Monday, August 12, 2013

Max West, 1942

I've done eight full season replays in the 15 years I've been rolling dice with the ABPA baseball game and I've found, as all replayers have, that most players perform in the game closely to what they did in real life during the season.

Of course there are the oddities. Each year, as well, there are players who don't meet up to their actual performances. Mickey Mantle's 1957 year for me was such the case. As good as he was in real life, the dice didn't do him justice in my game. Sandy Koufax was also a bust for me in my 1964 replay and Babe Ruth's statistics were far below his real numbers during my replay of the 1932 season.

But on the inverse there are also players who stand out and do surprisingly better in replays than what they did on the field. That's one of the attractions of the APBA game. If everything came out exactly as what really transpired, there'd be no point in playing the games over. The game is based upon statistical probabilities, but there's that thing some players call “dice magic,” the unexplainable way things turn out.

In the 1942 season I'm doing, Max West is that person. West, a first baseman and outfielder for the Boston Braves, is playing far above what he did that year. In 77 games so far in my replay, West has belted 18 home runs. In real life that year, he hit 16 for the entire season. He's also batting .283 in the replay — not outstanding, but nearly 30 points higher than his actual .254 average in the real 1942 season.

Also, an interesting note I found as I was tracking his stats in my game. In seven of the last 29 games I tallied, West scored runs in games he only got on base by walks. He took advantage of the situation and has led Boston to a record of 36 wins and 41 loses as of June 28, 1942. In the real season, the Braves were 32-43 at that point (I play all games scheduled and ignore any rainouts, hence more games for Boston in the replay than in real life at that date).

I looked up info on West to see what made him the standout in this replay. He was born in Dexter, Mo., about 80 miles from where I live. He played with Boston from 1938 to 1942 and then entered the service. In 1940, he replaced an injured Mel Ott and hit a home run for the National League during the All-Star game in St. Louis. He left the game injured in the second inning after crashing into the outfield wall while chasing a Luke Appling double.

According to his 2003 obituary in the Boston Globe, West was the epitome of the Braves' losing season in 1941. West was thrown out at first base during a game against Philadelphia that year. As he returned to the Braves' dugout on the third base side and crossed behind home plate, a ball rolled by his feet. West thought it was foul and tossed it back to Phillies catcher Mickey Livingston. The ball was actually live and he watched as Livingston tagged a Braves' runner out out who was trying to score on the passed ball.

His embarrassment wasn't over. West continued to the dugout to be berated by Boston manager Casey Stengel. As he went to the water cooler to escape Stengel's wrath, Braves' outfielder Paul Waner hit a foul into the dugout, catching West in the jaw and breaking his teeth.

West retired from baseball in 1948 and opened a sporting goods store in California until 1980. He passed away on Dec. 31, 2003.

West has been gone for nearly 10 years, but for some reason he is the standout in my 1942 replay. Maybe it's statistics, maybe it's the random way the dice fall whenever he's up to bat, maybe it's the baseball gods trying to make up for that bad day of his in Philadelphia.

Whatever it is, it makes for interesting baseball. I'm glad that a player who grew up some 80 miles from here is living on in this replay and that it gave me a chance to look up baseball history.

It's part of what makes this game so good.

1 comment:

  1. Kenneth, I really enjoy your blog! Would love to hear about your 1957 and 1964 replays sometime. Are they documented anywhere?