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Bribes are all part of the game

Joelle Milholm
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
ALL |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” Crowds lining the flour-marked third baseline along make-shift diamond weren’t hoping to catch balls for souvenirs in Friday nights Vintage Base Ball game in the field behind Glenwood Springs High School.

Instead, the cranks, as the crowd is called, were looking for a payoff and an out.

Unlike today’s game of baseball, the vintage game, based on rules from the 1860s era, cranks can make outs by catching foul balls in the air or after one bounce. If they help out a team, they get a tip from the player, or maybe a bribe from the other team to drop the home-made ball. It’s all part of the fun and flashback atmosphere the game carries.



“Baseball, to me, is like watching paint dry, but this is all about having fun and running and hitting the ball,” said Jim “Hawk” Hawkins, a vintage Base Ball veteran who was assigned a nickname like all the gloveless, suspender-wearing players on the field Friday. “There’s always something going on.”

Legal crank assists are just one of the many original Base Ball rules that aren’t around in the game as it is played today. John “Catfish” Hines officiated the contest, frequently asking the cranks whether a runner was out or safe as loud cheering can overturn a close call. Hines has been involved with the annual Glenwood contest since it’s inception eight years ago and while he used to be a player, he enjoys the umpire position.



“It’s a blast. It’s fun because you get to ham up the crowd,” Hines said. “I thought the cranks did real good. They got to make some money off the players and I think we made over $100 on donations.”

The money will go to the Frontier Historical Society, who originally started the game as an educational tool to show people what Base Ball was like 150 years ago.

The game itself started with a bang as the Yampah Stars, the home team, scored seven runs in the first inning on a bunch of hits including a 2-run double by Ray “Cricket” Mitchell, an RBI double by Jeff “Book” Rice and a 2-run double off the bat of Rob “Spider Bite” Tramazzo.

Each time a player scored, they had to ring a bell and say, “tally a run Ma’m” to Karen “Ma” Harris at the scorer’s table.

“I love it. This is funner than any of the other sports I’ve played. Everybody has a good time and it’s all in good fun. I enjoy it,” said Mitchell, the hurler, or pitcher, for the Stars. “We had a good time. We got fortunate and it was fun.”

The only aspect of the game that wasn’t vintage was when a handful of paragliders landed in deep center and right fields. Although paragliders may not have been around in the 1860s, they got a decent round of kazaas, which is what the cranks and players say to applaud.

The Stars continued to smack the ball on offense, and in the end, Yampah tallied 14 runs and the Sluggers managed to ring the bell only three times and Hines announced the 14-3 Yampah victory.

After nine innings of play, a few extra exhibition innings were played for fun until the players tipped their hats and gave a final kazaa to the cranks to end the old ball game.


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