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.
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?