The sun was a blazing beacon in the Cumberland-blue sky, baking the Hermitage grounds as two proud clubs readied for noon-time battle.
But the fiery orb in the heavens was but a weak sister to the fire in the eyes of one of the clubs. ‘Twas the blue battalion! The Titans in Teal! Jackson’s Jolters! For on this day, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Old Hickory himself had picked up a willow to knock the ball around the orchard, for no blaze would be more searing than the burning eyes of every Cumberlander on this sunny afternoon, to claim the prize for Lady Victory! From the pre-contest bat toss onward, this day would belong to the men of the mighty Cumberland.
Pity the poor Travelers, whose excursion from Brentwood was thwarted by such greedy hosts. For after a quick first frame for the visitors, the home team’s fire caught and began raging. The first five Cumberlanders to the dish all banged out safeties – Ozark a double; Pepper a single; Burnside a single, plating Ozark, and bringing to the line Cumberland’s fiercest striker, harbinger winner of the bat toss, Jip! There followed one of Jip’s mighty wrong side blasts past the solitary poplar in the starboard pasture, ringing up two more aces. Spoons then helped himself to his own taste of the feast with the first of his quartet of bingles on the day. Spoons would reign as the man of the match, unable to be put out by the Travelers in any swings of the stick.
Five runs having crossed in the first, the Hermitagers turned up the heat again in the third. Pepper, Burnside, Spoons, Catfish, and Professor all knocked safeties and four more came across. The Travelers, a merry bunch who were good sports all, nevertheless glanced from man to man and wondered whither had fled the team that they had spatchcocked, 22-3, when the teams met last in May 2017.
But it was not solely base knocking that made the difference one May later, for the Nashville Club’s defense sizzled as scintillatingly. Jip threw out man after man with harpoon-like throws from the third sack. Pepper ended a minor threat in the second frame by fielding a spicy ball behind second and executing a neat slide-step as he threw out yet another sad Traveler. Catfish had his usual stellar game in left including a miracle catch of a majestic smash into deepest the deepest corner of the portside pasture, across the foul line, his liquid stride taking him through a gap in the outfield fence as the partisans satagape, silent for a moment before bursting into wild acclaim for the man who is likely the best defensive Out-fielder in the Association. Rip made a running catch in the sixth inning in foul grounds off first base of a tricky ball that arced through the air like a plugged quail; he ended the play cradling the bird in his arms like he was bringing home dinner. Ozark and Burnside, the Beard Brothers, traded smiling plays in the center field. Spoons and Slapshot each logged solid innings on the mound, keeping the Brentwooders baffled. Maestro at the dish and Books on the first sack both played solidly in the field.
Following the contest, the Cumberlanders, hardly believing themselves the authors of their own heroic tale, surrounded the score-board, as if to keep it from slipping quietly away, like so many chances for victory had evaded them so far in this young campaign. In the intoxicating aura of victory, Slapshot was so full of love for the universe that he reclined in the foreground of the photograph as if awaiting the service of wine and victuals by young maidens. Winning, indeed, is a splendid elixir, and no less wonderful when it is served up in the vintage league!
The Cumberland Club of Nashville will look to extend their streak of victories to TWO when they take on the Franklin Farriers, Sunday, June 2, at the Carnton Plantation.