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.

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