Thursday, January 11, 2018

1991 Replay Update: July 5, 1991

Despite losing my job recently and worrying about the consequences of such, there is one mantra that I, along with all APBA players follow. "The games must go on."

And go on they do. I've picked up the pace some in my 1991 baseball replay. I've found that being unburdened by the nasty contraints of a job, I have more time to roll games. (I say this facetiously, because if I don't find fruitful employment, I realize I will eventually end up rolling APBA baseball replays while living in an old refrigerator box under a train trestle, eating from a Dumpster and selling aluminum cans).

But for now at least, I am tossin' the games in the comfort of my home. I have an electric space heater turned on and aimed at my bum knee, a glass of Pepsi by the scoresheet and a 1991 season that if it continues the way it has so far should have a great pennant race or two at the end.
I've reached July 5, 1991 - just two days before the All-Star break - and there are several interesting story lines I'm following.

First, the standings.
American League

EAST        W    L    GB
Toronto     54    27     -
Boston       42    36  10.5
Detroit       42    37  11
Milwaukee 36   42 16.5
New York  31   45   20.5
Baltimore   30   48   22.5
Cleveland   25  52    27

WEST       W     L   GB
Minnesota   49   32    -
Seattle         47   33   1.5
Chicago      45    33  2.5
Kansas City 40   38 7.5
California    40   39  8
Texas          34   41  12
Oakland      34   46  14.5

National League
EAST         W   L    GB
Pittsburgh   54   23     -
St. Louis     48   31    7
New York   42  36    12.5
Phil'phia      36  44   19.5
Chicago       33  47   22.5
Montreal     23   57   32.5

WEST         W    L   GB
Atlanta         51    26   -
Cincinnati    45    33  6.5
Los Angeles 43    35  8.5
San Diego    41    40  12
Houston       29    50   23
San Fran.      28    51  24

As they do in replays of most seasons, teams' personalities are starting to develop. Pittsburgh, led by Barry Bonds' 11 home runs as of July 5 and Doug Drabek's 13-4 record, has the best record so far. Atlanta is also playing well, fueled by Tom Glavine's unbelievable 17-0 record on the mound.

In the American League, Toronto remains solid. After being swept in a three-game series in Minnesota, the Blue Jays returned the favor and beat the Twins in all three games in Toronto a week later. In each APBA replay I've done, there always seems to be a team that can win in many ways. Either the team will score a lot of runs, have good pitching or come from behind with clutch hitting. Toronto does all of these to win.

There are other notables: Detroit is 10-1 in its last 11 games. The Yankees have lost 11 of its last 13 games. Seattle, which led the American League West for a while, has dropped eight of its last 12 games. And the Cubs, oh, the woeful Cubs, at first seemed to be a competitive team. Andre Dawson has clubbed 20 home runs and Chicago was actually playing above .500 at the end of April. But in the last 30 days of play, the Cubs are 8-22.

And there's Montreal. The Expos lost its first 14 games to open the season and dropped 19 of 20 by May 1. Since then, Montreal has gone 22-36. Three of the Expos' pitchers each have lost 11 games already and the entire pitching staff has only four saves among relievers. But there is some life perhaps in the team, albeit faintly. The Expos took three of four games in Cincinnati and two of three in New York before being swept by the Pirates at home. After finishing a three-game set in Pittsburgh, the Expos will play West Division teams for a while after the All-Star break. The team has gone 15-23 against Western foes so far, which, considering the Expos, is not that bad. It beats going 0 for 14.

Here are league leaders so far.

American League
Home Runs- Canseco, Oak, 32; Tartabull, KC, 25
Wins - Candiotti, Tor; Erickson, Min; Tapani, Min; Wegman, Mil, 13 each
Saves - Harvey, Cal, 18; Reardon, Bos, 16' Eckersley, Oak, 15

National League
Home Runs - Mitchell, SF, 25; Dawson, Chi and Strawberry, LA, 20 each
Wins - Glavine, Atl, 17
Saves - Belinda, Pit, 16; Howell, LA, 15; Dibble, Cin 14
So, we've reached near the midway point of the season. The American League West looks like a dogfight. Can Minnesota hold its lead? Will Seattle surprise again? Will Canseco hit 61 home runs for the season? Can Boston or Detroit challenge Toronto? Will Pittsburgh maintain its dominance in the National League? Will Glavine keep on winning? Will the Expos find a way to win sometimes? It's sizing up to be another good replay season and a reason to roll games at a steady clip to answer these and many more questions.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Lay-Off

Nineteen years ago in December, I began playing APBA's baseball game. After 21 years prior of playing the company's other games - football, basketball and hockey - I felt it was finally time to try out APBA's most popular product.

Eight months earlier I began work as the northeast Arkansas bureau correspondent for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It was a good time in my life. I had a good, stable, reputable job and a new hobby.

I began work at the newspaper a month after two children pulled a fire alarm at the Westside Middle School near Jonesboro, Ark., and fatally shot four students and a teacher as they exited the school building. It was the biggest story I'd ever cover and I competed with national media. It was nerve-wracking and stressful, but I held my ground and realized I could do that job.

I began replaying the 1998 baseball season on Dec., 28, 1998, replicating the steroid-laced home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. McGwire ended up hitting 77 home runs in my game, I recall. The Yankees beat the Braves in seven games in my World Series.

The newspaper and game became synonymous. When the stress of work got too much, I found the game provided a relaxing escape, a respite from the bad news I'd seen during the day.

The newspaper and the game. One of those venues ended recently. It wasn't the game.

On Oct. 24, the powers-that-be at the newspaper decided to lay off 27 people. I was one of them. In the declining economic world of journalism, the employees cut were seen as financial burdens, not enhancers. My editor drove from Little Rock to Jonesboro and sat outside the office that morning waiting for me. I was surprised to see him, but more surprised, of course, when he told me why he had come.

Nineteen and a half years gone in a blink. The editor took my laptop and company-provided cell phone and within about three hours of my notification, I was out. I was stunned, lost, confused.

The paper was really all I had and was the only identity I knew. When my wife died in 2006, I returned to work three days after her funeral- too soon, I later realized - but only to try to regain some sense of routine and normalcy. Now, that routine was shattered.

The next morning, for the first time in nearly two decades, I didn't have anywhere to go. I went through the five stages of grief identified by Kubler-Ross: Anger, Denial, Depression, Bargaining and Acceptance. I wavered among them, mostly depression and anger.

I realized, though, that the 26 others who were laid off also felt the same. And there've been so many more over the years. Hundreds of newspaper reporters all cut because of finances. It's a dying business. The paper was in my driveway the following morning. Life was going on; the paper still came out despite my absence; I was a blip, there and gone in its history.

I filed for unemployment a week later on Halloween, which was fitting. "Trick or Treat. Give me something good to live on." Holly had gone back to Illinois to visit her mother that week and I slunk home alone that evening, avoiding the trick or treaters that proliferated the neighborhood. I didn't want to see them at the door; the only difference between them and me was that the horror on their faces were masks. Mine was my own.

But, like APBA game players do so often, I returned to the game for the only semblance of peace I could find. That first night, while worrying what I was going to do next, I rolled a few games in my 1991 baseball replay. Boston beat Baltimore, 8-7, despite two home runs from Orioles' DH Sam Horn. The Red Sox won it in the eighth when Wade Boggs doubled in shortstop Luis Rivera. And Pittsburgh edged Montreal, 3-1, continuing the Expos' woes as the worst team in the replay and dropping them to a record of 21-52.

I'm looking for a new job now, but I also keep playing the game, I resurrected this blog, perhaps, as a way to still feel a writing deadline of sorts. I've not completely stepped away from the keyboard. I've also written some pieces for magazines and I had a thing published recently in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. And I covered a first-degree murder trial as a stringer for the very paper that dumped me a few weeks ago. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage doesn't care where the house payment comes from as long as it is made, I've found.

So, I seek employment in this area and contemplate moving somewhere else if necessary and feel lost. But the game, the APBA dice and cards game, provides at least once thing that is stable and lasting.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Forty Years of APBA

Forty years ago today, Dec. 25, 1977, I began the APBA journey when my father slid a large package from beneath our Christmas tree and handed it to me. I had been hoping for the game company's football game that provided the means to replay the 1976 NFL season, but I wasn't completely sure if I my parents had gotten the set.

That was the season the Minnesota Vikings went to the Super Bowl only to get trounced by the Oakland Raiders. I grew up in Minnesota and,of course, the Vikes were my favorite team. I had to play the season if only to avenge Minnesota's loss to the dreaded Raiders.

So when my father handed me the package and I felt its heft, I knew, I knew it was the game. Kids' toys didn't weight that heavily. I tore off the wrapping paper, opened the box and pored over the players' cards. Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, kicker Fred Cox, the wonderfully-named Wally Hilgenberg, Roy Winston, Chuck Foreman. They were all there. Hereos of my youth right there in my hand.

The game was complex; there were lots of rules and it was a far cry above the games of childhood. The previous gridiron contests I had were either a Tudor electric football game or the Mattel Talking Football game in which players inserted mini-records into a player, chose their offense, let the opponent select a defense and pushed a button to hear the play.

This APBA game was far more advanced and it was the first step into the life of APBA. I remember staying up late that Christmas night digesting the rules and finally rolling a game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. Larry Brown returned a kickoff for a touchdown for the Giants, leading his team to a high-scoring victory. I am sure I didn't follow the rules exactly, but the die was cast, the seed was planted. APBA that day became a mainstay in my life.

I was hooked. A year later, I got the basketball game. I loved it; most didn't. It was a ploding game that took hours to play a single contest. I learned to play a shortened version that eliminated passing and strategy and instead became a simpler version of a shooting-rebounding game. But I played that game constantly and it stayed with me for years.

I bought the hockey game when it was first offered in the early 1990s and then, finally, I bought the baseball game in 1998 when, as an adult, I decided to buy myself a Christmas present of my own. I did the process backward - most APBA fans begin with the baseball game. But I became initiated with the company four decades ago my own way and remain with it.

Nothing else has lasted this long. Although I've slowed tremendously in rolling games in whatever replay I'm engaged in, I still toss them. I'm still on the 1991 baseball replay, a season I began in August 2015. Changes in life slowed that pace; I began traveling to northern Illinois a month after I embarked on that season to meet a girl I became enamored with and, when a year later, she moved to Arkansas, I started yet a new chapter in my own life. The game took a back seat. I worked as a daily newspaper bureau correspondent in my town for 19 years before the trend of print journalism took a personal toll and the managing editor opted to eliminate 28 positions at the paper including mine in late October. I was a victim of journalism economics Now, I have to find a new job and fear is prevalent. I spend time seeking new employment and writing freelance pieces for various publications to appease Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, my utility companies, my car financer and my family of Holly, a Siberian huskey and two cats.

But the game is still there as always.

Tonight, shortly after midnight when children everywhere fell asleep anticipating Santa's visit in the morning, I played the July 4, 1991, contest between New York and Montreal. The Mets won big; Howard Johnson hit his 19th homer of the season and the Mets clobbered the Expos, 14-4.

For 40 years this game has been part of my life. In some cases, it's been a major part. Nothing else has lasted with me that long, jobs, friendships, relationships. Nothing. During the APBA journey, I've had eight jobs, lived in three states, gotten married and widowed, lived through seven presidential administrations and went from being a peppy 17-year-old high school kid to an old, sarcastic, 57-year-old.

It's a different world now, 40 years later. Most youngsters aged 17 now vie for computer games, the Nintendos and X-Boxes and whatever else is popular, rather than a game featuring printed cards, dice and cardboard play outcomes. But that style remains with me and each Christmas, I think back to 1977 when it all began and thank Santa for placing that APBA game beneath the tree that year.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Slow Pace

Sometimes, APBA replays go quickly. I've finished a full season baseball play — albeit a pre-1969 season when less teams played fewer games — in less than a year.

Sometimes, they take much longer. It took me 17 months to wrap up the 1950 replay I did.

It's taking me the longest time ever to advance the 1991 replay I'm doing now, but I have a valid reason.

Replay fans embark on journeys when they begin a replay. I've written about this here before. We elect new presidents, major news events happen, people get older, teams win championships in the real sports all while we continue playing our own replays game-by-game.

Two years ago tonight, on Aug. 16, 2015, I began rolling the 1991 season. Houston beat Cincinnati, 5-3, and Roger Clemens struck out 10 to lead Boston over Toronto, 1-0. The season was underway. I was back into the groove of another season and I figured I could knock this one out in about a year and a half, what with my limited social life and the fast pace I can maintain playing these games.

I start each season with anticipation. There are many games to roll and during the trek, players to get to know personalities of teams, winning streaks, losing streaks, players who achieve above their real life statistics and players who don't produce as well as they did in the real seasons. You really experience a season playing it one game at a time. And there's always the looking ahead factor. You knock out one season and start another. It's not that the games are tedious. By all means they're aren't. It just that there are so many seasons to experience, things to learn.

I began the 1991 season with all that in mind.

But a week after the first dice roll hit the table, I made a phone call. Again, I've written of that here before. I called a girl in northern Illinois on Aug. 23 that set my world a-spinnin'. A month later I drove up there, met her, fell butt over head in love and … voila! .. life change.

Holly has moved to Arkansas and a lot of my time is now divested in the new life. Where once I was a reclusive geek who remained at home after work, rolling games and listening to U2, Fleetwood Mac and Radiohead on the stereo, now I'm often zipping off to Wal-Mart to pick up bread, toilet paper and whatever lotion of the day the boss wants. Ah, life.

Tonight, I'll probably roll Game #800 in the 1991 season. There's 2,106 games in a full replay and I don't do rainouts. So, I'm 38 percent finished with the season. At this rate, I'll complete the 1991 replay in about five and a half years.

But the game is always there, and I find time occasionally to roll contests. It's shaping up to be yet another good season. Seattle is a surprise, leading the American League West Division and Minnesota, the actual World Series of that year, is two games behind the Mariners. The two Canadian teams are bookends of this season. Toronto, with a 43-20 record, is the best team in the league. Montreal, winning only 15 and losing 48, are far the worst. Pittsburgh and Atlanta are also taking big leads in their National League divisions.

And Jose Canseco is on pace to hit 66 home runs for the season. He's clubbed 26 in 63 games so far for Oakland, which otherwise is pretty dismal, anchoring last place in the American League West, 15.5 games behind Seattle.

I'll update the standings in a post soon. In addition to the change in frequency of games, I've not been writing Love, Life and APBA as much either.

Changes. We all have them in life at some point. I've been here before. I stopped playing the APBA football and basketball contests as much when I went off to college, maybe tossing a game or two on the weekends I returned home. And I once began a 1925 season and, after burning out on the errors and multitudes of walks each pitcher gave up, I went cold turkey and quit the season. I may have reached about 33 percent of the season and simply stopped. If I resume it, I'll start over since it's been so long.

But 1991 is on the forefront and I'll continue rolling at my slow pace, just enjoying the time I do have with the game when I do find time in my changed life.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Enough time?

I turned 57 the other day and with that comes questions of mortality. I'm in unchartered territory. I mean, I've never been this old before.

The questions surface a lot while playing the APBA baseball game, too. I've been mired in replaying the 1991 baseball season for nearly two years now. I'm about 40 percent finished. In the past, I would have already completed this season, playing games at a rapid pace each night. This time, however, things are different. I have a new life; the playing of games is less frequent; my time is divested in other things.

But when I do roll a game or two, I tend to think ahead. I've purchased a lot of seasons over the years of playing this game and, as we always do, my mind wanders to the potentials of other seasons to replay. I want to do 1961 to see if Roger Maris can replicate his real-life 61-homer season. There's 1972 to play — a season I really became aware of baseball and followed it closely from start to finish. I have Black Sox' 1919 season in the wings and 1934 as well, and I'd like to replay the 1954 season with the amazing Cleveland Indians' pitching staff.

But is there time enough? Will I live long enough to do all of them? I think it's a question all the APBA players eventually come around and think about.

To accentuate the issue, on my 57th birthday, I received a message on my phone from the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation. “We have your blood work. You need to call immediately about the results,” the person said.

Talk about a Happy Birthday message. I called immediately. Well, not exactly immediately. I first had to run around screaming in panic and frothing at the mouth. I had some issues late last year when I got pretty sick and ended up in the emergency room. Later, I told my doctor I couldn't pee worth a crap and, after apologizing for mixing the bathroom simile, learned that was common for “men my age.”

I had reached “that age.” The doctor did tell me that I had to monitor it, saying if things worsened, I could have early symptoms of prostate cancer.

So, the prostate foundation call was a bit of a shocker.

When I called back, the person said they use a 3.0 rating as a “marker” on PSA tests, which measures protein produced by prostate cells. “It's our cutoff,” she said. Anything above a 3.0 is red-flagged and the patient is notified, the association person said.

The words “cutoff” and “prostate” didn't go together well, I thought, but I digressed.

My rating was 3.09. Nothing to be too worried about, she said. But she advised that I “keep an eye on it.”

So, I was okay. For now.

When I returned to rolling games that evening, I thought about all the seasons I still have ahead of me. And, as I play those seasons, those collections of baseball eras, players and history, the APBA company keeps producing new seasons. It's an endless cycle.

I was a late starter with the baseball game. I was introduced to APBA with the football game in 1977 and didn't get into the baseball replay game until 1998. There are so many seasons and games left to play and my time, as dramatically as it sounds, is running out.

But enough pondering. Toronto is playing Cleveland next in my 1991 season and then Houston is hosting Philadelphia. I will continue playing, rolling games when I can and thinking about all the seasons I have yet to replay and experience.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Playing the Game With Someone

I've never played an APBA game against someone in person before, but now I can say I played a game with someone.

Ever since I began playing the replay sports games with the football version of APBA in 1977, I did it alone. I never experienced the fun of competition with someone, the strategy of outthinking an opponent by using certain players at certain times. 

A year later, I graduated to the APBA basketball game, a plodding venture that took hours to play a single game. Had I been playing against someone else, my strategy would have been to stay awake longer than my opponent. In 1993, I bought APBA's hockey game and played it alone and in 1998 I finally obtained the baseball game.

I've probably rolled more than 50,000 games in my four decades with this game. All of them alone.

Until the other night.

I had reached June 2 in my 1991 baseball replay and was set to play San Francisco hosting Atlanta. The Giants were the second worst team in the National League in my replay and Atlanta was only two games behind surprising upstart Cincinnati in the National League West Division. It had all the makings of a rout, and it was.

But this time, I had company watching the outcome.

Holly, my Illinois girl, who moved down here nearly a year ago came into the APBA room when I began the game. I had tossed the first roll; Otis Nixon got a single and promptly stole second base while Mark Lemke was at bat.

Holly asked if she could roll the dice. She has tossed a few rolls before, maybe rolling an inning for me while I explained the nuances of the game and did a sort of play-by-play for her.

This time, she pulled up a chair and rolled the entire rest of the game for me. And I was enhanced by the conversations we had.

Lemke followed Nixon with his own single off Giants' pitcher John Burkett and the Braves took a 1-0 lead. After San Francisco failed to get a hit in the bottom half of the first, Brian Hunter hit a home run — the first “66” roll-inducing homer Holly had done — and Atlanta was up 2-0.

Then, it got ugly. In the fourth, the Braves scored six runs. In the fifth, they got six more runs and led 14-0. The Giants got only one hit off Braves' starter Steve Avery. Holly noticed how quickly San Francisco batters came to plate in their halves of the innings and then were retired.

At the end of the sixth inning, she realized there was no way the Giants would come back and she uttered one of the more horrific things an APBA player true to the game could hear.

She said her personality was not suited for playing games day after day after day the way I do in replays.

“No offense to the game, but I'd just make it so the team I wanted to win won and then call it a day,” she said.

“Make” the team win? You can't do that. It's all up to the dice rolls.

At one point, I tried explaining how the statistics of the game generally worked and how players carded by the APBA game company usually replicated their real seasons. But, there were always exceptions to the rules. APBA players call it “dice magic,” when players either produce way above their actual season performances or they fail to meet up to their real stats. Seattle Mariner's Richie Zisk in my 1977 replay played far better than he did in real life. And Mickey Mantle's 1957 season in my replay was a disappointment.

I was about halfway into my dissertation about the dice's fickle ways when I saw Holly's eyes began glazing over.

She continued to roll the game.

It was time for a pitching change again for the Giants in the seventh inning.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because Kelly Downs gave up four earned runs in less than two innings,” I replied. “His arm is tired and we need a new pitcher." Jeff Brantley, an A-rated reliever, got the call from the bullpen.

“You do realize these are virtual arms,” Holly said, pointing to Downs' APBA game card. “They can't really be tired.”

The Braves won, 15-0. Avery only gave up that one hit for the entire game and Atlanta improved to 30-16 on the season.

I thought I had lost her interest in the game. Making teams win and virtual arms sort of quelled the magic and ambience of the game; it shattered the make-believe world that us APBA players can escape to and avoid the travails of real life for a bit.

But, Holly did return to roll other games, sometimes tossing an inning or two for me before going to do something else.

And, that APBA magic, while perhaps deep within, hidden behind her sense of reality and literalness, did show up once. A few days later, I was rolling the June 4 game between San Diego and Chicago. Holly, a life-long Cubs fan, took interest and wanted to roll her team's first inning. Mark Grace got on base with a single and then Ryne Sandberg flied out.

Andre Dawson was at bat. Holly rattled the dice in her hand and tossed them on the mousepad I use. The dice tumbled on the mat and, of course, two sixes resulted. It was a home run!

Holly stood up, smiled and swung a virtual bat of her own, replicating Dawson's clout.

I think she'll be back to roll more games.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

1991 Update: May 31, 1991

I've been replaying the 1991 baseball season with APBA now for 609 days and I've reached June 1, 1991. I finished Game # 600— the last replay game for the month of May — late the other night when Nolan Ryan struck out 12 in a complete game and led the Texas Rangers over the Seattle Mariners.

Six hundred games in 609 days. That's less than a game a day with this replay. In the past, I've been able to play four to five games a day. In my previous life, I would have easily completed this 1991 replay and its 2,106 games within 609 days. But life changes and priorities differ. At least, though, the game is still part of that life as limited as it is now.

That said, I've recently picked up the pace of games and still find time to roll three or four games some nights. And, like I say during every single replay I've done, this is a good replay. The 1991 season is fun because it's a year I closely watched baseball. The Minnesota Twins, my favorite team, won the World Series that year. I'm hoping the replay replicates that success. However, the Twins have to get past Seattle first; the Mariners are a surprising team in this replay. In the real season, the team finished in fifth place. Currently, at June 1, the Mariners are three games ahead of the Twins and with 31 victories already, they have the second most wins of any team in the league.

Here are the standings through May 31, 1991:

East Division W   L  GB
Toronto         33   15   -
Boston           24   22   8
Detroit           24   22   8
Milwaukee    21   25   11
New York     19    25   12
Baltimore     19    26   12.5
Cleveland     12    32   19

West Division W   L  GB
Seattle            31   17   -
Minnesota      28   20   3
Chicago         24   20   5
California      24   23   6.5
Texas             22   21   6.5
Kansas City   22   24    8
Oakland        18    29   12.5

East Division    W   L  GB
Pittsburgh        30   15   -
St. Louis          27   19  3.5
New York        25   20   5
Philadelphia    24   23   7
Chicago          22    25   9
Montreal        10     37   21

West Division   W   L   GB
Cincinnati         31  15    -
Atlanta              28  16    2
San Diego         28  21   4.5
Los Angeles      24  23   7.5
Houston            16   31  15.5
San Francisco   14   34   18

And here are the leaders in a few categories as well:
American League
Home runs : Canseco, Oak., 16; Thomas, Chi., 15; Tettleton, Det., 13; Hrbek, Minn., 12
Wins: Wegman, Mil., 8-2; Stottlemyre, Tor., 7-2; Key, Tor, 7-3; Tapani, Minn., 7-4
Saves: Harvey, Cal., 10; Montgomery, KC, 10; Reardon, Bos., 9; Russell, Tex., 9
National League
Home runs: Strawberry, NYM, 15; Mitchell, SF, 14; Johnson, NYM, 13; McGriff, S.D., 13
Wins: Glavine, Atl., 10-0; Cone, NYM, 8-3; Smiley, Pitt., 7-1; Z. Smith, Pitt., 7-2
Saves: Dibble, Cin, 12; L. Smith, StL, 9; Franco, NYM, 8; Howell, LA, 7

Along with Seattle, there have been a few other surprises. The New York Mets have played well and are in third place, paced behind Howard Johnson and Darryl Strawberry's bats and David Cone's pitching. Even Mets' reliever John Franco is chipping in, saving eight games so far. In the real season, Franco saved 30 games in 1991.

Cincinnati won 12 games in a row at the end of May and winning 15 of 16, overtaking Atlanta for first in the West Division. Chris Sabo and Barry Larkin lead the Reds with seven home apiece.

Toronto is no surprise. The Blue Jays are running away with their division. During each replay I've done in the 18 years I've played APBA baseball, I've discovered that there's always one team in a season that finds a variety of ways to win. Toronto is that team this year. The Blue Jays could fall behind by three or four runs early in a game and then have an explosive inning and take the lead. Nine Blue Jays have hit homers already. (There are only 12 players carded for the Blue Jays in APBA's 1991 season, not including the eight pitchers.)

Montreal continues to be really, really bad and San Francisco is trying to mirror the Expos. The Giants lost 10 games in a row from May 21 to May 30.

Finally, in a stunning development, I have decided to keep more detailed stats in this replay. I've tried a few times before to compile batting averages and ERA only to have my computers crash each time. I had planned to use zip drives, but never got around to copying my stat results on them. This time, I plan to log batting averages, RBIs, home runs, innings pitched, walks and strike outs. I've gone back and recorded stats from about 170 games so far. It's opened an entirely new realm of this game and I understand why APBA players do it. For example, after the 170 games, I can see that Tony Gwynn is batting only .217 and Vince Coleman is hitting a stellar .377 so far.

It's still very early in the season. I am only 28 percent of the way done with this year, so things can change. I'm hoping the Twins taking over first place will be one of those changes.