Who is the man in the arena? Why does he steam and swear and try to make so that which otherwise is not? Is it the thrill of victory—a selfish, covetous, satisfaction to be earned only from study and sweat? Perhaps it is the spoils of war, both material and etherial that carry some to crave. For others, the cry of the wolf and simple, sweet revenge beckon and entice: power for its own sake. Perhaps the sportsman simply has a few hours of fun before letting those primal feelings lie the moment the final bell sounds. What of the spectator? And the rear echelon? Perhaps it is proximity to the fight, and a chance to influence and belong that invite them physically to the sidelines, and mentally onto the field. To belong. To feel the elation of triumph and the depths of defeat. To control destiny for just a few moments. To matter.
Because what is there to fight for? Someday we will all wake up to find it’s all been done and watch, as the old and grey, while a new generation flings itself into the melee of a small-town Saturday. Will we then smile gently, or scoff, or cheer? Will we feel the old pangs of passion pull and remind our tendons and sinew and bones of the prideful aches of cares gone by? The author certainly hopes so, and it is impossible to think otherwise after watching a contest like that which took place last Sunday in Bovina.
Just as nature abhors a vacuum, Americans despise a tie. Last Sunday, some 25 warriors gathered on the pitch at Creamery Field to break their season deadlock that sat at two games apiece. 11 sons of Bovina Valley faced 12 heirs of the Kingdom of Fleischmanns for bragging rights to last until the spring thaw. But the warrior’s place in society is a fickle thing, dependent on the one thing he cannot control: the minds of others.
Yet try he must! The select few who can begin to explain the “why” are immortalized often above even the heroes themselves—such is the power and seduction and inevitability of contest. It is who we are as a species. And for a few moments, a few times per year, we few Dairymen are allowed to forget all that happens outside, and enter the arena.
A cool, cloudy day—what they call football weather—shone last Sunday as the Mountain Athletic Club suited to face the Bovina Dairymen for the Fall Classic: Delaware County’s own single-game world series, played every year between the same two friendly rivals. But today would be exceptional—a friendly beginning gradually gave way to a heated middle, and finally delved into to a desperate finish. Like the autumn trees nestling Creamery Field, baseball would not slip into winter without a flourish.
The game began friendly, as the MAC loaded the bases and plated three in the top of the first, while Bovina answered with two of their own in the bottom half with singles by D. “Hobbes” Tucker and J. “the Kid” Yambor, and two sacrifice flies. After the MAC tallied one in the top of the second, the Dairymen pulled ahead with three of their own. Putting the Dairymen on top were singles from J. “Rabbit” Stanton, A. “Rock N Roll” Scarpa, and T. “Teabag” Tucker.
Settling in on the mound, “Hobbes” blanked the MAC in the third and fourth, while captain N. “Stone Hands” Frandsen smacked a double in the third to start what looked to be a Dairymen wave. After plating two on the back of a D. “Hands” Kehrer single, Bovina loaded the bases and the MAC prepared for a repeat of years past: the bases a blur of black and white uniforms in a big inning. But it was not to be, as Fleischmanns made three outs on the bases, including an out on a runner’s interference call, to escape the frame allowing only two.
In the fourth, the game changed to serious. New MAC fireballer Winston Marquez arrived and came in to pitch in the middle of the frame, striking out two to get out of a jam. After four innings, the score sat at 8-4, Bovina.
But the MAC reared their stubborn heads, plating three in the fifth off Bovina reliever “Teabag” Tucker to crawl within one. Both lefty aces began to show signs of frustration at the umpire’s stingy strike zone, and chatter from the benches erupted into controversy as an uncovered ground rule forced MAC runners to retreat. Although it would not cost them—the runner later went on to score—the tension did not dissipate with the end of the inning, and the record crowd of approximately 150 edged closer to soak in the pitched contest.
With Marquez dealing smoke from his left arm, the teams traded zeros on the board and jabs under their breath until the bottom of the sixth, where B. “el Gamero” Denison manufactured his own run: he walked, stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch. Three cheers, Sir.
After a second scoreless inning by “Teabag” Tucker, Bovina put up three runs on Marquez in the bottom of the seventh, all with two outs. “Kid” Yambor and “Gamero” both slapped opposite field singles in the inning, and the bleeding was only stemmed by a quick-thinking play from Marquez to catch Denison stealing home. With the ball beating him by a full step, Dension attempted to hurdle the MAC catcher, both combatants spilling over and around the plate. When the smoke cleared, the catcher held up the ball firmly in his grasp, and the Bovina tide would rise no further than 12. It would be up to the pitchers from there on.
Trailing by a score of 12-7, the MAC roared back. In the top of the eighth, the MAC plated four runs on two hits, a walk and an error, as the Fleischmanns bats chased Tucker. “Kid” Yambor came in to finish the game for Bovina, and, stemming the scoring after allowing one more, got out of the inning in time to leave the Dairymen up, 12-11.
More controversy marred the bottom of the eighth and added to the thick atmosphere. After the lightning reflexes of MAC third baseman F. “Chopper” Davis robbed J. “Chico” Finn of a base hit, the Dairymen put two runners on base with two away and J. “Juice” Betterley at the plate. After struggling on the day, “Juice” slapped a troublesome ground ball to shortstop and took off for first, fists pumping and chest heaving. As the MAC shortstop came in to make a play, he ran into a Dairymen runner for the second time in the game, and the play was called dead and the runner out. The Dairymen bench erupted in protest and after some heated exchange, Bovina took the field. The ninth inning loomed.
It would not go down without one last twist, as Dairymen captain “Stone Hands” Frandsen earned his new nickname on the day. After Yambor struck out the first batter on a dropped third strike, Frandsen muffed an easy throw from the catcher. Scrambling, Frandsen grabbed at the ball with his right hand and simultaneously placed his left on the base. Adding insult to injury, the newly minted “Stone Hands” missed the pickup while MAC shortstop “Raider” leapt for the bag—stepping on Frandsen’s hand in the process. As both realized what happened, Frandsen pulled off his workman’s glove (the only kind allowed in 1895 apart from the catcher’s mitt) to reveal a broken finger. Giving the young fans in attendance an education in brusque language as he walked off the field, Frandsen would miss the rest of the game on his way to the hospital. “Raider” remained safely at first.
But it would be the Dairymen who held their heads high at the end of the day, as the defense picked up the injured captain. Catcher “Rabbit” Stanton caught “Raider” stealing on the next play, and after no small amount of argument, Raider agreed that he had indeed been tagged out. Yambor would strike out the next two batters to finish the game and finally, mercifully, ease the tension off.
The Dairymen prevailed 12-11, improving their record to 14-4 on the year, including 3-2 against the MAC.
It is always bittersweet to watch the dust settle, as the end of anything intense brings about deep feelings. Pride, emptiness, elation, distance, whist, effusiveness, desire, and exhaustion all compete for space in the warrior’s head. The opining begins, as does the storytelling, and life once again becomes more docile, more structured, more modern. Emotions are once again to be controlled in polite society among expectations and responsibilities. Uniforms are folded and stored, and a specific period in life is bookended by an emotional cocktail unique to each contestant. The sun rises and sets. Smiles. Handshakes. Nods. Hugs. Knowing glances. Life moves on.
Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of myself I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make this Dairymen season the MOST SUCCESSFUL SEASON BY FAR. We scheduled 12 dates and played 10 of them. We took road trips to Hartford, Boston, and Long Island, and brought a full squad to every game we played. We raised money and built a website and restarted a tradition first started by the Roxbury Nine. Only two teams topped the Dairymen: the MAC and the Brooklyn Atlantics—each besting us twice. We were more inclusive of families’ and players’ voices. We brought at least 100 fans to every home game. New leadership began to emerge, and team personality broke out into the open. We had three members make it to every game. Our umpires worked more than ever, and to them—especially Andrews Landsman from the game contained herein and the not insignificant amount of abuse he received from the same—we respectfully tip our caps. Our support staff put in more hours than ever before, and to them—most especially the Burns and Finn/Buerge clans—we give a warm hug. We couldn’t do it without you.
It’s my pleasure to be,
Captain, Bovina Dairymen