Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Game No. 1,000

After one year, one month and two weeks, I've reached game number 1,000 in my 1950 APBA baseball replay. It's one of those landmarks that lets the replayer recognize the progression of the season and that it's nearing an end. I have 232 more games to go before the season is completed.

The game came in the middle of games played for Aug. 29, 1950. When Johnny Wyrostek blooped a single in the bottom of the ninth to drive in Lloyd Merriman to give Cincinnati a 5-4 win over the Boston Braves, the 1,000th game was over.

As I head into the last month of games, it appears the New York Yankees will run away with the American League pennant. Eddie Lopat paces the Yankees with 19 wins on the mound and Joe DiMaggio is the league's home run leader with 36 so far.

The National League is a bit more undecided. The New York Giants took the lead a few weeks ago in the season and looked unstoppable. But two losses in Cincinnati and then one in Pittsburgh has tightened the race. The pesky, overachieving Boston Braves are still hanging on. In fact, five teams area within a good winning streak of making the National League an interesting race.

Here are the standings upon the completion of Game 1,000.

American League
                  W    L     GB
New York  88   37     -
Boston       78   47   10
Cleveland  75   53   14.5
Detroit       72   52   15.5
Washington 52 72   35.5
Phil'phia     48   78  40.5
St. Louis    46   78   41.5
Chicago     42   84   46.5

National League
                  W     L   GB
New York   73   53    -
Boston        69   56   3.5
St. Louis     68   56    4
Brooklyn    67   57    5
Pittsburgh   67   58   5.5
Phil'phia     60   68   14.5
Chicago      52   71   19.5
Cincinnati  43   80   28.5

Here are the leaders:
American League
Home runs: 36-J. DiMaggio, NYY; 33-Mize, NYY; 31-T. Williams, Bos; 29-Easter, Cle.
Wins: 20-2 Wynn, Cle; 19-3 Lopat, NYY; 19-4 Houtteman, Det; 15-3 Dobson, Bos.
Saves: 15-Calvert, Det; 13-Page, NYY; 12-Aloma, Chi; 9-Harris, Wsh.

National League
Home runs: 37- Kiner, Pit and Sauer, Chi; 32-Snider, Bro; 31- Ennis, Phl and Kluszewski, Cin.
Wins: 19-6 Newcombe, Bro; 17-8 Simmons, Phl and Chambers, Pit; 16-5 Maglie, NYG; 16-8 Spahn, Bos.
Saves; 20-Konstanty, Phl; 13-Hogue, Bos; 12-Brazle, StL and Hansen, NYG; 10-Leonard, Chi.

Barring some crazy mishap, the Yankees will make it to World Series in my replay of the 1950 season, just as they did in the real Series. The Whiz Kid Phillies, however, who faced the Yankees in the real Series that year, have been the replay's biggest disappointment. But five other teams vie for that slot, and with a little more than a month remaining in the replay, this could be one of the better pennant races I've seen in my years of replaying the games.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Standing Obsession

The seed for my obsession with standings may have been planted in the spring of 1969, the year baseball went to two divisions in each league and the standings printed in the daily newspaper took on a larger appearance.

Whenever it was, I've been hooked on the agate pages in the sports sections of newspapers for decades.

And that may be one of the driving forces for me in doing replays with the APBA baseball sets I have. There is a sense of accomplishment when updating the standings after games. It's also a storytelling technique of the season — there's the drama of a pennant race, the tension of watching teams go on losing slides and the euphoria of winning streaks. It's a way to gauge the season's progress with mere numbers.

I was eight when baseball went to the newer format and I gleaned the daily proceedings in the Minneapolis Tribune. (The Tribune merged with the Star in 1982, some 13 years after my first standings epiphany). My Twins, from then on, were less difficult to find in the list of teams. Rather than 10 teams, I had to pick them out of only six teams. And in that first year of the West and East Divisions in each league, Minnesota was easy to spot. After losing their first four games and landing in last place that season, the Twins worked their way to the top of the American League West and eventually won it.

It was a good motivation to follow those standings that year. Remember, kids, back then we didn't have ESPN for constant update. We didn't have cable in northern Minnesota where I lived, for that matter, until the mid 1970s.

I would clip standings out of the newspaper and use them for bookmarks. When my parents would unwrap Christmas decorations each year, I saw they used newspapers to protect the fragile glass they stored in the attic the rest of the year. Some of those papers were sports pages and, after searching through the wrappings, I would spot some standings from a time when they first wrapped those decorations.

Standings were everywhere. And when baseball ended, there was football and the Minnesota Vikings to follow and basketball and hockey. Standings in some sport were an every day occurrence.

Each season, sports fans look at the newspaper, or now the Internet, on Opening Day of baseball. It's that old Hope Springs Eternal feeling. It's a time when your team can lead the standings, or at least be tied for first with an 0-0 record.. As a Twins' fan this year, my Eternal Feeling became an infernal reeling after a day. As I write this, Minny is already in last place, five games behind Detroit. The standings are not a fun place for me. Meanwhile, my APBA buddy Shawn Baier in Traverse City, Mich., (which is at the inside knuckle of the pinky if you view Michigan as a left-handed mitten) sees those same standings and has glee. Same numbers for each of us, totally different emotions.

When I begin setting up an APBA replay, I handwrite each team's schedule on a page of paper,  make stat pages for the basics — home runs and pitching records — and set up pitching rotations. The last thing, and perhaps the most joyous, is writing the standings page.

It's what I do for all sports replays. To me, and this may be the obsession part, there's something magical about seeing the standings, ready for the games to be played, the wins and losses to be noted.

It's probably weird to go on about that, but you have to be a bit weird to devote all the time we do in completing a replay. The standings are part of it, a visual of how our process in the replay is going.

So each day I still look at the newspaper — the one I work for, obviously — and for the most part, the first thing I check, despite me working in news, is the standings. It fuels the obsession and keeps the replays going.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Baseball is a game of streaks and it's not been more evident than in the past few weeks of my 1950 APBA baseball replay.

Obviously, one of the longest streaks is a personal one. It's the number of days I've played at least one game. It goes back several weeks, maybe even months. I really can't remember a day when I haven't rolled at least a game or two. Maybe it happened when I was sick, or during a really long work day, but it's a rare day when I don't have a game.

That said, I've picked up the pace in this replay. I've reached Aug. 23 and the end is in sight. It's like that sprint for the last lap of the race, the second wind to finish the drive.

And with the increase, I've noticed a lot of streaks in the games and with teams.

Wins and loses
Lately, it seems like teams are either on a winning streak or losing consecutive games. The New York Yankees have won seven in a row and have made the American League theirs to lose. They are 9.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox as of Aug. 23. On July 1, they were 2 games ahead.

On the other side is the Philadelphia As. The team lost 10 games in a row before beating Chicago, 9-7. The White Sox have had streaks of their own. They are currently on a five-game losing streak that followed a three-game winning streak that followed a seven-game losing streak. The White Sox have games ahead in New York, Boston and Detroit — the top three American League teams. Expect more streaks.

In the National League, the Boston Braves are on a three-game winning streak that ended a five-game losing streak. Pittsburgh has come alive again, winning five games in a row and are six games behind league-leader New York Giants. And after looking pretty good and challenging the Giants, the St. Louis Cardinals have lost three in a row.

Curt Simmons has been one of the few bright spots for the increasingly frustrating Philadelphia Phillies' team. In the real 1950 season, the Whiz Kids won the National League. In my replay, they are 57-65 and 15 games behind New York. The last six losses by Philadelphia (not consecutive) have been by two runs or less.

But Simmons had kept the losing streaks at bay. He's won nine decisions in a row.

Early Wynn has won seven decisions in a row for the Cleveland Indians and Boston Braves pitcher Johnny Sain has also won seven consecutive games.

Dick Star has lost seven in a row for the St. Louis Browns and Ray Scarborough has helped keep the Chicago White Sox in last place in the American League by losing his last six games.

Ralph Kiner hit home runs in three consecutive games for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In a season where home runs aren't that prolific, the Cleveland Indians have hit home runs in five consecutive games. That streak was continued when Wynn, the pitcher, hit one in one game and back up catcher Ray Murray clouted a solo shot in another contest.

And finally, before today's contest between New York and Detroit, which the Yankees won, 7-2, the last night games I rolled featured the winning team scoring at least nine runs. That streak included winning teams scoring 18,17, 16, 15 and 14 runs.

As the season heads toward the last full month of play, I am sure there will be more streaks to watch.