Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Look at Mickey Tettleton; 1991 Replay

Every so often while replaying an APBA baseball season, you run across players who either closely replicate their performances in real life, or become anomalies and do something totally opposite of expected. As contradictory as it sounds, I may be seeing a case of both occurring at the same time with Mickey Tettleton, the Detroit Tigers' catcher, in my 1991 replay.

The games are coming at a slow pace — I began this season on Aug. 16, 2015, and have reached Game 549 some 18 months later — but I play enough to notice some things. I keep limited stats for the players because of a lack of time and because, invariably, no matter how I save them, I either lose the statistics on computer or I make some inane error when tallying and it takes forever to rectify the mistake.

So, I keep home runs for batters and won-loss records and saves for pitchers. But when some player, like Tettleton, stands out, I'll go back and check more of his stats.

As of May 27, 1991, in my replay, Tettleton has 12 home runs and is in third place in the American League homer race. Only sluggers Jose Canseco with 14 and Frank Thomas with 13 dingers are outpacing Tettleton in this replay so far.

Overall, Tettleton's stat line is thus: .230/ 12 HRs/ 31 RBI. In the real season, the catcher hit 31 home runs with 89 RBIs by season's end. He also batted .263.

The Tigers, by the way, are 22-21 in my replay. On the same date in the real season, Detroit posted a 23-20 record.

In the real season, Tettleton only had seven dingers by May 27. So he's on pace to hit more home runs in this replay than he did in the actual game, but his batting average is 30 points less. He got off to a slow start in the replay as well. He hit his first home run in Chicago on April 20, 1991. In the actual season, he hit one out of the park for the first of the year against the Yankees on April 22, 1991.

In my replay, Tettleton copied his performance of the real April 22 game, hitting a home run in a 12-3 win in New York. Then, he cooled off briefly. But May came and Tettleton took off — especially against my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins. On May 9, he hit one against the Twinkies to win, 5-4. On May 12, he hit two more homers — his fifth and sixth — against Minnesota in a 9-5 victory. Three days later, he did it again, hitting one against the Rangers in Texas.

He hit his 11th and 12th round-trippers in Milwaukee, pacing the Tigers to a 12-3 win.

So far in the replay, he's hit four against the Twins. Nine of his 12 home runs have come on the road.

Obviously, it's early in the season and things can change. APBA's baseball game is based on statistical frequencies. Players' cards are developed upon their actual performances for each season and mostly they produce closely in the APBA game to their real life production.

But then, sometimes, things happen for no reason. The dice roll differently for some. Maybe Tettleton will end up with 31 home runs by season's end as he did in the real game. But the path he takes to get there has been pretty interesting in this replay so far.

It's one of the reasons we roll each game in a replay, taking months and even years to finish a season, just to see how things all turn out.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

30 Years Later

My father has been gone for 30 years now, more than half my life.

Three decades of being without a father since March 3 when he passed away after fighting Parkinson's. It's hard to fathom that all that time has passed. I've changed jobs, got a master's degree in communications, moved to Pennsylvania and Texas before returning to Arkansas, got married, widowed, survived a medical bankruptcy and found new love all after he died.

And now, even though I'm adult — about 15 years from the age he was when he died — there are days when I still need my dad.

The disease robbed my dad of much ability to play sports with me as I grew. He'd shoot baskets with me on the driveway goal, but we never played catch with a baseball or tossed a football around. I could blame him for my inability on the sports fields as a kid, but that would be wrong. In reality, it was my inability to see and hit a baseball at all and my prowess on the basketball court was akin to that of a sloth with attention deficit disorder. No, my lack of sports skills was strictly on me.

Instead, my father taught me other skills. He tended to overanalyze everything which I find I do all the time. He taught me to read more advanced books at an early age which led to me writing a lot and he taught me to think. He also instilled the love of sports I have. I credit him now for my obsession for the APBA games I've played for the past 39 years.

I've written about my dad here before. He was a music teacher, earning his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin and teaching at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minn., before he retired in 1974 because of his health. He was a musical genius; he could pick up any instrument, figure it out and play it within a few minutes. He could also sing. Once, he told me, he sang at a New Jersey church for Easter services and then flew by helicopter to Manhattan in order to make it on time to sing on WABC radio.

I don't have that talent. I chew gum in church so it looks like my mouth is moving and I'm singing along with the others. If I actually belted out a tune in the sanctuary, I fear several churchgoers would immediately doubt God's existence and bail out.

I didn't pick up much from my father. Other than the overanalyzing skills, an ability to write sometimes and the fact that I, like my dad, find farts hilarious even at this age, I didn't take advantage of the gene pool he offered.

After my father died, my mother told me he was proud of me. I had worked at two newspapers then, one was a tiny weekly in the corner of northeast Arkansas where I spent much of my time taking pictures of people with the first cotton bloom, a freakishly large pumpkin or some other agricultural oddity of the area. Proud of me? I wasn't even proud of myself then. My mother said I was “the apple of my father's eye.” Funny, I didn't think I was equivalent to the worm in said apple.

So, it's been 30 years. Three decades. The Twins won two World Series since he passed, including the year he died in 1987. The Vikings have yet to return to the Super Bowl and Norm Green still sucks for letting the North Stars escape to Dallas back in 1993.

Thirty years softens the sadness. But there are times when I still roll APBA games and I think of my father watching me play the game when I was a youngster. Back then, I constantly played the ABPA basketball game which, some may recall, is plodding and takes hours to complete a full contest. I scaled the time of play down and could get two or three games in during a long evening. I'd stay up late rolling the games and my father would come into my bedroom and talk about the contests, asking for the score and highlights before he retired for the evening. He'd tell me about watching the Yankees when he was my age, regaling me tales with seeing DiMaggio and Berra and later a kid named Mantle.

He would go to bed early. I was a late nighter. The clacking of the APBA dice in the plastic cup provided by the game company was a lot louder in the stillness of the wee hours and, as concession to his slumber, I quit using the cup and tossed the dice onto a mat to muffle noise. I still do that.

In 1976, we watched the Boston Celtics play the Phoenix Suns in the NBA championship. Despite growing up in New York and New Jersey, my father was a Celts fan. Game 5, fans recall, went into triple overtime. My dad couldn't stay up for the end and bade me goodnight. I watched the game and, when our “namesake” Garfield Heard hit a shot at the buzzer for the Suns to tie the game in the second overtime, I ran into my parent's bedroom and woke my dad with the news. My mother was understandably upset, but my dad was glad for the sports update. I woke him again after the Celts won the game.

All this to say, make memories with your fathers if they are still alive. Talk sports, show him the APBA games we still play, talk about life. Laugh at farts if you're so inclined. Because, there'll be a day when your father may be gone and it gets tough at times.

Thirty years. That's a long time.