Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Welcome Back, Twins

The first time I rolled an APBA baseball game for the Minnesota Twins in two and a half years, lead off batter Dan Gladden struck out.

In fact, the Twins' first two players went out quickly against Oakland As' pitcher Dave Stewart the other day in Minnesota's season opener of the 1991 season replay I've begun. Kirby Puckett finally slapped a single into right field, but first baseman Kent Hrbek then grounded out, ending the Twins' first inning.

The last time I rolled a Twins' game was when I ended my 1981 replay season in April 2013. The Twins didn't make the playoffs and the cards the gamers use for the replays were returned to the envelope and shelved.

Then, I did the 1942 baseball season and followed that with the 1950 season and there were no games for my favorite team for the next 30 months. These replays take a while to complete if you stick with them.

For those not initiated with the game, APBA uses statistics of actual seasons to create cards for the baseball players. Each card contains 36 numbers on them and the APBA players roll two dice as they play the game. The results of the dice roll are matched with corresponding numbers on the baseball players' cards and those results are then compared to yet more numbers for play results. It sounds complex, but long-term players, like myself, can memorize results and play a game within 15-20 minutes.

So, after the long hiatus of Twins' games, I opted to return to playing them. I chose the 1991 season — which they won their second World Series in the real game — for that team mainly.

Back are the Twins. And, for that matter, the Baltimore Orioles, the two Canadian teams, the designated hitter, domed stadiums, west coast teams, and East and West Divisions in each league.

And strikeouts! I learned while playing the 1950 season that either the strike zone must have been the size of a postage stamp or pitchers had the control of me during my ill-fated Little League career. Here's a comparison:

I've played 38 games into the 1991 season. Pitchers have combined so far to record 479 strikeouts and 208 walks. In the first 38 games of the 1950 season, pitchers recorded 248 strikeouts and 307 walks. That's a vast difference that I noticed when Gladden took his first at bat for the Twins.

The Ks were aplenty. In the second game I played in this replay (the Twins didn't open until April 9, a day after other teams kicked off their season, and didn't take the field until the ninth game) Roger Clemens struck out 10 Blue Jays in his complete-game win. Even in losing, Tom Candiotti notched nine strikeouts for Toronto.

The games are moving along and, unlike the 1942 and 1950 seasons, obviously, I remember seeing almost all of the players in the actual 1991 season. It's part of the draw of the APBA replay games. We learn about the history of the game when playing the older seasons, but we also deal with memories when rolling the games we lived. The 1991 season was a good one because it played out while I was going through a transitional phase in my life. The Twins' World Series victory over Atlanta that year was a blessing and a way to straighten the toppled gyroscope that had been directing my life.

So, Gladden struck out in the Twins' first 1991 replay game, but Shane Mack hit a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth and Minnesota held on to beat Oakland, 2-0. Jack Morris picked up the win, possibly foreshadowing his Game 7 mastery in the real World Series?

Minnesota won its next two games, sweeping Oakland, 9-1 and, 6-2. Gladden hit a home run in the second victory over the As. The Twins are now 3-0, the only undefeated American League team left. They come home to host the California Angels (another team I've not seen the past two and a half years). Can the Twins do as well in my replay as they did in the real game? The season has just begun, but so far, so good …