by Douglas “Moonlight” Otlewski/Special to Community Lifestyles,
Coldwater, Michigan…The skies were high, the clouds were nigh, and the day was ripe for base ball. Such was the scene upon arrival in Coldwater, Michigan, a tiny hamlet playing host to the Rochester Grangers and the season’s pre-eminent vintage base ball tournament, the Coldwater Cannonfire Cup. The Decoration Day convocation was an invitation only affair, bringing together four of Michigan’s finest nines to compete for the coveted bronzed drinkware. Also on hand for the festivities were several Union and Confederate encampments, along with a base ball enthusiast of some repute, President Abraham Lincoln.
The Grangers’ first opponent, the formidable Saginaw Old Golds, were well turned-out in their bright yellow tunics as the ground rules were explained to the Captains. Conspicuous by his absence was Rochester mastermind Patrick “Barn Raiser” McKay, last seen tending a sick goat at Van Hoosen Farm, who nevertheless was able to issue instructions via wireless dispatch throughout the day to his waiting minions. Following orders to perfection the Grangers jumped out to a lead they would never relinquish, disposing of the Saginaw juggernaut by a six aces to two margin.
Next on the agenda were the Kent Base Ball Club from Grand Rapids, who had deftly dispatched the Walker Tavern Wheels in a morning slugfest. A matinee affair between the Grangers and Kent would thus decide the tournament championship, along with custody of the sculpted chalice. A long home run by Steve “Steam Engine” Sebert in the nightcap immediately staked the Grangers to a one run lead. The margin proved short-lived however, as the Kent farmboys retaliated with a series of smashes to uncharted corners of the esplanade, raining aces on the Rochesters with little sign of abatement. The stunning fusillade rendered the likelihood of a suitable retort problematic as the Grangers quickly found themselves on the distaff side of an eight to one deficit.
It was at this juncture the Grangers fomented a peripeteia likely to be widely recounted in local base ball lore. Flashing their trademark ginger, the Rochesters commenced hammering the mottled spheroid with purpose and ferocity, lifting spirits which had momentarily flickered. A series of blows struck by the firm of Prasatek, Prasatek and Prasatek helped pull the Grangers to within an ace with two innings left to play. A final six-run salvo featuring wallops by Keith “Boomer” Walters and Henri “Frenchy” LaFrance proved too much for the Kents to overcome, providing the final margin in the Rochesters’ hard-earned fifteen to eleven victory.
Presenting the trophy, Umpire Tom “Golden Rule” Mudd was gracious in his congratulatory remarks, calling attention to the Grangers’ fine play and gentlemanly comportment. Agreeing to return a year hence to defend the Cup the suspendered stalwarts began the trek homeward, having made new friends and memories to last a lifetime.
Douglas ‘Moonlight” Otlewski contributed this Granger up date in the writing style used in the late 1800s. For further information on the entire schedule please call the Museum at (248) 656-4663 or circumnavigate the new fangled web at www.rochestergrangers.org.