Rooters of the national game in Northeast East Tennessee were recently treated to a special match between Knoxville’s two base ball clubs–the Holstons and the Emmett Machinists. Both clubs have struggled this season. Winless in its first four matches, the Holstons were nearly disemboweled in their last match against the Travellers of Brentwood. Meanwhile, the Machinists have been denied a victory since opening day. The Knoxville ballists met on a lovely garden at Rocky Mount and were greeted by a throng of spectators, many of whom eagerly sought the signatures and an opportunity to take a likeness with the sporting gentlemen. Some in attendance were unfamiliar with the game that has only recently arrived in this state. Therefore, a number of the ballists mingled with the crowd prior to the match to introduce the novices to the rules of the game. Both clubs began to warm up an hour prior to the match; however, a few of the ballists preferred to remain in the shade with the spectators as the mercury soared into the upper eighties. One Holston welcomed the summer-like heat and humidity. Grinning ear to ear he observed that the Holston Club had lost but one match in such conditions during its first two seasons.
The ballists assembled at high noon for introductions. By this time there were more than two hundred rooters lining the first sack side of the garden and among the trees near the foul line in left field. Upper East Tennessee’s Congressman, currently at home during the summer recess in Washington, hurled the first onion directly over the dish followed by calls to “sign him up.” Pickaxe presided over the bat toss that went in favor of the Machinists, who preferred to take the field first, batting at the bottom of each inning.
The fans did not have to wait long to see the onion struck well and scores of aces tallied. The Holstons nearly checked off their roster in the first inning as they plated four times. The Machinists then took a turn at the dish and their willows proved to be as equally efficient as those wielded by the Holstons as they bested their rivals by an ace. The second frame witnessed as many aces as the first; however, the Holstons took a commanding lead over the Machinists as they managed eight complete orbits around the sacks capped off by Samson’s first 4-sacker of the season, a clean home run unassisted by poor fielding. The high scoring nature of the match was not evidence of poor defense on the part of the scouts in the field but rather a result of scores of well-positioned long balls that exploited the gaps in both club’s defense. After two innings, the score stood 12 to 6 in the favor of the Holston Club.
Few expected the blazing number of aces to continue for more than a couple of innings; however, the Machinists began showing sand and made their sacks tallying four aces each in the next two innings. Moreover, the Holstons’ combination of stingers, bounders, sky balls, and the occasional moon onion kept the Machinists dancing from left to right on the field of battle as the former scored one ace in the third and two more in the fourth. Yet the ballists with red K’s proudly stitched to their chests squandered the opportunity to extend the lead leaving four potential aces stranded on the sacks as some were caught napping while another tipped out to the catcher. The wheels of the Holstons’ wagon appeared to come off as they failed to reach home dish from the 5th to the 7th inning, retired in order by the stout Machinist defense in two of the three innings. Meanwhile, the Machinists methodically chipped away at the Holstons’ lead with an arsenal of bug bruisers and cloud hunters to either field that kept their adversaries in the garden guessing. After seven, the Machinists had climbed out of the hole they dug themselves to take the lead, 16 to 15.
A barnburner ensued as the last two frames opened. The Holstons’ willows were awakened from their momentary slumber in the top of the 8th as Samson, Cannonball, and Lefty rounded the sacks to reach home dish and put their club two aces clear of the Machinists. It is quite possible the Holstons may have scored more; however, Doc’s skimmer failed to clear the infield and became ensnarled in the defensive perimeter laid out by the Colonel between third and shortstop thus catching Papaw out as he made his run from second. Having dug themselves out of a deep hole once before, the Machinists steeled themselves for the task at hand. They responded in kind as they opened up a battery of line balls and bounders that were beautifully missed as they escaped past the Holstons’ infield defenses. Doc Archer, Counselor, Moon Calf, and Rip each scored to turn the Machinists’ two-ace deficit into a two-ace surplus.
As the final frame opened, Butter Bean stepped to the dish and appeared to send a shooter past second sack but Doc Archer raced it down to rob the Bean of his fifth hit of the match. Next up was Doc, who looked for redemption following his debacle in the 8th. He sent yet another bounder toward the Colonel at third; however, this time the Machinist basetender would have to deliver a cannonball toward first to put the Holstons down to their last hand dead. The Colonel took the onion on its second bound and hustled the ball to Rip at first as Doc stirred his stumps, kicking the chalk of the first sack line up with his moccasins. Doc beat the throw and managed to effectively apply his brakes to prevent forward motion from carrying him off the sack. Then Augie delivered a sockdolager to center field that led to the second Holston clean home run of the match. A buzz of excitement reverberated throughout the throng as Doc and Augie plated to even the score at 20. Molasses then sent a sky ball that barely cleared the pitcher and was tracked down by a hard charging Doc Archer from second who put on a juggling exhibition of the onion for the fans before bringing it to rest in his hands. The inning nearly ended when Samson’s two bound bug bruiser to short was fielded handsomely; however, the throw was not quick enough to catch Samson and his bewitching locks out at first. Fortune smiled yet again for the Holstons as Cannonball’s timber struck the onion in a way that it hit a hair in front of the dish and took a wicked spin forward approximately ten feet confounding Kong, the Machinist catcher, who could not track it down before the Holston father-son duo made their sacks. Lefty, the Holston wrong-sider, then stepped into Biscuit’s dew drop and sent a hot ball to left field that rolled for a double, thus permitting Samson to score and Cannonball to take a leisurely stroll into third. As if further proof that providence was shining on the Holstons, Stove Pipe delivered a bounder directly to the Machinist shortstop whose throw to first fell short, taking a hard bounce over Rip’s head enabling the Holston striker to take second sack and Cannonball to reach home dish. The Holstons run came to an abrupt end when Bugle Boy’s cloud hunter was gobbled by Mongo in left. Yet the Holstons’ four aces was enough for a 22 to 20 advantage.
The ninth frame was only halfway closed. The Machinists needed two aces to extend the match, three to win. It did not seem a tall order for they had already scored either four or five aces in half of the innings played. Biscuit led off with a daisy cutter fielded by Molasses at third; however, the throw to first was mishandled and ended up among the spectators, thus granting the Machinist striker an express ticket to second. The Colonel then sent a deadly stinger that nearly amputated Stove Pipe’s right arm at second before his ball piddled into the outfield. Biscuit raced home to get the Machinist within one ace while the Colonel, representing the tying ace, jogged into second. With no hands dead, the Holstons’ scouts prepared to tighten their defenses between the sacks and deep in the garden. Grasshopper sent a cloud hunter that was fielded on the fly by Lefty at short for the first out. Next, King Kong swung at a high pitch that resulted in yet another cloud hunter that sailed just left and beyond the third sack into foul territory; however, Molasses tracked it down on the fly for two hands dead. Finally, Haymaker took several looks at Papaw’s battery of pitches before striking a beautifully delivered dew drop that was sent skyward, hunting the clouds above Rocky Mount and beyond, before reentering the earth’s atmosphere. As Haymaker’s moon onion descended to the earth, Lefty exclaimed, “I’ve got it!” Lefty’s cry was loud enough to be heard by his faithful fans in Knoxville, who were no doubt huddled around the telegraph office on Gay Street awaiting reports from the field. The sound of a pin drop could be heard across the garden as all watched Lefty race from his position at short to gobble the Machinists’ huckleberry at second thus securing the Holstons their first victory of the season.
After a fierce contest waged over nine grueling innings, the adversaries on the field of battle embraced one another as gentlemen and friends playing the game they love. Pickaxe announced the score as 22 to 21 in favor of the Holstons and called for spectators of all ages interested in striking the onion and running the sacks to take a turn at the dish. Several of the ballists delayed the trip back to Knoxville to toss the onion with a number of young enthusiasts of the national game.
The Machinists’ captain has challenged the Holstons to a rematch in Knoxville on Colonel Ramsey’s garden at high noon on June 18. Rooters of the national game should clear their calendar as this match promises to be yet another hard fought contest between gentlemen of honor and civility.