Tuesday, January 6, 2015

National League - Quarter Finals

To commemorate the country's Bi-Centennial Celebration in 1976, the Tournament Director, Jimmy Carter, had one of the country's most recognizable landmarks transformed to also celebrate APBA's 25 Year Anniversary (1951-1976).  
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to roll dice."

CINCINNATI, OH - The Mets rolled into the Queen City riding high off their impressive tournament victory over the 1979 Cardinals.  Met Ace, Tom Seaver (A-XZ) took the ball against his future team and would face the Reds top gun, Gary Nolan (B-Z). 

Pete Rose discusses poor sportsmanship
with Bud Harrelson between innings
In the top of the 3rd, things got heated.  Bud Harrelson led off the inning with a routine ground ball to Rose at third, who booted the ball for an error.  Harrelson reveled in Rose's misfortune, as he pointed and laughed at Pete from across the diamond.  Seaver bunted Harrelson to 2nd, where the Met Shortstop could now heckle Rose down the baseline.  A whiff of Boisclair and a fly out by Milner ended the Met inning, but not the excitement.  After the third out, Rose charged up the baseline, found Harrelson and expressed his disappointment of Bud's poor sportsmanship.  Both teams were issued a stern warning, that the next player to throw a punch would be immediately removed from the game.

Dave Concepcion doubled to lead off the Reds half of the 3rd.  Gary Nolan moved the shortstop to within 90 feet of the first run with a perfectly executed bunt.  Rose stepped in the box, and Harrelson stayed very quiet.  Pete smashed a Seaver offering deep enough to left field to plate Davey, and the Reds took a 1-0 lead.  With two outs, Ken Griffey kept the party going with a double down the right field line.  2 time MVP Joe Morgan knocked a single to center field scoring Griffey and putting the Reds up, 2-0.

Kingman and Kranepool combined for back to back doubles in the 4th cutting the lead in half.  The Mets struck again in the 5th when Boisclair drew his 2nd walk of the game and Millan and Millner followed with base hits to knot the game, 2-2.

Cesar Geronimo - ready to rumble
The Reds fans were aching for some offensive production.  The crowd cheered, the dice rolled, and Perez led off the 7th with a strikeout looking.  Geronimo followed with a base hit.  Concepcion's 61-23 got the center fielder thrown out trying to steal second base.  After the tag, Harrelson stood on top of 2nd base, and mimicking a paratrooper, jumped off yelling "Geronimooooooo!".  After watching a couple of attempts at the world's shortest sky dive, Cesar connected a left hook to Harrelson's chin which earned him the rest of the day off, as the ump promptly ejected Chief ("Runner out stealing and EJECTED).  Concepcion's next roll, 24-13, did nothing to re-energize Red's fans.

Don Gullet (C) was picked for relief to hopefully cool off the hot hitting lefty, Ed Kranepool, due up 2nd in the inning.  Kingman flew out, but Gullet walked the man he was chosen to enter the game to face.  Jerry Grote also received a free pass and the Mets had a threat in progress.  Roy Staiger popped out to Concepcion on an infield fly, but Gullet walked Bud Harrelson filling the bases. 

Mike Phillips
The pitcher's spot was due up next.  Sparky Anderson came to the top step of the dugout and waited for the Mets to move.  Lefty Mike Phillips was picked to pinch hit for Seaver.  This did a couple of things for the Reds.  1) they would want another lefty if Gullet was to be removed and 2) if they could dodge this bullet, Seaver was now out of the game.  Fearing Gullet's loss of control, and the fact he had already faced 5 batters (6 requires 1 game rest), Sparky chose Will McEnaney to face the lefty.  Sure enough, Phillips rolled a 45-14, but with McEnaney's "Z", it was 2 balls rather than a walk.  Deep breath, re-roll, and Phillips laced a 33-7 over second scoring Kranepool and Grote and moving Harrelson to third.  Riverfront fell in stunned silence as Reds fans glared at the 4-2 deficit on the scoreboard.

Bob Apodaca (B*-Z) entered in the bottom of the 8th to set up the save for Mets closer Skip Lockwood (B*-XYZ).  Rose led off the inning with a 44-7 single.  Griffey followed with a 66-0, 54-6 double that scored Rose from first base and put the tying run in scoring position.  Apodaca cleaned his cleats, grabbed the rosin, and paced around the mound.  Joe Morgan entered the box, and flapped his back arm.  The scoreboard trumpeted the familiar bugle, and the crowd yelled, "CHARGE!!"  Sweat formed over Apodaca's top lip.  The dice rolled and stopped on a 33-5!  Two run blast over the wall in left center field!!!

Eastwick (A*-YZ) held the line in the 9th with two routine fly outs to right field to get things started.  Kong drew a walk, but was stranded when Mets slugger Ed Kranepool's 23-26 ended the game.

Tony Perez with his 2nd of
two home runs on the day
NEW YORK -  Game 2 was not as dramatic.  Joe Morgan doubled home Ken Griffey in the top of the 1st and Tony Perez hit a solo bomb in the 2nd to put the Reds up early.  Solo shots by Morgan and Perez again in the 6th gave Pat Zachry (B-Y) some breathing room.  Apparently, he was taking things a little to easy in the 6th.  Ed Kranepool singled with two outs, and Jerry Grote rolled back to back 64-36 wild pitches to move Kranepool around to third base.  Grote walked, but Zachry did not allow his wildness to result in any damage by the Mets by striking out Roy Staiger.  In the bottom of the 7th, Zachry set a tournament record with Boisclair on 2nd and a Felix Millan 64-36 resulted in his 3rd wild pitch of the night.  Zachry picked up the win going 8 scoreless innings, but did set some dubious individual pitching records.

The Tournament Director also spent some additional time this week recruiting new APBA players.  The Superfriends have a love of the game and often play when the Trouble Alert at the Hall of Justice remains quiet.  Carter contacted Super Man and asked him to try the game out.  Unfortunately, every time the opposing player rolled doubles, Super Man would get mad and burn their cards with his heat vision.  With his super strength, it made it impossible for him to roll the dice and keep them in the same room, much less on the board.  It was suggested that he use a dice tower to prevent this from happening, but after having to inspect Dolly Parton's large shakers, Doug Schuyler refused to inspect The Man of Steel's equipment.  Super Man said he enjoyed the game very much, but with his playing restrictions, he would retire to his Fortress of Solitude and play solitaire.

PITTSBURGH / CHICAGO - There wasn't much to say positive about the Cubs in the series.  They led for 1/2 of an inning in the two games.  Willie Hernandez gave up 3 runs, all earned, in 3.33 innings.  Sutter pitched 1 inning and Pops took him for a ride.  Pittsburgh and Sister Sledge, on the other hand, were rocking.  

GAME 1 - Ed Ott and Bill Madlock delivered 3 for 4 nights and combined to score 4 of the 5 Pirate runs as Pittsburgh takes the opener.  Bert Blyleven gives up only 1 run through 7 before turning it over to the Pirate pen.  Tekulve loads the bases in the 9th and Larry Biittner clears them off with a double to bring Chicago to within a run.  But, Bobby Murcer flies out to end the game and the threat, as the Cubs could not get the final big hit they needed.  

GAME 2 - Blow out.  The Bucks blasted Ray Burris and 4 other Cubs pitchers, scoring at least 1 run in every inning but the 6th.  Pops led the way going 4 for 6 with 2 home runs and a double.  John Candelaria held the Cubbies scoreless through 8 1/3, but Bill Buckner connected on a pitch in the 9th for the only Chicago highlight.

The red hot Pirates move into the Semi-Finals to face the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.  It is a matchup between the only World Champions in the tournament.  It is also a rematch between two teams who faced each 4 times in the NLCS in the 1970s.

PHILADELPHIA / SAN DIEGO - Mike Schmidt led the Phillies in their Game 1 win over the Padres.  Steve Carlton gave up only 1 hit and 1 walk as he dominated San Diego over the first 6 innings.  But in the 7th, Lefty showed that even he is human as the Padres scored 4 times (3 on a Tenace home run) and made the game interesting at 7-4.  That didn't last long as the Phils turned on the offense and pulled away.

After the game, Schmidt released a photo of his family to the press. Mike and wife, Donna, show off their new daughter, Jessica Rae.  I'm going to walk right past that, like I didn't even see it. Schmidt's perm, 'stache and vest are reminders to me that everything in life and baseball was NOT better in the 70s.

San Diego put up a fight at home in Game 2.  An Ozzie Smith double and Gene Tenace sac fly put the Padres up by 2 runs early, and Randy Jones held the Phils scoreless through 4 innings.  The teams swapped runs in the 5th.  But in the 6th, Bob Boone singled home Dick Allen, and the momentum started to turn.  Gary Maddox doubled home Dave Cash in the 7th to tie the game 3-3.  In the 8th, Jay Johnstone doubled home Allen and scored on another Boone base hit and Philadelphia extended a lead 5-3 by scoring in 4 straight innings. Meanwhile, the Phillie bull pen allowed only 2 hits and no runs over the last 4 innings to secure the sweep for the Phils.

With San Diego being swept from the tournament by the Phillies, owner Ray Kroc decided he would shake things up for team with a new look.  "Luck is a dividend of sweat.  The more you sweat, the more luck you have" said Kroc.  He has decided to make his Padres sweat a little more with new uniforms.  "They're not that much different than what we are wearing now" said Dave Winfield.  The big right fielder then headed into the locker room, but could be heard singing as he walked off, "You deserve a break today...We do it all for you...Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun......"

LOS ANGELES / HOUSTON - This is one of those matchups that you love from the late 70s and early 80s.  Houston was best known during the period for two things: Pitching and speed.  Their pitching staffs were always among the best in baseball, and they used speed on the bases and in the cavernous Astrodome outfield to their advantage.  They were not known for big displays of offense.  The Dodgers were best known for four things: Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey.  They were an infield that was a staple in baseball almost as long as Astroturf itself.

Game 1 saw Joe Niekro (B-Z) take the mound against Dodger ace, Don Sutton (B-YZ).  The Astro batters did what they were not known for.  Hitting.  They scored 3 times in the first two innings, and before the Dodger faithful could grab a Dodger Dog and get in their seats, L.A. trailed 3-0.  Niekro dominated the Dodgers.  He pitched a complete game, 4 hit shutout, while his counterpart, Sutton, allowed 4 runs over 7 innings to suffer the loss.

The series moved to the Lone Star State and inside the Dome for Game 2.  Nolan 'Noley' Ryan (did anyone actually call him "Noley"??) faced off against Burt 'Happy' Hooton. A Bill Russell error and a Steve Yeager passed ball in the 2nd inning, opened the flood gates to 4 unearned Astro runs.  But the story of the night was the Astro bats.  Cabell, Morgan and Cedeno all went yard.  I don't remember an Astro team ever hitting 3 home runs in one game for me before.  Ron Cey blasted a Grand Slam as part of a 5 run 8th inning for the Dodgers, but Houston held on with the arm of Joe Sambito for a very non-Houston like 10-7 win.  The Astros advance into the Semi-Finals against the 1976 Phillies.  Coming on the heals of a BBW World Championship by the 1979 Astros last week, Houston fans are having a lot to celebrate lately.

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