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.
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!