As the sun climbed last Saturday morning, one could hear an extra bustle about the small town of Bovina. It was Bovina Day; rural America’s version of a block party. Locals set up their wares in a string of lawn sales that stretched from New Kingston to Lake Delaware, the Bovina Fire Department and Historical Society put on games and pie auctions, and if one peered across Brush Brook, they would have seen another sight from yesteryear: a handful of local men transforming a hay field into a ball-field.
Bovina’s home field—McIntosh’s Flats—sits on some of most fertile ground in the village, and, perched next to the Creamery and behind the Community Hall, is centrally located to host the Dairymen’s annual home game. In short, it is perfect for both of Bovina’s pastoral pastimes: farming and baseball. Every ballplayer from both teams takes this opportunity to tip their caps to Roger McIntosh and Mollie Brannen-Spangenberg for allowing both traditions to continue right in the heart of Bovina.
As team founder Timothy “Harlo” Bray mowed the field down to playable height, the rest of the boys laid out the bases, chalked the lines, and bantered about the exact position of home plate. Looking closely from town, one could see team founding father John “Chico” Finn peering over a line stretched to the outfield to get it exactly straight for the day’s game. And showing up right on time was Dairymen founding father Gary “Bird’s Eye” Burns, who brought the backstop—20 bales of hay—from his farm just down the road.
When finally Alex “AT” Taylor (2-4, 2B, 2R) took to the pitcher’s plate for the home team, the sky remained mercifully cloudy and a cool breeze helped both teams stand the heat in the treeless now-ballfield. The MAC would tally three in the top of the first, but that would be their last lead of the day. The Dairymen plated five each in the first and the second, and “AT” gave up nine runs over five innings, earning the win for the Dairymen. Devon “Beads” Bedient pitched a complete game, and took the loss for the MAC.
Although the MAC drew within two in the fourth, they would get no closer. The Dairymen offense—known this season for scoring in spurts—scored five or more runs in three separate frames on route to their total of 19. In the first, it was singles by Dylan “Hobbes” Tucker (3-5, R) and captain Nick “the Stick” Frandsen (2-4, 3R) and a double from Ben “the Gamer” Denison (3-5, 2 2B, 3R) that put up a crooked five. In the second, “Chico” Finn started things off with a sharp single, and with two stolen bases brought the Dairymen bench to its feet and sent murmurs of “800” through the crowd—a reference to Chico’s past track and field titles. After singles from Justin “Juice” Betterley (1-3, R, BB) and Brenden “Bona-fide” Cairns (1-2, 3R), “Gamer” Denison put a point on the inning with an RBI single.
Then in the sixth, with the MAC trailing by only two runs, the Dairymen put the game away for good with six tallies—with “Gamer” Denison again providing the exclamation point with an RBI double, and then scoring on another one of Ben “Diesel” Cairns’ (3-5) trademark slap singles. “Stick” Frandsen finished out the game on the pitcher’s plate for the Dairymen, who went on to win by a score of 19-14.
Final notes. The match was played by the rules of 1895. Bovina, a town of approximately 600 full-time residents, lent five native sons to the Dairymen this Bovina Day: Jack “Shucks” Stanton (1-4, 1B, BB), Bray, Frandsen, Denison, and Finn. Catcher Brenden “Bona-fide” Cairns reached base on three different non-at-bat plate appearances: a walk, a HBP, and a balk—In 1895, a balk awarded the batter first base. Troy “Train” Tucker (1-1, 4 BB, 3R) walked four times. The MAC erased three baserunners with a combination of pickoff moves and hidden ball tricks, and each team’s catcher caught at least two baserunners stealing—both rarities in vintage baseball. Finally, a special thanks to "Hobbes" Tucker, for making the Dairymen their first scoreboard.
Next game is a travel game to the largest and oldest Vintage Base Ball festival in the country: The Doc Adams Festival in Bethpage, NY (Long Island). August 3rd, I believe our first game is at noon--but there are always games to be had for free agents. Some teams will always be short. Who is IN and who is OUT? I will be headed down Friday night, and I have two seats available in my car.
Captain, Bovina Dairymen