10
July

A homecoming tourney of sorts for Jim Saska

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Jim Saska explains the mods to Bob Eller and Jim Welch

Two APBA tourneys in one day?  Again? 

Well, kind of. 

See Jim Saska was back in Chicago for the weekend and thought it be fun to get together and play some APBA.  Even with Ken Schulz’ LBS tournament happening out Pittsburgh way, he still managed to get five guys together.  Jim, Bob Eller, Scott Fennessy Jim Welch and I met in the original Chicagoland tourney location of the Woodstock Public Library.  Afterwards, the gang went to a book signing event by David Kaplan.  I couldn’t attend the Kaplan event but it certainly looked fun from the photos. 

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Scott Fennessy helps Bob and Jim with the mod charts

First things first.  If you can believe it, Jim has already acquired a southern accent from his time in Virginia.  Accent or no, he still loves to tinker with APBA. For our impromptu tourney, Jim suggested we use a few basic game modifications for our tourney.  We used the following for our tourney:

– Coxx pitching chart

– Error chart

– Unusual Play chart

– Fielding modification chart

– Pitcher Fatigue modification

– Pitcher strikeout, walk, and HR allowed modification

Personally, I liked the pitcher fatigue chart and the Coxx chart.  They were new to me, easy to pick up and they added a lot to the game.  They WILL add more dice rolls to the game so if you’re used to a quick game, they may not be for you.  However, they do add a bit of realism. 

Who won the tourney?  I have no idea.  I had to leave a bit early due to family obligations.  I made the effort to come to this because I wanted to see everyone and I especially wanted to see Jim who had moved away from the area a few years ago.  It was Jim and Doug Schuyler who got me interested in tournament play again back in 2013.

One last thing… Jim brought back a piece of APBA tournament history with him.  Here is the tournament bracket from the very first Chicagoland tourney in which Curt Bartel defeated Doug Schuyler in the finals. 

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Bitter memories, eh Doug?

It was great to see all of you!  Jim, we all miss you here in Chicago! 

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10
July

Yeager’s walk-off HR helps Steve Skoff take LBS 3

skoff

Ken Schulz knows how to throw a big event, that’s for sure.  This past weekend, in Slippery Rock, PA, near Pittsburgh, Ken hosted 50 APBA fans and 45 teams for the third Linda B. Schulz APBA Memorial APBA Baseball Championship tourney. 

With all those participants, it makes all that harder to win it all.  In the end, it was Steve Skoff and the 1974 Dodgers who came out the victor.  It was Steve Yeager’s walk-off homer in the 10th inning against Bill Lilley’s 1965 Pirates that sealed the deal for Steve and Dem Bums. 

And what is it with Greg Wells?  The two-time APBA tourney champ went 12-1 at LBS 3.  I guess the fact that he had the 1975 Reds helps but Greg must be a master at this game.  My bud Rob Spatz also made the playoff too!  Spatzie was thrilled to win one playoff game with the 1963 Yankees. 

skoff2Ken is already busy planning next year’s LBS 4.  Schedule the date!

When: July 7th, 2018 at 9am

Where: 155 Branchton Road
Slippery Rock PA 16148

Teams: any Apba issued MLB team from seasons 1950-2017. No BATS, HOF, Negro League, and teams prior to 1950 allowed. The 1977 Phillies, 1974 Dodgers, and 1965 Pirates have been retired.

Congrats to Steve for a great run.  Ken deserves a lot of credit for putting together a great tourney!  I’ve been hearing a lot of good stuff on Facebook about how fun it was. 

Photos courtesy of Ken. 

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5
July

Scott Fennessy: Lance Lynn shuts down Cubs as Cardinals win series

480px-IMG_9764_Lance_LynnBusch Stadium
St. Louis, MO
May 7, 2015

Tonight’s game features Kyle Hendricks vs Lance Lynn. Kyle has had a decent, but not spectacular season so far, while Lance has easily been the best redbird starter so far. I’m expecting this to be an interesting game so let’s get underway.

Lynn struggles with his control on this somewhat damp and chilly evening and walks a couple of batters, but manages to keep Chicago off the scoreboard in the first inning.

Unfortunately for Kyle he was in the strike zone far too much in the bottom of the inning and the Cardinals jumped on him quickly. Back to back singles by Jason Heyward and Kolten Wong put runners on the corners and Wong was off with the pitch to Chris Carpenter, who has been hitting Chicago pitching pretty solidly this series and he bangs a double off the wall in right field and two runs score.

Stephen Piscotty slaps an opposite field single and the lead is extended to 3. Jhonny Peralta and Shane Reynolds get a single and a walk, but Hendricks recovered enough to get out of the inning with three runs.

Oddly enough while both pitchers struggled throughout the game neither was tagged for another run as both teams stranded a lot of runners, but for the Cubs they only got two hits, doubles by Chris Coghlan and Austin Jackson who have both been struggling mightily of late.

Unfortunately Lynn goes to 5-1 on the young season with a 1.84 ERA while Hendricks drops to 2-3 with an ERA over 5.00. The one bright spot for the Cubs this game was the deut of Zac Rosscup. The bullpen has not been superb so far and while he did allow 3 hits and a walk in two innings he did not allow a run and struck out he side in the eighth inning.

Around the horn:

Pitching has been king over the last few games. Chris Young of the Royals throws a 1 hit shutout over the Indians and KC wins a nail biter 1-0

Anibal Sanchez starts with 4 and 1/3rd innings of no hit baseball and for the second time this year ties the all time record for a D starter. Detroit beats the White Sox 3-2.

Dallas Kuchel throws his second 2 hit shutout of the year and is reminding me of Jesse Tannehill of the Pirates run as the "King of the 1-hitter" in my 1901-03 replays.

And despite another pitchers duel in Tampa Prince fielder hits a game winning solo homer in the top of the 9th inning and the Rangers squeeze out a 1-0 victory over the Rays.

[photo credit]

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22
June

TBL Baseball Annual provides reading pleasure once again

tbl logoFor your reading benefit, I submit the Transcontinental Baseball League’s Annual publication courtesy of TBL manager and Annual editor Walter Hunt.  The TBL Baseball Annual is one the best testaments to APBA league play and honestly rivals most of the publications that cover MLB. 

The 134-page Annual is written with statistical analysis, comprehensive writeups and a dose of humor to keep it real.  This year’s edition reveals that the TBL will be going through a realignment.  Big news for a league that has been around as long as the TBL. 

The TBL Baseball Annual is APBA League documentation done right.  It’s almost as if Walter Hunt had experience as a writer or something

Great job, TBL!

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13
June

Founding manager of IAL comes out of retirement, still wins

DennisToday, the mentor returned to teach the apprentice a lesson. 

The Illowa APBA League is happy to welcome back Dennis Jennings as a co-manager of the Colona Hustlers.  Dennis helped found the Illowa APBA League in 1975 and is returning to the league after a 28 year hiatus. 

You may recognize the name of his former team.  It’s the Twin City Thunderchickens. 

How did I end up with the Twin City Thunderchickens?  It’s a sordid history involving me going off to college, sowing my wild oats and falling off the grid.  A girl may have been involved (I know better now, guys). 

When I came to my senses a year or two later in 1989, Dennis had moved out of state and there was need for a manager to take over his team, the Twin City Thunderchickens.  The IAL managers graciously let me in and I have faithfully served as a IAL manager since.  I didn’t have the heart to change the Thunderchicken name since it is one of most original names I know of. 

When I knew him, he was a brilliant professor at the University of Illinois where I was a student.  While his professional knowledge of math and statistics served him well in APBA, he was still laid back and a genuinely a nice guy.  He was also a successful APBA manager.  He built up a APBA dynasty of solid hitting and pitching plus outstanding defense.  His mainstays were Sundberg, Garvey, Grich, Baines and Gibson.  Dennis placed first in the IAL standings SEVEN times between 1976-1988 including a then record of 115 wins in 1985. 

Now Dennis is back and has more time for APBA.  He faced off against me and his old team as co-manager of the Colona Hustlers(along with his partner Dan Bunch).  We played remotely as Dennis is I believe the winning common denominator here was Dennis as it was he who won six out of nine games.  Not surprisingly, Dennis commented on the Hustlers’ good defense.  In fairness, Jose Altuve’s good bat probably a lot too.  My Thunderchickens tried their best to make a good impression on their old owner.  The team hit 15 homers including 5 by Asdrubal Cabrera in the first six games.  

Regardless of the score, it was great to play an old friend even it was over Skype.  Dennis seemed to have a lot of fun rediscovering the game and its new changes.  Afterwards, we chatted about old times.  It was Dennis who drafted Mark McGwire who had a very storied career for my Thunderchickens

Sorry Dennis, your Thunderchickens. 

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9
June

Not quite for Cuellar’s almost no-no, Marichal comes out the victor

cuellar

juan_marichal

It was almost like Haddix and Burdette all over again.

It was June 8th in my 1966 NL replay and the Giants were at the Astrodome.  A pitchers’ duel was imminent with hurlers Juan Marichal (AXZ) and Miguel Cuellar (AXZ) pitching for their respective teams.  But I had no idea what I was in for. 

Astros’ starter Cuellar started out tough by striking out the first five batters he faced.  He kept it going too.  In fact, Miguel pitched a no-hitter for nine innings.  He hadn’t won the game yet though.  Marichal, who leads my replay with 3.4 hits/9 IP, brought that average down even further.  Through nine innings, he allowed one hit. 

marichalAfter nine complete, it was still 0-0 and only Felix Mantilla had managed to hit safely. 

Well, I wasn’t about to bring in a reliever so Cuellar came out for the tenth.  With one out, Willie Mays hit a double for the Giants’ first hit of the day.  Batting fourth was Jim Ray Hart which was a departure from the Giants’ familiar Mays-McCovey-Hart order in the lineup.  Well, Herman Franks must have known what he was doing when he was filling out the lineup card because Hart drilled that ball for a two-run shot. 

imageNot only was that just the second hit of the day, it was the first two runs.  Those two runs would stick as the Astros went 1-2-3 against Marichal in the bottom of the tenth. 

Cuellar would finish with eleven strikeouts and Marichal had nine of his own.  Marichal’s shutout is his third in his last five starts and his sixth overall. He improves to 9-3, third in wins.  With the shutout, his ERA is 1.31, second only Sandy Koufax’ 1.22 mark. 

As if this game didn’t have enough drama, Jim Hart’s homerun ties him for the league lead with teammate Willie Mays with 12. 

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1
June

On the DL

clavicleI’m kinda bummed.  I was really looking forward to this weekend.  The Illowa APBA League is getting together for its annual Spring get-together in the Quad Cities starting tomorrow.  Unfortunately due to an incident resulting in a broken clavicle and a trip to the ER, I’m not going to make it.  And yes, this time it’s my rolling arm. Double whammy! 

I had planned to come a couple days early to play some May series against the Bunch brothers, Marcus and Dan.  In total, I had planned to play 48 games. 

In a way, this weekend was going to be a bit of a homecoming.  I had planned to stay with commish Mike Bunch’s house.  That house hosted my first draft when I first joined the league at age 16.  As a sophomore in high school, I joined the IAL and really didn’t know how leagues worked.  Marcus was just a baby back then and I’m not sure Dan was even born yet.  Now, they are fine gentlemen and formidable APBA managers.  The year was 1982 and my first rookie draft picks were Dave Smith and Tommy Herr.  Not too bad for a first-time manager.

Well it’s 35 years later and I was looking forward to hanging out with the Bunches a little (Mike has a very extensive APBA baseball card collection).  If I’m lucky and I’m feeling better, I’ll try to Skype as many series as I can.  Right now, the wing is feeling pretty sore just from typing this (those of you who have ever broken your collar bone will remember how painful it is).  May need some rehab for dice-rolling. 

Guys, I’ll be missing you this weekend.  Good luck in all your games.

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29
May

Monster Card Monday: RIP Jim Bunning

bunningOn Friday, Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning passed away.  Bunning who pitched between the years 1955-1971 primarily for the Tigers and the Phillies, put together a 224-184 record and struck out 2,855 batters (17th all-time).  A durable control pitcher, he was known for pitching a perfect game on Fathers’ Day 1964.  While never leading his league in ERA, Bunning ranked second twice in 1960 and 1967 and landed in the top 10 seven times. 

That control did not extend to hit batsmen, though.  Four times (1964-1967) Bunning led his league in HBP.  Whether those hit by pitches were intentional, I’ll let you decide after reading this from the New York Times:

“Larry Bowa, the Phillies’ longtime shortstop, once recalled a game that Mr. Bunning pitched at Montreal in the early 1970s when “the Expos had Ron Hunt, a guy who loved to get hit.”

“Well, Bunning threw him a sidearm curveball, Hunt never moved, and it hit him,” Bowa told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The ball rolled toward the mound, and Bunning picked it up. He looked right at Hunt and said: ‘Ron, you want to get hit? I’ll hit you next time.’ And next time up, bam. Fastball. Drilled him right in the ribs. And he said to Hunt, ‘O.K., now you can go to first base.’”

Jim Bunning took that gruff no-nonsense attitude and had some measure of success in politics as a representative and later a U.S. Senator for the state of Kentucky. 

Season Totals — Game-Level
Split W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
1966 Totals 19 14 .576 2.41 43 41 16 5 1 314.0 260 91 84 26 55 252
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2017.

384px-Jim_Bunning_as_ballplayerI’ve been seeing a lot of Jim Bunning in APBA lately.  He’s part of my 1966 National League replay.  That’s his card you see above.  He’s graded as an AXZ and a fielding 2 pitcher.  That fielding grade is not a coincidence.  Aside from 1961 when he made six errors, he made only 17 for the other sixteen seasons. 

In real life in 1966, Bunning was fourth in ERA (2.41), sixth in wins with a 19-14 record and second in strikeouts (252).  Considering he was playing in a league with opponents like Koufax, Gibson and Marichal, he held his own.  Bunning did lead the NL in games started (41), shutouts (5), and yes, HBP (19).  Watch out Ron Hunt. 

So far in my replay which is in early June, Bunning has been doing his part for the Phillies.  He is 7-3 with a 2.30 ERA and has struck out 86 in 98 innings.  On May 30th, he pitched a no-hitter in my replay against the hapless Mets. 

Here’s an excellent Jim Bunning bio by Ralph Berger on SABR.org

RIP Senator.

[photo credit]

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28
May

Rod’s Replay Insider: Tracking pitching winning and losing streaks

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A while back, the Pitching Performance Chart was introduced to illustrate how you can track individual pitching performances over the course of a season replay.

One of the hidden benefits of the Pitching Performance Chart is its ability to showcase winning and losing streaks. One glance at the W-L column and you can see, at a glance, how a pitcher is doing.

I list a win in bold face black and a loss in red, just like an accountant would list credits and debits. It visually paints a picture of an ongoing winning or losing streak and adds considerably to the enjoyment of a replay.

Above is an example from a replay from 1912. It tracks each game-by-game performance for Cleveland Naps lefty Vean Gregg.

You can see, at a glance, that after losing Cleveland’s opener to the White Sox on April 11, Gregg reeled off seven wins in a row, followed by four straight losses.  The chart also documents all the other stats for Gregg, but for purposes of simply identifying a winning or losing streak, this chart visually projects what is going one with the individual pitcher.

Next: The mystery of tracking hitting streaks

Read all of Rod’s Replay Insider articles!

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10
May

1966 NL replay: when should realism trump accuracy?

wagnerMy time is beginning to free up just a little bit so I am picking up where I left off in my 1966 NL replay.  I have gotten through the month of May so June 1 is on the docket. 

The Cubs have a doubleheader with the Phillies on this day and before I even started rolling, it had some oddities.  I use actual rotations and lineups so as I fired up Baseball Reference’s actual box scores of the games, I noticed a strange lineup used by the Cubs. 

For both games, manager Leo Durocher used Ron Santo at shortstop (a position he started at only 8 times in his career).  There goes the Cubs’ defense.  Santo’s 3B-5 will instead be a SS-7.  So who played thirdbase?  It was regular first baseman Ernie Banks who was a 3B-3.  Checking Banks’ career stats, I see he did play third base for 58 games in 1957 so he wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with the position.  Add to that that sure-gloved Glenn Beckert took the day off.  Joey Amalfitano spelled Beckert at second base.  The Cubs’ normal Fielding Two defense sunk to Fielding Three.

My theory is that Beckert and shortstop Don Kessinger went on a road trip for the day and the Lip needed to improvise. 

But that isn’t what this is about.  This is about a pitcher named Gary Wagner. 

In 1966, Wagner got a start in Game two for the Phillies.  That’s a big deal because it was his only start of 1966 and one of only four of his career.  To complicate matters, Wagner pitched in five games for six and third innings. 

While I do use actual rotations and lineups, I play loose with relief appearances (though I do try to be realistic).  I assume with every player’s card numbers and grades, everything will work out.  What happened in my replay of Game two of the doubleheader forced me to throw usage accuracy out the window in favor of realism. 

See, Gary Wagner is a grade DRW pitcher.  He really shouldn’t have lasted as long as he did in Game two even against the Cubs’ second string lineup.  As it turned out, Wags pitched a three-hit shutout against the Northsiders.  True to form, he walked five and struck out none. 

It occurred to me to artificially limit his innings since he only pitched 6 1/3 for the year.  He kept getting stronger though, keeping the Cubs hitless from the fifth inning onward.  I’m just not a believer in taking a pitcher out in the middle of a shutout especially in the era of the pitcher like the 60s. 

So Gary Wagner has nine innings (and a sweep-clinching win) to his name in my replay and it’s not going to kill my replay.  The Phillies bullpen needs the rest anyway. 

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