Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ronald Reagan Championship

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The tournament director had the head of his Secret Service protection detail contact me with instructions to report to Reagan’s hospital room where he was still shaken, but recovering, from his fall immediately after a recent press conference.  Mr. Reagan requested that I bring a complete APBA Baseball game, and the team set for the ’85 St. Louis Cardinals, including the XBs.  I wasn’t sure exactly why I was being called into a top level security clearance situation with dice, boards, cards and little yellow shakers, but when the leader of free world calls, you go.

Reagan asked that Cardinals be allowed to use his recently made card in the championship against Yankee Boy.  As tempting as it was, I declined, stating the integrity of the game would not allow such a substitution.  Reagan understood and instead asked that we play several simulated games with the ’85 St. Louis team so that I would fully understand each player and their unique attributes.  He wanted me to know which player to hit and run with.  With the A.L. winning home field advantage in the Home Run Derby, and the lefty Ron Guidry pitching for New York, Cesar Cedeno was selected as the DH at Yankee Stadium.  How would the addition of a little more power affect the team?

We rolled games and studied cards and stats well into the afternoon.  With Reagan now tired from the hours of playing APBA, he could no longer sit up in the bed.  <<you all saw this coming, right???>>

As I packed to leave, in his weakened condition, he told me this,

“You’ve got to go Pike.  It’s all right.  I’m not afraid.  Some time, Pike, when the Cardinals are up against it, when things are wrong and the Dice are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.  I don’t know where I’ll be then, Pike.  But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”

With the Yankee Boy’s streak of 9 straight series wins against his dad in tournament play, and with Reagan himself pleading from his hospital bed for me to defeat New York, I’ve never felt more pressure to win an APBA game.

NEW YORK The Yankees ran out their ace, Ron Guidry (B-YZ) for Game 1.  In his 4 prior tournament outings, Guidry was 0-4.  Gator was always known for big performances in big games.  Yankee Boy hoped this would be the game when he got back into form.  John Tudor (A-YZ) has been the exact opposite of Guidry for the Cards, coming in with a 1.40 ERA.  The two lefties were ready to hook up in what the fans hoped would be an APBA classic.

Ron Guidry could not wait for the tournament to end
Louisiana Lightning shut down the first 5 Cardinals he faced.  Walks to Van Slyke and Pendleton made the Yankee dugout tense, as they held their breath and hoped Guidry would not fall into his prior ways.  But Nieto grounded back to Ron at the mound to kill the threat.

In the bottom of the inning, Dan Pasqua busted a 66-1 putting New York on the board first.  Ken Griffey followed with a double and scored on a double by Pagliarulo, giving the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

Both pitchers kept dealing.  Guidry gave up only 1 hit (a double to DH, Cesar Cedeno) over the next 3 innings.  Tudor ran into some trouble in the 4th, giving up 3 singles.  But when Butch Wynegar was thrown out trying to steal, Tudor was able to prevent New York from adding to their lead.

Vince Coleman led off the 6th with a single and scored on a Willie McGee double.  The speed of St. Louis allowed them to consistently take extra bases throughout the tournament and was a tremendous advantage over practically every team they faced.  Jack Clark tied the game with a double that scored McGee and when Tudor set down New York 1-2-3 in the 6th, the game headed into the final innings tied 2-2.

In the 7th, Pendleton and Nieto flied out to start the inning.  I called time and walked down from the third base coaching box to speak with Ozzie Smith and showed him a picture of Reagan in the hospital and relayed his moving bedside speech.  The Hall of Fame shortstop looked at me and said, “So?”

The Wizard showing off his Home Run Trot
Back in the batters box, the Wizard dug in against Guidry.  Whether it was the speech, or shear Cardinal determination, or just plain luck (it was mostly luck), Smith rolled the only double 66 of the tournament for a solo home run putting St. Louis ahead 3-2.  Yankee fans booed Guidry.  Yankee Boy threatened small animals owned by the Guidry family.  Bob Shirley was called in from the pen.

In the 9th, trailing by 1, the Yankees called on Brian Fisher (A-XZ) to hold St. Louis.  Things started off fine as Andy Van Slyke walked in between two fly outs.  Darrell Porter was called on to pinch hit for Nieto and drew a walk moving Van Slyke into scoring position.  Ozzie Smith, still on an emotional high from the Win-One-For-The-Gipper speech, drove a base hit that scored Van Slyke.  Righetti then summoned on to face Vince Coleman who smashed a triple into right center field clearing the bases.  McGee walked and the Yankee Boy became the first middle school student to need blood pressure medication.  Tom Lawless replaced an injured Tom Herr in the 8th, and now singled scoring Coleman.  Jack Clark ripped another single, and Cedeno got one of his own, as the Cardinals kept moving 1st to 3rd on the base hits.  Rod Scurry was called as the 3rd Yankee pitcher of the inning, and Andy Van Slyke singled home Clark.  Pendleton bounced out to Mattingly for the final out, but by the time the smoke cleared, St. Louis had rallied for 7 runs.

Tudor suffered a 1 grade reduction due to batters faced limits, but still shut down New York in the 9th 1-2-3 to earn the complete game victory.

ST. LOUIS The teams headed across the Mississippi River to the shadow of the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium as the Yankee hopes rested again on the knuckles of Phil Niekro (C-YW).  The Cardinals sent Joaquin Andujar (B-Z) looking for the championship clinching win.

In the bottom of the 3rd, Vince Coleman walked and stole second base.  Tommy Herr continued getting the big hit when needed as he singled home Coleman.  In the 4th inning, Terry Pendleton scored on a Tom Nieto double giving the Cards a 2-0 lead.  Phil Niekro was replaced by his brother Joe (C), who set down the birds without further damage. 

The Yankees dented the plate in the 7th when Ken Griffey, pinch hitting for Joe Niekro, doubled into the right center gap.  That was as much as the Yankees could collect.  Ken Dayley (B-XZ) handled the 8th and Jeff Lahti (A-YZ) took care of the 9th, as New York could not get a base runner in the final two frames.  The Cardinals extend their record in the tournament to 8-1 and celebrated on the field in front of their home town fans! 

WASHINGTON, D.C.After the tournament championship trophy had been presented, and the tournament MVP trophy had been given to Tommy Herr, I traveled back to the hospital to share the victory with Reagan.  But the good news had beaten me back, as the President and Mrs. Reagan greated me from their hospital window and expressed their opinion of the St. Louis victory.

Afterwards, Reagan, now fully recovered, attended a reception for the ’85 Cardinals.  He raised his glass as a toast to the team for a job well done!  Mr. Reagan was not allowed to climb stairs or speak from a podium after drinking his glass of champagne.

It was a fun filled tournament.  Below is a look back at some of the highlights.

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