The Zebra

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SPORTS TALK by Pat Malone

Posted on | January 16, 2016 | No Comments

Our National Game

The Aces and Big Train Clubs. A Grand Contest. Alexandrians Gather. Immense Crowd Present. Great Game Played in Earnest.

Lovers and admirers of the great game of base ball, witnessed a match of tests between the nines of the Aces of Alexandria and the Big Train of Bethesda, in a large empty field directly adjacent to Mansion House Hospital, in the City of Alexandria, where men of great athletic skill fought through the acrid stench of a tragic civil war that has been set upon our great country.

Sports Talk Photo 1

1863 drawing of Union prisoners playing baseball at Salisbury, NC. By the 1860s baseball was beginning to have popular appeal to the public. An August 7, 1861 Washington National Republican item on war terminology used by the soldiers noted that “a base ball game” could refer to the “firing on pickets from an ambuscade.” (Library of Congress)

In preparation for the contest, the Aces of Alexandria, headquartered and stationed, always on the ready at the Marshall House, located upon the corner of King and South Pitt Street, wore their traditional home white pinstriped uniforms emblazoned with a very profound letter ‘A’, positioned on their left chests, acknowledging the great City of Alexandria, of which they represent. Upon further observation, the Big Train of Bethesda mustered at an early pace to the Mansion House Hospital Field, removing themselves from horse-drawn carriages, as they each were festooned in black and green coiffed uniforms that had ‘Big Train’ artfully set on their chests, with white properly pressed pantaloons. There has been considerable discussion regarding the uncertainty of the longevity of the game of base ball, one that has been widely mentioned in various circles of business, mercantile, and wager, and while numerous occurrences have somewhat held truth to that assertion, citizens of the City of Alexandria displayed great interest and frivolity, gathering of what local authorities said was to be in the tens of thousands to witness the contest on the field of battle between the Aces and Big Train.

Ferry boats, under the guided protection of the United States Navy and local civil patrols, lined up at the docks adjacent to King Street in the City of Alexandria, filled to the brims with excited fans of the Aces of Alexandria, some hailed from as far as Fort Washington, Belle Haven, and Mount Vernon.

There was a report of two pen of bulls that were set on each side of the playing surface, but this reporter witnessed only Aces and Big Train pitchers and catchers throwing balls to each other, on repeated occasion, with no cow or calves anywhere in the area of the game.

A gentleman was viewed by thousands of fans chortling the phrase, ‘Beer, get your cold beer, here!’, yet the only chill in the air was from the icy stares of patrons disappointed in his warm frosty beverages. Vendors of all sorts and fashion had many items for fans of the game to purchase, such as muskets and pistols of various gage and caliber, gunpowder, bullets, copious amounts of local alcoholic beverages from a well-known establishment in the City of Alexandria, and certificates of honor for something called a photograph, commissioned by a gentleman named Mathew Brady, upon where individuals must stand or be seated for a long period of time while insects fly throughout your privacy.

Much uncertainty prevailed those in attendance who sat uncomfortably in a sweltering abundance of tepid humidity that had many roosters, dogs, cats, horses, and, much to the dismay and disgust of paid patrons, one lone vagrant from the County of Alexandria who did not thoroughly appreciate the game of base ball, all whom were screaming to the heavens above for relief from the stifling wretched heat that consumed much attention.

The aforementioned gentleman from the County of Alexandria was properly escorted by authorities to his regular position upon a stool at Gatsby’s Tavern. The Alexandria and Bethesda clubs have arduously played against each other to the delight of their fans at each home field, testing their skills of abundance that many players have learned at colleges and universities from throughout the country.

A few weeks ago, the Alexandria and Bethesda clubs played at Fort Cabin John, with the heralded Big Train winning by a score of 39 to 31. As such, the contest in the City of Alexandria was dutifully observed as a rematch between both nines with the Aces coming out on top by a winning score of 43 to 29. After the contest fans of the Aces accordingly provided the team with provisions such as cooked beef, mashed potatoes and corn, all from harvests in the nearby County of Fairfax.

Both the Alexandria and Bethesda clubs displayed great gestures of camaraderie after the contest, affording fans of both ball clubs hearty jovial conversation and personal signatures on various forms of paper, after the game. Broken bats of wood used by the Aces and Big Train were property given introduction to fiery furnaces in ferry boats to carry baseball fans back home, although this writer did observe a few children who were able to skillfully purloin a token amount of broken bats as souvenirs.

The game of base ball, while new to our great country, is being played with great interest as it is so been deemed as our ‘National Game’. Much will be written in future years whether this sport will catch on and become rabidly popular throughout America, but this writer is betting his last wooden nickel that it will be the greatest sport in our land by 1870.

(This fictional article is with special thanks with the tip of my ball cap to local Washington sports writer, Dan Daly, (@ dandalyonsports), who shared some 1860s ‘base ball’ articles from the Brooklyn Eagle with me, while we chatted at our local Starbucks.)

By the way, the Alexandria Aces begin their ninth season in June, this summer. For more information, please go to their website at www. alexandriaaces.org. I’ll see you at the ball park!

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