The Lumbermen Old-Time Base Ball Club of Batesville took a dozen of their first and second nines to Greenwood June 2 to play in a 4-team round-robin, 1864-rules style tournament against the Blues of Indianapolis, the Bluegrass Barons of Lexington, Ky., and the Blackbottom 9 of Norwood, Ohio. The team’s pride and game balls were at stake.

With a noon start time, the Lumbermen arrived on time in their distinguished bright, white uniforms trimmed in navy. Their opponent's train was delayed, causing the match between the Lumbermen and the Barons to be canceled. Without hesitation, the Batesville club took the field with a round of batting practice before splitting the team into sixes, the young ones and the old ones, to play a scrub game for the entertainment of the club’s followers. The extra work would shortly pay dividends.

The captains, Greg “Southpaw” Simmons of the Blues and Mark “Bubba” Masavage of the Lumbermen, met at home base of the south field for the flip of a token, which resulted in the Lumbermen batting first, a position they would hold throughout the day. Rusty of the Blues stepped up to the line to pitch to Steven “Shins” Harmeyer, the Lumbermen’s lead-off batsman. The result was Shins bounding out to the shortstop for the first play of the game.

Matthew “Pudge” Fullenkamp took the ball for the Lumbermen and did his job by allowing the Blues to put the ball into play. The superior Lumbermen defense, led by the artists Jacob “Irish” Garvin in left field, Jacob “Twig” Stenger in center field, and Jacob “Metsy” Paul in right, would hold the Blues scoreless in the bottom of the frame. Bubba Masavage would score the first and deciding ace on a fielder’s choice struck to the second baseman by Twig in the top of the second inning.

The Lumbermen would tally six more aces across the remaining five frames while whitewashing the Blues for a final score of 7-0, taking the coveted game ball on a rare win against their in-state rivals. The Lumbermen’s leading batsmen were Steve “Jaws” Meyer (3-for-3, one ace), Bubba (two aces, 2-for-3) and Mark “Spider” Stenger and Eric “Downtown” Brown (1 score, 2 hits each). Kelsey “Peaches” Roell and Twig rounded out the top strikers, each going 2-for-3, while Shins, Irish, Chris “Pig Pen” Campbell, and Pudge each had one hit. Shins and Irish would cross home base once apiece.

Aftr some cool water on a hot day, the 9s and Batesville were ready to start. Shins stepped up to the base to record his first of four hits against Mule Mullens, who in the second inning would come to regret taking the pitching position for the match. The Lumbermen would go on a streak, bringing ten of their twelves strikers to the plate while tallying four aces. The Blackbottom 9 returned the favor in the bottom half of the inning, crossing home three times.

With the score close in the second, Mule would rethink his occupation as a pitcher. Pig Pen led off the inning with a hard bounder that Mullens would play off his person to record the first hand down. On the next pitch, Metsy knocked a daisy cutter immediately past the left of Mullens. Shins positioned the ball between the outfielders for a double that sent Metsy home for an ace. Irish bounded out to the right fielder, and Shins held at second. Downtown struck the ball to the outfield, scoring Shines. Then Jaws packed up the Howitzer and launched a corker that exploded against Mullens' left shoulder, sending a scare through the ranks of the ballists and spectators alike. Fortunately, Mule did not receive his name for lack of courage and recovered from the shot quickly. Jaws, in a sign of sportsmanship and concern for the hurler, conceded the out by walking to the mound to check on Mule, who would eventually tag him out to end the inning.

During the bottom half of the second, three veteran Lumbermen walked across the diamond to check on Mule, demonstrating to the youngsters peeking through the fence the purity of the sport of Base Ball with a show of concern for their fellow, albeit opposing, ball player. The 9s’ strikers did not back down in the inning. They would send three players around the bases to even the score at six.

In the bottom of the third, Pudge would send a ball into left-center field for a double that scored Angus from second and Bubba from first, who each singled. The crowd erupted in a mix of laughter and cheers as they watched the aging Masavage race around the bases, a rare sight these days, to score. I am sure he will accredit his return of youthfulness to the offseason functional fitness program provided at Southeastern Indiana YMCA. Bubba and Angus would be the only two tallies for the Lumbermen in the inning. Pudge was thrown out at third on a hard single to left field by Spider, and Twig and Peaches would both fly out to close out the top of the inning. The Lumbermen fared better in the fourth by putting up a 4-ace effort to make it 12-7.

In the bottom half of the frame, the Lumbermen sent Pig Pen Campbell to the stripe replacing Pudge Fullenkamp to face the heart of the 9s. The 9s were ready to answer the challenge, scoring two runs and occupying all the bases with the largest striker straddling the plate. He did just that by sending a lofty cannon shot over the head of the Irishman playing left field. There was no doubt to all who witnessed it that this strike would result in a four-base trip for the giant. Irish Garvin, the artist, turned and began to run straight back without even looking for the ball. He looked up with his back towards the infield, stopping well short of the trajectory of the ball. His club and the spectators were bewildered by his sudden lack of hustle, but by the luck or wisdom of the Irish, the ball struck a branch of a tree and bounded once off the ground and ended up in the grip of the diving Irishman’s right hand for an out. The crowd erupted in a cheer believing the play was over, but the ball was still alive, and the runners were advancing. In a single motion, Garvin rose to his knees, spun around, and threw the ball straight to the chest of Shins at shortstop. Shins received the ball cleanly in shallow left field and hearing the shouts of his club mates, delivered the ball like a shot from a muzzleloader to an awaiting Angus at home base. Angus leaped, caught the ball cleanly in mid-air before applying the tag to the runner arriving from second base to record him dead before he could tally an ace.

It was one of the most spectacular plays in the history of the game, and players from both teams and spectators alike shouted out the customary “Huzzah” cheer for all involved, as they do when a great play is made. What should have resulted in four aces yielded only one. The extraordinary effort preserved the Lumbermen’s lead at 12-10.

With a little steam in their engines, the Lumbermen had an exceptional fifth inning by tallying six aces with two hands down before whitewashing the Blackbottom 9. As the Lumbermen were running in to take their turn at offense in the bottom of the sixth, Colonel Mattingly, captain of the opposing team, whistled loudly and declared the game over at 18-10 based on the hour and one-quarter time cap established before the match by the clubs. The Colonel surrendered the game ball to Bubba with a handshake, and the Lumbermen finished the day with two wins to improve their record to 3-1 on the season.

The Lumbermen, established in 2008, travel throughout Indiana and Ohio playing other clubs. The Lumbermen play in three main eras defined by the year of the rules. They are the 1864 game, which allows a fielder to catch a fair or foul ball on a bounce to record an out and pitching was underhand or below the belt; the 1869 game, which requires a fair ball to be caught in the air for an out; and the 1886 game, which closely represents modern baseball with overhand pitching. Also, they do not wear gloves. Modern gloves with a pocket did not begin to take shape until the 1920s. Before then, players would wear leather working gloves with the fingers cut out, and prior to 1870, gloves were not used. The ball is hard, not as dense as a modern baseball but hard, and batters can hit it really hard, so it takes a little art and skill to catch it.

The Lumbermen next take the field July 7 in the Heart of Vintage Base Ball Tournament in Hamilton, Ohio, before returning home July 20 at the Oldenburg softball field for their annual Freudenfest game beginning at 1 p.m. against the White River Base Ball Club of Strawtown.

Recommended for you