Thursday, October 30, 2014

National League Championship

WASHINGTON, D.C. Bill Clinton stopped in to visit with the tournament director to discuss the possibility of extending the tournament’s scope to include teams from 1991 to 1995.  An additional era of this range would undoubtedly be named after Clinton.  During the visit, the 42nd president helped himself to some of Reagan’s prized jelly beans.  With a look of shock and disgust, Reagan asked, “Did you wash your hands first?”

ST. LOUIS The National League Championship came down to the top 2 seeded teams, as the top seed 1985 St. Louis Cardinals (.623) hosted the #2 Seed 1981 Cincinnati Reds (.611) in Game 1.  With Tom Seaver (A) for the Reds and John Tudor (A-YZ) going for the Cardinals, the APBA world expected a close low scoring affair.  

Dave Collins’ struggles in the tournament were well documented.  The switch hitter finished the tournament a woeful 1 for 29, .034/.176/034.  While the Red leadoff hitter couldn’t buy a hit in the tournament, he drew a walk to start Game 1.  John Tudor fanned Griffey and Concepcion, making the first three Reds batters come to the plate without hitting a ball into the field of play.  George Foster would make it 4 batters in a row, as his 11-5 home run left the yard and gave the Reds a 2-0 lead.

Johnny Bench led the Reds in practically every offensive category in the tournament, 11 for 30, .367/.424/.800, with 3 home runs, 9 RBI’s and 4 doubles.  By 1981, the hall of fame catcher did not log many innings behind the plate anymore, as wear, tear and age had taken a toll on his knees.  J.B. led off the 4th inning for the Reds with a base hit to left field.  Ron Oester followed suit 2 batters later and Joe Nolan brought home Bench to put the Reds up 3-0.  

Tom Seaver faced only two batters over the minimum through the first 6 innings.  But in the 7th, Tom Herr continued his hot hitting ways busting a double to lead off.  A Jack Clark pop out and an Andy Van Slyke fly out made it appear Tom might get out of the inning with the shutout preserved.  Terry Pendleton had other plans, as he drilled a double to get the Cards on the board.  Number 41 retired 7 of the next 8 batters he faced to log the complete game, going 9 innings and allowing only 1 run and 6 hits.  Oddly, did not have a strikeout in the entire game.

CINCINNATI - Richard Petty, took time off from his driving duties to throw out the first pitch before the Reds and Cardinals hooked up in Game 2.  The King delivered a hard straight pitch, which is different than the way he delivers the tournament director, according to Reagan.  When asked if the driving change had lessened the travel time between destinations, Reagan responded, “We go a lot faster, but his car only turns left.”

Mario Soto (B-XZ) took the mound for the Reds looking for the win that would send dad’s Reds into the championship to face Yankee Boy and his evil empire.  Things looked good in the first inning as Soto retired the Cards 1-2-3.  In the bottom of the inning, the Reds’ new juggled lineup paid dividends.  New leadoff man, Ken Griffey, singled and stole second base.  Ray Knight, bunted Griffey to 3rd and Dave Concepcion drove a fly ball deep enough into left field to score the speedy Griffey, putting the Reds up first.
In the top of the 2nd, Terry Pendleton doubled home Van Slyke and scored on a double from Ozzie Smith to give the Cards their first lead of the series, 2-1.  The Reds knotted things back up as Joe Nolan and Ron Oester went back to back doubles in the bottom of the inning.

Over the next two innings, the Cardinals plated 7 runs, highlighted by the continued hot hitting of Tommy Herr.  The Cardinal second baseman, doubled and scored in each inning while driving in 3 runs.  Terry Pendleton picked up a 2 RBI double of his own, while St. Louis knocked out Soto and kept on slugging against Paul Moskau.

Johnny Bench’s 2 run homer in the 6th was about the only thing left in the game the fans at Riverfront could get excited about.  The Cards cruised to a 10-5 lead, evening the series and heading back home for Game 3.

Prior to the game, the Reds unveiled the banner declaring them as the team with the best record in baseball for 1981.  The banner didn’t change the fact they did not make a post season appearance that year, and neither did it help them in Game 2 against St. Louis.  However, with a few dozen kitchen chairs, it did make a nice fort for some of the players’ kids to play under after the game.

ST. LOUISJack Clark crushed his 2nd home run of the tournament in the bottom of the 1st inning with Tommy Herr (of course) on base putting St. Louis up 2-0.  Herr singled for the 2nd time in the 3rd inning and moved to 3rd on an Andy Van Slyke base hit.  Pendleton’s sac fly to left field scored Herr, and the Cardinals lead was 3-0.  Frank Pastore (D-YZ) tried to make adjustments to his delivery, but Reds fans’ hopes were getting thin.

Ray Knight got things started for the Reds in the 4th with a ringing base hit.  Bench moved Knight to third with a hit of his own.  With runners on the corners, Danny Cox balked Knight home and Bench to 2nd.  The balk call evidently rattled Cox as he hung the next pitch to George Foster who made him pay with a long blast into the St. Louis night.  The 3-3 score brought the Reds faithful back to their feet.
The Reds Paul Householder, pinch hitting for Pastore in the 5th, doubled into the right centerfield gap.  Ken Griffey singled Householder home as the Reds retake the lead.  Knight doubled home Ken, Sr., and the Reds celebrated with a 2 run cushion.  George Foster made the next to the last out of the inning, and with the 2 run lead, dad made a double switch, leaving Householder in to play left, for better defense, and Joe Price in to pitch and bat in Foster’s spot.  It would be a bad move.

Herr singled for the 3rd time in the game and Jack Clark 66-1 tied the game.  2 batters after the double switch, and the game was all knotted up with the Red’s cleanup hitter watching from the bench.  With two out in the bottom of the 6th, Vince Coleman singled and stole second base.  Willie McGee singled home Coleman, then stole second himself.  Tommy Herr, who couldn’t possibly single again, picked up his 4th hit of the night with a double scoring McGee.  A walk, base hit and sac fly scored another Cardinal run in the 7th.

Trailing by 3, the Reds made a game out of it when Concepcion homered with Joe Nolan on first base to make score 8-7 in favor of the Cards.  In the 9th, with their tournament lives on the line, the Reds tied the game when Ray Knight doubled home Ken Griffey.  But with Knight in scoring position and no outs, the Reds could not move him along.

Bruce Berenyi  (C-YW) was called upon for long relief, but it would be a short call.  Pendleton grounded out.  Mike Jorgenson pinch hit and dribbled a ground ball back to the mound.  Berenyi fielded the ball, but his wide throw drew Bench off the bag putting the winning run on base.  Ozzie Smith singled to right and Jorgensen moved to third.  Ozzie stole second base removing any chance of a double play.  With the winning run only 90 feet away, the Reds brought the infield in close.  Cesar Cedeno was called off the bench on to beat his former team.  Mike Shannon with KMOX-AM, St. Louis, has the call:

”Cedeno digs into the box.  Infield pulled in tight for the Reds.  They’re coming home with it.  Berenyi checks Jorgensen at third.  Ozzie takes his lead at 2nd base.  Berenyi delivers from the stretch.  Here’s a sharp ground ball, it’s off Concepcion’s glove, Jorgensen scores and the Cardinals win!!”

WASHINGTON, D.C. Back at the White House, Reagan was visited by another former president lobbying for his own tournament.  Words became a little heated as Reagan tried to explain to Gerald Ford that naming the presidential invitationals were not within his power.  

Reagan said, “You’ll have to talk to the Pike guy about it.  It’s nothing to me.  I have absolutely no say in the matter.”

“Ron, you got the 1981 to 1985 tournament named after you.  Jimmy Carter will likely get the 1976 to 1980 tournament.  But I want the 1971 to 1975 tournament named after me.  The people who voted for me deserve the Ford Invitational!” protested Ford.  

“Gerald, I think Red Forman on That 70s Show said it best.  NO ONE voted for you.” replied Reagan, as he excused himself and left the room. 

In the hallway, another familiar face grabbed the tournament director by the arm and said, “Hey Ron.  Do you have a minute?  How well do you know this Pike guy?”

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