Saturday, May 23, 2020

The APBA Chair

It was a fine chair, as chairs go. It served its purpose for nearly 30 years and it was the only chair I used when rolling games in every APBA replay I did at home.

But like all things do, it had to come to an end and last week we bade farewell to the APBA chair in a ceremony unfitting to the royalty it proclaimed.

It was an office chair, a spindle set on rollers with a navy blue seat and back. I had gotten it when we furnished a weekly newspaper my wife and I owned back in the early 1990s. We had an industrial carpeted office area and I could roll around easily. I’m sure in moments of levity at that newspaper employees used the other roller desk chairs and had races with each other. But my chair also served during serious times as well. I wrote scores of stories about poor city management, the local police union battling for higher wages, all of our weekly police reports, my weekly column and other tales in that chair. I also wrote stories about the original trial for two of the three charged in the slayings of three West Memphis, Ark., eight-year-olds that was later referred internationally as the West Memphis 3 case. And I began my freelancing careers with the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette while sitting in that chair. The Democrat-Gazette gig resulted in a full-time job of nearly 20 years.

When we sold the newspaper and I left the job, I took the chair with me and placed it in my home office and what Holly now calls the “baseball room.” It’s where I began rolling the 1998 APBA baseball, my first replay. And it’s where I rolled nine subsequent full replays, half of the 1925 season and now about 60 percent of the 1947 season I’m currently doing.

By its end, the chair was in pretty rough shape. Both arms were slanted away from the chair; the seat itself was sagging, too. Holding up my fat ass for 30 years took its toll. One set of wheels didn’t work right and the seat had some stains – probably from the Pepsis I guzzle during games and, at one point after my wife passed away in 2006 of kidney failure, the Jim Beam bourbon and Dewars scotch I drank to escape for a bit.

APBA players all have their gaming places. I’ve seen some photographs on the APBA Facebook page and I’ve been pretty impressed. Many decorate the walls behind the game site with baseball and other sports photographs, hats and assorted memorabilia. There’s the necessary light, table space for the game and writing stats and the computer if the person plays the PC version of the game. But there’s always the chair in the photograph. It’s the throne of the APBA kingdom.

I had decided to get rid of the chair a few years ago and even placed it in the garage in preparation for hauling it to the curb on trash day. But after a moment of guilt and nostalgia, I rolled it back in and realized that it was a lot harder parting with the chair than I thought. I accepted the flayed arms and the small back “support” that was always off-center. When I tried rolling away from the desk after a game, it was like pushing a block.

Holly, my Illinois sweetie, got a chair from a local store when she moved here four years ago with the purpose of using it herself. But she liked a different chair instead and this one sat in a corner for a while.

Finally, last Thursday – trash night in the subdivision where we live – I took the chair back to the garage and placed it by the garbage can where I’d put it in after we filled it with the weekly refuse. Seconds later, and I’m not making this up, one of two feral cats who hang out at our home sauntered into the garage, sniffed the wheels and spindle and promptly raised his tail and doused it all with cat pee. Holly said he was “marking the chair" and making it his. I said other choice words and added that I took ownership of the chair for almost three decades and not once- that I recall- did I pee on it.

But it was a sign. The chair would not return to the baseball room now. I hefted it into the trash can and rolled it out to the curb. Its wobbly back support stuck jauntily out of the can’s top.

I was sitting in the new chair the next day when the trash truck rolled through and I watched as the truck’s mechanical arm raised the can and dumped its contents into the back. The chair was gone.

My new chair will take adjusting to. It’s smaller and the arms are a bit confining. Sometimes when I lean to the right, the arm presses on the car keys in my pocket and pushes the alarm button. I hear the car bleating in the garage and I have to stand up to turn it off with the keys.

But it rolls well and the back is comfortable and there’s no cat pee on it. Maybe it’ll be the new APBA chair for the next 30 years.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Two Games

It was raining earlier today but the sun is out now, shining through the window blinds in the “baseball room” where I write things and roll my APBA baseball replays.

Outside, a small girl rides her bike down the paved street. Her wheels are pink as are the flapping tassels on the handlebars. The neighbor across from me is mowing his yard and barn swallows have returned to the nest birds built under the overhang at the entrance to my home several years ago. Based upon the endless squawking, the mockingbirds who have a nest of their own in a nearby tree, must feel it necessary to update the swallows on all the day’s news.

It’s peaceful here in the baseball room. It’s a good time to roll a few games and forget about the pandemic that is killing thousands and dominating the evening newscasts and the constant buzzing news alerts on my phone.

Two games I played today in my 1947 season replay have helped and it’s yet another reason why we play the APBA games.

Even though the first game was a meaningless contest between the National League-worst Pittsburgh Pirates and the disappointing New York Giants, it turned into a great game. It was a replay of the July 14, 1947, game in the Polo Grounds. The players combined for eight home runs, including Ralph Kiner’s league-leading 33rd.

Bill “Hoss” Cox opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the second inning, giving the Pirates a rare lead.  But the Giants responded quickly and Jack “Lucky” Lohrke hit the first of his game’s two home runs in the bottom of the second to tie the game. Pittsburgh scored a lone run in the top half of the third, but Bobby “Giants Win the Pennant” Thompson popped his 14th home run of the season in the Giants’ third to give New York a 4-3 lead.

Kiner hit his blast in the fifth and three batters later, Jimmy Bloodworth knocked his 11th dinger of the year and Pittsburgh had a comfortable 7-4 lead. The Pirates tacked on three more runs on home runs by Frankie Gustine in the sixth inning and catcher Clyde Kluttz in the ninth. Lohrke hit his second of the game in the eighth, but the Giants, which lead the majors with 106 home runs, ran out of gas and only scratched a single in the bottom of the ninth before Pirates hurler Jim Bagby shut them down. Lohrke, fittingly, popped out with two outs to end the game.

The second game was much more of a defensive battle. National League-leading St. Louis Cardinals visited Philadelphia, sending their ace Harry “The Cat” Breechen up against Phillies pitcher Dutch Leonard. Philadelphia scored two in the first inning as Del Ennis drove in Harry Walker with a double and then Johnny Wyrostek blopped a single to Cards’ left fielder Enos Slaughter.

Both pitchers settled in for the next five innings; Breechen and Leonard each surrendered only two hits. But then Phillies third baseman Lee “Jeep” Handley lashed a double to plate Wyrostek and Philadelphia held a 3-0 lead.

The Cardinals won 13 of their last 15 games and swept a doubleheader against the Phillies on July 13, to regain first place in the National League over the Brooklyn Dodgers, so the fact that they were losing and, even more so, their bats were silent in this game was surprising.

In the top of the eighth, though, the Cards mounted a rally. Whitey Kurowsky scored on a sacrifice fly by Ervin “Four Sack” Dusak (the nicknames in 1947 were pretty creative, hence why I add them here) and then Marty “Slats” Marion scored when Red Schoendienst hit his own sacrifice fly.

The Phillies held onto their 3-2 lead into the top of the ninth and I debated about pulling Leonard for a reliever. I thought, though, of Leonard, a seasoned veteran of 14 years by then and who ended his career with 191 wins, telling manager Ben Chapman to get off his mound and let him finish the game. Leonard stayed in and struck out Stan Musial and Slaughter before getting Ron Northey to pop up to Handley to end the contest. Leonard only gave up three hits in his complete game.

These were two pretend games in a replay of a season that really meant nothing in the context of the world outside. But it meant everything in my sunlit baseball room as the birds kept chirping and the little girl continued to peddle lazy circles outside on her bike with the pink wheels.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Kiner's Krushing Klouts

In the 1947 APBA baseball replay I’m a little over halfway through, Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Ralph Kiner is Krushing the ball. At the All-Star break, he’s got 31 home runs and leads his closest competitor Johnny Mize of the New York Giants by 10 Klouts. He’s on pace to hit 57 home runs if he keeps up the pace.

It’s one of the more powerful displays of batting I’ve ever had in a replay. My first “replay” was the 1998 baseball season with steroid-loaded Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I didn’t really consider it a replay, however. I played games with the 1999 schedule and, rather realizing it was a replay of a previous season, I treated it more like the current season. The following replay was the 1957 season in which the obsession for doing these full replays took over. I learned a lot about that season while rolling its games and have done so ever since for whatever season I’m doing.

I think McGwire hit something insane like 68 or 70 home runs in that 1998 replay. The most homers I've had by a player since were 53 by Oakland’s Jose Canseco in a 1991 replay. That, apparently, was also aided by steroids.

So, Kiner comes by it naturally. But while people always recalled Kiner as a slugger, he was a decent batter. Kiner's lifetime average in 10 seasons was .279, but that was somewhat lessened by his final two seasons when he played with a back injury.

In the Pirates' past 11 games in my 1947 replay, Kiner’s second season, he batted .425. He hit safely in 10 of the 11 games and had six home runs and drove in 16 runs. For the season so far, along with his 31 homers, he has 83 RBIs. In the actual season, Kiner had 21 home runs and 60 RBIs after playing 83 games (since I don’t have games rained out in my replays, teams play a full schedule and Pittsburgh’s 83rd game came 12 days before the Pirates’ real 83rd game). Mize, during the same 11 games, hit only one home run and had six RBIs. He did bat .357, during that stretch, though, and the two add to the enjoyment of this replay. Their ‘rivalry’ is similar to that of the one between Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio in the American League.

Kiner is in the Hall of Fame, but just barely. He was voted into the Hall in 1975, his last year of eligibility, by one vote more than the 75 percent required. He led or was tied for the home run lead for seven consecutive seasons from 1946 to 1952. He ended up with 369 homers. He was aided in that total, in part, when Pirates’ owners built a bullpen in the left field at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, cutting the distance to the seats from 406 feet to 376 feet. Kiner also played with Hank Greenberg on that 1947 team and he called the veteran first baseman the most influential person in his career.

The Pirates were cellar-dwellers during Kiner’s career. In my replay, the 1947 Bucs are 28-56 now (I played one game after the All-Star break) and are 28.5 games behind National League leader Brooklyn. Kiner earned $90,000 in 1952, his highest salary. After a less-than-stellar batting average that season, team owner Branch Rickey cut Kiner’s salary to $75,000. When Kiner complained, Rickey is credited as saying “Son, we can finish last without you.”

Kiner was traded to the Chicago Cubs during the 1953 season and then was reunited with his pal Greenberg in Cleveland in 1955 where he played one season before retiring.

Kiner was friends with Bing Crosby, who was an owner of the Pirates back then, and that union led Kiner into the Hollywood circle. He took a 17-year-old Elizabeth Taylor to a movie premier and hung out with Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. He built a huge home in Palm Springs, Calif., and lived the life of luxury. 

After retiring, he joined the expansion team New York Mets as an announcer in 1962. He quipped that the Mets hired Kiner because he had “a lot of experience losing.” He was also known for his Casey Stengel-like sayings. He once said that Don Sutton “lost 13 games in a row without winning a ballgame” and “All of the Mets’ road wins against Los Angeles this year have been at Dodger Stadium.” He even poked at Stengel once, referencing him during a badly-played Mets’ game. “If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave,” Kiner said.

Kiner died on Feb. 6, 2014. He was the reason I began a replay of the 1950 season in March 2014 rather than tackle the 1991 season I had planned.  Kiner hit a home run in the first game I played with him and the Pirates and he ended my replay season with a National League leading 46 home runs. In his actual 1950 season, Kiner hit 47.

Ralph Kiner's 1947 APBA card
To me, this is one of the major draws of doing an APBA replay. You learn about the players and “see” them in action. Whenever Kiner’s up to bat, I watch the dice closely to see if he rolls a “66” or "11" and another Klout is on its way.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

All-Star Break 1947

A day before something crashed in Roswell, N.M., on July 7, 1947, sparking debate about the existence of UFOs and little green men, the baseball season rested for its All-Star break.

I have reached that point in the 1947 APBA baseball replay I’m doing and a few teams are as mysterious as whatever the military found on the sheep pasture in southeastern New Mexico on July 8 that year. The Cincinnati Reds, for example, are a much better team in my replay than their 36-46 record indicates. In the real season, the Reds had a record of 41-41 after the same number of games played. Shortstop Ed “Eppie” Miller has 16 home runs and 80 RBIS to pace Cincinnati. Ewell Blackwell is 11-7 and could easily have won two or more games had he received run support. Pittsburgh Pirate left fielder Ralph Kiner is knocking homers out of parks that look like streaking UFOs. He’s on pace to break Babe Ruth’s 1927 season record. Kiner has 31 home runs after the Pirates 83rd game of the season. Ruth clouted his 31st after 93 games.

In the American League, the New York Yankees are three games worse than the actual Yankees of 1947 and trail the Boston Red Sox by 4.5 games in the replay.  In the real season, the Yanks were in first place with an eight-game lead over both the Red Sox and the Tigers when the All-Star game was played.  Joe DiMaggio has 16 home runs and 62 RBIs at the break in my replay, and is batting .328. Meanwhile, Ted Williams is playing out of this world (see what I did there?) for Boston and is one of the main catalysts for the Red Sox’ success. The “Splendid Splinter” is batting .359, has 22 home runs and an amazing 93 RBIs. Pitcher Joe “Curly” Dobson is 11-4 for Boston.

Here are the 1947 replay standings at the break.

Boston                          57   24   --             Brooklyn                      54    26    --
New York                   53   29   4.5            St. Louis                      54    26    --
Detroit                       48   34   9.5            Boston                          51    30    4
Chicago                      39   46  20             New York                     36    42   17
Cleveland                   37   45  20.5          Philadelphia               37    45   18
St. Louis                      32   46  23.5         Cincinnati                   36   46   19
Washington                30   50  26.5         Chicago                       27    53   27
Philadelphia               31   53  27.5          Pittsburgh                  28    55   27.5

Williams is ahead of DiMaggio by five home runs to lead the American League, 21-16. Jeff Heath of the St. Louis Browns has 16 at the break as well. Bobby Doerr, the Red Sox second baseman, has 68 RBIS for second place behind Williams. Joe Page of the Yankees has 10 saves to pace the American League.

In the National League, New York Giants first baseman Johnny “Big Cat” Mize has 21 home runs to trail Kiner. He also has 68 RBIs. Will Marshall has 18 homers and 56 RBIs for the Giants. The Giants are a fun team to roll their games with six players hitting 10 or more home runs. Their problem, however, is a combination of slow-footed runners and less than adequate pitching. Any time the Giants seem to get a rally going and Marshall, Mize, Walker Cooper or Sid Gordon are on base, they get thrown at second or third because of their (S) Slow ratings. Ace Larry Jansen is 7-8 in my replay.  In the real 1947 season, he went 21-5. George Koslo leads the Giants with a 9-3 record.

Brooklyn is another fun team to roll for. Ralph Branca is 12-2 for the Bums, Jeff Taylor is 11-2 – already bettering his actual season record of 10-5 – and Joe Hatten is 11-3 on the mound. One of the Dodgers who is playing well above his actual stats is Gene Hermanski. He doesn’t play that much in the replay; usually Pete Reiser is in left field. But, I’ll stick Hermanski in on occasion and he’ll play well. He leads Brooklyn with 10 home runs. In the real 1947 season, he had seven homers. He also has 31 RBIs in the replay, compared to 37 in his actual full season. Seems like Hermanski wants to play. He’s had a couple of two-home run games and he hit for the cycle against the Cardinals in a 14-9 win in a June 13 contest in the replay. Hermanski is playing, dare I say, like he’s from a different planet.  And like those who firmly believe what crashed in Roswell was an alien ship and not a military weather balloon, it’s hard to refute playing Hermanski more.

We’ve reached the break. Who will win the National League, St. Louis or Brooklyn? Can Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain put Boston in the NL picture? Will Kiner hit 61 or more home runs for the season? Can the Yankees catch the Red Sox? It, like the strange crafts that zip across the sky, is all up in the air.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Fireworks 1947

I failed to mention a couple of other reasons for choosing seasons to replay in the last blog, and both are evident in the 1947 APBA baseball season I am now replaying.

The first is the use of pitchers. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when pitch counts were not that important and starting pitchers tended to finish games more. Relief pitchers often went two or three innings in games if needed. Unless you buy extra players, the APBA company cards only about 10 or 11 pitchers per team. After taking out the five or six starters, there’s not many left for long-inning relief, set up and closing. I tend to leave my pitchers in probably too long because of the lack of pitching depth, but it works in the earlier eras. For example, Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw has 25 complete games in 12 seasons. Bob Gibson completed 28 of his games in both 1968 and 1969. Can you imagine pulling Gibson, or Nolan Ryan or Steve Carlton out in the fifth inning because he threw too many pitches?

Another reason is doubleheaders. They are a thing of the past now, only done as make up games. But back in the day, at least in the 1947 season, it seemed teams played twin bills almost every Sunday and on holidays.  To me, doubleheaders help move the pace of the season along and it’s fun to see how players do in both games. For example, Brooklyn Dodgers’ first baseman Jackie Robinson had a great day on July 4, 1947, against the rival New York Giants. And when Ralph Kiner, who has been on an amazing home run tear for the Pittsburgh Pirates in my replay, couldn’t launch one out of Crosley Field in Cincinnati in the first game, Hank Greenberg knocked his 13th of the season to help the Pirates to a win. Kiner, by the way, hit his 29th home run in the second contest of the day.

So, here are quick game recaps of the doubleheaders on July 4, 1947, and how they affected the standings.

Brooklyn 5, 8 New York Giants 3, 7

Jackie Robinson hit his fourth homer of the season in the first game and Ralph Branca pitched a complete game. Johnny Mize decked his 21st home run. Robinson added another home run in the seventh inning of the second game. The Giants led 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth in Brooklyn, but Dodgers scored three to win, including the winning run when Arky Vaughan hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Dixie Walker.

Boston Braves 6, 2 Philadelphia Phillies 7, 1

The Phillies were down 6-1 in the eighth, but scored three runs in that frame and three more in the ninth for the victory. In the second game, Si Johnson went eight innings for the Braves and Warren Spahn picked up his fourth save by pitching a hitless ninth inning.

Washington 2, 2 New York Yankees 1, 3

The Washington Senators stunned the Yankees in the first game, scoring both runs in the first and then keeping the Yanks’ bats quiet until Phil Rizzuto hit a home run in the seventh.  The Yankees were down again, 2-1, in the seventh of the second game, but a single by Tom “Old Reliable” Henrich and a sac fly by Joe DiMaggio scored two runs. Rookie pitcher Vic Raschi picked up his sixth win and reliever Joe Page, who has been Old Unreliable of late, got his 11th save.

Philadelphia As 13, 0 Boston Red Sox 9, 6

Another surprising game. Philadelphia was trailing 6-2 into the seventh inning, but they scored 11 runs in the last three innings to win the first game. A pinch hit homer by seldom used Mickey Rutner – his first of the season – started the barrage of runs. The Red Sox realized they were the best team in the league and took the second game easily on a three-run home run by Dom DiMaggio.

Detroit 7, 1 Cleveland 0, 12

Fred Hutchinson had a no-hitter with one out in the night before Dale Mitchell blooped a single into left field. Joe Gordon, Jim Hegan and Ken Keltner each hit two-run homers in the second game for the Indians.

St. Louis Cardinals 2, 6 Chicago Cubs 0, 4

The Cardinals maintained their half-game lead over the Dodgers for first place in the National League by sweeping the hapless Cubs. Stan Musial hit his 17th home run of the season in the second contest and is tied with Whitey Kurowski for the team lead.

Pittsburgh 8, 3 Cincinnati 3, 16

Despite Kiner’s home run prowess, the Pirates continue to be the worst team in the league. Pittsburgh pitcher Ed Bahr gave up eight runs in four innings in the second game to drop his record to 0-6 and Norman “Babe” Young drove in eight runs on two home runs, a single and a bases-loaded walk for the Reds.

Chicago White Sox 7, 3 St. Louis Browns 4, 4

In a meaningless twinbill, the White Sox scored three runs in the 10th inning of the first game. Backup catcher Joe Schultz hit his fifth home run. He also has nine RBIs for the year, all coming on those homers. Schultz, by the way, later gained fame by being the Seattle Pilots only coach.

By the end of the fireworks of the Fourth, the St. Louis Cardinals, with a 52-25 record, lead the Dodgers and their 52-26 record by half a game. Boston is in third with a 51-28 record and will travel to Brooklyn for two games before the All-Star break. In the American League, the Red Sox have a commanding 5.5 game lead over the Yankees. Ted Williams has wrapped up his MVP award already by batting .360 with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs. The Sox host the Senators for two games and won’t face the Yankees until a three-game set in early August.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Why We Choose Our Replay Seasons

When choosing seasons to replay with the APBA baseball game, what causes us to pick the years we do?

I am always thinking about the next season replay, not because I am bored with whatever current season I’m involved with but rather because there’s always that excitement about embarking on a new season. It’s a long journey, one the replayer invests a lot of time and energy into. We learn about that season in probably better fashion than any book could give us and as we immerse ourselves into it we live it.

As I am near the halfway point of my 1947 replay, I’m already thinking of the next replay and what adventure it can bring.

Obviously, seasons are often picked because we remember the actual corresponding season. I replayed the 1987 and 1991 seasons because they were both years that my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins, won the World Series. (In both of my replays of those seasons, the Twins did not win the crown. They didn’t even make it to the 1987 contest as they were beaten out of the American League West by Kansas City). I also bought the 1969 season because that was the first year I became really aware of baseball. And, of course, reading Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four,” his diary of his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots, is a huge motivator for replaying that year.

I also bought 1972 to recapture the feeling I had as a kid in Minnesota that year. I was finishing sixth grade and headed to junior high that year and I was keeping a close eye on the Twins. Oakland won the West Division that year and the World Series. The Twins finished at .500 in 1972, but it was a good year for me as a youngster.

But on taking inventory of the seasons I do own, I realize half of the ones I have are of seasons before I was born. Granted, there are many APBA players who have far more seasons than I have. And there are those who buy new seasons each year for league play or just to collect them. I though, have picked the seasons for various reasons.

Here, then, are the seasons I have and the decisions on getting them over the 22 years I’ve been rolling APBA baseball games.

1901 and 1906 - Back when I had expendable income and connections with good APBA sellers on e-bay, I got these seasons for the historical aspect. 1901 was the first year for the American League. 1906 featured the great pitching of the Chicago Cubs.

1919- I was reading Al Stump’s “Cobb,” his take on the irascible Ty Cobb, and, while realizing much of the book was more fiction than reality, I decided to impulse buy the 1919 season. I called the company, ordered the season and when it arrived I remember seeing the box in the garage and feeling like a kid at Christmas. Whatever gift at adulthood can replicate that feeling?

1925 and 1927 – I had to have a season with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I got the 1925 season early on in my replay career; it was the year Babe Ruth missed a load of games for whatever ailment you want to believe. Stomach ache, pneumonia, syphilis, et al. I played half the season and got bored with it because I played three-game contests rather than day-by-day. I never got the feel for the season. Recently, an APBA friend sent me the 1927 season. I’m reading Jane Leavy’s “The Big Fella,” her book on Babe Ruth’s barnstorming after winning the 1927 World Series now, and it’s a motivator to roll that season

1932 and 1934 – Again, I got these for the historical aspect. The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals’ Gas House Gang, Jimmie Foxx’s 1932 Philadelphia As, Rogers Hornsby…

1942 and 1947 – I bought 1942 to have a Joe DiMaggio season. Holly, my Illinois gal, bought me 1947 for Jackie Robinson’s first season.

1950, 1954 and 1957 – This is one of my favorite eras of baseball. Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron and Willie Mays were all stars during that decade. 1957 was the second replay I had ever done and it gave me that feel of what replayers enjoy.

1961, 1964, 1965 and 1969 – These are all seasons that I was alive for. Of course, 1961 is Roger Maris’ 61-home run year. 1965 is the Twins’ World Series clash with Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1972, 1974, 1976, 1977 and 1979 – See a pattern here? I think the 1970s are my favorite decades. The Twins had dismal seasons, but there were those Cincinnati Reds and Dodgers teams. And Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run in 1974.

1981, 1985 and 1987 – 1981 was the strike-shortened year and I wanted to see what would happen if I played it as if there were no stoppage of play. I bought 1985 for the Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers World Series.

1991 and 1998 – 1998 was the first season I bought from ABPA. It was before I got into replaying earlier seasons; I had done basketball, football and hockey replays of current seasons before but never got into doing earlier seasons until after I completed 1998 and realized APBA’s baseball game was really a good idea.

2001 – APBA issued a set to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the game company. The cards are not on the larger cardstock that the rest are printed on but instead on slick, smaller, playing card-sized ones. I probably will never replay the 2001 season, not because of the difference in cards, but the season never interested me.

Each season has something interesting. They all provide learning experiences and months, if not years, of enjoyment.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Wipe Out

We were in the empty aisle of paper towels and cleaning products at our local grocery store when Holly spotted it. Hidden behind one of the shelf racks near a box was a lone package of toilet paper.

Because of the coronavirus Covid 19, there’s been a massive run on toilet paper. Apparently, everyone was afraid the outbreak would cause a break out of … well… what toilet paper is good for.  Finding a single package of four rolls was like discovering a treasure in a sunken ship, panning pieces of gold in a river, having an administrative leader who actually knew how to handle the pandemic. It was rare. Very rare.

Holly grabbed the package and put it in our shopping cart, hiding it beneath other, less desirable supplies. It was a cheap make of paper, something below the Always Save or Great Value offerings, more akin to the Are You Sure You Want It or the You’ll Be Sorry brands. The paper sheets had the consistency of shattered dreams and broken promises. I could have gotten better results from using leaves or newspapers. But, it was toilet paper, dadgum it. This country was founded on freedom and comfort. Toilet paper was invented only 160 years ago by an inventor who wanted to create a “medical accessory.” In that century and six-tenths we have become quite accustomed to it. According to, a website devoted to wiping out misinformation about paper, U.S. residents buy 26 billion rolls a year. About 1.5 billion were purchased last Thursday. Charmin is charming. A coronation for Coronet , and all. What kind of nation would we become if we lost the right to wipe?

We continued down the aisle. I grabbed a toilet plunger and held it firmly, ready to swing at anyone daring to attempt to take the prized paper from our cart.  We pushed through the section that used to contain bleach and spray cleaners but was now empty. Holly has a tad bit of OCD; cleaning is an obsession with her to the point of wiping door knobs and using Lysol on the bottom of our shoes to kill any Covids we may have stepped in. This is a hell for her now. It is a world without wet wipes, soft soap, sanitizer and super cleaning liquids that promise the death of 99.9 percent of germs. It’s pretty much the same world to me as before, but I am somewhat of a slob, I guess.

She picked up some cat food and cat treats in another aisle and we headed toward the checkout. But we had to pass through the food section and therein lay trouble. Hoarders were gathered around the soup can shelf, jostling for position much like Bill Laimbeer of the 1987 Detroit Pistons did for a rebound.

They spotted us and advanced. I swung the toilet plunger at encroachers. I yelled out,” Look, the last can of Campbell’s chicken noodle!”  The diversion saved us. They stumbled toward the shelf like the extras on the early seasons of the zombie show “The Walking Dead” headin’ for brains and we pushed our cart past them.

The checkout line stretched around the self-checker stations and back into the store. People were observing the social distancing rule, maintaining six feet between each other. By then I was sweating from the exertion. I had also suffered from allergies and the budding Bradford pear trees were shedding their pollen, turning the air into a yellow mist of sneeze-inducing atmosphere.  Sneezing and sniffling were my constant companions and they did not abandon me in line. I got some nervous looks of Covid-fearing folks and then realized why there was the run on toilet paper. Whenever anyone sneezed in public, 100 others pooped their pants in fright.

I wanted to say, “Boy, I didn’t know having the coronavirus made me sweat so much” to clear out the line. But, I held back. I may have limited supply of toilet paper and cleaners, but I kept my sense of civility.

We got out of the store, tossed the goods in the back seat of the car and sped off. Our treasure was intact. We were proud. We came and we conquered and we won’t chafe later.

 Editor’s Note: Most of this was written two weeks ago for a more timely fashion, considering news of the day then. However, as this was being composed, a tornado bore down on our town in Arkansas and I, at my weekend job at an assisted living facility, had to scramble to get residents to safety. The twister missed us, but then came near our home, wrecking neighborhoods less than a mile from us. It kind of killed the writing muse what with that and the virus. It’s sunny today and, although more inclement weather is approaching for tonight, at least it was decent enough to finish this.