Accidental Tourist Revisits Vintage Base Ball World

Posted In: Sports, Local Sports, National Sports,   From Issue 934   By: Richard Curry

25th August, 2022     0

On the weekend of August 19th, the 7-time World Champion  Saginaw Old Golds went to Greenfield Village to defend their title. Game one saw them sneak by the Drovertown “Black Flags” 13-12. Ryan “Britches” Dost, Kyle “No Nick Name” Kaufman, & Bryce “Bolt” Funchion; all went 3 for 3. Jerry “Mugsy” Endert pitched the win. There were two great defensive plays: One by Jon “Boozehound” Smith in left field with a circus catch turning backwards. The other by catcher Adam “Squints” McCauley who went back on a play, tripped over the bats & still made a one handed catch. There is not a better defensive catcher in the game at any level.

Game 2 was against the Bay City Independents, who we play nearly every year & win every single time in this tournament. This year was no exception, as the Golds ran over them 18-5 (One time leading 18-1). Mike “Whiskers” Endert was 4 for 4. Collecting 3 hits each were: Toby “Scoops” Larkin, Adam McCauley, & Jason “Tree Trunk” Leckrone. Endert pitched the win. Bryce Function had 4 putouts. The Golds outfield of Bryce & Devon Function along with Jon Smith were awesome. Balls hit to this three some go out in the field to die.

Game 3 was against Flat Rock. The Golds had a poor first inning, giving up 5 runs. They ended up losing 16-11. Quinn”Q” Konuszewski, Mike Endert, & Adam McCauley all went 3 for 3. “Mugsy” took the loss. For the season: Mike Endert hit .630 (Also had 25 Put Outs), Adam McCauley .710, & Ryan Dost .590. The Walker Tavern Wheels won their 2Nd World Title beating the “Bear Clan” of Flat Rock 25-11 in the finals.

The “Saginaw Old Golds” started from the fertile mind of Tom Mudd, Saginaw’s own historian. He wanted gentlemen to showcase baseball’s past. The Bay City Independents introduced us to the game at Tom Mudd’s oldest house in Saginaw. A game was played weeks later and Bay City beat a bunch of old men 32 to 2. This is when I took over to revamp the team for next year. After getting run over by Bay City, my 70 year old second baseman said “Mr. Curry I’m not sure I can do this”. I said “Why?” He replied:  “I can’t field, I can’t hit, I can’t run, & I can’t see.” I told him you just checked off all the boxes why you’re not playing here next season.

After that game I retired most everyone over 50 & replaced them with younger talented ball players who have since made our city proud throughout the Vintage Base Ball World of the Mid- West & North East United States. Nick Hammond & Toby Larkin have built a legacy of Young Golds. It now numbers 22 teams in total in baseball & softball. You can’t go any-where in this town without seeing Gold stickers on trucks & cars. They have had phenomenal success in tournaments throughout the state. 30 plus kids have went on to play College baseball.

On the road with the Saginaw Old Golds: In 2017, I took my team to the St. Louis Prison to play a doubleheader against the inmates. My players didn’t like the body search. Game one saw us win by 2 runs & the prisoners made many great plays (Not too easy with no gloves & a hard ball - 1865 Rules). Game two, saw the Golds playing some talented players (Put together by the Warden to win-Just like the Burt Reynolds movie “The Longest Yard”). They hit more than a few long bombs out of the field and over the electric fences. We got pounded in this one. We had a captive audience for this contest.

During the game our ump (Tom Mudd) explained some terms used in Old Time Base Ball. He told them the catcher was called the “Be Hinder”, this one got a lot of laughs. At the games end, I asked if anyone was getting out soon. One raised his hand & said he’d be out in a week. I replied “Are you the one who hit a ball that hasn’t landed yet?” He said “Yes I am.”  I gave him my number & said “Call Me.”  He did two weeks later. In the Interim, my team found out he had beaten up two prison guards (When you see these guards -that’s no easy task). He also hurt more than a few in bar brawls. Along with that he had numerous tattoos about Satan & Death. He did call & asked when we played next. He never did show up. My teammates were not happy with me. The Warden called me a week later and said “The Inmates had the best time ever & thanked me”. It was nice we could give some of these inmates a good time.

Greenfield Village 2016: One team backed out of the “World Tournament”, so they put together a “No Name” team with players their teams didn’t want or need - that would be me. We actually won a game in which I hit two doubles, sending us into Saturday’s second round of games.  In the morning the next day the temperature was 95. In the second inning I’m catching as the other team ran rang up 14 runs. I was behind the batter catching for 45 minutes. With heat killing me, I told the batter “If you don’t swing & tip the ball into hand for an out, I’II have to beat you with your own bat.” He said “You’re Kidding” “Ah No”.  He did & we lost 32-5. The next game I took over the Saginaw Old Golds and managed to level the playing field against the same team & beat them by 30 runs. Sometimes revenge is sweet.  

In the Golds very first season of 2008, in the World Tournament we started out with the Champion from the previous year the “Clod Busters” - not a friendly bunch. In the second inning, Rick Spitz ripped a ball high into the woods in centerfield. Their player ran into the woods. As Rick rounded the bases he looked over to see where he was. But he never came out as Rick crossed the plate. Their team went to find him-they did-he had run into a tree and knocked himself out cold. The Golds went on to eliminate the bad guys. We made it into the finals, but lost a close one to the “Lah- De- Dahs”.  

The Old Golds traveled to Gettysburg. Year one saw us win the “GOLD BALL”. Our record on the field was 10-2 for 3 years against the best on the East Coast. In the Ohio Tournament (on the grounds of the Columbus Historical Museum), the Golds went undefeated for 3 years. Another Tournament saw them win the “Fudge Bucket” 3 years in a row in Petoskey, Michigan. We also played on the grounds of “Grand Hotel” in Mackinaw Island. I had the good fortune to score the winning run on a (in the field home run) shot by Jon Smith. The Grand Rapids team said I was out-My daughter showed them a phone photo of me beating the throw. (Thanks to modern tech knowledge). My team marched in three July 4th parades, we were featured in the Detroit Free Press, & were on T.V. 3 times. The Golds also had Detroit Tiger Dave Rozema narrate our championship win in Greenfield Village.      

2014: We played a few games in Lathrup Park. Our centerfielder Sonny Guerra (Hispanic) ran back into someone’s front yard & made a spectacular catch. He came back & told me the house owner called the police because there was a Mexican in the front yard.

Cooperstown N.Y. The Golds played 4 games on a weekend there (Two in the ball park-where the H.O.F. Game is played & the other two - behind the Fenimore House, alongside Otsego Lake). Partying on Saturday night, our right-fielder was seen stumbling down Main Street. He told the police he couldn’t find his Hotel on the Lake. He was then driven one block & put to bed.

We played inside a Civil War Fort on an Island off the City of Boston. My play of the day was losing my pants running to 3td base. That was part of a 4 game tournament sponsored by the men from Mudville, a great bunch of guys. They have their own bar, loaded with baseball photos of their players. These guys are rock stars in this small town. The Golds won all 4 games, marched in a parade & got to see the new “Casey at Bat” statue. Fun Stuff. While in Boston, the Golds went to a game. Before it started Saginaw’s Curt Young (Red Sox pitching coach) came out of the locker room to meet us.  

The Old Golds played in Bay City for the “Michigan Cup”. We won it in 2008, 2009,2012,2014,2018, & 2020. The Golds also played the Saginaw Firefighters twice. They were pretty good. A special shout-out to Heidi Knenz, our “Tally Girl”. She does it all: Keeps score, plays, & tabulates are stats. One nice lady.

The Old Golds played games twice at the Dow Diamond in front of Cancer Survivors. Only one vintage player ever hit a ball out of the park & that was “Red Stick.” When Ossy was named the “Player of the Game”, he won the game ball. He promptly walked over to the front row & gave it to a Cancer Survivor. He said “You’re the hero of this game.” In the Golds first full season we played before a Loons game at the Dow Diamond against Midland & Bay City,  I managed two singles before running to first & blowing a groin.     

Playing in Grayling against Walker Tavern, who at the time had a lot of short ball players, was our rival for the day. Toby Larkin - our shortstop showed up late & said “We better hurry up & play them before they grow up.”        


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