Squints View of the action
It was another gorgeous day on the farm for vintage. Today the Essex Base Ball Club had the privilege of playing a group of gentlemen from Rhode Island, the Bristol Blues. I could tell by the way they walked onto the field that this was not going to be an easy match. They donned heavy cotton uniforms, lit up a couple of smokes, and were excited about the beer truck. We, on the other hand, were short a player and missing several of our power hitters.
As the game started we borrowed a Blue at catcher and took the field. It was nice to see Rob Michaud in center for the first time this year. Though out the first half of the season, he didn’t miss a beat, catching everything that was hit to him and spraying hits all around the field.
We held them scoreless in the top of the first and were coming up to bat. Cappy apparently miscounted while calling out the batting order as he had me batting clean up. I immediately took advantage of this opportunity my first at bat. I hit a ball that was completely uncatchable…right between the pitcher and the third basement…SINGLE! Next inning…Single down the third base line. Next time up, single between the shortstop and third. This obviously isn’t a story about power hitting, but at least I didn’t foul out to the catcher…Well, at least not one of my first three at bats!
The Bristol pitchers kept us off balance all day. Though we did have a few rallies, it was oftentimes due to errant fielding more than well placed sharply hit balls. Cappy did hit one fantastic line drive in the first inning of the first game. The only problem was the Bristol Blues pitcher who stood 45’ away. After unintentionally knocking the ball down with his upper thigh, he collected himself, held his leg, and limped over to the ball in plenty of time to toss it to first for the out. The 16-4 win sounds impressive, yet it definitely was not as lopsided as the score appears. This was a pitcher’s dual and Essex simply made fewer errors allowing us to hold the Blues to 4 runs.
The second game found Essex losing our aforementioned centerfielder allowing “yours truly” to cover the void left by Rob. Sandman took over for me in right, and we snagged a couple teenage cranks to swap out playing second for us. It was obvious by the end of the first game that Bristol was gaining momentum. It showed early in the first game as they hit several long balls and had the lead 4-2 going into the second. It was a back and forth game most of the way until Essex had a 3 run top of the 7th to take the lead 9-7. After both teams held in the eighth, we were up to bat in the top of the ninth. Bristol had shown they could put runs together so we needed some insurance. We only scored one run giving us a 3 run cushion going into the bottom of the ninth.
I am not sure how we got the first hand, but there was one down with the top of the order up. Striker two hit a shot to right center. With the exception of a couple of nice plays by Sandman, it had been relatively quiet on that side of the field today as all 9 of the Blues are righties. This well hit line drive caught us a bit off guard. Sandman and I raced toward each other knowing the stakes of the game was at hand. This gent had been on base a few times today and his speed could definitely move him around the bases instantly starting a rally. This was an important out. It would either be 1 hand with a speedster on second, or two hands with none on base. Sandman was getting closer. I watched the ball and the man while running full speed. I had the angle. The only way I could make the catch would be to slide toward the ball and catch it on the bound. Not having a mit changes the way you field. If I had my mit I could have easily just extended my hand on the run and let the ball hit the webbing. Yet bare handed that extra few inches of leaning while in full stride can easily throw off your balance. Yes, I would slide and hope that Sandman didn’t make the same decision. This was not the kind of play where you can call off the other fielder. It was simply, who could get there first. Luckily, at the last second he saw that I had leaned into my slide and was able to hurdle me without killing either of us. The slide allowed me to cradle the ball for the out. Two Hands. Their next striker had been hitting with power all day. The game was definitely not over. Wiz was working him, and got grounder to the left side of the field. Though it was close, we were able to get the out and win the game…10-7.
Thanks to the Bristol Blues for a fantastic double header, and thanks to the Cranks for cheering, playing, helping with close calls, and loving the game as much as we do!