After losing 26 games in a row in my 1981 APBA baseball replay game, the Minnesota Twins’ streak is over. It took them a Pete Mackanin home run in the 12th inning to beat Seattle, and what had become a routine of suffering for me has ended
I opted to replay the 1981 season for two purposes. One was to correct the baseball strike that split the real season in half. The division almost rendered that year irrelevant. The playoffs system that ensued didn’t seem real what with the first and second half division winners playing each other to advance to the league championships. The L.A. Dodgers’ World Series victory didn’t carry the credibility that a full season win would have.
The second reason for that year’s replay was for a more personal basis. My college girlfriend moved to New York to attend art school in the fall of 1980 and we didn’t make it. I learned that absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes it forget. That New Year’s Eve of 1980 was the last day I saw her. The following year began sadly for me in the way that lost love renders all things for youngsters.
So, I tried to rely on ensuing baseball campaign in the spring of 1981 to quell the loss. But that season broke, like my heart, and for over a month in midsummer, there were no games; the parks were empty, the bats silence and, in my stat-addled world, the newspaper was vacant of box scores.
Forward 31 years to now. I began to replay the 1981 season in December to see how things would have turned out had there been no strike. I wanted also to focus on a season that, when the teams were actually playing, I didn’t totally pay attention to. Each baseball year is a gift and, as a fan, I felt I should have devoted more heed to it. Instead of moping, I should have followed the game.
But in an attempt to right my emotional wrong of 1981, I brought back another world of hurt. Those dang Twins couldn’t win, and it got to the point of being ridiculous. After they lost their first 10 games, I began wondering if they would win. The next 10 loses came and went as well and it reached absurdity.
They tied the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies’ 23-game losing streak, which set the actual baseball record for futility. And they lost three more.
I play four or five games a day, so it takes about three days of replays to complete one real day of baseball. The Twins’ streak lasted more than two months in my replay.
The Twins’ victory almost didn’t happen. The team built a 7-2 lead in the sixth inning of its game against Seattle, but gave up four runs in the sixth inning on seven singles. I felt the doom approaching that came 26 times before, the realization that the team I grew up with was going to lose yet another game. Dave Engle hit a homer for Minnesota in the top of the eighth and the Twins led, 8-6. But Richie Zisk (remember him?) hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning and the teams were tied.
Mackanin, who hit only four home runs in the real season, popped his with two outs in the 12th and the Twins hung on.
Now, I reflect back on that 26-game streak as well as my life in 1981. I once went to a relationship counselor on the bequest of another girlfriend who, after I questioned his motives, told me I analyzed things too much. “What do you mean by that?” I queried him.
Maybe I do overanalyze things and try to find meaning in all, including this 1981 season. I’ll have to ponder on that one. In the meantime, the Twins’ next replay game is 11 games away for me and they play Seattle again. It’ll take three or four more days to get to that game. They’ve won one game now. Let’s see if they can start a new streak.