Happy Valentine’s Day! With three young boys, including our two-month old who has come down with a nasty cold and my two-year old still battling an ear infection, my wife and I decided to keep things simple and stay home this year. Our celebration consisted of taking my kindergarten son to morning basketball, taking a nap, making Valentine cookies, ordering in pizza, and after the kids were all asleep, watching Dumb and Dumber. Not a bad day, in my opinion. What I’ve loved about weekends and having a family is that it’s taught me the pleasures of just being a homebody, and how I have everything I need right in my own simple home in our quiet neighborhood in Hawley, MN.
Today, I thought I’d share my biggest head-scratching moment in my brief APBA Baseball playing career. I’m amazed how quirky this game can be, as can baseball in real life at all levels. I’ve played APBA on and off since 2010. I play the Master Game version, have done season replays of the 1987 and 1988 Oakland A’s, and I’m in the middle of the 1989 A’s season. I’ve never been as dumbfounded as when toward the end of my 88 replay, I enjoyed playing with the 88 A’s! Canseco’s 40-40 season, Stewart’s second 20-win campaign, Dennis Eckersley’s dominance as a closer, and Dave “Cobra” Parker’s arrival in an Oakland uniform. I learned more about the 88 A’s playing APBA than anything else I’d done before doing the replay.
It was an August 23, 1988 contest at Yankee Stadium versus the Yankees. I had Bob Welch toeing the rubber, master grade 13, YZ, and had been a strong #2 starter all year. I was happy to see that New York was countering with 45 year old lefty veteran Tommy John, master grade 3, believing with Oaklad’s heavily stacked right handed hitting lineup, I for sure could scratch across enough runs for Welch. Now, I was just beginning to learn about and follow baseball back in ’88 as an 8 year old growing up in rural Minnesota, and to this day, only two things come to my mind regarding Tommy John. 1. His now famous surgery. 2. His epic three errors on one play (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IGLuJxvBhE8).
What happened in the course of a few days shocked me. John had already defeated my A’s in a game back in May, so I had it pegged that the odds were in my favor. I was dead wrong. Don Mattingly’s RBI double in the first gave tha Yanks an early lead. “Big deal,” I thought. I have the 1988 OAKLAND A’s here. But it turned out to be a long day at the office for La Russa’s boys as Tommy John was on a course for domination. His cause was helped significantly with a two-run double by Mike Pagliarulo in the 6th to help New York to a 4-0 lead. I kept rolling the dice, and I was shocked that John kept sending the A’s down. John ended up tossing a 3-hit shutout to preserve a 4-0 win for the Yankees. “Really?” I thought. I was surprised. I ended up winning the next two games of the series, so that provided some consulation.
A few days later, the A’s returned to the Oakland-Alameda County Colieseum, and those same Yankees rolled into the Bay Area. On September 2, 1988, lo and behold, it was Tommy John’s turn in the rotation for New York. Curt Young (grade 5, Y) was the starter for Oakland. For most of the season, Young had pitched out of his mind as my 5th starter. In my replay, he finished 16-5, leading the A’s with a 2.64 ERA. On this September afternoon, the savvy veteran John again was electric. Mattingly helped early with an RBI double to plate one run for John before he took the mound. The Yankees blew up Young in the 4th by scoring five runs. The back breaker was a two-run double by Rafael Santana.
With a sizable lead and the Coliseum’s generous confines, John was at ease and dialed in strike after strike. The A’s had no answer, and my confident hopes of rolling some 11’s, 33’s, or 66’s dwindled emphatically. It grew to a frustration I hadn’t yet felt in the game. “How is Tommy Freaking John shutting me out…..again?” I thought. John went about his business, scattering six hits enroute to his third win over the A’s in 88, earning his second straight shutout victory in a matter of 11 days. UNREAL! As perplexed as I was about the situation, because I wanted to guide these A’s to the playoffs, and here Tommy John, a 45 year old Grade D pitcher has thrown a serious wrench into the equation, I was highly amused and somewhat satisfied with these events as well. Why? Because these sort of unexplainable things happen in baseball, and it’s a reminder that a 162 game season is a long haul. The unthinkable is capable of happening once in awhile. These unheralded back-to-back shutouts were a segway of sorts for me to appreciate Tommy John, and study his career further (which I did — an impressive career for sure). APBA has led me to many late-night Google and baseball-reference searches for further baseball legend and lore. I love this game!
Anyhow, having the 1988 Tommy John beat my 1988 A’s three times, including back-to-back shutouts, has been by far the biggest headscratching moment in my dice-rolling days of that release of the responsibilities of life, better known as APBA Baseball. What’s yours? I’d like to hear about it!
1989 A’s UPDATE – RICKEY TRADE PAYING DIVIDENDS!
I’ve been able to roll two games this past week with my new lead off hitter, Rickey Henderson, since the famous trade was made with the Yankees. Beginning with a four game series with Toronto at the Coliseum, Rickey ignited an 8th inning rally in game one. Down 1-0 to LHP John Cerutti, Rickey walked, stole second, and scored on Carney Lansford’s single to right to tie the game. Mark McGwire’s two run homerun off Duane Ward to center gave the A’s a comeback 3-1 series opening win. The next night was outrageously entertaining! Rickey went 4-4, stole two bases, and scored 5 runs, while Dave Henderson went 4-5, homered, scored four times, and had 4 RBI as Oakland overcame an 8-3 deficit to win a wild affair, 11-8. It’s safe to say, now, that I’m glad I pulled the plug and made the deal. I’m hoping this could jumpstart Dave “Hendu” as he’s been lukewarm at best at the dish! That’s all for now (and all I have time for). Have a good one, everybody!