Going to the Show!
On Saturday, March 8th, the Montgomery College Saw Dogs played the
Round Rock Nine, a club composed of members of the press pool and special
guests of the Round Rock Express.  The Express is the Triple-A farm club of
the National League's Houston Astros and the game was played on their
field, Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas, and for a living history
organization such as the Saw Dogs, getting to play on a Triple-A ball field is
a close to 'going to the show' as almost anyone can imagine.  
Breaking the Color Barrier

Vintage game at Dell Diamond makes writer feel like
Robinson for a day

Sports Editor

Take that Jack Robinson. Thanks to a visit to Dell Diamond last
weekend by the Montgomery College Saw Dogs vintage baseball
club during an open house at the home of the Triple-A Express, I
got to break baseball's color line nearly a century before Jackie
did it with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 - becoming the first
African-American major league baseball player of the modern era
- and nearly a decade before William Edward White or Moses
Walker, depending on who you believe, became the first black
major leaguer.

That's because the Saw Dogs play the game the way it was played
in the 1860s, an era they seek to emulate because it was a "period
in which gentlemanly behavior and sportsmanship defined the
game" according to the team's Web site at
vintageball.woodstock.edu .

Admittedly I have mixed feelings about America's pastime before
the integration of the leagues that began with Robinson. But if
anything, I consider myself a trailblazer and that, combined with
my fondness for the sport, had me jumping at the bit when the
Express offered me and other local media personalities a chance
to team up with some team personnel and take on the Saw Dogs in
a friendly exhibition.

With that in mind, I trudged into the stadium early Saturday
morning in a T-shirt, pants and sneakers - as instructed in an
e-mail by Express Director of Special Events Laura Whatley - to
pick up my equipment and game jersey, which were to be
provided by our opponents.

First, I was given a long-sleeved white dress shirt more apropos
for a dilettante pirate rousting about on the high seas, than a
baseball player. Then a bow tie and a hat that would make any
chef or old-tyme train conductor proud. We were instructed in the
rules of the game, and you'll be happy to know that swearing,
spitting and consumption of alcohol was not part of the game in
the 1860s. Unfortunately, protective equipment including gloves
wasn't, either.

The major differences between the way the game is played now
and the time-warp I stepped into over the weekend were that the
ball had to be "hurled" underhanded and a batted ball could be
caught for an out after one bounce off the ground - a rule that
would come back to sting me later.

And while the Saw Dogs certainly exhibited gentlemanly (and
womanly) behavior - both teams featured players of both genders
- throughout the game they weren't above taking an advantage,
with many of them showing up in full spikes for the contest.

The Round Rock 9 - peopled with such notables as KVET-AM's
(1300) A.J. Hoffman and Express Director of Communications
Avery "Hitman" Holton - made it a game, leading at one point, but
in the end the Saw Dogs' experience won out.

As for my personal scorecard, I never did get to ring the bell
(literally) that signaled a run, but I did get two pretty good chops
at the plate, the second of which earned me the accolade
"well-struck" when I hit a hard-liner to centerfield - which would
have been good enough for a double and possibly a triple - had I
not been foiled by the one-bounce rule.

There were no death threats, though an announcer with his tongue
firmly planted in his cheek did refer to me as Jon "Aggie" Garrett
at one point to the delight of the crowd - and for a proud Texas
grad that's a little like dying. My teammates fully accepted me,
with Hoffman suggesting my first-choice for a nickname,
"Runaway Slave." While perhaps appropriate, considering that
slavery was still a fact of daily life in the 1860s, it was a bit over
the line and I went with Chocolate Thunder. And instead of
dealing with taunts and jeers after the game as I exited the stadium
as Robinson and his contemporaries were often subject to early on
in their career, one sweet little girl - who obviously confused me
for somebody - even had me autograph her Frisbee. Not a bad day
for a guy more accustomed to punching keys on a keyboard than
putting pine to leather at this point in his life.
Video highlights of the game.
Videographer/Photographer:  Deborah Dickason  
Music:  Take Me Out to the Ballgame
( "Bruce Springstone" )