Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Say Yes to Greater Michigan! (GMABT II)

The scene at the GMABT II (Gene Davis & Sons Steak Eatery).
Once again, the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament (2nd Annual) was a success, led by Pastor Rich Zawadzki -- you will not find a better stand-out guy in Rich; Not only, am I glad he is a friend of mine, but I'm glad his love for APBA shines brightly, and that he is one of the APBA pillars that have made this APBA community stronger. In many ways, he probably gets the biggest reward when he sees all the smiles, on all of our faces.

These tournaments really transport us to a Field of Dreams -- where we can relive our youth. Some teams are teams that fell short of real-life championship glory, so our belief in those teams, drive us to get some sort of redemption for those players; My division alone had a handful of those teams (1993 Atlanta Braves, 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, 1983 Chicago White Sox & 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers) while other divisions were peppered with them as well (1997 Cleveland Indians, 1934 Detroit Tigers, 1975 Boston Red Sox, etc etc); Sometimes there are teams that have been hurt due to cruel fate (1994 Montreal Expos - Due to the strike). Sometimes people take lovable losing ball-clubs to these tourneys, say the 1969 Seattle Pilots for example -- which inspired some of the tourney heads to discuss the possibilities of a sub-.500 tournament some time.

The beautiful trophy (on right), John Roel's 2015 championship
on left, with some prizes for this year's participants up front.
The magic of these tournaments is to watch middle-aged men get to be kids again, while at the same time we had some young fellows at the tourneys in attendance as well. I tried to explain the atmosphere to my wife, she got a pretty good feeling how it is, when she can see my smile expanding from ear-to-ear or at dinner the other night with Rich and friend Greg Tews (whenever us guys spoke of the game); To ensure her of the electricity in the air, I just showed her some APBA videos made by my friend Ron Emch... my wife laughed at me in this year's video, lost in the APBA zone, while rolling away... "I've seen that look before," she said as she watched.

Now some of you may be reading all this above, and thinking to yourself...

Didn't this guy write the same about this tournament & that tournament, and this other tournament?

Why... yes! Because all of these tournaments are ALWAYS FUN! I have yet to go to a APBA tournament or hear of an APBA tournament that was not fun -- in fact, I believe it is simply impossible. The fact is being in the company of so many APBA enthusiasts & friends (while making new friends) makes these tournaments infectious, the fun is infectious! Yes, it's the APBA plague and I truly love it.

Once in awhile, I will read someone posting on the APBA Facebook Group...
I wished to make one of those tournaments someday.

My advice? Do it, no more excuses, because let me tell you, once you do, you do not want to miss one... and when you do miss one, you are happy for the ones that did make it, while sitting there thinking... I wish I was there.

Sometimes things come up, I have canceled before for financial short-comings, and it sucks because you want to be there so badly... Sometimes weather and flu ailments can play factors as well -- We missed you Doug Schuyler & (I wished that I got to meet you) Kurt Berglund, these two guys know how it feels to be around a great APBA community... for those who have yet to do be in such great company, you need to experience that for yourself.

Anyways, now onto the tournament itself, here was the division set-ups...

As you can see, 36 teams, 8 divisions of 6 teams each -- 3 Division winners & one wild card from each league advance to the playoffs. Due to two cancellations, the number was 34 teams, each team would get 2 wins & two games of +3 run differential for forfeited teams, which is fair. 

34 or 36 teams, with so many good teams -- does not make it any easier. My other two tournament experiences, I felt I picked stellar teams (1912 New York Giants & 1917 Chicago White Sox), but it has simply resulted in a career 5-7 record.. because other people have stellar teams as well, and sometimes its a play here-and-there, hot dice rolling or cold rolling, run differential in tie-breakers that all can play a difference in the outcome. It's simply luck while making tough managing decisions. Your number one goal (which is mine) is to always have fun & just enjoy the atmosphere -- my next goal is that I wanted to get into the playoffs....

I was happy either way.

Onto some of the highlights, the number one highlight had to be when Robert Mosher with the 1988 Mets & David Cone pitched a no-hitter in his opening series... Later, I found out that another person through a no-hitter, when I asked who? Someone pointed to the table and mentioned that kid -- I realized that it was Robert's grandson Cameron Shaeffer; Shaeffer pitched one with the 1916 Detroit Tigers' Stan Coveleski

The biggest highlight was what happened after, moments later, I ran into Robert, and I looked at him and said "You didn't tell me that your grandson also pitched a no-no!" -- and much to my (and Robert's) surprise, Robert's face lit up with joy, and he said "He did?!?"

Nothing will top that, to see the joy in a grandfather's face of an accomplishment by his grandson -- Proud papa, and a family sharing the love of APBA. By the way, Cameron's no-no was almost a perfect game, he walked the lead-off batter in the 9th. 

Mosher Magic: Cameron Shaeffer (Grandson) and Robert Mosher (Grandpa); No-Hitters in Jackson.

After a wonderful lunch, the day kept moving, but some games were still dragging, and the tournament was finding itself in a time crunch; Our tournament administrator handled it beautifully and we all followed his lead to the venue relocation to his beautiful church - Loomis Park Baptist Church.

The day for me? The whole day was a dream come true, I will get into further detail about the championship run in future blog posts to come -- but I really don't want to upstage this event post at all possible. I will say this, I did start off 4-0, before a good pounding by Bob McCurdy's 1982 Milwaukee Brewers (Don Money: 4-for-4, 2 solo HR's, double, single & 4 runs) to suffer my first loss, I would make a great come-from-behind win in our second game against each other to spark another 4-game win streak; I won the Carl Yastrzemski Division with an 8-2 record.

Here is the playoff results provided by Rich Zawadzki via APBA Facebook Group...

Here is a little details about the playoff action...

I would play the first round against Cameron's 1916 Detroit Tigers, with Hooks Dauss against Steve Avery for my Braves. My Braves had an early 3-0 lead, and 4-1 lead after 6 innings, but he would make a rally in the 8th with two-run single by Harry Heilmann in top of 8th, to cut it down to 4-3. Atlanta would answer back with an RBI single by Sid Bream & sac fly by Mark Lemke; Steve Bedrosian would come into the 9th for his 4th Save of the tournament.

The Final Four: Rich Zawadzki, Shawn Baier (myself), Robert Mosher & Dick Butler.

The next game was Wendell Watkins' 1969 Baltimore Orioles, Wendell & his brother David Watkins had to catch a train though, so Rich Zawadzki had to play in his place. 

I will go into detail for this game at least.

Before diving into the game, let me tell you that Wendell is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, but his teams have been mean to me, LOL! His 1962 San Francisco Giants swept me two games, to hand me a 1-3 record (went on to 2-4) in last year's GMABT -- so I was worried. The highlight of this game was the fact that it would be the first time that Rich & I would play face-to-face in APBA Baseball -- first time in our 3-year (nearly 4-yr) friendship, so I was excited to finally get the chance to play against him & that beautiful dice tower. 

Wendell (left) with his 62' Giants taking it to my 1917 White Sox last year.

The Orioles were rolling pretty good, Andy Etchebarren's RBI single in second gave them a early 1-0 lead, and I was fortunate to have just allowed that. Through the first 5 innings, he had 5 hits, my Braves up to that point only had a Damon Berryhill double; Our two pitchers were Grade B-YZ Dave McNally (BAL) and Tom Glavine (ATL) - Grade B.

We were fortunate to get a RBI single by Ron Gant during the bottom of the 6th to tie the game, but the O's kept battling back... Brooks Robinson led off the top of the 7th with a solo HR off of Avery; Now let me tell you about Brooks, he does not like me, in my Crazy 48's project, he started off like 3-for-62, and is currently batting .081 through 74 at-bats (6 hits) & with no homers by the way... then he does this to me in such a big game.

Entering the bottom of the 7th, Rich brought in that tough Baltimore bullpen, starting with Dick Hall (A-ZZ), Braves go down 1-2-3, striking out twice; Hall in the eighth adds another K, while mowing through the Braves again 1-2-3. Things were starting to look bleak and Rich brought in Eddie Watt (A&C-Y), I honestly thought that was it, when Jeff Blauser (ground out) and Ron Gant (Fly out) ended their at-bats quickly. When Fred McGriff stepped to the plate, I gently spoke to the card "Come on Fred... put it over the fence", he didn't do that, but he did get a single to keep hopes alive. 

Then David Justice came up to the plate, who by the way, has a bizarre card, power card (single columns) with a 22 (dice roll) -7 (result) & no 6's -- so one part of me is wanting a double to score the tying run, but there is no doubles to be had, or at least in this situation... Stepping to the plate, I roll the dice, but one of them fell off the table, re-roll... In that moment of the re-roll, I let those dice bounce around in my hand maybe longer than usual, thought the time was right to release, and I couldn't believe the result.. Home Run! I hung my head down with a huge sigh of relief, just couldn't believe it, I think Rich was just as excited as me, offering his hand in congratulation for my accomplishment. 

The Championship Game itself, was against the 1988 New York Mets, led by Robert Mosher. This would be the first time rolling against Robert face-to-face, he faced my brother Chris Baier in the playoffs last year; Robert also is a member of my Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League [APBA BBW] and won the World Series in the league's second year of existence with his Fairgrove Tigers.

Shaking hands with Robert Mosher (left) before starting the GMABT II Final.
It would end up being anti-climatic compared to the game before. Justice would pick up where he left off, with a three-run HR to add to another run in the bottom of the 1st; The Braves would put up another 4-spot in the bottom of the 2nd, and Atlanta was up early 8-0 -- I left Greg Maddux the entire time, his A-XZ was still in tact, despite giving up 6 runs sporadically.. so his tournament ERA of 2.54 (through 5 starts) could be better, but I didn't want to be bush-league and bring relievers in a game that was sealed early. It's odd because I was still expecting the Mets to go on some offensive outburst, so I was not going to exhale until the last out.

We would win the game 13-6, with Dave Justice going 2-for-5 (HR, 3B), while Ron Gant was 2-for-4 (two-run HR & 2B) -- each had 4 RBI in the final.

Shawn Baier (myself) holding that beautiful trophy.

Afterwards, I was on cloud nine.

Next year, for the 3rd Annual Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament, it's the dead-ball era (1901-1919) with no designated hitter (I will get more info on that tournament in future post)... So for me, it will be back to some tournament familiarity of playing with dead-ball teams, since the 1993 Braves were my first tournament choice of a live-ball team ever. In March 2017, I will be taking the 1901 Pittsburgh Pirates -- the competition is already steep with talented teams & participants...

as always, it should be a blast!

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