Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Steve Avery & the Could-Have-Been's

Loved this card from the get-go in 1989.
Thanks to a wonderful APBA Facebook Group discussion, sparked by Bernie Benjamin, we all talked about promising careers that took a turn for the worse, or where declines started for certain players. Plenty of names came up of course, some of the obvious, and some we have forgotten about. One of the players for me, in my memory, was Steve Avery of the Atlanta Braves, in the early 90's.

Steve Avery was 47-22 until suffering an injury to his muscle core area around his armpit; He would only go 44-50 after that. This next stat line floored me, he pitched a workload of 135 MLB games before he turned 24! Many point to this, as maybe the reason of his sudden downfall -- that he was overworked. I know in 1993, the Braves went to a 4-5 rotation basically, having Pete Smith or whoever at the time going once every 9 starts, as Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux & Avery went every 4 games. Avery pitched 667.1 innings from 1991-1993, not to mention the innings logged during the post-seasons from this period as well.

It's easy to imagine that Avery would have went on to win 200+ games easily in his career, especially since we all know that the Atlanta Braves remained a force beyond the 90's, setting a division dominance of 14 years straight from 1991-2005, that included a few National League titles, and a lone World Championship in 1995.

Avery may not have been as great as the "Big Three", but at times he appeared as every bit as good. From 1991-1993, he had two separate 18 win seasons, the other year (1992) he just didn't get the run support, going 11-11 with a 3.20 ERA. Avery's WHIPs during this period ranged from 1.160 to 1.228, he wasn't the strike-out artist as a Smoltz or a Maddux or Glavine even; Averaging about 130 K's per 230 innings. Starting 35 games in each season during this stretch at the ages of 21-23, quite a workload at a young age.

I know that some old timers/old school guys may read this, then scoff & say, Joe Blow of the so-and-so team in 1960-what used to throw 330 innings a season at age 24. I say, this is different times, from about the beginning of the 1980's on, things changed in baseball with ways the pitchers are brought up, to pitch counts started, and this goes all the way back now to high school & colleges being more careful -- now was it for the better? Who exactly knows, I do think they baby pitchers too much now, and that in a big game, you just need to throw that pitch count out of the window. I believe we talked about this at the recent tournament in Michigan, I want to say it was with my friend Ron Emch & someone else, while waiting for food -- for us Tigers fans, Max Scherzer came straight to mind, Game 2 of the 2013 American League Championship, and how Jim Leyland should have kept Scherzer in longer, but decided to yank him (all worrying about pitch counts), apparently in this case Max said he had no more gas in the tank -- that's when I completely agree with the old school guy, I'm sorry, but you are in the big game, you lay it on the line! That's why you get paid the big bucks... now Scherzer makes bigger bucks for Washington, maybe this will inspire him to give it his complete all -- this is also why I always loved Justin Verlander over a Scherzer, Verlander will stay out there until his arm falls off.

No one can go back & say this is where it all changed in baseball, where coaches & management took over, sure Baseball is more of a business than it ever has been, we see it when players start making bigger money, the managers don't risk their star players to steal as often -- think Mike Trout for instance. Trout stole 49 bases in his 2012 American League Rookie-of-the-Year campaign, while hitting 30 HR's in 139 games that season. He stole 33 of 40 bases in 2013, and then watched his number drop to 16 in 2014. He is easily a 30/30 threat, if not a possible new addition to the 40/40 club, but this my friends is where big money & big business of Major League Baseball takes over. No owner wants to see his big money player crash hard into second base, and risk getting hurt. Personally, if I was the owner, I say let him run, let him play the damn game! But I'm just a guy in northern Michigan writing a baseball blog.
Fidrych on the cover of Rolling Stone.

I think there may be a reference point in where it could have changed for pitchers, and it may all go back to Mark "The Bird" Fidrych. Fidrych's climb was not only extraordinary in the baseball realm, but he was also impressive in the pop culture realm -- overnight, Fidrych became a rock star, he made the cover of every single sports magazine out there & even made the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. My dad to this day, always asks me "Who won the Rookie-of-the-Year in 1976, the year you were born?" as if I forgot the answer to this question many times before (which I didn't of course) -- I think he continues to ask me this, because Fidrych's season, his moment in the sun, still burns brightly in the sky for Tigers fans of all ages. I was too young to remember the Fidrych hoopla. I do know that Fidrych was to Motown, what Tony Conigliaro was to Beantown. We fall in love with the tragic stories of baseball lore.

Fidrych of course, as you all know only pitched 81 innings in the year following, in 1977, with a 2.89 ERA after winning 19 games in 76', leading the American League with a 2.34 ERA. Got hurt, a leg injury that led to his arm mechanics problems, and was out of baseball after 1980. He was practically done midway through 1977. Practically a year-and-a-half wonder.
Someone's custom-made card for Horton.

Then there are weird cases as in Tony Horton for the Indians. The story is repeated in this wonderful book I have by Dennis Purdy (some of you may remember his work in USA Today & USA Today's Baseball Weekly) by the name of "The Team-by-Team Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball". The book breaks down every franchise, sections of all-time records, season records, starting lineups & rotations, best players from those franchises & a section devoted to "Franchise Highlights, Low Points and Strange Distinctions"; It was in this section that the Horton story comes up, I will repeat the story from in the book...

[1970]

After leading Cleveland with 27 homers and 93 RBIs in 1969, first baseman Tony Horton hit a wall. In a game on May 24 against the Yankees, Horton hit three homers, but, when he failed to hit a fourth and the Tribe lost 8-7 in extra-innings, he became depressed over his inability to slug the needed fourth homer. Then on June 24 in a doubleheader against the Yankees, Horton watched as Bobby Murcer hit four consecutive home runs. In that same doubleheader, Yankee pitcher Steve Hamilton twice struck out Horton on his "folly floater" pitch -- a blooper -- and Horton was so embarrassed that he literally crawled back to the dugout amid a thunderous chorus of boos. Finally, on August 28, Horton, extremely despondent over his batting slump, played his last game. After the season he was hospitalized for depression, unable to handle the fan's booing, and, at just 25 years of age, he left baseball forever. 

By the way, if you don't have this book, you must get this book -- a must have!

Here is another interesting article from a different book, an excerpt taken from "Top of the Order", a Cleveland fan repents to Tony Horton. Also another interesting fact is Tony Horton didn't have any Topps Baseball Cards produced for him, and that the cards I found were all custom-made, here is a link with some explanation of the no Topps Cards for Horton deal on a blog by Bob Lemke.


Many other names came up in the discussion, there is the case of Dickie Thon -- just coming two good seasons in 1982 & 1983. His 83' season, he was a N.L. All-Star, batting .286, 20 HR & 79 RBI with 177 hits for the Astros. Then early, in the following season, he got beaned by a Mike Torrez fastball that broke his orbital bone around his left-eye socket, his injury would effect his depth perception & would hamper his future potential -- he would have been a perennial All-Star, and some scouts & fans believed he could have been a future HOF'er even. He would bounce back a bit, briefly from 1989-1991, having his best seasons since 1983 -- but from 1984-1988 his career was a wash. He would eventually win the 1991 Tony Conigliaro Award in recognition of his return & recovery from his severe eye injury. But let's face it, he never quite recovered from that beaning.

There is also obvious cases mentioned like Herb Score, Bo Jackson & J.R. Richard. I believe the MLB Network did a Prime 9 episode on the top 9 players whose careers were altered -- These three were definitely on the list, plus a few of the others earlier mentioned. Score, of course, busted out in 1955, winning the American League Rookie-of-the-Year, leading the A.L. with 245 K's, he would lead the league again in 1956 with 263 K's, including a league-leading 5 shutouts. Quickly, became one of the best arms in the A.L., which was impressive considering that his rotation mates were future Hall of Famers, Bob Feller & Bob Lemon. Score's career changed when he was hit with a line drive to the face by the Yankees' Gil McDougald. He was never the same.

Deion Sanders was really the only NFL/MLB player to successfully do both, for a bit, after Bo Jackson; Brian Jordan followed for a few years with the Falcons & MLB Cardinals -- But I think Bo's career altering injury on the football field made players think twice about trying to play both sports, and now players usually stick with one. The last high profile duo-sports guy in recent years has been Drew Henson from the University of Michigan -- he was praised as the better QB of him, and a guy named Tom Brady, he then shifted from football to Baseball, and decided to play for the Yankees who drafted him, it would be a mistake, since many felt he was a better football player, he would then go back to the NFL, and play briefly for a down-and-out Dallas Cowboys team (pre-Tony Romo). Anyways, the duo-sports star pretty much died with the potential of Bo Jackson.

Richard was one of the absolute best in the game, until fate intervened.
J.R. Richard's career was altered by a stroke. He was quite on his way, to have his best season yet, with a 1.90 ERA, 10-4 record & 119 K's in 113.2 innings -- all coming after back-to-back seasons of leading the N.L. with 303 & 313 strikeouts. 1980, would have made it 5 solid straight seasons for J.R. who really found his niche in 1976, from 1976 to 1980, he was on a whole other level & was really on his way to a Hall of Fame career. If you take what pitchers usually do & player's career arcs, Richard was most likely going to put up similar numbers up to 1985 if it were not for the stroke. His career was over at age 30, and his career numbers were 107-71, 3.15 ERA & 1,493 K's in 1606 innings, from 1976-1980, his ERA reached no higher than 3.11!

Then there are the unfortunate deaths of players in the Indians' star Ray Chapman (killed by a Carl Mays pitch), Darryl Kile, Steve Olin (with teammate Tim Crews, in boating accident), Nick Adenhart & Oscar Taveras. Kile died of coronary disease while his Cardinals were in town to play the Chicago Cubs, he was the first player since Thurman Munson (in 1979) to die, while the season was still in progress. Kile was only 33, he was once again one of the better pitchers in baseball after two wasteful seasons in Colorado's I'm not a pitcher's friend atmosphere. Kile signed with Colorado after a career season in Houston (1997), in which he went 19-7, with a 2.57 ERA & 205 K's in 255.2 innings. He was back on track in 2000 with 20 wins for the Cardinals, which he sported a 3.91 ERA & had 192 K's; In 2001, he followed with a 16-11 record, 3.09 ERA & 179 K's -- his ill-fated 2002 season, in which he died, he was 5-4, with a 3.72 ERA with 50 K's in 84.2 innings.

Gibson with the Homestead Grays.

Nick Adenhart & Oscar Taveras are two different stories that involved alcohol. Adenhart, who entered the season as the Los Angeles Angels' #1 top prospect according to Baseball America & many other sources, would be victim of a drunk driver, as his car was struck just outside of the Angels' complex. Oscar Taveras who was the Cardinals' top prospect for a few years, entering 2014 -- he was often compared to fellow Domincan Republic star Vladimir Guerrero for his smooth, balanced swing & impressive outfield arm. Taveras died with his girlfriend, while driving under the influence in the Dominican Republic. The Cardinals have had a bad stretch with unfortunate deaths with Kile, Taveras, and Josh Hancock. Hancock, like Taveras, died while driving drunk in 2007.

There is of course the careers that were effected due to World War II, one that comes straight to mind is that of the Washington Senators' Cecil Travis; Plus many wonder how much more impressive the career numbers would look today for Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio & Bob Feller.

The unfortunate segregation that denied great MLB careers in Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Oscar Charleston, Cool Papa Bell & many, many more... including a full career of Satchel Paige have us baseball die-hards wondering how cool it would have been if they got to play in the Majors the entire time. These players were denied by the unfortunate fact that the MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who led the charge to keep African-American & other colored ballplayers out of the great game. It's this same Landis that is in the Hall of Fame with other racists such as Cap Anson, yet the Hall will not let in Pete Rose...

...which leads me to this...

A fan's custom-made card of the big collision between Rose & Fosse.

Pete Rose and the 1970 All-Star Game Game, in which Rose plowed over Ray Fosse. I used to be under the impression that Rose definitely altered Fosse's career. I'm now on the bubble, and think more on the lines that maybe Fosse was just having a really good year in 1970, playing above & beyond -- because his brief stints before never showed potential. You can almost draw a direct parallel of Fosse's 1970 season to the 1987 season that Matt Nokes had. I think pitchers figured them out as years went on, and that the OPS's in their other years are more reflective of what they should be based on. Fosse actually average more games played for the next three seasons after the injury, ranging from 133-143 (which is really good for a catcher by the way). His OPS was .830 for his 1970 season, but his OPS's only ranged from .644 to .726 the next three years. Also in his brief time before his breakout 1970 season, he only had 21 hits in 132 AB's with 2 HR's (.159 AVG) -- which indicates that maybe the power he lost due to the shoulder injury, was actually more like the power he always had, and that 1970 was nothing more than a fluke. He still hit 12 & 10 HR's in full seasons in 1971 & 1972 -- yet people want to say he was never the same after the All-Star Game. Going back to Nokes, Nokes hit 32 HR's in 1987 (finishing 3rd in A.L. ROY), his OPS that season was .880 -- his OPS numbers ranged from .661 to .778 from 1988-1993. I think due to the fact that the injury happened in a high-profile game & play, people want to point to that as the moment Fosse's career changed. Did he end having a severe injury due to that? Yes, only because Fosse who has admitted as much, didn't want to lose his job for being hurt, him staying in put stress on the shoulder that resulted in the break -- players feared a lot about losing their jobs back in those days. There is numerous reports from old teammates that Fosse was a player that made many excuses, and seemed to use this "career-altering" injury as a crutch. It's easy to understand why Rose has got tired of Fosse's story over the years, and both have bickered about it since.

  • Ray Fosse Still Bitter About Rose - an interesting article written by Tracy Ringolsby for Fox Sports in 2014. Rose has been known to change his stories on many things through the years, and I can see Fosse's point, while at the same time, it's like get over it, already & move on!
I personally don't feel the play itself was a dirty play, Rose trying to explain what he was trying to do sounds ridiculous, because he shouldn't have to explain it, he has nothing to be sorry about, explain it as it was, you play the game hard all the time, and that Fosse should have not been standing right on the plate. Rose-haters (and there are many) keep calling it a dirty play, but let's admit it, if it was one your favorite players in that scenario, you would be saying something completely different. So to the Rose-haters, get over it!

Anyways, that pretty much wraps up my piece for now on the discussion of everything above, I'm sure it won't be the last time I blog about the could-have-been aspects of baseball careers nor the last time it's discussed on the APBA Baseball Facebook Group.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

They Might Be Giants

GMABT Coverage - Part II
Dealing with a double-dose of Willie Mays.

So I ended up splitting 1-1 with the 1968 Tigers, I was happy with that, and knew beating Denny McLain would be tough (which of course didn't happen), so I was thankful it was not worse.

Next up is the 1962 San Francisco Giants, being played by Wendell Watkins. In my two tournament experiences, I don't think I have met someone so loose, chilled, having a good-time as Wendell -- he was like a kid on Christmas day, really was enjoying the experience.

Before we played our games, we headed off to the restrooms area of the restaurant, just talking about how much fun we were having at the tournament -- come to find out, it's been nearly 30 years since Wendell played a APBA game, face-to-face, which was amazing to me, I'm glad he started re-rolling again! It was a game he played a lot (of course) at a young age, he used to play games with his brother David, who also was at the tournament.

In fact there was a few sets of brothers at this tournament, there was at least four sets. I know for sure there was me & my brother Chris, the Watkins brothers, Ken Schultz & his brother, plus Ron Emch's brother Pete who was playing at the table behind us.

Wendell was coming off a 0-2 series loss against the 54' Giants, Steve & I split 1-1, with Ron at 2-0. For me, I felt good about the opportunities of my team going into the last four games, but then again, I think everyone feels good about the teams they selected, and I don't want to say I took either Giants team lightly going in, but I knew if I could take advantage of their pitching, and that my 1917 White Sox play to their abilities, I could escape this bracket. In retrospect, especially after this tournament, I have learned it doesn't matter how you feel or what you think of your chances, any team can go on to win the whole thing, or come close to doing so.

During my series with Wendell, I could hear a lot of commotion coming from my brother Chris's table, it sounded like Chris was doing good, but I had no official idea of how Chris was doing... but more on that for another post.

vs 1962 SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

The 1962 San Francisco Giants won the League Pennant in a tie-breaker three-game series against the 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers, which is funny, because that's the team that Wendell's brother David took, and played in my brother's bracket. The Giants would lose a close series against the New York Yankees, 4-3.

Watkins sends his #3 pitcher to the mound in Billy O'Dell (a B-YZ), and although we didn't know it that time, we would have an amazing game that would be talked about for some time for him & myself. This game for me, would be the game I would remember most in this tournament -- I had a game like this in Chicagoland, that to this day, me & Doug Schuyler still talk about, my choice to avoid pitching to pinch-hitter Shane Spencer of his 1998 Yankees to face Homer Bush, which Bush made me pay by smacking it out of the park. This game for me & Wendell would be much of that level, and the ending possibly more bizarre. The White Sox by the way, have Reb Russell (A-Z) on the mound.

Top of the first, Giants go down 1-2-3. Bottom of the inning now, lead-off walk by Eddie Collins, Buck Weaver hits into a force, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (still without a tournament hit) flies out. I believe I hit & ran with Happy Felsch, runners are now on the corners with two outs for Chick Gandil. Gandil pokes a single to right, drives in a runner, Nemo Leibold grounds out for out number three. Up 1-0, after one, great scored first, love drawing first blood, dice seem to be rolling good after heating up in second game against 68' Tigers.

Bottom of the 2nd, it was Wendell's turn, as Orlando Cepeda draws a one-out walk. Felipe Alou hits a single, as catcher Tom Haller flies out for the second out. Stepping up is Chuck Hiller, who in 1962 batted .276, 3 HR & 48 RBI playing every day, with a .675 OPS that was more on the level of my dead-ball 1917 White Sox. Hiller goes to second columns, smacking it out of the park... oh, it gets better, according to Wendell, he hit a HR in the previous series again Ron's 54' Giants, so that makes it 2 HR's for Hiller (who only had 3 HR in 161 games) in 3 games at the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament -- you gotta love it! Even if the damage is against you -- the rarities that can happen with particular dice rolls is what makes APBA Baseball so much fun!
Buck was locked in during Game #3.

So the Giants are now up 3-1 on the Hiller home run. Bottom of the 3rd, the White Sox claw back with lead-off double by Buck Weaver. Joe Jackson, 0-for-8, finally breaks out with a RBI single, driving in Weaver, trimming the San Fran lead to 3-2. After that though, Felsch, Gandil & Leibold went down in order, stranding Jackson; It's one of those things that as the game went on, you look back & say... we should have got more from that inning, especially with the heart of my order. Those type of moments will come back to haunt you.

Bottom of the 5th, one-out single by Buck Weaver. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson collects another hit, Happy Felsch draws a walk. The White Sox now have bases loaded for Chick Gandil, a player for reasons unknown has played above & beyond for me in my Crazy 48's League. Gandil is batting .402, 0 HR & 25 RBI in all 24 games for the White Sox during the project, with an amazing .916 OPS (.483 SLG/ .433 OBP) -- To put his success in perspective, he has been outplaying Felsch, Weaver & Eddie Collins; Also Gandil only batted .273 with a .316 OBP in 1917. So can Gandil come up big for again? Gandil would hit a sac-fly that ties the game 3-3, driving in Weaver (Weaver has scored all three of my runs). Nemo Leibold fails to keep the inning going, by flying out.

Top of the 6th, with two outs, the Giants' Orlando Cepeda gets on base with a single & Felipe Alou comes up big with an RBI double. Hate playing catch-up this late in a game, plus it felt like forever to tie the game up at 3-3, now it's 4-3 Giants lead. Also it's never a fun thing when you got a two-out inning, which starts to appear to be a 1-2-3 inning, especially after getting the two big guys out in Willie Mays & Willie McCovey -- then turns out to be a score.

Catcher Ray Schalk draws a lead-off walk for the White Sox, Shano Collins grounds out, moving Schalk up to second. Swede Risberg would come up with a big, game-tying RBI single.. but Eddie Collins would hit into a inning-ending double-play in the next at-bat. If Eddie came through, with only one out, I had Buck Weaver, Joe Jackson & Happy Felsch coming up... again, those things that will come back to haunt you.

For the 7th & 8th inning, nothing really happens. Both teams had lead-off singles in the 7th, but could not do anything. Both starting pitchers remain in the game in O'Dell (Giants) & Russell (White Sox).

Top of the 9th, two-out walk for Chuck Hiller. Hiller has been a pain in my butt at this point, reaching base for a 3rd time this game, he had a single in the 7th to go along with his 2nd Inning HR from earlier. Jim Davenport follows with a single, and put runners on the corners... So, basically the Giants' #8 & #9 hitters are giving me a headache, with Matty Alou stepping up to the plate. I remember thinking if I get out of this half-inning unscathed, I need to put the game away with a walk-off victory. The two-out pitch, Alou grounds out.

Bottom of the 9th, Buck Weaver collects a one-out single, his 4th hit (3 singles & a double) & 5th time on base for this game. "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, hits & runs, good ol' 31, runners on the corners. Jackson came out to play in this one as well, with his 3rd hit (after two games without a hit). One out, Happy Felsch, my cleanup hitter at the plate, looking good for the White Sox here, I won't hit & run since "Shoeless" has only 11's in his second column -- the dice roll... double play! Are you kidding me?!

We go to extras, Top of the 10th, Giants go down 1-2-3. Feeling the pressure of taking advantage of the opportunity to win, I go down with two quick outs to Chick Gandil & Nemo Leibold, my 5th & 6th hitters. Ray Schalk then draws a walk, I decide to pinch-hit Eddie Murphy (no, not the comedian/actor) for Shano Collins. Murphy collects a single & moves the possible winning run to third base. I decide to once again, go to the bench, and select slightly better hitting Fred McMullin to come in for Swede Risberg. Runners on the corners, I roll the dice... 33! Thirty-Three is always good, I was sure something great happen, I look at McMullin's card 33-7 & repeat the card to Wendell, Wendell does a half-laugh & starts reaching out to shake my hand as if I won the game, I go to the boards, 33-7 against Billy O'Dell, a B-YZ pitcher, with runners on the corners & two outs, and I read...

7 Fly out; one runner scores; other holds; PO-CF

I couldn't believe it, third out, we are going to the 11th & I knew at that moment, I am going to lose this game. Top of the eleventh, Fred McMullin now in at shortstop makes an error -- putting the lead-off man Orlando Cepeda on at first, Felipe Alou hits a double, moves the runner to third. Tom Haller would ground out for the first out, but not before Cepeda crossed home plate. That one run would be more than enough, as Eddie Collins, Buck Weaver & Joe Jackson go down 1-2-3. Collins' performance this game hurt me the most, he went 0-for-5, hit into a crucial double play, reaching only once on a walk to start off the bottom of the first -- the result of the game could be completely different if Eddie showed up in this one. Both starting pitchers went the distance of 11 innings.
Cepeda blasted 2 HR's & 4 RBI in Game #4.

The next game against Wendell (4th game of the bracket), had Eddie Cicotte & Juan Marichal squaring off against one another. Eddie pitched so lousy, you have to question if he was on the take, giving up four long-balls, two of them to Orlando Cepeda (both two-run HRs); Willie McCovey & Felipe Alou hit solos. My bats went completely quiet in this one, I think we were in a case of shock after losing the previous game that was in the palm of our hands (a few times). Marichal would hold us to 4 hits, and those 4 hits all came from the top 3 of the batting order, as the bottom 6 did nothing!

Eddie Cicotte by the way, ended the tournament with an 0-2 record, 5.06 ERA, with 8 K's & 6 walks in 16 innings. My ace Christy Mathewson of the 1912 Giants, did nothing for me in the Chicagoland tournament as well -- I really need my aces to step it up, LOL!

I now enter my last series with a 1-3 record, Wendell is suddenly 2-2 now, while I believe Ron & Steve split theirs, so if I was to sweep Ron, and Wendell & Steve split, I think everyone would go 3-3, the 7-0 butt-whooping in Game 4 was not going to help my run differential though. My run differential entering the last series was something like -4... So even with a sweep, I was going to need a whole world of help. With Game 3 slipping from my grasp & being shut out in Game 4 -- there was only one way to go, and that was up... but it appears I will not be moving into the playoffs. Come to find out after my games with Wendell, my little brother Chris was in good shape at 3-1 in his bracket, with two to go.

vs 1954 San Francisco Giants

After getting my heart ripped out by one Giants team, I'm hoping to have better luck against Ron Emch's 1954 San Francisco Giants. Ron & I would share a few laughs over our team's misfortunes & weird rolls over the next two games. Ron, the last I heard, was talking of possible plans heading an APBA Tournament in the Toledo, Ohio area -- this would be really cool, which is in striking distance for me and many others. I have said this before & I will say it again, APBA Baseball is truly a mid-west thing! Ron has a good commanding presence to head a successful tournament, he has been to the tournament in the Minnesota, he has plenty of game experience to put a great tournament together -- should be a lot of fun!

By the way, before we get into some of the action for the 54' SF vs 17' CWS highlights, check out Ron's brief (but excellent video of the GMABT action) at the link below...
Game #5 (and Game 1 for our series), we have Sal Maglie on the mound for the Giants as they travel to Chicago to face Red Faber. Maglie of course won 23 games in 1951 for the Giants & had a bounce back year of sorts in 1954 (after a down 1953) -- while Red Faber is a Hall of Famer that went on to win 250+ games, playing his entire 20-year career with the White Sox. Maglie is a B-YZ, while Faber is an A.

During the bottom of the 1st, Eddie Collins got things started with single, but Buck Weaver would hit into a double-play and nothing happened from there. Then in the bottom of the 2nd, Chick Gandil hits a one-out single to right, Nemo Leibold would smack a single & move Gandil to third; Leibold steals second on next play. Ray Schalk and Shano Collins would reward Gandil & Leibold's efforts by each striking out against Sal Maglie.
Irvin helps Giants break open Game #5.

The top of the 3rd, Red Faber strikes out Al Dark, but then gives up a single to the #8 hitter in Whitey Lockman & a walk to #9 hitter Davey Williams -- continuing the theme of the bottom of the order guys being a pain in my ass, a theme that Wendell's Giants started. It set things up beautifully for Monte Irvin as he smacked a three-run homer. Dusty Rhodes, playing DH, smacks a double & Hank Thompson made me pay the price with a two-run blast -- we are down 5-0 quickly, with Faber being knocked down from a Grade A to Grade B starter.

During the top of the 6th & 7th, my team avoided two potential run-producing innings for the Giants. Back-to-back singles by Willie Mays and Don Mueller kicked off the 6th -- which got Faber yanked for Claude "Lefty" Williams, but the following three went down in order, not being able to score anyone; While the 7th got started with a lead-off double by Davey Williams, followed by a walk from Monte Irvin, Dusty Rhodes would strike out while Hank Thompson flied out. With two outs, Willie Mays draws a walk, bases are now loaded for Mueller. I go to the pen again, and call on Joe Benz -- by the way, this was the first game of the tournament that I went to the pen. Mueller would ground out; The damage could have been worse during those two innings.

Top of the 8th, back-to-back singles by Joe Garigiola and Al Dark to lead off the inning, but once again the Giants just couldn't get them across the plate. Bottom of the 8th, I roll with results that resulted in back-to-back "11"s (single & a steal) in Eddie Collins and Buck Weaver. Collins by the way has three hits in this game (where were you last game, buddy?). "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's ground out moved Weaver over to third, as Happy Felsch's sacrifice fly scored Weaver. Suddenly, there is a pulse... I now trail the Giants, 5-2.


Top of the 9th, I get Monte Irvin & Dusty Rhodes on quick outs. I have to go to the bullpen, since Joe Benz is up to his 6 outs allowed for a reliever in this tournament --So Benz is out, and Dave Danforth is in, the 4th pitcher to be used by the White Sox in this one. He gives up a two-out double to Hank Thompson. The next batter was Willie Mays, and Ron Emch caught me by surprise, and asked me if I wanted to pitch to Mays or not-- there was so much noise in the room at the time, I first thought he asked me if I was playing in or deep; Regardless, I was going to pitch to him anyways, but it was a pretty cool, class act by Ron to offer me the choice, he didn't have to do that. Soon enough I realized I should have probably intentionally walked him, since Mays took it yard on the next dice roll -- Enter Homer Simpson's "D'Oh!" -- It was once again a five-run lead for the 54' Giants, and that's where it would stay, as he retired the bottom side in the ninth.

Sal Maglie pitches a complete game victory, allowing 7 hits & 2 runs, while striking out four, with no walks allowed. Red Faber, despite his 3-hit complete game victory against the Tigers, was rocked in this one, allowing 5 runs (all in the 3rd) with 7 hits in 5 innings, with 2 K's, allowing 3 walks (a lousy game WHIP of 2.000).

The last game had Reb Russell (A-Z) back on the mound for me, Russell went a distance of 11 innings against the 62' Giants, in which his White Sox teammates couldn't get that winning run across the plate. The 54' Giants send Ruben Gomez to the mound, while the White Sox tinker with the batting order, putting Nemo Leibold back at the top of the order (like he was against the Tigers in Game #1) -- the tinkering pays off.

Lead-off single & a steal for Leibold in the first, Eddie Collins smacks him in with a single.

Russell had a great tourney for Chicago.
Top of the 3rd, Swede Risberg leads off with a double, as Eddie Collins scores him in on a sac fly. The top of the 4th, the White Sox strand two runners -- while in the 5th, they added another run, with an RBI single by Nemo Leibold, scoring Swede Risberg from second. Risberg reached on a single, then stole second.

The White Sox lead 3-0 entering the bottom of the 6th, as Reb Russell surrenders his first hit to Al Dark leading off the inning (batting 7th) with a double, but the Giants were not able to capitalize.

Nemo Leibold continues his havoc with a two-run triple in the top of the 7th, Collins would score in Leibold, by grounding out. With the White Sox leading 6-0 entering the 8th, the White Sox added a run, with Monte Irvin dropping a fly ball, which resulted in an error -- "Shoeless Joe" Jackson scored from second, after leading off the 8th with a double; The bases would eventually be loaded, with reliever Marv Grissom walking in back-to-back runners, the wheels have officially came off, at this point so was the axel & everything else.

The bad news for Ron, my White Sox won 9-0, the good news is that Ron moved on to the playoffs from our bracket. My 9-0 beating of his 54' Giants, probably didn't help his team's run differential that may have effected his playoff seed -- I felt pretty bad about that actually, but it was just one of those games where nothing went right for his team, kind of like my 4th game, where I got my butt kicked by the 62' Giants, 7-0.

Ron would eventually be knocked out by Robert Mosher & his 1985 St. Louis Cardinals in the first-round of the playoffs.

The tournament was a blast, once again huge props to Rich Zawadzki who hosted the tournament, and to the kitchen crew & waitstaff at Gene Davis and Sons Steak Eatery in Jackson, MI.

I think for my trips in the future, I will go even lighter on luggage & not bring my extra card sets -- I always want to get a side game in, but then you socialize & don't get the chance to bust out an extra game after being eliminated from tournament contention. I didn't even get a game in with my brother at the hotel, we just talked a lot. By the end of the entire trip, my throat was shredded with the dry air, travel, the dehydrating coffee, and sinuses drainage... but it was so worth it!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Action in Gotham City

When it comes to Fantasy Baseball, you can usually count me out! But when one of my best friends from high school, one that I haven't talked to much in the last 20 years, messages me out of the blue and asked me to join fantasy baseball league (along with other friends from school), I didn't hesitate, you can count me in!

Overall, I feel it's really nothing but luck in Fantasy Baseball, and you don't get the thrill as in APBA Baseball doing the General Manager aspect & managing a team. I never played the version that we are doing, we are doing match-ups against each other and how are players do that day, is who wins the match-up -- the versions I have done in the past, is the ones that how all your players do & where they rank in 6 (or was it 10?) categories, for example if you were first in batting average in a league of 12 teams, you have 12 points etc, etc.

I decided to represent my love for Batman & Batman comics, by going by the name of the Gotham City Rogues, which happened to be the same name of the football team in "The Dark Knight Rises" -- think Hines Ward running a kickoff back while the football field is crumbling behind him, all thanks to Bane's cronies.

I decided to wing it when preparing for the draft, no studying whatsoever before the draft, I feel I did pretty good actually, it also helped that a few people in the league did not make it & were auto-picked by the computer.

Here is my team below...

C - Devin Mesoraco (CIN)
1B - Freddie Freeman (ATL)
2B - Anthony Rendon (WAS)
SS - Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
3B - Todd Frazier (CIN)
2B/SS - Erick Aybar (LAA)
1B/3B-Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)
OF - Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
OF - Starling Marte (PIT)
OF - Marcell Ozuna (MIA)
OF - Gregory Polanco (PIT)
OF - Rusney Castillo (BOS)
UTIL - Yan Gomes (CLE)
SP - Max Scherzer (WAS)
RP - Craig Kimbrel (ATL)
SP - Alex Cobb (TB)
SP - James Shields (SD)
SP - Gio Gonzalez (WAS)
SP - Homer Bailey (CIN)
SP - Chris Archer (TB)
RP - Glen Perkins (MIN)
SP - Yordana Ventura (KC)

Bench
OF - Shin-Soo Choo (TEX)
SP - Jose Fernandez (MIA)
RP - Wade Davis (KC)

I took Andrew McCutchen, 3rd overall, I'm actually surprised I didn't take Miguel Cabrera, who I feel will have his best season since 2012, his Triple Crown year -- once he gets rolling of course, may be a bit slow out of the gate.

Now it wasn't my intention to draft the entire starting outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates, it just worked out that way. Speaking of Pittsburgh (plus the fact he's a huge Pirates fan), on a sad note a shout-out to my APBA brother Ken Schultz who is going through a horrible ordeal right now, as his mother just passed away -- please everyone, keep my friend & his family in your thoughts.

We are thinking of you, Ken!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

2014 TRANSACTION LEAGUE Comes to End


Here is how my 2014 Transaction League (2013 Replay with 2014 Transactions) ended.

In the one-game A.L. Wild Card playoff, the Detroit Tigers who lost the A.L. Central to the Kansas City Royals sent Anibal Sanchez to the mound to face the wild card Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa. The Rays would oust the Tigers, 8-3. In the National League Wild Card Game, the Cincinnati Reds made quick work of the surprising Colorado Rockies, 10-2.

The American League Division Series: Boston Red Sox would sweep the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-0; while the Texas Rangers go to a Game 5 and hold off the Kansas City Royals.

The National League Division Series: The Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 3-1 -- with the decisive Game 5 being a no-hitter by Clayton Kershaw. Every single game was decided by a shutout, Dodgers won Game 1 (7-0), Game 3 (4-0) & Game 4 (9-0), while the Reds won Game 2 (5-0). The St. Louis Cardinals won their series against the Washington Nationals, 3-1.

The American League Championship Series: The Boston Red Sox win the series, 4-2, the Texas Rangers at one point led the series, 2-1.
The National League Championship Series: The St. Louis Cardinals & Los Angeles Dodgers, go the full distance of 7 games, with the Cardinals coming out on top. Making it the Cardinals & Red Sox (like real-life) in the World Series.

Unfortunately, the World Series wasn't even close, Yoenis Cespedes smacked a three-run HR in the bottom of the 6th for Boston to help them win Game 1, 5-0. Clay Buchholz (11 K's) ended up pitching a four-hit shutout, making it 4 wins for him during the playoffs, with a 0.00 ERA up to this point through 27 innings of work!

Boston's Buchholz had a post-season for the ages.
Shane Victorino got things rolling with a solo HR in the first inning of Game 2, as Boston scores 5 runs in the bottom of the first & never looked back, the Cards would score 3 runs in an attempt to make a comeback, but would lose 5-3.

With the Red Sox down 2-0 in Game 3, Yoenis Cespedes once again led the charge with a two-run double during the top of the 7th in a three-run inning. Red Sox hold on 3-2 for the victory.

In Game 4, Clay Buchholz pitches 6 innings, allowing one hit (a HR by Matt Carpenter) -- Buchholz finished the playoffs at 5-0, with a microscopic 0.27 ERA! Craig Breslow would earn 7 saves during the playoffs for Boston.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BoS Power Rankings (July) / August Updates

The Boys of Summer Power Rankings from July 4th through August 1st, 2014.

John Lackey & other South Shore vets are showing that they are not going away, anytime soon.


Not too much differences from last month at the top, and for most part of the league -- only 4 of the 16 teams really experienced movement in the rankings. The Bronx Bombers have improved dramatically with improvements to their fielding, better run differential & their team ERA -- it appears they will make a run at that American League Wildcard spot. The Buffalo Yankees and the San Diego Heroes meanwhile are going in the wrong direction, as they dropped 3 slots each, and sit at 13th & 14th overall.

AUGUST UPDATES

Since the above Power Rankings & the Trade Deadline at the end of July, the San Diego Heroes have been on fire after making a few trades that have reshaped the team's fortunes.


Since the trades on July 26th, the Heroes have gone 21-8, and as of tonight's report (August 26th, 2014 for the season), the team is currently on a 10-game winning-streak (which I believe off the top of my head is a franchise record for the Heroes -- who were the Sacramento 66'ers during the first season).

They are currently 3 games out of the wild card spot which is owned by either the Traverse City Panthers or Hannibal Cavemen tied at 77-57, the team that doesn't win the N.L. East may be jeopardizing a chance at the playoffs with San Diego coming on strong.


Remember, only the division winners & the next best team (wild card) in each league, move on to the playoffs. The team with best overall record in each league, gets a first-round bye. So at the moment, if the season ended today, the Portland Microbrewers would have a bye (and be waiting in the League Championship Series), and Hannibal & T.C. would be in, with one of those teams being a wild card, the other would have home-field in a best-of-five series against the other. San Diego is currently out, but looking to shake things up.

Two big series are up in this week's mix, with Traverse City at Hannibal for 6 games, while San Diego visits Portland for 6 games.

"Crush" Davis does the usual... watches the ball go yard.
The Heroes' Chris Davis is closing in on the single-season mark of 50, set by teammate Edwin Encarnacion as a 66'er last season. Davis currently has 47 HR's with 120 RBI's through 134 games. 

Meanwhile, in the American League, the Bronx Bombers have been jumping into the A.L. Wild Card race while the Swatara Eliminators & Buffalo Yankees have overall been struggling. The Bombers at one point were 39-56 through 95 games, they would win 8 of 10 & have a record of 47-58 on July 26th (The Trade Deadline), and have played around .500 ball since -- standing at 61-73. Bronx trail in the wild card race by 3 games, while Buffalo finds itself a game out behind Swatara. The wild card team for the American League looks destined to represent a losing record.


It should be an interesting finish, as the playoffs are just around the corner -- it appears that we will have more drama than last year's finish.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout!

GMABT Coverage - PART I
The beautiful GMABT Trophy.

We've been talkin' about Jackson... since Pastor Rich Zawadzki put the news out on a post for the first Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament during this past summer. Chris and I, signed up fairly early -- and during the time from then to now, we've only had our worries about the weather & coming up with money shortly after the holiday season. In short, it all worked out & was well worth the wait.

ON ROUTE TO JACKSON

For me it has been an interesting week, not to go into details, but my wife and I are going through an ordeal that has been placed in front of us -- but with her encouragement, she still wanted me to go to the tournament. I came down on a bus from Traverse City, MI to Grand Rapids, MI -- a distance of 150 miles. I got picked up by my brother Christopher Baier (after he got off a work shift) at the bus station (close to 5 p.m.), and we crossed on over to Jackson (another 105 miles) -- let me tell you this distance from G.R. to Jackson felt tons shorter than a bus that has scheduled stops, especially when you have good company such as your brother as your travel companion, that trip was a breeze in comparison to the bus.

So basically, I traveled 260 miles to get to Jackson, MI. I was going to make this thing come hell or high water. For me, it was a few things that made it a simple choice; A tournament that I can share with my brother Chris, a tournament that was hosted by friend Rich -- who was my travel companion from Kalamazoo, MI to Woodstock, IL for the 2013 Chicagoland APBA Baseball World Series (Winter Edition) Tournament; plus the simple fact that APBA Tournaments and playing face-to-face are incredibly fun!

"I'm going, right?" - Isabelle thinks she's traveling with daddy.
The travel plans were not too difficult, we stayed at the reasonable Travelodge in Jackson -- the prices were excellent if you don't want to spend a hefty cost, $59 a night with taxes... so for two nights (Friday & Saturday) it cost us $133 total. In the area, it really got great reviews & you really do get the bang for your buck -- if you want to go the cheap route (I think it got a 3.8 out of 5 stars, according to reviews). Got plenty & better sleep on this trip compared to the long haul to Woodstock. The hotel was just off the highway, and apparently just down from Rich's church which I didn't realize until after the trip -- next time, we will have to go to his Church on Sunday following the big event.

We got into town at the Travelodge at 7 pm, and by 8:30 both of us were quite dozy, and called it an early night. Some of our other tournament comrades were meeting others at area hotels, while some were still crossing the state line into Michigan (Doug Schuyler filling up on coffees) around midnight that night! We had others like Ken Schultz and company, traveling as far as from Pittsburgh, PA! Always impressive what people will do & the distance they will travel to enjoy an APBA Baseball Tournament. In a few months, others will eventually make that long distance to Pittsburgh, since Ken Schultz will be hosting the upcoming June tournament in Pittsburgh.

TOURNAMENT TIME & ARRIVAL

The next morning was game time, we woke up as early as 6 am, I want to say that I was actually up by 3:30 a.m. (with my sinuses drainage & all) messed around on computer until 5 am, Chris woke up around that time, maybe before. I know we were well-rested which is a great thing, plus we knew that according to MapQuest that we were only 20 minutes away from the tournament action that would take place at Gene Davis Steaks Eatery. Let me take this moment and mention that the service by this restaurant was perfect, the fact that they let us use their restaurant during a good portion of closed hours & didn't have a problem serving food to a room full of 40+ men, most of us in our 40's & 50's -- a room full of baseball kids at hearts! So total props to their people, great job Steaks Eatery!

The calm before the storm (picture taken by host Rich Zawadzki).
We got to the eatery,  parked on wrong side, so this would later explain why there was suddenly a room full of 20+ people already. If I known that everyone was on the other side of the building, we would have been able to introduce our selves to some of the guys that we actually never got a chance to talk to. I missed out on talking with my Facebook friend Doug that made it with a group of guys that came up from Ohio.

Inside there was all these tables, perfectly set up for bracket action, with a sheet on each table, indicating what division was at what table. I was in the Honus Wagner Division, and was also pretty thrilled at where the table was, I kind of love sitting next to walls. Met the guys from my division in Steve, Wendell Watkins & Ron Emch. I brought the 1917 Chicago White Sox, the famous team that would have 8 players banned from the game (including "Shoeless Joe" Jackson) for their part in throwing the 1919 World Series against the 1919 Cincinnati Reds. I felt good about my bracket going in, my 17' White Sox have the best scoring differential in my Crazy 48's League, but head to head competition is always different from playing solo.

My competition was the 1968 Tigers, 1962 Giants & 1954 Giants. Overall, the Giants teams actually didn't make me nervous going in -- unless you had those Giants teams from 1901 through 1930's, you usually only had to really worry about one starting pitcher, while the teams in the 50's & 60's for the Giants were loaded with offense. I felt my White Sox were equipped enough to have my pitching settle the bats down, while my hitters would use the hit & run, speed game and drive enough across the plate to win ball games. The 68' Tigers had Denny McLain, and I knew we were in for a tough game, the match-up for that game was Eddie Cicotte (White Sox) A&C-YZ against McLain's A&B-XZ. This was a big game, I knew if I won this game, that it could set me up beautifully for the rest of the bracket -- while losing it would not have been the worst thing in the world, I would have simply lost to a great pitcher, also the game was never a give-me win, but to win that game would have been a statement game.

The scene in Jackson, APBA action in play.

vs 1968 DETROIT TIGERS

Like I said earlier, it was a match-up of Cicotte & McLain in Game 1 -- If it was not for the inner-demons that would cut these careers short, we could be talking about a match-up between two Hall of Fame pitchers; It wasn't meant to be, it's just a match-up against two stellar APBA grades.


I would lose that first game in a pitchers duel (just as we expected the game to be), 2-1. In the game, there was a couple times early on that I had my lead runner at second with only one out & no outs -- yet I failed to score. Meanwhile, the Tigers only managed two hits during their first 6 innings! The two hits happened during the second in which Detroit took the lead 1-0, after Al Kaline had a single & a stolen base (a second-column 11), while Dick McAuliffe (who has been excellent in my Crazy 48's by the way) smacked Kaline in with a double. During the top of the 5th, Swede Risberg got on base with a single, stole 2nd, and then third base with no outs -- the next batter Shano Collins (who will continue to drive me nuts with his lousy card the entire tournament, which I kind of figured he would be doing, going into the tourney as well) hits a ball in the infield to Mickey Stanley playing shortstop for Steve (doing the whole Mayo Smith 68' World Series strategy with Stanley at short), Stanley fires it home & gets my lead runner out at home on a fielder's choice. Eventually, Shano scored on Eddie Collins' triple later in the inning -- tying the game at 1-1. The big play came in the bottom of the 7th, as Willie Horton hit a solo HR off of Cicotte during the bottom of the 7th inning. McLain ended up pitching a complete game victory, allowing only 6 hits with 3 walks, while striking out 6 batters. Cicotte pitched 8 innings, allowing only 4 hits & a walk with 2 runs, while collecting 5 K's for the opener.

Red Faber rose to the occasion in Game 2.
The next game was between Mickey Lolich (B-X) of the Tigers, and Red Faber (A) of Chicago. The game was starting off as another pitchers duel, no runs for either team through 3 innings -- which was not sitting well with me, not being able to collect a hit at this point. Top of the 4th, my buddy Willie Horton hit another HR off of me, making it 1-0 68' Tigers. During the bottom of the 4th, something happened that could have been one of those plays that would start making you press for any break. With two outs, Happy Felsch draws a walk, I decide to hit & run, Chick Gandil rolls into second columns, resulting in a 2 - Triple (on the Hit & Run board), Al Kaline would throw Felsch out at the plate from right. Normally, being a Tiger fan, I would be excited about Kaline making such a play, not today, today I'm the bad guys -- If I played the normal boards, that's an RBI triple with another chance to score & a game tied at 1-1. Lucky for me, my bats would start to wake up.

The way my luck was going up to this point & after the woulda-coulda in the 4th that could have just played on me the rest of the game. My bats finally starting waking up in the bottom of the 5th, a lead-off triple by Nemo Leibold, he would score on the next play with a sac fly by my catcher Ray Schalk -- so the game is now tied 1-1. With one out, Shano Collins hits a triple, but Swede Risberg would not fly deep enough to send Collins in, and Eddie Collins would end the inning on a ground out -- a wasted opportunity, but my 3rd triple in two innings, which means a good sign.

The top of the 6th, Detroit would not do anything. Rearing to roll & feeling my dice heating up literally in my hands, suddenly Steve, the guy who is managing the 1968 Tigers starts talking about something off-subject with Ron, who was trying to play his game with Wendell (a battle between two Giants teams) -- something about being on film, and being a lawyer, I didn't really get any of it, I'm not sure if he was pulling some strategy to disrupt my sudden momentum, but to be honest, it got slightly under my skin in which I was thinking C'mon man...  Finally, I said "You ready?", and I started rolling...
Shano: The lesser-known Collins.

Luckily, I stayed hot this bottom-half of the 6th; Lead-off single by Buck Weaver, followed by a walk by "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (his first time on base), Happy Felsch follows with a double... knocking both runners in, RBI single by Chick Gandil, Nemo Leibold reaches on a single, Ray Schalk pops up for the first out, and Shano Collins hits a two-run double. The White Sox broke the game open 6-1! This would be Shano's best game, since he is a lousy .235 hitter with no hit & run capability, he can steal a little, but that's about it.

Back to the Steve moment, I will say I was not upset with him, but I would compare it more to a bowler that is bowling hot, or if you were half-way into your golf swing, each time they are about to release, someone came up and interrupt it, LOL! That's when you realize that you want to win, and the competition part takes over, sure I was there to have fun as well as anyone else... but's let's be honest, we would all be lying if we were to say that we had no intention to wanting to win the tournament.

Red Faber by the way, was on top of his game with a three-hit complete game victory, with 4 K's & 2 walks. Mickey Lolich was not as sharp as he left after 5 innings, allowing 4 hits & 2 runs, with 3 K's & 2 walks.

GMABT TOURNAMENT COVERAGE / TO BE CONTINUED...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Trippin' on APBA

The next event on the horizon for APBA fans is the 3rd Semi-Annual Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournament, which will take place on April 4th, in Maple Grove, Minnesota. The event page on APBA Facebook Group is hosted by friend & APBA Facebook Group regular Craig Christian. The event itself is headed by the Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournament Committee, that involves Bruce Tyler, Neil Ess, Leroy Arnoldi, Darrell Skogen & Kevin Cluff -- led by Jim Fraasch (Event organizer). Christian, if you can remember, came in for relief of James Welch during the 2014 APBA Chicagoland World Series Tournament (Winter Edition) -- helping the 1967 St. Louis Cardinals defeat Doug Schuyler's 2001 Seattle Mariners with that dreaded dice tower -- which I will call the "Dark Tower".

Now let me tell you about Mr. Ken Schulz, he is one cool cat! He has an amazing out-going personality & just likes to have fun -- and loves everything about APBA & Baseball. He hooked me up, by selling me the 1979 APBA Baseball set, always wanted to get some of those teams, such as Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Montreal & California. Now he has stepped up to the plate in the Three Rivers region by hosting the 1st Annual Pittsburgh APBA Baseball Tournament (or "Steel City Tournament"). There has already been plenty of feedback, and there are only 13 spots remaining (I believe out of 40) -- The tournament debuts on June 13th, 2015!

With tourneys now in March, April & June -- the Summer is certainly rolling by the time the 2015 Chicagoland APBA Baseball World Series (Summer Edition) comes around. If my information is correct, this would make it the 5th Tournament hosted by my friends Doug Schuyler and Jim Saska. I really feel that they are the spark, that started all the new APBA Baseball tournaments that have sprouted out across Minnesota, Michigan, PA & other places. The tournament shows that with the right connections & by using Facebook, we as an APBA community can make our love for APBA grow! Two standout guys -- Doug, of course, is one of my dearest friends, he is a very supportive & enthusiastic guy, I personally think it's impossible to not love this guy! I'm truly grateful to have him as a friend.

I will be coming to Chicago for the Winter Edition of the tournament in mid-November, I will be bringing the 2001 Seattle Mariners to the big bracket -- it will actually be my third total APBA-related tournament (my second in Chicago) & my first playing a post-Modern Era ball-club; My other two tournaments have been with the 1912 New York Giants and the 1917 Chicago White Sox, resulting in a combined 5-7 effort, with no taste for the playoffs.

Date with destiny? Seattle gets ready for Chicago/November.

With the success of the 1st Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament in the rear-view mirror, it didn't take long for the announcement of the 2nd Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament by organizer & host Pastor Rich Zawadzki (actually technically speaking, he announced the next tournament during the 1st tourney). I've mentioned it before, but I got to know Rich better as we finally got to meet in person on our journey to the 2013 Winter Edition of the Chicagoland World Series APBA Baseball Tourney -- The cool thing is that two hours into the trip, after I got picked up in Kalamazoo, MI, we talked about family, life & faith before talking about the obvious APBA & Baseball that was only bound to come up. That's Rich for you, more than just APBA or Baseball, he's a man who loves life & lives passionately for God, and for his friends all around him. I came to find out he has tons of knowledge about a great deal of things, even more knowledge than his knowledge of all things APBA Monster Cards & Great Teams -- if you can believe that!

By the way, the first tournament winner, the defending champ in John Roels (1937 New York Yankees) will be bringing the same 2001 Seattle Mariners (above) -- for this tournament, no World Series winners allowed... so people will try to be clever in bringing the next best things.


The young guns of the 1993 Atlanta Braves.

For that tournament, I will be bringing the 1993 Atlanta Braves, a team that I feel is the best of the 1991-1993 phase for that franchise -- just before Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez & Ryan Klesko became everyday stars for the Bravos. Bobby Cox managed a 4-man rotation for most part, actually more like a 4-5 rotation with Pete Smith getting a start every 9 games or so. The lineup was one of their best during their entire run from 1991-2005; Jeff Blauser had a career year (5.7 WAR), batting .305 with 15 HR & 73 RBI, Terry Pendleton had another productive year (17 HR & 84 RBI), with Ron Gant just missing the 30/30 Club (36 HR / 26 Steals), while clobbering in 117 runs! David Justice hit 40 HR's, the Braves acquired Fred McGriff (1.004 OPS in 68 games with the Braves), while the team also had "Primetime" Deion Sanders coming off the bench.

Not only do I think this team was the best of theirs from 1991-1993, but I believe it may be the best team of theirs during that stretch to not win the World Series -- with the 1996 Braves (who probably should have won it all in 1996) a close second.

My bucket list of APBA Tournaments, is to one day make my presence at the Summer edition of the Chicagoland World Series APBA Tourney, go to the Pittsburgh tourney -- in which on the way there, we will cut through Ontario, go to New York & stop at Cooperstown (finally!). Plus, the Twin Cities tournament, I can always drive up to U.P. and on over to Minnesota -- my wife keeps telling me about Mount Rushmore, so on our way to South Dakota, we can kill two birds with one stone.

By the way, I added a APBA Baseball Tournaments - Links tab just to the right of this article, check it out! I will try to have the most updated information possible for all of those tournaments listed.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Michigan Thumbs Up to GMABT!

When I get home, I will be doing a post over the next few nights on this wonderful weekend in Jackson. For now, here is a group pic of the gang at the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament (which was hosted by our friend, Rich Zawadzki).



For now, I am currently in a coffee house in Grand Rapids called Mayan Buzz, and the Sarah McLaughlin music is too distracting to blog away. Instead, I will just surf the next and relax...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Marching On

The 1917 White Sox have been practicing for the GMABT.
Hello folks!

Sorry that it has been some time between posts, about a good week actually. Relaxing a bit with the wife before my travels this weekend down to the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament.

I have been playing some spring training with the team that I plan to take down there, in the 1917 Chicago White Sox. We have gone 5-1 in 6 games, splitting with the 2013 Boston Red Sox, and sweeping both the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals & 2013 Baltimore Orioles for two games each. I plan to at least play another Spring Training game against the 1968 Detroit Tigers.

Of course, it's all different when you play they game solo -- it's far more fun face-to-face, especially in tournament play.

Other things on the agenda, after the tournament, will be my post about the latest on the 1979 APBA Baseball Tournament I have been playing. A post about the outcome of the Mid-West Baseball Draft, as the start of the new season is just around the corner.

A couple school buddies contacted me about participating in a Fantasy Baseball League, have only done Fantasy Baseball twice, to me it's nothing but luck -- but its been a long time that we did anything together, so I'll be looking forward to that in later March.

Plus I'll be wrapping up the previous 2014 Transaction League, and be preparing for the 2015 Transaction League.
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