They started out down some dirty road. Alone in a nameless rivulet, bubbling respectfully over a budding hillside they wound their way downhill. They flowed down Brush Brook and seeped out of Silver Lake, and into the Little Delaware with the rest of the spring runoff. A slow waking in a month-long rain lay behind them, where old aches nestled in a cloudy Catskill Mountain April. But baseball was in the air; the leather and laces of our national pastime beckoned with a one-fingered “come hither.”
As the tight turns of frothy streams melted into to the mighty Hudson, the boys chatted excitedly. The highway hummed and the travelers sang along while Tom Petty drawled out tales of love and swagger on the radio. Along the Hudson Valley, the trees were already in full-leaf—nearly two weeks ahead of their mountain cousins. Wide and powerful and bearing a venerable name, the boys followed America’s first industrial corridor south toward a match with vintage baseball royalty: the Brooklyn Atlantics.
From their lofty perch, Atlantics didn’t exactly look down at the boys from the hills. But the law of the jungle demands that a silverback glare at a scrappy upstart encroaching on their turf. The upstart postured back. The contest was set.
The next morning dawned cloudy and cool; a morning shower groused and grumbled. But as the Dairymen traded their corduroy pants for the black and white for the first time this season, April grudgingly gave the afternoon to May. The sounds of summer dared appear. Baseball was back.
Game One was played by the rules of 1864, where pitchers throw underhand and catching the ball on one hop is an out. Playing as the away side in both contests, the Dairymen struck early and often. In the first, leadoff man Tyler “Cock-a-doodle” Dugan sent a towering double to left field and Troy “Train” Tucker added an RBI triple to make it 3-0 after a half inning. But the Atlantics wouldn’t be pushed around, answering with four of their own in the bottom of the frame. The age-old match between experience and youth began in earnest.
In a game in which every Dairymen hit safely, the up-and-comers scored three each in the fourth and fifth behind extra base hits from shortstop Dylan “Hobbes” Tucker. After the Atlantics scraped two runs together in the sixth, the cow-boys plated four in the top of the next behind a solo home run from Ben “el Gamero” Denison and a double from “Iron” Mike Brown. At the end of seven, the Dairyman had battered their way to a 15-10 lead.
But the old bull would not yield, and with crisp hitting and decisive baserunning the Atlantics clawed back in the bottom of the last. And for one desperate moment there, the home squad tried to retain their crown as they whittled the Dairymen lead from six, to three, then to one. Curses clattered and John “Chico” Finn wordlessly vented the Dairymen frustration with a sharp smack of the scoreboard after a broken play. Chico and the defense stemmed the bleeding, but not before the Atlantics scored one more to send the game to extras.
The combatants traded runs in the tenth. But Chico would get the last laugh, as he leadoff the eleventh with a single and came around to score on Brown’s two-run triple—Brown’s second of the game—to put the ’bucks up for good. As the dust settled, the Dairymen stood victorious by a score of 20-17. Panting, the sides lounged among the wildflowers in preparation for game two—this one, to be played on Dairymen terms.
The second was played by the rules of 1895—basically modern baseball, sans gloves—and here, youthful stamina and strength finally surmounted the aging Atlantics. Now, the Dairymen loped while Brooklyn limped. Gone was the uncertain footing of game one and the wide-eyed awe of two years ago, when first Bovina travelled to play the Atlantics. Playing with confidence and solid defense—and by their bread-and-butter overhand baseball rules—the Dairymen cruised to a 15-5 win. The crowning effort was led by catcher Jack “Shucks” Stanton (3-3, R), Gary “Burnsie, Sr.” Burns (3-4, 2B, 3R), and Captain Nick “Roughcut” Frandsen (3-4, 2B, 3R). Frandsen (4IP, W) and Hobbes Tucker split the game on the mound for the Dairymen.
At the end of the day, the silverback was forced to tip his cap to the new kids on the block, and the victors settled down for a warrior’s banquet. Afterwards, sitting in Bronx traffic, the barnstormers gawked at a sky of golden clouds on fire, silhouetting the Manhattan skyline in a salute to the Boys of Spring. Thick expressway air, smelling of exhaust and sweat and factories, gave way to cold, clear lung-fulls of the hills. The boys rolled on as the sky grew dark, and they put the pedal down to make some time.
There’s something good waiting down this road.
Yes indeed, Dairymen baseball is back.
Captain, Bovina Dairymen
Game Notes. Justin “Juice” Betterley (Covid protocol) could not make the game despite being ready, willing, and able. “Iron” Mike Brown hit three triples on the day in his first game after surgery on his throwing shoulder. Special thanks to the Smithtown Historical Society for hosting the day. NEXT GAMES are at Brewery Ommegang on May 15th (1pm) and May 16th (10:45am). Admission is free.