Monday, August 6, 2012

Only One Word to Describe It

                                      Photo by Mark Granieri

There are going to be several posts about this past weekend's National Silver Ball Tournament in Mumford, New York and the purpose of this one is to summarize the results.  The tournament is sponsored by Genesee Country Village and typically includes the four local teams who play at the village and eight teams from around the country.  This year both New Jersey vintage clubs were represented as the Elizabeth Resolutes made their initial appearance at the event.  Also present were clubs from Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and Canada.  Included in the Ohio representation were the Cleveland Blues, two time defending champions who had won 10 straight games in the tournament.

All teams play four matches typically going against two of the local clubs and two of the seven other teams.  After all teams have played four games, the two teams with the best records advance to the championship game.  The Neshanock last played in the tournament in 2010, reaching the championship game before being soundly defeated by the aforementioned Blues. 

The Neshanock's first match was a late Saturday morning encounter with the Rochester (Michigan) Grangers.  Two weeks ago in Gettysburg, the Grangers won a decisive victory over the Neshanock, but this time Flemington took an early lead and never trailed en route to a 6-4 win.  After a long break between games, the Neshanock took on one of the local clubs, the Live Oaks.  An eight run second inning broke open the game and the Neshanock went on to a 23-3 triumph.  At the end of Saturday's play, Flemington was 2-0 while the Talbot Fair Plays were 2-0-1 and the Blues had extended their Silver Ball tournament winning streak to 13 with three more wins.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Sunday morning brought an ominous weather forecast and another match with a local club, this time, the Rochester Base Ball Club.  Flemington held a 9-5 lead after four innings, but once again used the big inning to break the game open scoring 13 times in the 5th and went on to a 25-8 victory.  Now awaiting the Neshanock, however were the dreaded Blues, also 3-0 with the winner earning a place in the championship game with the loser at the mercy of things beyond their control. 

Photo by Mark Granieri

The match got off to a promising start for Flemington as the Neshanock loaded the bases with only one out.  But if any reminder of the Blues defensive prowess was needed, it was provided by their turning a hard ground ball into an inning ending double play.  The Blues then threatened in the bottom of the first putting two on with two out when Neshanock first baseman, Dave "Illinois" Harris, provided his own defensive gem to end the inning, grabbing a hot line drive for the final out.

No doubt inspired by this fine play, the Neshanock put across three tallys in the top of the second which the Blues countered with two of their own.  The Neshanock still had one big inning left in them, however, scoring 7 times in the top of the third for a 10-2 lead which the Blues then reduced scoring 5 times in the bottom of the inning.  That set the pattern for the next few innings as the Blues stayed close, pulling to within one run after six innings, but never quite catching up.  Flemington added three in the seventh and one in the eighth for some breathing room (although there wasn't much breathing taking place on the Neshanock bench).

Finally the game headed to the last inning (shortened to eight due to time limits) with the Neshanock leading 16-11.  The first Cleveland striker was retired on a foul bound and then after the next striker made his base, the second hand was recorded on a foul out.  The next striker hit a looping fly ball just beyond the reach of first and too short for the right fielder. It was eerily similar to a hit by Joe "Irish" Colduvell against these same Blues in Cooperstown in 2011 that triggered a winning Neshanock rally.  Was history going to repeat itself at Flemington's expense?  Suddenly Neshanock second baseman, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel left his feet caught the ball and held on for the obligatory tumble ending the game with a Neshanock victory - a manly play, if there ever was one!

Moments after the game ended word arrived that the Talbot Club had finished 3-0-1 and would meet the Neshanock for the championship.  Unfortunately, however, nature intervened and torrential rains and long trips home for both clubs wiped out the championship game.  As a result Flemington and Talbot were declared co-champions.  There then remained the long car road home, much of it in the rain, but Neshanock returned home tired, but happy after what can only be described as "two most splendiferous days of base ball." 

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