Cumberlanders Hamstrung by Quicksteps

“What a piece of work is man,” quoth the Bard. “How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god…”

This is all well and good, but sometimes our noble aspirations fall to earth, quashed by limitations in the physical world. And so I present to you, dear reader, that great humbler of ballists, that muscle which at moments inopportune reduces a Mercury of the base paths to a mere gimp on appendages of balking meat. Yes, I speak of the curse of the hamstring.

As they prepared to swing the lumber in the home side of the seventh frame last Sunday, on a sunny day in General Jackson’s back pasture at The Hermitage, the Cumberlanders trailed the visiting Quicksteps by a count of 8-4. And yet momentum seemed ready to turn as Slick of came to the dish and shot a hempen line o’er the outstretched limbs of the Spring Hill short-stop to lead off the inning.

But here the Cumberlanders valiant hopes began to reveal themselves as cruelly tethered to the base earth. ‘Twas the HAMSTRING of Slick that jerked the chain back, as Slick could barely hop-limp down the baseline, like a lupine snared in a leg trap. Slick made first, and Cumberlander hearts were gladdened, and yet to encircle the diamond to return home seemed as vain a quest as rounding the globe in a rowboat.

“A runner!” pleaded the faithful partisans, their hopes tied round the metaphorical feet of birds released toward the heavens of mercy and fair-play.

But the Cumberlanders, alas, had only brought nine to the field, and so had no substitute.

“Nonesuch shall ye receive,” announced the heartless arbiter, or so it sounded to this recorder.

“Can we not allow another to run, as a courtesy?” asked Captain Pepper.

“Not unless the man replaced leaves the game.”

Alas, the arbiter was following the letter of the ballist law, and so poor Slick had to contend with his agony, lest the team fall under the shadow of forfeit. Two batters later, Jip’s liner to the outfield was reduced from hit to force-out, as the ball was returned to cancel Slick before he could reach the second sack.

In the eighth inning, the Cumberlanders made their opponents step quickly to the bench on the top and then plated three in the bottom half in reply, in one of the sky-blue’s best innings of the season to date. With one out, Pepper doubled and then the powerful slugger Jip did the same, bringing the score to 8-5. On the day, Pepper and Jip, in the second and third notches, were the C-landers twin hitting stars, each tallying four hits in six. But now Jip waited on the middle sack as a second man went dead. But then, lightning! Catfish and Professor each struck decisively, and after the wearying Quicksteppers threw the ball recklessly, Catfish had plated, and Professor stood at third, the score now 8-7.

But woe was the song of this afternoon for the Cumbermen, as the hammy had not concluded its dreaded work. The injured Slick, hardly able to stand, was the second of two speedy exits in the bottom of the 9th. Rip and Pepper did their best to push the needed run across, with two-out safeties, but sadly the uprising ended there.

Eight to seven, again! For by this same score had the Cumberlanders also succumbed to the Scouts in their last contended match. And these final numerals laughed from the scorers board at the men in sky blue, as their hopes were grounded again, slapped down by a ham.

The Cumberland club hopes to field enough men, wake up the bats, and remain healthy against the Travelers, at The Hermitage, May 20.

Cumberland Club Blackened at Ravenwood

Alas, dear diamond-minded reader — I weep, for shame — I weep, with grief — I weep like the thirsty man weeps as he sees the bottle of cold, dew-glistened ale for which he has crossed the arid plain, as it is about to enter his feverish grasp — slip! — no! — and smash to the uncharitable pave and shatter! For even so, just as we Cumberlanders bethought to slake our own deep thirsts, our thirst for victory, to still the ache of past losses…. Oh, but it is too terrible to admit! Lo, I weep for the Cumberlanders latest loss to the Scouts of Stone’s River, this time by the worm-thin margin of 8 crossings to 7.

At Ravenwood it was, and the day dawned cold, cold as the hearts of the league schedule-makers when they determined the Cumberlanders would open the season against the league’s two best nines. Our season had begun with a 13-1 trepanning by the Mountain City club of Chattanooga, against whom our every game to date has been akin to an avalanche. But the Scouts! We had played the Scouts tight as barnacles in the Oakland Cup, and had come up a mere two plates short in the Sulphur Dells!  Surely this time, the Cumberlanders would show our might, as undeniable as the currents of our mighty river namesake, and this time the Stone’s River crew would be the ones left all wet.

But as much as the Scouts, the Cumberlanders would battle themselves on this gray chill afternoon. The first inning set the pattern, as the suspender men insisted for the first of many times during the day that two outs would first have to be recorded before any runs could return home. Spoons would cross first after two men were dead, brought home by Ozark, and Jip then would plate the second, with Catfish feasting on the rib-eye, one of three he would have on the day.  Catfish — so named because of batting quickness like to the feline, and smooth movements in the field like to the piscine — would be the Cumbie’s best batsman on the day, knocking four in four, and excelling in the field as well, hauling in many a long Stone’s River cannonball launched into the far reaches of the left meadow. Thus was the early pattern of the day, on to the fifth frame, with Cumberland leading, three to a single. Much excitement would then take hold of the Professor in this fifth frame as he reached third base, with Slick at the bat. Slick potted an angled squabbler into the dirt that the Scout catcher ran toward his own bench in foul grounds to field. The hit was judged a fair one, and Professor boldly determined homeward faster than if he had left ungraded midterms in the cab-man’s coach. Seeing the mad scholar careen past, the Scout catcher made attempt to flip the ball to Uncle Jesse, who had come down from the mound to make a play at the dish. A collision with the Professor seemed inevitable, but was only barely averted, and good thing too! — the ages of these two combine far above the century-mark, plus twenty!  The horsehide fell harmlessly to the ground, and Professor’s chiming of the bell would in the next dozen or so pitches find Books and Slick ringing a deuce and a trey to match. Six to one, soon stood the score. Six to one! Surely this would be the day when the Scouts would fail to find their quarry in the Cumberland!

Alas, alas, dear reader, the winds of fortune were soon to shift. In inning six, Stone’s River began to spray safeties around the pitch with the ease of a child throwing raisins — one here, another there, and a handful more to follow. Knock, knock, knock, and the blue-shirts were suddenly overly encumbered — and Scouts ran around the bases like stars swirl around the heads of men on the field of play who have lost so quickly what had seemed a sturdy advantage. Woe is the deadly rally of the opposing team. In but a few minutes time, the advantage built over the previous hour departed, and the Scouts blazed their trail, to end in yet another victory over the Cumberland blues.

Ozark mashed a diablo in the 9th

Again there would be a late rally — or a late rally attempt — on the part of the Cumberlanders, but once again only after two men went first to their deaths! Redbeard Ozark tried his best in that ninth frame to wake his sleeping teammates with a majestic drive near to the forest behind left field, going for a two-bagger. Two more hits followed, plating the mountain man, and putting Catfish on the third sack, licking his paws for a chance to knot the score.

But — lamentations! — it was not to be, and moments later the Scouts again trotted from the pasture with smiling faces, and familiar feelings were abundant, as Cumberlanders again grumbled, next time, next time, next time.

Come see the Cumberland Club of Nashville take on the Lightfoot Club of Chattanooga at RiverPark in Chattanooga, 12pm, April 21. Fans are urged to bring camp chairs and like accoutrements for comfortable watching as they cheer the tan and teal on to our first victory of the season!

The Oaklands Cup

As the moment grew nigh to begin the Oaklands Cup competition last weekend, and the Cumberlanders stretched and preened before myriad photographers, sportively hurling stitched leather orbs to one another like so many promises of future successes on the field of play, the skies above cleared and the sun began to smile down upon the base ball grounds, symbolic of the hopes of the team whose blouses matched the newly teal blue sky overhead.

Alas! the skies did not forecast well the Cumbermens’ fortunes on this day as the Hermitage dwellers would fall short in both of their balling efforts, dunked 10-7 by the Scouts of Stones River in the matinee, and then left behind again (that is to say, Marooned) in the nightcap, 5-2, by the bibbed crew from Nashville.

But those teal skies did seem oh so honest as the day began! Sporting a new lineup that led off with its most hirsute campaigners, orange-bearded Burnside lashed a wrong-side two-bagger, followed by Ozark of the red chin-nest with a single safety. Three batsmen later, a trio of runs had crossed. Dollar Bill, in his debut as a member of the tan and blue, hit a cloud-scraper to left that plated an ace by means of a sacrifice. Then, after Catfish had a base-knock, Professor belted one to short that seemed a sure double-killing. However, the throw to first went errant and when the dust cleared the Cumberlanders were looking poised to deliver a long-delayed message to the Scouts. ‘Twas Uncle Jesse’s crew that gave up seven in the last frame of a first-round contest against our Cumberlanders in last year’s Sulphur Dells tournament, and here it seemed as if the blueshirts were finally delivering those last three plates that would have won that September contest, which has left us to toss and turn in our bedsheets these six months since, wondering Oh! Oh! What might have been!

But rhetorical comeuppances do not win sporting contests, dear reader, and this day would again belong to others than the men in shiny suspenders. Again there would be a late rally, with four coming home in the seventh frame, but this only made for a sad echo of the too-little, too-late Fall encounter.

In the nightcap, a tense, defensive-minded affair went awry in the fifth frame, and the sky-blouses seemed to lose the springs in their legs as the game went on, going one-two-three in the first, fourth, and last frames. As he had in the first contest, Catfish, while nursing a chest wound from a banging he took in the outfield in a rainy scrimmage game earlier in the month, nevertheless went two-for-four, to make four hits of seven for the day. He was joined in the firmament of hitting stars on the afternoon by Spoons, who was four-for-five on the day, including three bingles in his last three trips to the dish. The day was also full of standout defensive plays, none better than when in the late match, a throw from across the diamond pulled the diminutive Rip two strides off the sack at first. Sensing a close play, Rip lunged back with the horsehide sphere clenched in a single outstretched bare hand to his full five-and-a-half feet, touching ball to bag a half-step ahead of a careening Maroon.

The Cumberlanders will trade innings again with the Scouts on the seventh day of April at the Ravenswood Mansion in Smith Park, in Brentwood, for the second game of their sophomore campaign.