Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Three Years of Love, Life and APBA

It's hard for me to believe that three years ago tonight I began the Love, Life and APBA Baseball blog. But now, 58,411 reader visits, 255 comments and many new friends I've gained later, I'm still hacking out things about sports, my quirky observations, my less-than-stellar dealings with my bombed relationships and, of course, the replays in which I'm currently engaged.

I've often thought I'd run out of ideas to write, but they still come, sometimes tumbling out of my head in a jumble. The main concept here is the game. Most of us roll the APBA games daily, or at least we try to each day. Whether we're doing tournaments, what-if series or replays, we find time to get in a game or two .. or three or four. And that gives me the material, the impetus, to come up with more things to write about.

So, I'll keep going on, rolling the games in the 1950 baseball replay which I began in March and writing about the season, the players, the updated standings and including other things I think of that come from the recesses of my brain while I play these games.

There are so many more games to play. I've slowed the pace of my 1950 replay a few times this year; on occasion I played instead the APBA hockey game or a basketball game by another company (Not Strat-o-Matic, mind you), so that took away time from the baseball replay. But I also came back recharged to play the baseball again. It'll soon be a year into this replay and I'll have only reached about 70 percent completion. It's time to pick up the pace because, like I said, there are so many more games to play. I've got the 1991 season waiting in the wings and then the 1972 season after. Those will take a few years. I'd like to tackle 1919 at some point and I just ordered the 1961 season. I have to stay alive for a while to complete all these replays.

So, as is the manner for the day, I hope to fulfill one of my New Year's resolutions to play more games. I think I had that as one of last year's APBA resolutions as well. But this time, I really mean it! Just like I do for losing more weight, making more money and being a better person in the upcoming year. Really. No. Really. I mean it.

That said, more games equal more material to write about. And that I will do. I've already got new ideas for 2015. Some obscure and weird, some about the 1950 season and the pennant race that's developing. It ought to be a good fall run in this replay the way things are shaping up.

It's been a long ride, these past three years. Thank you, readers, for taking the trip along with me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

APBA Christmas, 2

Most of us who love the APBA contests we play were introduced to the sports replay game during a Christmas of our youth. At least I assume that.

I bet the game became a turning point from child to young adult when the packages were opened beneath the tree. The large box that the game came in was probably held back as one of the last gifts to be doled out and when it came, we knew we were setting off on a new adventure.

I've written about this before, my indoctrination to APBA on Christmas Day 1977 when my parents handed me the 1976 football season. It was a detailed game, far more complex than the simple card games I had played before. Like I said, it was a step into being more than just a child. We graduated to a more adult game to play.

We probably saw the advertisements for the game in a sports magazine. A majority of those who play the APBA games first played baseball, and probably saw an ad in an old Street and Smith's baseball preview magazine. I did it backwards, not getting into that sport until 1998 when, in December of that year, as 38-year-old, I opted to buy myself a Christmas gift.

I remember then having the same feeling, the same excitement of embarking on a new thing, that I did as a child.

And that's the draw of this game. What makes us stick with it for so many decades? Most of the people I've seen who roll the dice and do replays began as children and then continued on. Oh, sure, they may have put away the game while in college or when they got married, or had kids. But they always came back to it eventually.

So how does APBA do it? Does it have the magical formula to recapture our youth? When we roll the dice and play the games, the difficulties of every day life go away for a while. Although the difficulties were different back then, the same thing happened when I played the football and later the basketball game. Problems at school in 1978? Roll a game. Fear of finances and mortgage interest rates in 2014? Roll a game.

We've all gotten other games for Christmas, but I venture not many have made the trip with us into adulthood. Somewhere along the way, they are put aside; we out grow them; other aspects of life interest us more.

But not the APBA game. It is our constant companion, our wingman in the journey of life. And that's what makes this so interesting. I can't really figure it out, as we near Christmas this year. I first came to the game as a kid, only worrying about grades, a budding romance with a high school girlfriend and the vagueness of college years looming ahead. Now, nearly 40 years later, after graduating college with bachelor's and master's degrees, after losing both my parents, after being married and then losing my wife to kidney failure, after changing jobs a few times and after establishing a news career I've had for three decades, I still play the very same game.

Life changes, but the game remains the same.

Maybe we do the replays to hold just a little longer to that past life, that time when we were kids and we were excited by the heavy package that our parents slid out from under the Christmas tree.

I won't have a package beneath the tree this year, but I did recently buy the 1972 set of baseball cards to play sometime. Like a kid, I felt the anticipation as I waited for them to arrive in the mail and then the excitement of opening them and poring through the cards, just as I did when I was a young lad and that first Christmas present came to me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

May the APBA Cat

Sometimes the more important things in life come in the smallest sizes.

In my case, it's a 5.6-pound cat that I've had for seven and a half years and, now that her mortality is in question, I have discovered the magnitude of smallness. My cat, named May by those at the shelter where I found her in 2007, has some ailment that is now causing her to have mini seizures at times. It's alarming to see; she's always been a quiet, innocent animal. But when these hit, she falls, curls up and lies still for a moment. Within 5 second or so, she awakens and, albeit a bit confused, returns to her routine.

I took her to a veterinarian two weeks ago and he prescribed May medication, saying she may have an enlarged heart that causes these spells. An enlarged heart. That's kind of appropriate, what with all the love the cat has provided me these past seven years.

May the APBA cat with a 1974
Milt May APBA card
She greets me at the door when I come home from work each night, she sits on the arm of the couch while I watch sports on television. When I roll the replay games I do, she often sits in the same room watching me toss dice. Yes, she is an APBA cat. When she was younger, she would jump on the table where I played thegame and scattered the baseball game cards to gain attention. She'd also paw at the dice, knocking them to the floor. I don't know if she rolled any 66s (the universal dice roll for home runs in our APBA game).

After my wife passed away in 2006, a grief counselor suggested I get an animal to care for. She assumed I needed to replicate the care I gave my wife and thought an animal would be a good continuation. So, I opted for a dog and I almost got one. I found a blind shepherd in Memphis and actually headed over to meet him when the weather turned rough and I forewent the visit.

A few months later, a friend told me of a cat at a Hot Springs, Ark., shelter and on St. Patricks Day, 2007, I adopted May. She's been here since.

I never thought I'd be a cat person. My parents owned cats when I was young, but I never had one when I was on my own. It became a contest of who could train who. I thought I had the edge, training May to not scratch furniture, to use the litter box properly and chase string. But she won out, knowing I'd feed her whenever she wanted, play with her and let her sit on me when I watched television.

We bonded in 2009, I think, when a massive ice storm struck. I was without power for four days. Others lost electrical service for weeks, so I was lucky. I covered the event for our newspaper and the paper offered to put me in a hotel while I waited for my power to be restored. The hotel wouldn't take pets, so I opted to stay home instead, stoking my fireplace with wood and wrapping myself with blankets to stay from freezing. May stayed by my side during that time, probably because I was warm, but we both survived.

This is the first time she's been sick since I've had her. And while the replication of care probably helped me in the long run, I've discovered I am reliving some of the trauma I did when my wife was fading with the kidney disease that eventually claimed her. Lately when I come home, like I did before with my wife, I wonder if I will find May passed away.

Maybe I'm being too melodramatic. The medication seems to be working. She had one spell last night, but she'd been free from them (that I've seen) for a couple of days prior. And maybe getting all worked up over a cat is silly. An APBA cat at that. But when you deal with loss like I have, you cling to what you can and it takes on more of an importance. A 5.6-pound importance.

UPDATE: Jan. 25, 2015.
I lost May yesterday. Her seizures increased and, after trying different medications to avail, she had to be put to sleep. It was heartbreaking having to do that. The veterinarian clinic was very supportive, but it's hard. I miss my friend.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

1950 Update: Halfway Point, July 6, 1950

I've reached the halfway point of my 1950 APBA baseball replay, slowly rolling 616 games so far. I know it's the exact point because I follow my APBA mantra: There's no rainouts in APBA. Each of the 16 teams will play 154 games, hence the full 1232 slate of games.

The season has been a good one, although I am missing tossing the dice for the Minnesota Twins, my favorite team. I realize Washington's American League team is the precursor for the Twins, but it's not all the same. After playing the 1981 season, and compiling the horrible season for the Twins, I embarked upon 1942 and now 1950. It'll be a good long while since I've rolled a Twins game before I tackle 1991 next.

That said, 1950 has some drama and it keeps me returning to the boards, cards and dice.

Here's the standings at the split, which coincided with all games finished on July 5, 1950:

                      W    L    GB
New York      51 25  -
Boston           49 30  3.5
Detroit           45 31  6
Cleveland      46 33  6.5
Washington   31 46  20.5
Chicago         31 47  21
St. Louis        31 47  21
Philadelphia   26 51 25.5

New York is trying to pull away, but Boston hangs close. Earlier, the top four teams jockeyed for the lead, but the Yankees won seven of their last 10 games to edge into first. The pack is close, too. Chicago and St. Louis, while mired in the cellar, exchange places daily, it seems.

As for stats, well, I quit keeping them closely. I have less time and, sadly, I am lazy about that. I logged them in the computer, but there's something about doing them by hand that always appealed to me before. So, I keep the bare necessities of stats still: Home runs, pitching wins, loses and saves and occasional things like a player hitting three home runs in a game, or hitting for the cycle. I keep all the game box scores, so someday, someday, I may compile better stats.

However, I did run all the at bats for Joe DiMaggio just to see how he stood. He's batting .325 with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs. In the real season, the Yankee Clipper had 17 home runs by July 5, 1950.

Ted Williams leads the American League in batting with a .385 average (I did his season by hand, too). He's also got 20 home runs and 66 RBIs.

I'm also tracking George Kell's doubles. So far, he's hit 21 of them. In the real season, he has 22 at this point.

The National League is a dogfight. Here are the standings
                      W   L   GB
New York     45 34  -
St. Louis       43 33  .5
Brooklyn      43 34  1
Pittsburgh     41 34  2
Boston          41 35  2.5
Philadelphia  36 44 9.5
Chicago        33 41  9.5
Cincinnati     24 51  19

Stan Musial leads the Cardinals with his .383 batting average, along with 16 home runs and 66 RBIs.

New York doesn't seem to have any real statistical standouts. Bobby Thomson leads the Giants with 15 home runs and Sal Maglie is 10-3 on the mound. They just finds ways to win.

On the inverse, Philadelphia, which won the real 1950 National League pennant, can't seem to get it together. Delmer Ennis has 21 home runs and two Phillies' pitchers have won nine games each. But they've lost close contests by a run or two and their bullpen has blown some games. Their relievers are 5-12 so far.

Brooklyn really looks like the team to win this. Don Newcombe is 13-2 at the break and has tossed a no-hitter against Pittsburgh. Duke Snider has 19 home runs and Roy Campenella has belted 17 dingers. Ralph Branca, who served up that fateful home run to Bobby Thomson a year after this replay, has five home runs.

As I turn the corner of the replay and continue rolling on, the pace has picked up some. The games are interesting and the pennant race in the National League keeps me glued to the replay. Will it be an all-New York Series at the end? Will the Whiz Kids of Philadelphia finally put it together and play to their real potential? Will I survive more than two years without rolling a game for the Twins?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Black and Blues Friday the APBA Way

A day after Thanksgiving, I returned to my job as a newspaper reporter. There were stories of fatal fires, of murder and of civil unrest across the country. Sales figures for the day following the holiday were down, indicating the recession was still here.

A friend of mine had just been released from the hospital after tests for some ailment. Another friend's mother fell and spent the holiday in the same hospital.

It was a depressing time and I had to shake the onslaught of approaching blues. I did what millions of others did. I went shopping on Black Friday.

But, before those who actually know me are shocked, understand that I did it online. Friends realize I steer clear of any crowds when shopping. I used to go to Wal-Mart at 2 a.m. just to avoid the throngs of other shoppers. I prefer the tumbleweed-like emptiness of a vacant store aisle in the wee hours to the tumble of hustling patrons shoving shopping carts during the peak times.

So, during a break at work Friday, I called up the APBA company in Georgia and ordered another set of baseball game cards. I don't need them; I have plenty of seasons to replay that will last me well into the next decade if not longer. No, instead I took on the mentality that so many other shoppers use as a mantra. “It was on sale.”

The company offered a 25 percent discount on all game merchandise. I couldn't pass that up, and I didn't have to camp in a tent outside a store with strangers for eight hours to get that deal. I ordered the 1972 baseball season mainly because it was one of the years I really focused in on baseball. I was 11 that summer and worshipped the Minnesota Twins.

In fact, a childhood memory I have of one of the few fights my parents had came that summer over a Twins game. My mother wanted to go to our summer cabin near Turtle River, Minn. My dad and I wanted to stay home to see the Twins play Baltimore (I actually remember this more than 40 years later). I looked it up on and found the teams played on June 16, 17 and 18. It was probably then when this happened because I recall it was soon after I was out of grade school that year. Anyway, my mother was upset that we'd rather watch baseball than go to our lake cabin. I think we stayed and watched the first game and then went to the cabin the day after.

There's no rush to get these cards, but there is that childhood anticipation us APBA game players get waiting for them to arrive, no matter our age. There's very few things better as an adult than driving home and finding the box o' cards sitting on the door step.

Along with bringing back a memory, purchasing the 1972 season did another thing: It helped amp up the process of my current baseball replay. I'm almost exactly halfway done with my 1950 season replay and I've bogged down a bit. I began it in March and now, eight months later I've hit the midway point. I'm enjoying it, but there's always that thought of yet another season to embark on and that's what motivates us to play on. I hit the game with a renewed fervor this past weekend.

The concept of time is diffused with the game. I think nothing of devoting a year and a half or two years to a single season replay, and I play more games each day than some. I have a closet full of seasons that, if I play them all, will take me well into retirement. If I add the hockey and basketball seasons (and two football seasons), I'd be playing until my passing. If there's an afterlife, I hope they have dice there.

A year or more to play — that's a testament to the strength of this game. Think of any other game you'd roll dice for more than a year. My aunt used to give the game Monopoly her own name because it took forever to play. She bestowed it as “Monotony” and vowed to never play again after we once played a 30-minute marathon game.

So, on Black Friday, while others beat each other down to get their deals at Best Buy, camped out at Target and spent thousands to save a few bucks, I made a simple phone call. I got a new season, brought back memories, beat the blues of the post holiday season and ensured I'd be rolling dice for years to come.