Saturday, August 25, 2007

Split with the Atlantics

The Grays felt fortunate to split today's double-header with the Brooklyn Atlantics in Narragansett. The Atlantics came into the game with a 25-4 record and are by any measure one of the best teams in vintage base ball.

The first game was one of the best-played games of the year, played by the Grays' own 1884 rules in front of an enthusiastic crowd which numbered in the dozens in addition to the usual cluster of family members and retired players. Scott Olson turned in another pitching gem. After years of excellence at third base, center field, shortstop, and catcher, he has become a real star pitcher as well (next he may be tried in right field to test the full range of his talents). Brooklyn countered with some fine work by "Shakespeare" Van Zant. Heading into the ninth inning, the Grays clung to a 5-4 lead. "Tree" Ness, leading off for the Atlantics, took two strikes but then managed to work Olson for a base on balls. He made his way to third base with two outs. His son "Toothpick" Ness then bunted at the ball, blocking it with his bat in such a way that it rolled just a few feet in front of home plate. Pitcher, catcher, batter, first baseman and right fielder converged on the baseline in a confusing throng as "Tree" raced home, a desperate throw to first was made but not held, and thus the score was tied. Bunting at the ball is not a manly approach to batsmanship, of course, but this one was skillfully executed and temporarily saved the day for the Atlantics. With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, E. Bratt led off for Providence with a well-struck hit to left. A wild pitch and a passed ball brought him to third base with one out. Hoffman came to the plate for Providence and sent a stinging line drive directly at the third baseman's feet. Almost no man would have caught that ball, even with futuristic leathern gloves. The third baseman blocked the ball nicely, but it rolled softly to his left as Bratt raced home with the winning run. Final score, 6-5 Providence.

After beating the Atlantics in such a thrilling manner, the Grays briefly fancied themselves the Champions of 2007. As they took their positions for the next contest, they continued to replay the dramatic ninth inning in their minds, their reveries only occasionally broken by the whizzing of line drives past their in their swollen heads. The Atlantics, playing by their familiar 1864 rules, demonstrated their prowess in raining down two-hop soft line drives upon the Providence outfielders, and circulated around the bases at an alarming rate. By the sixth inning, Providence was merely striving for dignity runs and finding precious few of them. The final score was 17 to 6.

The Providence record for the season is now 13-8. Considering the exceptional strength of the team's schedule, this record is something to be proud of. Strong performances in the remaining games may still give Providence one of the best records in the game. Next up: the annual tournament in Roxbury, N.Y. on September 1 and 2.

Noted in passing:

"Arnie" Lucas umpired both games. He has developed into one of the better umpires in the game despite his youthful age. With his great size, and carrying a large bat as a cane, he inspires very little kicking at his decisions.

Thanks to the semi-retired Providence second baseman Jason Considine for making arrangements for these games with the town of Narragansett. The field was lovely, the promotion thorough, and the presence of an official scorekeeper appreciated.

Outfielder Stattler has been making noise about a pay raise, as he has been earning the same salary since 1998. In addition to his work on the field, he also sells scorecards at the games, and has served dutifully as treasurer in the Providence Base Ball Association's luxurious mahogany-panelled counting house. However, President Norton has been reluctant to accede to his demands when such strong-hitting outfielders as Hoffman, B. Bratt, and Bogosian are already under contract. The Brooklyn Atlantics, playing in a larger city and drawing larger crowds, have promised to double Stattler's salary. It appears that Norton may sell Stattler's release to Brooklyn in the off-season for some small sum, bringing the matter to an amicable conclusion for all concerned parties.

First baseman Brian "Old Reliable" Travers missed his first games of the season. He has only missed seven since joining the team in 2000, and one of them was a town-ball exhibition played against small children in a farm field.

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