Friday, September 23, 2016

APBA News - Monday, September 3, 1951

In real life, the Giants continued their onslaught against their crosstown rival Dodgers by not just taking both games of a weekend series, they dominated them 8-1 and 11-2.  In my alternate reality, the two teams split the effort with the Dodgers taking Saturday's game 3-2, while the Giants picked up the Sunday contest 4-3.  My games seem much more enjoyable.  Brooklyn maintains it's comfortable 7 game lead rather than seeing it shrink, as it did in real life, to only 5.


But in the first game of this replay, it was interesting that Ralph Branca would toe the rubber for the Dodgers against the Giants and 1951's biggest hero, Bobby Thomson, in a rematch of the final at bat of the season.  Over his career, Thomson faced Branca 66 times (a meaninful number for APBA fans).  In those opportunities, he managed 4 home runs (including his most famous), but hit only .237 against Branca over his entire career.  Thomson managed a 1 for 3 night with a walk for me.



Ted Williams and the Red Sox were rained out in real life of their scheduled games against the Philadelphia Athletics on Saturday and Sunday.  Those games were rescheduled as a double header in Philadelphia on September 7th.  Even with a time machine, I can't change the weather.  It turns out that weathermen in the early 1950s are just as accurate as they are in 2016.



Doc Brown starts at third base for the Bronx Bombers
No - not "that" Doc Brown
The Yankees had their Sunday contest against the Senators washed out in the same torrential rain storm that cancelled play in Boston.  But on Saturday, Eddie Lopat hurled a 4 hit shutout against the Senators, and the Yanks picked up a 5-0 win.  In a "Back To The Future" moment, in the first game of the A.L. replay, Doc Brown was starting at third base for the Yankees.  Great Scott!!  This Doc Brown was not climbing a Clock Tower during the storm.  See spotlight story at the bottom of the page.  

Like the Bronx Bombers, the Tribe swept 2 game in the dry confines of Cleveland, as both teams matched their efforts in real life.


After my first weekend of games, I can tell, this is going to be a fun project for me.  However, due to either scheduling or weather, on my first Monday of the replay, all 5 of the teams I'm following have double headers against non-contending teams.  That means I have 10 games to enjoy on the first weekday of the schedule.


ON THIS DATE (September 1st) IN BASEBALL HISTORY:

September 1, 1918 - Ty Cobb entered in relief of the second game of a double header at Sportsman Park against the Browns.  Cobb pitched 2 innings, allowing 1 earned run on 3 hits.  Interestingly, Cobb moved to the mound from centerfield in relief of the starting pitcher, George Cunningham.  Cunningham was not removed from the game, but rather switched with Cobb and played the remaining 2 innings in centerfield.  The Browns won the game 6-2.

Cobb pitched twice in 1918 and would take the mound again in 1925.  Overall, he finished his career with a total of 5 innings and allowing only 2 earned runs for a career ERA of 3.61.

September 1, 1945 - In Philadelphia, the oldest of the three Dimaggio brothers, Vince, slugged his 4th Grand Slam of the year tying the major league single season record. 

VINCE DiMAGGIO
Vince's younger brother Joe will retire at the end of this season (1951) with two batting titles, two home run titles, and two RBI titles over his career.  Baby brother Dom led the league in runs scored, triples and stolen bases last season.  He will lead in runs scored again this season.  But Vince has more titles than either younger sibling.  He has led the league in striking out SIX times!


(CRYSTAL BALL): In 1955, the grand slam record will be broken by a young shortstop in Chicago named Ernie Banks with 5.  Many years in the future, in 1987, this record will fall when Don Mattingly slugs 6 for the New York Yankees.  Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians will match the mark in 2006 for the Cleveland Indians.  


http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20130831-dr.-bobby-brown-a-former-new-york-yankees-player-and-fort-worth-cardiologist-is-an-ambassador-for-a-bygone-era.ece



One of the things I've enjoyed so far, is learning about some of the lesser known stars of the era.  Many of these guys were not just good ball players, but very interesing people.  Robert "Doc" Brown is one of them.

Dr. Robert "Bobby" Brown
American League President
Born October 25, 1924, Dr. Bobby Brown is still alive and well.  I started to write a quick bio, but to be honest, nothing I could put together would do this man justice.  Instead, below are two links.  One is from the Dallas Morning News and the other is a story from the MLB site.  I encourage you to check out both.  Brown was a World Series champion who worked his way through medical school while playing baseball.  He was a leading cardiologist for over a quarter of a century.  Then in later years, he returned to baseball as American League President from 1984 to 1994.  What an amazing character of the game!












Monday, September 12, 2016

Back to the Future - 1951










I've been thinking about my next project.  After coming up with my priorities, and eliminating long time commitments like a full season replay, it came to me, after bumping my head while standing on the toilet to hang a clock.


On August 11, 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers held a 13 game lead over their crosstown rival, New York Giants.  We all know what followed.  The Dodgers didn't play that bad the rest of the way going 26-22.  But the Giants did something...well..."gigantic".  Over their next 44 games, the tenants of the Polo Grounds won 37 to pull even with the Boys of Summer. Then came the three game series to decide the pennant which was capped off by Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World".



But what if I could jump in a special made "APBA-lorean" and go back to that time and watch the final month unfold again?  Would the Giants catch the Dodgers a second time? 



Could The Duke of Flatbush, who trailed Ralph Kiner for the NL RBI title on September 1st by only 3, possibly hit .191 with only 1 home run and 9 RBI's over the final month again?  Is it possible that Ralph Branca, a very solid B-Y pitcher, could go 1-7 with a 5.93 ERA on my table like he did on the field that fateful September?




And then, there are the Giants.  Could Sal "The Barber" Maglie and Larry Jansen duplicate their 6-1 records over the last 30 days of the 1951 season?  



Everyone knows what Bobby Thomson did on October 3rd, but I didn't realize that in the month preceding the three game series, the Flying Scott had 9 home runs and 24 RBI's while batting .440!  Outside of Game 3, I've honestly heard very little about Thomson.  Teammate Monte Irvin picked up 7 of his 24 home runs in September, and drove in 28 on his way to the only RBI title of his Major League career.



Then, no matter which team won, the Yankees would be waiting.  Or would they?  On September 1, 1951, the Bronx Bombers had only a 1 game lead over the Indians and a 4.5 game lead on Ted Williams and the Red Sox.  If I'm going back to 1951, how could I not follow along with the Yankees and the last month of Joe D's career? 


And speaking of Ted Williams, the Splendid Splinter was at or near the top of the batting average, home runs and RBI leaders in the American League on September 1st.  Could he win a triple crown if I gave him a chance to replay the final month?  Or better yet, could he, Johnny Pesky and Joe D's little brother Dom find a way to overtake the Yanks and Indians and claim a pennant?



There were lots of "what if's" to consider.  Here is what I've decided upon my return to 1951.  I will re-play the actual schedules for the Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, Indians and Red Sox using the real life starting lineups for each game.  



All league leader stats are rolled back to where everyone was on September 1, 1951.  For games in which the 5 teams I'm following are playing, my stats will be used.  In games for league leaders that I am not playing, their actual stats for those games will count.  For example, Gus Zernial and Ted Williams are tied for the AL RBI lead on September 1st with 112 each.  Williams final total will depend on how he does in the replay, since I will be playing all of Boston's games.  Zernial's Athletics play the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians a combination of 10 times in September.  His RBI totals for those games will count along with his real life totals in the other 14 games.



I fired up the APBA-lorean, and opened it up to a newly modified and much safer "66" MPH (88 in a mall parking lot is crazy), and transported back to a time before Sports Illustrated or Playboy magazines.  Back to the first year APBA or Topps would generate cards.  It's before the weekly broadcast of "Game of the Week".  In fact the Dodgers - Giants 1951 NLCS would be the first coast-to-coast televised baseball game.  


About the only things I recognize in this 1951 world as familiar, are the cards coming out of Lancaster, PA and the voice of Vin Scully coming out of WMGM radio in New York.  It's a time when Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor rule the big screens.  James Arness has never heard of Gunsmoke.  Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney top the music charts.



After picking up an APBA News at a corner newstand (those are timeless), I found the league leaders had been posted that morning.




Current standings and remaining schedules of the clubs chasing pennants were also in there.  What a handy publication!







I hope I brought enough Plutonium to get back.  I also wonder if anyone will notice a funky looking stainless steel car cruising around from ballpark to ballpark in 1951?  I'll just tell them it's an import.







Sunday, September 4, 2016

GWB - League Championships


NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Folks in the dessert are searching for their warranty cards, so they can see if the Big Unit is still under warranty.  Johnson was roughed up by the 1999 Mets and the 1999 Reds in the first games of Arizona's prior series.  In both instances, the DBacks had escaped elimination with stout pitching performances from their #2 starter, Omar Daal and their bullpen.  They also needed timely clutch hitting from Matt Williams, Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley.  They would need a better performance from their ace against the 1998 Braves.

Looking at the matchup of Johnson (A17-XYZ) vs. Greg Maddux (A18-XZ) for Game 1 would put a smile on any APBA replayer's face.  The anticipation of two Hall of Famers going toe to toe on your tabletop is almost as good as watching the real thing.  But these two titans had experienced very different roads on their way to this marquee matchup.  Maddux (2-0, 0.53) had thrown the tournament's only no-hitter against the 97 Marlins in his first appearance, and followed it up by allowing only 1 run in 8 innings of work to Barry Bonds and the 2000 Giants.  Johnson (0-2, 12.14) had been the polar opposite of Maddux.  If Arizona thought his 5 1/3 innings early exit against the Mets was disappointing, it was nothing compared to the barrage of double dice rolls by the 99 Reds.  Johnson surrendered 7 runs, all earned, to Cincinnati in 1 1/3 innings.  After two bad losses, the Big Unit’s earned run average was north of 12.  Things had to get better, right?

In Game 1, the two centerfielders provided some early fireworks.  In the top of the 2nd Inning, Steve Finley blasted a two-run homer and Andruw Jones cut the margin in half with a solo shot in the bottom half of the inning.  After Finley ran into the Maddux offering, the Professor pulled the fangs out of the Snakes, holding them to only 2 hits over the next 7 innings.  Meanwhile, Chipper Jones picked up 3 RBIs with a home run in the 4th and a double in the 5th, as the Braves moved ahead to the final 6-2 margin.  Johnson was chased early (again), lasting only 4 2/3 innings, while surrendering the 6 Braves runs, all earned.  His record fell to 0-3, while even the bad outing reduced his gigantic 6’10” sized ERA to 11.57.  Maddux improved to 3-0, but his one mistake pitch to Finley, moved his ERA all the way up to 1.04.

Just as he had done in two prior outings, Omar Daal pulled the Diamondbacks back from the brink of elimination with a win, this time over the Braves second Hall of Fame starter Tom Glavine.  Andres Galarraga homered in the top of the first inning to put the Braves ahead early, 2-0.  But in the 2nd inning, Travis Lee drove a Glavine pitch into the seats to get the home team on the board.  Luis Gonzalez drove home Jay Bell with a single in the 3rd, then went yard in the 6th to put the DBacks up 3-2.  Daal held firm through 7 innings, before turning things over to Greg Swindell and Matt Mantei for scoreless 8th and 9th frames.

In the finale, Jay Bell and the Ice Man, Gerald Williams both found the Turner Field seats in the first inning.  But the Big Cat got hot crushing home runs in the 4th and 6th innings.  Denny Neagle worked the first 3 innings, allowing only 1 run.  John Smoltz hurled the next 4 innings, giving up 1 more.  John Rocker worked two scoreless innings for the save.  Kerry Ligtenberg was warmed and ready, but with a steady diet of Arizona lefty batters in the lineup, Rocker kept on rockin’.  The ’98 Braves won the National League title, and will advance into the Final Bracket as the only Brave representative.  How they fare against the AL champion will determine if the enter that field in the Winners Bracket of the Losers.



AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

The Yankee Boy faced his old rivals in these tournaments, the Baltimore Orioles.  4 times he’s faced a team of O’s and 3 of those times, they’ve sent his team home.  In Game 1, the 98 Bronx Bombers started out fast again roughing Jimmy Key up for 8 runs in the first 2 innings, highlighted by a 2 run homer by Scott Brosius and two 2 run homers by Bernie Williams.  Unlike the game with the Chicago White Sox, where the Yankees got out to an 8-0 lead, only to give up 13 unanswered runs in the loss, the boys in pinstripes kept their foot on the gas and coasted to a 12-5 win.

When the series moved to Baltimore, it set up another classic pitching matchup.  David Cone would toe the rubber for the Yanks, while APBA tournament pitching great Mike Mussina would take the ball and try to keep his team’s hopes alive.  Through the first 5 innings, Mussina allowed 4 hits, while Coney gave up only 2.  In the 6th, Darryl Strawberry connected for a solo home run to put New York ahead 1-0.  At that point, the birds took flight, scoring 6 times in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by a bases clearing double by Brady Anderson.  Joe Girardi and Derek Jeter added solo homers, but NY could make no serious rally, and Baltimore evened the series with an 8-3 win.

Both of the first 2 games had been without a lot of suspense or drama.  Game 3 would make up for it.  Brady Anderson led off the game against David Wells with a double, Robby Alomar drew a walk, and B.J. Surhoff followed with a 3 run homer before most of the fans had settled into their seats at Yankee Stadium.  Geronimo Berroa added a solo shot in the 6th to put the Birds ahead 4-0.  Scott Erickson pitched 6 beautiful innings, allowing only 3 hits to the Yankees before handing the ball to the previously dependable Oriole bull pen in the 7th.  The Yankees finally came to life, batted around and scored 3 runs on 3 straight hits by O’Neill, Brosius and Girardi.  Brady Anderson smashed Mariano Rivera’s first pitch into the gap for a lead off triple and scored on a Robby Alomar sac fly to give Baltimore some breathing room, 5-3.  When O’Neill connected on a Jesse Orosco offering in the 8th to make it 5-4, it was clear New York was not going to just quit. 

Randy Myers couldn’t close the door in the 9th.  Homer Bush singled, stole second and scored when the Captain, Derek Jeter, singled him home to tie the game.  The teams moved into extra innings, and Ramiro Mendoza took over in long relief.  In 2 innings of work in the 10th and 11th, he faced 6 batters and retired them all.  Meanwhile, the brilliant Orioles manager (me) had burned through all of the quality Oriole pitchers trying to win the game in regulation.  When that failed, it left only Scott Kamieniecki as the best long relief option for Baltimore.  He retired the first batters he faced, but when Homer Bush singled in the 11th and Derek Jeter stepped back in the box, things had that old familiar feeling.  Jeter came through with a 33-6 double scoring Bush from first base for the walk off and advancing the Yankees into the finals against 98 Braves.  The Sinatra was cued up, and the word was spread.  The 98 Yanks solidified their spot in the final tournament of champions along with the 1985 and 1986 squads.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

GWB - League Semi-Finals


1998 ATLANTA v. 2000 SAN FRANCISCO

Greg Maddux took the mound for the '98 Braves to face Barry Bonds and the '00 Giants.  Neither the Braves or Giants have had a team qualify for the Tournament of Champions, comprised of the league winners from the 8 tournaments with teams ranging from 1961 to 2000. 

The 1969 Braves made it all the way to the National League Championship of the Lyndon B. Johnson bracket.  Along the way, Hammerin' Hank and his boys knocked out the young '70 Expos as well as two World Champions: '69 Miracle Mets and the '67 St. Louis Cardinals.  In the NLCS, Phil Niekro allowed only 2 runs over 8 innings.  But Gary Nolan bested him, hurling 8 innings himself, and giving up only 1 run to Atlanta before Wayne Granger closed out the 9th.  Both teams opened up the offense in Game 2, and were tied 7-7 after 5 innings.  The score held until the 9th inning when Johnny Bench and Bernie Carbo both doubled home runs.  In the bottom of the inning, the Braves continued fighting, scoring a run themselves and managed to get both the tying and winning runs on base.  Gil Garrido bounced back to Wayne Granger to end the game and the Braves' hopes of advancing into the championship.

San Francisco hasn't fared quite as well.  For the 5th time, the Giants have made the National League Semi-finals, but have failed to advance to an NLCS in their four prior tries.  The 1962 team was bounced by eventual John F. Kennedy champion, '63 Cardinals.  The 1971 G-Men were eliminated by the 1975 Big Red Machine, who were on their way to claiming the Richard Nixon Championship.  The 1989 squad was sent home by a much smaller version of Barry Bonds and the 1990 Pirates in the George H.W. Bush Invitational.  And finally, the 1993 team (this time with Bonds), were shown the door by Biggio, Bagwell and the 1994 Houston Astros.  At least a different franchise has ended their run in these instances.  The '98 Braves would attempt to be the 5th.

Barry Bonds got the Giant fans on their feet in the first inning when he blasted a Maddux offering for a solo home run and give San Francisco a lead before the Braves took their first swing of the bat.  The lone run held up until the bottom of the 6th, when Walt Weiss and Gerald Williams doubled back to back to tie the game.  The Ice Man scored when Chipper Jones followed with an RBI single in a stadium full of Tomahawk Chops.  Maddux struggled in the 8th, giving up base hits to Bonds and Burks, but was able to retire the side and strand both runners.  Kerry Ligtenberg saved the game in the 9th, and Atlanta took the opener 2-1.

The series moved to San Francisco, where the 2nd Braves ace, Tom Glavine, would face Russell Ortiz.  The Braves 1-2 Hall of Fame starting rotation presents as much of a challenge for teams in APBA play as it did two decades ago in real life.  Glavine, like Maddux, surrendered a solo home run to Barry Bonds, but little else.  Gerald Williams again factored prominently in the Braves offense.  In the 5th inning, Williams walked and later scored on a Jeff Kent error to put Atlanta ahead 3-1.  In the 7th, Williams singled Walt Weiss from 1st to 3rd, then stole second base.  Back to back sac flies by Chipper Jones and Andres Galarraga gave the Braves a comfortable 5-1 lead.  Ellis Burks took John Rocker yard with a 2 run shot in the 8th, but the Giants could get no closer, as Ligtenberg again closed out the 9th without allowing a base runner.

*     *     *     *     *

1999 CINCINNATI v. 1999 ARIZONA

The '99 Reds shocked everyone by sweeping over the '98 Astros in the Quarterfinals, and felt pretty good about things when they chased Randy Johnson after only 1 1/3 innings, scoring 7 runs on 7 hits against the Big Unit.  The DBacks didn't lay down, and made a game out of it, but ultimately lost 9-5. 

Moving back to Riverfront Stadium, the sight of many great Reds victories in this project, the locals hoped to draw on some of the good fortune of the past.  It was not to be.  A 2 run home run by Jay Bell and 3 doubles from Matt Williams proved to be too much as the Snakes evened the series with a 7-6 win.

In Game 3, Greg Vaughn hit his 2nd home run of the series, while Mike Cameron and Eddie Taubensee added solo bombs of their own in the 3rd and 4th innings respectively.  Tony Womack collected a 2 RBI single in the 3rd inning, and Greg Colbrunn added a bases loaded walk later in the frame to tie the game 3-3 at that time.  Cincinnati scored another run in the 5th inning when Mike Cameron trotted home on a sac fly by Dmitri Young to give the Reds the lead.  Scott Williamson held Arizona scoreless in the 6th and 7th innings, before handing the ball to Danny Graves for the 2 inning save.  It was not to be.  With Greg Colbrunn on first base in the 8th, Steve Finley's 22-5 gave Arizona its first lead of the game at 6-5.  The Reds, reeling from shock, could not answer the Diamondbacks in the 9th, advancing Arizona to the NL championship in their first (and only) tournament appearance.



*     *     *     *     *

1994 BALTIMORE v. 1996 CLEVELAND

The project has developed some very interesting story lines, as it nears the end of the 8th bracket.  The Orioles have reached the ALCS in 4 of the prior 7 tournaments.  The 1964, 1969, 1971 and 1994 teams all made it to the doorway to enter the final Tournament of Champions.  Only the 1971 team was able to punch their ticket.  Along the way, the #1 seed 1969 Orioles eliminated the 1968 Indians in the Lyndon B. Johnson tournament.  Fortunes reversed, and in the Bill Clinton Invitational, the two franchises faced each other again, but this time with the '95 Indians holding the #1 seed. 

The firepower the mid-90s Indians possessed made them an easy pick.  Unfortunately, it would not be the correct one.  Mike Mussina faced off against Dennis Martinez in one of the most memorable games of the entire project.  For 9 innings, the two aces continued to mow down the other teams batters.  At the end of regulation, neither team had scored, and both starters remained on the hill.  With one away in the 10th inning, Martinez finally gave way to Paul Assenmacher in relief.  But on the other side of the diamond, Moose continued to throw darts and once again held the Indians scoreless.  Things finally broke in the 11th, when Rafael Palmeiro connected on an Assenmacher offering for the game's first and only run.  Big Lee Smith took the ball for a scoreless 11th and collected the save to give the 1994 Orioles a 1-0 lead in the series.  The powerful Indian offense had managed only 4 singles against Mussina in 10 innings of work.  In Game 2, the Indians showed up pounding the O's 13-2.  Orel Hershiser pitched Game 3 for Cleveland, and gave up only 1 run on 5 hits over 7 innings of work. 

If Cleveland had known they would get that kind of pitching performance from its #3 starter, they would have made hotel reservations in advance for the next round.  They would have needed to get refunds.  Jamie Moyer (5 2/3), Mark Eichhorn (2 1/3) and Lee Smith (1) combined for 9 innings of shutout work, again holding the powerful Cleveland team to no extra base hits as the Birds enjoyed their 2nd 1-0 win.  In the 3 games, Cleveland outscored Baltimore 13-4 and was going home.

As the teams prepared for their rematch, I couldn't help but think about this series in the prior tournament and wonder if this second clash would provide as much drama.  Orel Hershiser again pitched well in his appearance, allowing only 1 run over 6 2/3 innings.  But Baltimore plated 4 runs in the 8th and 9th innings against the Indian bullpen, and won the opener 5-2.

In Game 2, Mike Mussina again toed the rubber for the Orioles and would face Charles Nagy.  Inning by inning, Moose again sat down the likes of Thome, Belle and Ramirez.  Kenny Lofton managed 3 hits off of Mussina, but the remaining team could find only 1.  Mussina went the distance, going 9 innings with a beautiful 4 hit shutout.  In 19 innings of work over two appearances against the 95 and 96 Indians, Moose had given up 8 hits, 5 walks, and no runs.

*     *     *     *     *

1998 NEW YORK YANKEES v. 2000 CHICAGO WHITE SOX

The Yankee Boy was coming off a sweep of the Blue Jays with his #1 Seed, 1998 New York team.  He would face the 2000 White Sox, who were a much better team than I realized.  Not being a big follower of American league baseball for most of my life, and still reeling from the 1994-1995 players' strike at the turn of the millennium, I had given the '00 White Sox little to no attention in real life.  When I pulled the 50th APBA Anniversary cards from their envelope, I realized just how strong this group was.  But did they have enough to knock off the Boy's favorite team, and a squad he has now competed with in the Chicagoland World Series on two different occasions?

Jose Valentin got the Chisox on the board with a solo home run in the top of the first inning of Game 1 against Andy Pettitte.  Scott Brosius and Joe Girardi went back to back with RBI doubles in the 2nd inning to put the Bombers on top.  Jose Valentin answered again with his 2nd home run in as many at bats, this time with Ray Durham on base, and Chicago jumped back ahead 3-2.  The Yankees were in for a fight.  When Bernie Williams singled in the 6th, lefty Kelly Wunsch was summoned from the bullpen to face Darryl Strawberry.  Straw drove the pitch deep into the Yankee Stadium seats to give New York a 4-3 lead.  El Duque, Mendoza, Lloyd and Rivera combined for 5 scoreless innings in relief and the Yankees took the opener, 4-3.

In one of strangest games of the entire project, the Yankees crushed the White Sox #2 starter, Jim Parque, for 7 runs, all earned, over 1/3 of an inning.  Cal Eldred was called on in emergency work, as Commiskey Park fell silent.  Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee both homered in the 2nd inning to allow the Sox to reclaim 3 of the runs.  Ordonez singled home another in the 3rd.  In the 4th, the Sox hit for the cycle when Konerko, Perry, and Lee, singled, doubled and tripled (in order) for two runs, before Chris Singleton's sac fly brought home a 3rd.  When Ray Durham hit Chicago's 3rd home run of the game to complete the cycle for the inning, the score was tied 8-8 after 4. 

The hits just kept on coming.  Herbert Perry added a 2 run homer in the 5th, Jose Valentin picked up his 3rd of the series, and by the time the dust settled after the 8th inning, Chicago had scored 13 unanswered runs for a 13-8 win.  After scoring 8 runs in the first, the Yankees managed only 4 singles and 0 runs over the last 8 innings.

Like it often does, the Sox big offensive outburst was followed with a disappointing showing in the next game.  Charles Johnson homered in the 2nd, and Ray Durham singled home another in the 6th, but it would be all Chicago could get.  Tino Martinez had a 2 run bomb in the first inning, and the Yanks added 4 runs in the 5th (highlighted by a 3 run Scott Brosius blast), to take the air out of the southsiders.   David Wells pitched 8 strong innings before handing the ball to Mo' to close the door.  In the end, the Yankees proved the '98 team is stacked.  Shane Spencer was 0 for 2 in limited use.  After a great performance against the Rangers in the Quarter-finals, the biggest disappointment was Frank Thomas.  The Big Hurt was a dismal 0 for 10 in the Yankee series with 2 walks and a HBP.  He only managed to get the ball out of the infield one time.

The Yankees move on to the ALCS and will face the Orioles for the 5th time in tournament play.  In the prior 4 meetings, Baltimore has enjoyed a 3-1 record against the Evil Empire.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Clinton Ends With a Gusher

If there is one thing we can count on, it's that the Presidential Tournament All Star Games will provide some interesting times both on and off the table.  If you remember, while the former stars of baseball were battling each other in their world during these things in the past, we were battling yellow jackets, fat kids and construction crews with power equipment in ours.  It's been quite an experience.

The Yankee Boy managed his American League Clinton Tournament All Stars to a wins in the first two games to give the 1995 Red Sox the home field advantage in the championship series against the 1994 Astros.  They put it to good use, as the Sox swept the 'Stros 9-2 and 6-1 in a less than dramatic series.

But left unfinished was the third and final game of the All Star series.  One thing for sure about this tournament director, Bill Clinton.  He doesn't like to stop something once he's started.  So, we agreed to Clinton should be brought to an end.

We loaded up the truck and headed out to Pulaski Park on Lake Cumberland, found a nice quiet picnic shelter, and set up shop.  It was truly a tranquil and beautiful spot for an early morning APBA baseball game between father and son.

The game wasn't particularly necessary.  We do use the 2 out of 3 format to determine home field in the championship, but that was accomplished in the first 2 games.  Instead, this was for bragging rights and to honor a legend.



We always seem to add a little something each time we do these.  For this event, we elected to add two honorary players to each team.  We would pick two favorite players from each league who retired during the time frame (1991-1995) and add their last card to that team.  After reviewing my options, I chose Gary Carter and Dale Murphy to join the National League, while Yankee Boy added George Brett and Dave Winfield to the AL.  These last year cards appeared to provide only a hint of the former greatness that each possessed earlier in their careers. Our goal was to try to get these players into a game at some point in the series.

In Game 2, with the AL taking a 5-4 lead in the top of the 8th, George Brett blasted a Steve Bedrosian offering and drove it deep into the Rockie Mountain sky and over the outfield fence, to put the AL team up 7-4.  Brett would single later in the 9th for a perfect 2 for 2 night.

Just as Game 3 started moving into the middle innings, the bulldozer and front end loader fired up and began their assault on our peaceful APBA environment.  By now, we are old pros at playing through adverse conditions.  Leaf blowers blowing debris have no effect on us.  We laugh at men in bucket trucks working over our heads with chain saws cutting limbs down on top of our picnic shelters.  Little nosey kids who want to interrupt our games with stories about skinned knees and Hostess snack cakes are met with cold shoulders and icy stares.  We are APBA men.  We play in all types of adverse conditions.

But as the heavy equipment kept working closer and closer to our location, beating, banging and screeching their way along, moving dirt and transforming the landscape, the Yankee Boy looked at me and said, "Is this picnic shelter scheduled to be demolished?"  Being the wise father and needing to bring sage advice to this potentially disasterous situation, I answered, "Probably not.  Let's play on."

With only bragging rights (and general humiliation) left, the Yankee Boy had started both of his legends.  George Brett batted 3rd and played first base, and Dave Winfield batted cleanup and played left field.  With this handicap, I was sure to blow out the American League squad.

In the bottom of the first inning George Brett doubled home Kenny Lofton to score the games' first run.  In the bottom of the 3rd, Brett led off the inning with a base hit to run his Clinton All Star batting total to a perfect 4 for 4.  The hit streak ended there, as Brett failed to get a safety in his final 3 at bats, but his heroics did not.

In a further attempt to humiliate the Nationals, the American League manager vowed to use every single player on his roster in the game.  This was a good strategy except for one thing.  As the game headed to the late innings, the score was close and extra innings would ruin his plans.

Just as suddenly as the equipment had started, it quit.  Looking over the opposing managers' shoulder, I saw the reason.  The dozer had dug a little too deep in the wrong spot, hit a water line, and just like that, we had a squirter!  Water was shooting out everywhere, but our game trudged on in the muck and the mud. (Well, actually, there was no mud or muck anywhere near us or our cards, but you get the idea.) 

Rick Wilkins of the Cubs blasted a solo home run in the 7th to break the tie and give the Nationals a 5-4 lead.  Ken Griffey, Jr. returned the favor with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 8th, and the game headed into the 9th inning knotted 5-5.  

With no plans of saving any pitchers, Jeff Nelson, Dennis Eckersley and Jose Mesa were intended to split the 8th and 9th innings.  * Relievers have a 1 inning pitch limit under out All Star game rules.  Nelson, Eckersley and Mesa each worked their 2/3 of an inning as planned.  However, the AL could not score in the final frame of regulation, sending the game into a 10th inning.  Now the plan looked bad.

THAT MOMENT WHEN
YOU REALIZE YOU'VE
COACHED YOURSELF
INTO A BOX
Reality set in on the young manager.  His evil plan had backfired!  With no one left in the bull pen, Yankee Boy allowed Mesa to get his full inning by retiring Bagwell with a fly to right field for the first out of the 10th.  Faced with no graded pitchers, George Brett was sent to the mound to pitch.  Why not?  The 40 year old had already dominated me in the batter's box; why not the pitchers mound?  He coaxed a pop out from Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette took a called strike 3 to get out of the 10th inning.  Geez, Brett was killing me.  He couldn't retire fast enough.

When the AL failed to score in the bottom of the 10th, Brett climbed the mound again.  Larry Walker ended Brett's fun with a 11-1 home run that broke the tie.  Greg Jefferies followed with a double and moved to third on a base hit by Ryne Sandberg.  

A boat was coming out of the lake, and the boy noticed an odd situation.  The guy in the boat had his hands on the wheel and appeared to be trying to "drive" the boat on the trailer being pulled by a truck.  I told the boy, "I think he's gaining on him."  You see a lot of interesting sights around the lake.

With the water line still spewing water at high volume, with people driving their boats down the road, and with my National League team having a lead and a rally going, Barry Larkin's 61-23 (Game called because of rain) finished the Clinton project suddenly, unexpectedly and prematurely.  But that was ok.  With a 1 run lead, I had won.  I'll take what wins I can get.

In all the tournament games we've played, there has not been a single rain out.  Of course, there were no water lines broken in the process of any game before either.  It certainly was not the way we anticipated it wrapping up, but Bill was relieved with knowing he finally had a happy ending without needing to go to the cleaners.



Monday, November 16, 2015

Chicago Retro World Series


It was another amazing weekend for Matthew and me in Chicago.  There was so much that happened, and so many wonderful memories made, it's hard for me to believe it all took place in less than 48 hours from the time we left until the time we got back.

In the first game of the day, my Reds were "lucky" enough to face Steve Carlton and the '77 Phillies.  Lefty struggled with his control (A-X), walking at least 1 batter in the 7 innings he pitched.  But in the 2nd, he walked Bench, May and Concepcion to load the bases.  With one out, I said, "If he's going to give me the bases full, I've got to score in this situation."  Jim Stewart (nicknamed Jimmy all day because It's a Wonderful Life), strolled into the box.  I had elected to take his 30 extra points of batting average and 60 points of on base percentage upgrade over Tommy Helms, in trade for the loss of 2 fielding points.  It turned out to be a pretty good idea on the day.  Stewart rolled a 66-0, 33-1 Grand Slam to put the Reds up 4-0.

Lee May busted what would be his only homer of the day in the top of the 6th for a 5-0 lead.  Sparky and I were feeling pretty good about things.  In the bottom half of the inning, the McBats (McBride and McCarver) got together for a single and double to get the Phils on the board.  With Schmidt coming up, Captain Hook nudged me to bring in Wayne Granger (B-Z).  I did and Sparky was right.  Grangers' grade bump to an A turned Schmidt's 9 into an out.  McCarver would later score on a Dave Johnson double, but the out prevented the Phillies from turning the inning into a game changer, and the Reds led 5-2.

Big Klu gives Jimmy Stewart some tips before the Chicago Retro World Series - they worked
In the 8th, the Phillie bats came alive.  Dave Johnson's second double of the game plated pinch runner Terry Harmon.  When Jay Johnstone followed with a 66-1, it was a tie game 5-5 after 8.  In the top of the 9th, the Reds had 8-9-1 due up. Concepcion whiffed to lead off against Tug McGraw (A-X).  Jimmy Stewart stepped back into the box.  I kept thinking, "Walk Jimmy, walk!  Just a little 14 and get back to the top of the order."  Jimmy had a better plan.  His second 66-0, 33-1 of the game sent the Reds into orbit on the field and both managers at the table into shock!  His second homer of the game gave the Reds the lead, and when Clay Carroll closed out the 9th, the Reds had taken their first game of the tournament. 

I lost the 2nd game to the Phils 5-0, and split with the eventual NL Champion Bradd Romant's '77 Dodgers in my first two series.  Heading down the stretch, I had series with the '73 Braves and '77 Cubs, and I thought my chances were decent.  My guys just had to hit.  In Game 1 against the Braves, they didn't.  Bob Spatz's '73 Braves gave the Reds the two hardest games I played all weekend. Carl Morton and Jim Merritt both went 9 innings of scoreless baseball in Game 1, before handing things over to the bullpens.  In the top of the 15th inning (yes, I said 15!), Johnny Bench led off with a double.  Bob elected to walk Lee May and face light hitting Dave Concepcion.  The rookie shortstop, with little pop in his card (0-7-7), smacked a double into the gap scoring both big sluggers in front of him.  The Reds held on in their half to win the marathon.

Aaron, at Crosley Field, awaits one of the few pitches
Cincinnati would throw to him over the weekend.
Both teams reserved their hot dice for Game 2.  Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker each homered, while Paul Cassanova (1-6-7) reached the seats TWICE for the Braves.  Bernie Carbo and Johnny Bench busted one each for the Reds, and going into the bottom of the 9th the Reds trailed 6-5.  Carbo led things off with a double and was brought home by a base hit from Tony Perez.  When Bench and May both whiffed back to back, I could feel any chances I had of making the playoffs start to vanish.  Again stepped up little Davey Concepcion.  The Big Red Machine's entire fate lay in the hands of a someday great player.  But in 1970, he wasn't so much.  Dave showed his worth by smashing a single to keep the Reds hopes alive and moved Perez into scoring position.  Now, things would get interesting.  2 out, the winning run on 2nd base and Jimmy Stewart stepping into the box.  Is this even possible outside of an old Black and White Christmas movie???  I took a deep breath, relaxed, shook the dice in the cup and rolled to see Stewart get a 66-0, 25-2 triple to sweep the Braves and lead the Reds to win a game they had to have in order to reach the playoffs.

In the two games, Aaron was 2 for 8 with 3 walks, ALL intentional.  He had no RBIs.  I refused to let him beat me.  The 4-5-6-7 hitters of Evans, Johnson, Lum and Perez (2 for 37 combined) made the decision work out.

I swept the 77 Cubs in two blow out games (8-0 and 14-6).  I hated running up the score, but was trying to catch those pesky Dodgers who refused to lose to the Phillies.  If we finished with 8-2 records, the tie breaker would be run differential.  It wouldn't matter as his 19+ beat my 14+.

My Reds did go on to face my friend Jim Welch in the NLDS.  The Reds stayed hot and won 6-0 on a 2 hitter by Jim Merritt.  But in the NLCS the Reds' bats went cold, while Monday and Yeager went yard as Bradd Romant's '77 Dodgers beat me again.  I lost 3 games on the day, and 2 were to the Dodgers!! 

 Words really can't describe the fun of playing a game I played as a kid, against guys, many of whom, have played longer than myself.  The Yankee Boy had a chance to pilot his 81 Yankees into the playoffs in his last series.  But instead of winning the two games he needed, he dropped both in a sweep by the 79 Orioles.  I knew we were facing 8 hours of seat time to get home, and it was already getting late into the evening.  But after I lost, and the day of rolling dice was over, Matthew still wanted to stay and watch Brad and Gary battle it out in the final game.  As a dad, and fellow APBA lover, how could I say no?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

LBJ, Bicycles and Bombs

There are times when a good story needs to be told the right way.  Many of you will remember, in our prior tournament, we conducted our first ever Fan-Vote to elect All Star teams made up of the players participating in the Lyndon B. Johnson Invitational.  Members of the APBA Facebook Group voted the starting lineups for Game 1, including the starting pitchers and one relief pitcher for each league.  My son and I picked 8 more position players and 8 pitchers, with each team having at least one representative.  The position players not starting in Game 1 would start in Game 2.  In Game 3, any player could be selected to start by the manager.

In Game 1, we tried to find an interesting place to play the game.  My son traveled with me on a working road trip, and we stopped at Fort Boonesboro State Park to roll the first game.  In a very tranquil setting and with no other people around to bother us, one of the picnic shelters worked great.  Well, except for a wasp who decided to plant a stinger into the American League manager's back during the game.  On the field, Johnny Bench led the Senior Circuit going 4 for 4 with 2 doubles, 2 home runs and 6 RBI as the Nationals stomped the American's 11-3.

In Game 2, Frank Howard had a 3 for 3 night, with a home run, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI.  The AL evened the series with a 5-2 win in a game that we played at home.

I think it rained in Kentucky the entire months of June and July.  Those rainy days delayed and postponed the American League manager's real life baseball participation in the State Babe Ruth Tournament in Lexington.  Every day was monopolized with it.  Finally, we had a day that I could arrange my schedule so that he and I could have some quality time to finish the LBJ All Star Series.  But where? 

Peace, quiet, solitude and a table are all we needed.  Mill Springs is the location of a series of Civil War battlefields with a very nice museum.  There are actually several different locations set up as a driving tour where you can visit and read about the different battles fought in this area.  There is also a national military cemetery there.  What says "peace, quiet and solitude" more than a cemetery??  And there are some covered gazebos that I thought might work for us to play our game.  This would have been fine, except on this morning that we chose to visit, the maintenance crew was working in full force to mow the grass to maintain its perfect manicured appearance.  Lawn mowers and weed eaters were not what we had in mind.

The Yankee Boy's mom and I used to go out to a little park in this area when we first got married.  We would pack a picnic lunch and travel to Cumberland Point where we could enjoy a peaceful summer day, before we had children.  The Boy and I decided to try that.  Upon arriving, I could tell it was almost identical to the last time I had visited, probably 15-20 years earlier.  There are camp sites, a couple of play grounds, a nice boat launching ramp, fish cleaning station, breath taking views of Lake Cumberland and a large, covered, unoccupied picnic shelter.  Perfect!!

We set up the game, and honestly, it could not have been more ideal.  The only sounds anywhere were the birds singing, the leaves rustling gently in a light breeze, Lake Cumberland's water gently crashing into the shoreline, and the dice being rolled on our table.  This was APBA heaven. 

During the game at Fort Boonesboro, Yankee Boy had mentioned the wasp nest above our heads.  I told him, "Don't worry about them, and they won't bother us."  When one of the vicious little winged devils started buzzing around him, I said, "Don't bother him, and he'll go away."  When the wasp stung him in the back, I said, "Hmmm, maybe not."  In the first inning of Game 3, a small but formidable yellow jacket came to inspect our table.  This time, knowing Yankee Boy would not trust my advice, with hat in hand and quick reflexes, I swatted the little stinging pest to the ground, found my prey squirming on the concrete floor and mashed him into eternity.  Don't mess with APBA players during a game.  We had learned how to identify things that might interfere with our game play and we knew how to eradicate them.

The game itself was a good one too.  Tom Seaver matched up against Sam McDowell.  If nicknames are any indication, there is little doubt who did better with the ladies: Tom Terrific or Sudden Sam.  Frank Howard connected on his second long ball of the series in the 2nd inning, and Bill Freehan added a 2 run shot to put the AL up, 3-0.  Hank Aaron and Glenn Beckert doubled home runs in the bottom of the inning, and Dick Allen's pinch hit single brought home another to tie the game 3-3 after two complete.

After the invasion by the yellow jacket, the piece and quiet of our scene was short lived.  From the corner of my eye I saw movement across the parking lot, coming from the direction of the campground.  A bicycle.  A small bicycle.  A small, pink bicycle.  This was not good.  This could be a serious problem to our peaceful game play.  A bicycle indicated another person, the size of the bicycle indicated a small young person, and the color of the bicycle indicated a small, young, female person.  None of that sounds peaceful or quiet.  Those normally like to talk.  As it approached the picnic shelter to investigate us, I considered using my hat again.  My better judgment told me, "No."

We continued to roll.  Boog Powell singled home Rod Carew in the 3rd, Freehan continued to rake singling home Frank Robinson in the 4th.  Neither manager mentioned the small person who had navigated and abandoned the pink two wheeled apparatus into the landscape of the picnic shelter.  We made no eye contact and no attempt to communicate with it.  We made no comment or reference of it to each other.  We made only silent and expressionless eye contact with each other that spoke more than any words we could say about the matter. 

But this lack of acknowledgment by two people at a picnic table, combined with the rolling of dice, calling of numbers, looking at pages in a book, and writing on paper intrigued this small person to the point that she walked slowly around the parameter to listen and inspect further.  She was scouting.  I considered the hat one more time.  Nope, not gonna do it.

Then, without warning or provocation, the small, previously quiet rider of pink bicycles took off in a full sprint across the parking lot as fast as her little pink tennis shoed feet could carry her toward the campground.  At full volume she screamed, "Justin!!!  Justin!!!  There are people over here!!!"  I should have used the hat.

In the top of the fifth, Powell smashed a solo homer and Freehan connected on his second two run blast of the night (5 RBIs), and the Boy's AL squad was pulling away, 8-3.  Johnny Bench picked up his third homer of the series to cut the margin to 4.

I knew he was coming.  With my concentration firmly on the game, and with the 5th inning passing which allowed for starting position players to come out, my attention was mostly on what managerial moves I needed to make next.  But in my peripheral vision, I saw him coming.  The bike was a little bigger than the pink model the first intruder had abandoned in the wood chips and azalea bushes.  The rider was much larger than his younger blonde predecessor.  Maybe he wasn't a lot taller, but was certainly much bigger around. Yankee Boy and I again said nothing of the impending invasion of our sanctuary.  Just knowing eye contact, dice rolls and results.

"What are you guys doing?", came the first question from the possible new poster-boy for Hostess snack cakes.  I considered my options carefully.  If I engaged in conversation, this would only encourage Kid Twinkie to ask more questions and further interrupt our father - son APBA time.  But to ignore him would be rude. 

"Playing a strategy game" came the answer, without eye contact, along with another dice roll and called play result.   "He'll get the hint," I thought to myself. 

"Have you ever been in a bike wreck?"  Dang it.  I should have used the hat.

Where to go from here could be tricky.  Our game was already running longer than most because of scoring by hand, a lot of offense and the large number of substitutions commonly made during an All Star contest.  The time we had to play and finish this project was running low.  I had no time for conversations of bike wrecks or to be asked if I had any Ho Ho's in the cooler.  Which I did not.

"I had a bad one when I was youn-"

"I crashed REALLY bad!  It got me all over!" he interjected.

For the first time, I looked directly at our newest pest.  His arms and knees were scraped, bruised and scabbed.  Even his jaw was discolored and darkened from the crash.  He was also too far for me to reach with the hat without getting up from my seat.  I reasoned that the best way to deal with this more aggressive intrusion, was to give him some attention and see where it went. 

"It looks bad," I said, hoping to let him get out the story he obviously wanted to tell.  I don't remember the details.  He was on the bike; he fell off the bike; he was on the blacktop.  Not a good combination, but one which most of us can relate. 

As he continued his rendition of a bike wreck that he probably thought worthy of a Steven Spielberg production, I returned my attention to the game.  At the time, we were somewhere in the middle of a stretch of 5 innings where Juan Marichal, Larry Dierker, Phil Regan, Don Gullett, and Bill Hands would face the minimum of 15 American League batters.  The wind was starting to pick up some.  Something rumbled and it wasn't Chief Big Wheels' stomach.  Even if a rambling kid couldn't stop our game, wind and rain just might.  I'm not one to take any chances on getting our APBA items wet.

As I monitored the sky, concentrated on the game, and generally ignored Justin's play by play of the world's greatest transportation disaster since the Titanic, I became aware of more movement entering the area.  These were not bicycles.  Trucks.  Two white ones.  One was a traditional 3/4 ton model Ford with an extended cab (4 doors).  The other was a bucket truck, similar to a model used by service men for a utility company.  Why a bucket truck?  There are no telephone lines in the park.  There aren't any electric lines in the area near us either.  Even the camp sites with electric service have under ground utilities.  This latest development concerned me far more than bike riding elementary school kids or even the impending rain.

Almost as soon as the wheels on the trucks stopped moving near the shelter, doors opened and eight men in work uniforms piled out of the vehicles on a mission.  Orders were yelled, equipment grabbed from the bed of the truck, pull cords yanked and the smell of 2-cycle oil filled the air.  Chain saws, weed eaters, hedge trimmers and an infernal deafening leaf blower all opened up their melodious tones in real life surround sound as the workers cut, blew and removed every low limb, weed and leaf within a 100' radius of our APBA table.  I momentarily considered the hat again, but there were too many of them, and these were pretty big guys.

Again, no words were spoken between APBA managers.  Eye contact only.  We both knew.  We were playing on! 

The equipment roared, and blared, and screamed at full throttle all around us.  "42!!  13!!  15!!  11!!  BASE HIT!!" we yelled to each other across the 3 foot distance of treated lumber that separated us.  Willie Mays homered in the 8th with Tony Perez on base.  Hoyt Wilhelm committed an error which led to pinch runner, Dave Concepcion, scoring.  8-7 after 8 innings.  The National League was coming back strong. 

With the "eight" horsemen of the apocalypse attacking, cutting and killing every growing thing in sight, and with us yelling out dice rolls and play results at full volume to each other, it became more than portly Justin could take.  He hurriedly made his way to his bike, mounted it and peddled as fast as his chubby little legs would take him back toward his family's camp site.  I could hardly blame him.  Just like the cliff hanger in the old Batman TV series, I could almost hear the voice in my head, "The worst is yet to come!"

Behind me I heard the distinct sound of the diesel engine of the bucket truck groan as the driver applied more fuel.  Then the familiar "BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP" as the large truck engaged reverse and began backing up.  It stopped at the entrance of the picnic shelter, only feet from where we sat.  One of the workers with a chain saw mounted the vehicle from the back and climbed into the bucket.  Up he ascended out of our line of sight.  This couldn't be good.

With significant desperation managerial changes having been made by me for pinch hitters and pinch runners, my bench and defense were becoming depleted.  In the 9th inning, I moved Johnny Bench to first base as Tim McCarver entered to catch.  With Joe Morgan already burned, and Concepcion (F) running for Beckert in the 8th inning, Davey was called upon to stay in the game and play Second Base. 

As the unseen man in the bucket blared his chain saw from somewhere above us, limbs suddenly started crashing against the metal roof of the picnic shelter.  Debris hit and slid down, falling onto the surrounding grass, landscape, pink bicycle and black top.  Other workers were there to scoop or blow these new found wooden fragments from the area.  2-cycle smoke and saw dust filled the air.  Men, near and far, yelled to each other.  The ceiling above us was bombarded by falling tree limbs.  Equipment roared.  My partner and I strained our voices to communicate over the pandemonium.  It reminded me very much of a battle scene from an old war movie.  We would not surrender, we were playing on!

McCarver walked and scored on a double by Tony Perez in the bottom of the 9th as Eddie Watt struggled on the mound.  The noise was likely distracting him.  With first base open, one out, the winning run now in scoring position, and Willie Mays up, the Yankee Boy signaled in the direction of first base indicating an intentional walk.  Good move.  And with his voice already strained, it was a nice reserve of his vocal resources too.  Concepcion wiffed.  With Willie Stargel due up, Yankee Boy brought in lefty Gary Peters.  With the platoon numbers, Stargel is killed by lefty pitching.  To the bench, and Lee May was called upon to hit to counter.  Chess requires no more strategy than our APBA games.  In a daring move, Yankee Boy again signaled for the free pass.  Two intentional walks in three batters!!  When Maury Wills hit into a 6-4 Fielders Choice to end the inning, the Boy breathed a sigh of relief.

We were going extras.  With the noise, distractions, potential rain and tree limb bombs going off all around us, more sensible players would have packed it up and finished another time.  For us, by now, this was a quest.  Similar to Clark W. Griswold leading his family to Wally World in California, we were on a trip that we would not abandon even if we had to tie a dead relative to the roof of the car or smack some kid with my hat.  Oh no.  We would finish.

Kaline walked to start the 10th, but was quickly picked off.  Boog Powell and Brooks Robinson made routine outs.  Bill Freehan's home run in the 5th inning was the last A.L. hit.  The noise and carnage around us continued.  A boat was now backing down the launching ramp and directions were being yelled from a helpful wife to her husband who was trying, and failing, to back the rig into the lake to her satisfaction.  You could only hear her during lulls in some of the equipment noise, which wasn't much.  Her off key, finger nails on a chalk board, screeching did little to help matters for us.

In the bottom of the 10th, Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench singled to put the winning run in scoring position.  Tim McCarver strolled into the batters box.  When McCarver delivered the third straight single of the inning, Hammerin' Hank streaked home with the winning run.  Almost as if on cue, something happened in the campground and an alarm went off with a sound so loud that it eclipsed even the Stihl equipment ensemble that we had enjoyed for the past 30 minutes or so.  The constant WOO-WOO-WOO-WOO of the alarm was a fitting end to a great game and a very strange day.

For the first time in what seemed like hours, I uttered completely unnecessary words.  "Let's go home."  The ride home was sort of quiet, as my passenger and APBA buddy took advantage of the first peaceful moments we had enjoyed in a long time.  I wonder if she ever came back for the bicycle?