For me, 1981 will always be the “what if” year.
My college sweetheart and I had broken up a few days before that year began, sending me into a reeling despair.
She was a great girlfriend; pretty, smart, intelligent, edgy, sarcastic. It was my first real love and, at that time, I felt it was perfect.
We had a great summer together, but she moved to New York in the fall of 1980 to go to art school and we drifted apart. I’ve always said, “Absence makes the heart forget.”
She came back home for Christmas and we spent a lot of time together in that no man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We both knew it wouldn’t work. The 1,000 miles of geographical distance between us was much shorter than the differences between us emotionally and culturally. She was a big city girl now. I was still a goofy small town boy.
It was tough.
So, like I always do, I relied on sports. I focused on baseball.
But in 1981, sports fans remember, the players went on strike in June and for several weeks baseball stopped.
When it resumed, the leagues decided on having split seasons much like the minor leagues. Win the first half, play the second half winner to determine who would go on to divisional championships. It was a weird way to do it because it took away the urgency to win the pennant if the team won the first half.
And there were the controversies. St. Louis got ripped off. They had the best seasonal, combined record in the National League East, but because they finished second in both halves they didn’t make the playoffs.
All that to say that I’m doing the 1981 baseball replay with my APBA game to see what would happen if there were no strike. And, correspondingly, I wonder what would have happened if my college girlfriend hadn’t moved to New York. Would we have stayed together? Would we have gotten married? Would we have broken up, embittered like couples get?
But more importantly, would the Cardinals win the East if there were no strike?
I’ve played 168 games in the season so far and have reached April 25, 1981. The Cardinals look good so far, but it’s early and, as I’ve found doing so many other APBA replays, things can happen.
The game will answer the “what if” in the baseball season.
The other question, the personal one, will never be answered.