|Catching ‘Crab Fever’ in Eureka
The Sportsman’s Report
I drove to Eureka on Thursday to fish for salmon and halibut on the Chilkat with good friend Jed Douglas and two other fishers. Only one halibut was boated; it was 36 pounds. The biggest salmon went only 28 pounds.
I stayed the weekend to watch baseball at the Arcata ball park. The playoffs were this weekend for the Far West Collegiate Summer League. Top Speed from Sonoma County was the top-ranked team going into Friday afternoon’s game against the California Warriors and bested them 8-6. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, they took the Menlo Park Legends 3-2.
The Humboldt Crabs went in a game behind Top Speed and lost Friday night to the lowest scoring team in the playoffs. It was ugly. This put the Crabs in the position of having to win the next four games or face elimination.
Saturday evening, after the Top Speed victory, was a do-or-die game for the Crabs. The Cal Warriors were two runs behind in the sixth when their pitcher threw three consecutive balls at the head of the Crabs’ best hitter.
The first ‘bean ball’ drew a warning from the ump. The second shot to the head ended with the ump between the batter and the mound. After calm was restored at the plate, the ump went out to the mound to talk to the pitcher. The next pitch was again at the batter's head. He ducked but not quickly enough and the ball caught him squarely on the shoulder. He threw his bat in the infield and charged the mound. Both dugouts emptied and a melee took over the entire infield. Fortunately, none of the fans were able to join in, although the more excitable among them ran to the fence around the backstop and shook the netting in their rage.
It was exciting in the extreme to watch the behavior on all sides.
The public address announcer pleaded for restraint on the part of the one-thousand-plus fans, and the Crab Grass band got going on a peppy musical piece…music to fight by?
It took the umps and the ballpark staff half an hour to restore a tense calm.
The batter was ejected for throwing the bat, a lethal weapon. The pitcher was ordered to leave the field and the ballpark, while another player on the defense was ejected for his behavior. The whole thing fired up the Warriors but the Crabs maintained their lead and won by a final score of 6-4.
Sunday morning, the victim of Saturday night’s game, had to sit out the game against the Menlo Park Legends but was given special dispensation by the league commissioner to play the second and third games, should there be additional games. The Crabs won the contest 5-2. This brought the Crabs to the second Sunday game against the most excellent Top Speed club of Sonoma County. The Crabs ignited to win the game 16-8 against Top Speed.
Top Speed took command of the third and final game in the early innings. The home crowd was quiet as their Crabs seemed to be exhausted after expending so much energy in the playoffs. Fans in the stands suffered from “bench butt” after 10 hours on the bleachers and seemed resigned to the loss. Nature itself seemed to work against the Humboldt team as the marine fog rolled in, and the temperature dropped to a bone chilling 48 degrees.
Second baseman Colin Henderson knocked a base hit line drive in the sixth with one out already on the scoreboard. This tiny crack in the momentum was widened to wake up the Crabs and their devoted fans. Hit after hit ensued and the Crabs pulled ahead of Top Speed 6-5.
The determined Sonoma County club chalked up a run in the seventh to tie the game. The Humboldt team rallied again with two runs in the eighth. Top Speed was shut down leaving runners on base in the bottom of the eighth and ninth.
Both ball clubs’ players traveled to their home towns to prepare for the fall semester. How I wish we might have this kind of fun here in our area.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.