylan “Hobbes” Tucker.
The contest continued to simmer as the heat turned up. The MAC answered with three of their own in the bottom half of the fourth, but the Dairymen kept pushing behind RBI singles from Dan “Nickname Pending” Kehrer in the fifth and Troy “Train” Tucker in the sixth. Blanking the MAC in the sixth and seventh, the simmer came to a full boil in the top of the eighth.
Down by four runs, leadoff man “AT” Taylor slapped his fourth single of the day and stole second to put a runner in scoring position with one out. “Roughcut” Frandsen singled and stole second, putting men on second and third with cleanup hitter “Train” Tucker at the dish. Thunderheads gathered overhead and the sun shone down in streams. The atmosphere seemed to thicken. The 2-2 pitch tumbled through the heavy air as it drifted towards home plate.
And in a flash, the bases were a blur of black ties and suspenders. Tucker hit a thunderbolt into the right-center gap, as Frandsen and Taylor scored. The Dairymen were alive and well, with stalwarts Denison and Brenden “Rulebook” Cairns coming to the plate.
Crack! Ben “the Gamer” Denison zipped one into left field, scoring Tucker. Bovina trailed by only one and the Dairymen faithful held onto their seats with difficulty. Crack! “Rulebook” Cairns sent a rainbow sailing into the left field fence, Denison scored, and the game was tied.
Bringing in Dairymen ace “Train” Tucker, all seemed well for Bovina. In what seemed the cherry on a not-yet-paid-for sundae, “Diesel” Cairns made an incredible, stumbling, over-the-shoulder, one-handed diving catch for the second out in the bottom of the eighth. But the Dairymen tide would rise no further, as the Mountain Athletic Club plated two runs on three hits and an error—all with two outs—to take a lead they would not relinquish. The MAC would win the game by a final score of 15-13.
The field fell silent for just a moment and the ominous sky receded as if in satisfaction of hurling down the impenitent Bovina squad. But if the BASS BALL gods were on the side of the Mountain Athletic Club, it was the mortals on the ground from Fleischmanns who won the game with grit, tenacity, and teamwork. From the bottom of our valley to the peak of your mountain, we tip our caps to you gentlemen.
NEXT CONTEST is July 26th in Fleischmanns at HIGH NOON. Are you IN or are you OUT?
Captain, Bovina Dairymen