First Basic Experience A Big Thrill

 Hello APBAers!

Thanks for dropping in! After exclusively playing the master game version of APBA Baseball for the 5+ years I’ve been playing APBA, I dove into the basic game last week as I prep for the Twin Cities APBA Tournament in October, which uses the basic game.  I’m very excited for this new APBA adventure, so I want to familiarize myself more with the basic game so I don’t look even more like a blooming idiot. Instead of playing the remaining 9 games of my current 1989 A’s replay using the basic game, I decided to have some fun and pick two random teams that might be an interesting matchup.  Before team selection, I had to brief myself somewhat on the rules, pitcher grades, grade advancements/reductions, fielding, bunting, and hit & run.  Obviously, the numbers in the cards translate easily in both versions, which was huge getting started. Truthfully, I was skeptical on the surface about the basic game and how much I’d actually enjoy it. The master game has been the only APBA life I’ve known.

 I then proceeded to roll a best of five game series between the 1991 Pirates and the 1999 A’s.  I’ve always felt so bad about those late 80’s/early 90’s Pittsburgh teams, so I wanted to see how they could do in an APBA environment.  They had a very balanced team, with Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy Van Slyke in the middle of the lineup, and four starting pitchers sporting B Grades with Z’s or ZZ’s.  Meanwhile, I have to credit the 1999 Oakland club in rekindling my passion for A’s baseball, as they finished eight games behind Texas in the division that year, before rattling off playoff berths in 2000-2003, 2006, 2012-14.  The 99 Athletics were all brawn, and possessed very, very little pitching.  I was a BIG Matt Stairs fan, and I’d never rolled a game with him, so I was anxious to get rolling! After looking at the Oakland cards, they could put together a lineup with each starter possessing a 66-1 on their card. Impressive! Tim Hudson was the only B pitcher, along with two C’s and a D as well. I wanted to see the differences between a B, C, and D.  Neither team had an A pitcher, but both bullpens had two B’s, so that meant each team had some decent help in the ‘pen and their bullpens were a lot alike.  On the surface, I expected the Pirates to win in four games.  I decided to go with a four man rotation for the series, with the team’s ace set to go in a Game 5 winner-take-all if it got to that point.  I also decided to keep the lineups I made for both teams the same for the duration of the series except alternating catchers.  Because the Pirates qualified for the playoffs, they’d be home for Games 1, 3, & 5.

The A’s had a team defense rating of 34-35, while the Pirates defense had a rating of 41-43 for each game. I also used the DH for all games to help prep for the TC Tourney. The lineups for each team went as follows:

1999 A’s

Tony Phillips – CF

Randy Velarde – 2B

Jason Giambi – 1B

John Jaha – DH

Matt Stairs – RF

Ben Grieve – LF

Miguel Tejada – SS

Eric Chavez – 3B

AJ Hinch – C

—————————————————————–

1991 Pirates

Orlando Merced – 1B

John Wehner – DH

Barry Bonds – LF

Andy Van Slyke – CF

Bobby Bonilla – RF

Steve Buechele – 3B

Jay Bell – SS

Mike Lavalliere/Don Slaught – C

Jose Lind – 2B

————————————————-

GAME ONE

OAK – 200010000     3-9-1

PIT – 00002202x     6-7-1

WP – Zane Smith  (BZZ)

LP – TJ Mathews (BX)

HR – Velarde, Buechele

Velarde set the tone early blasting a two run homer in the first thanks to rolls of 66-0, 66-1. Smith helped his cause in the 4th when Hinch hit into a 5-2-3 double play to get out of a bases loaded jam.  Oakland increased their lead to 3-0 on a two-out error by Buechele on a ball hit by Giambi, who then scored on Jaha’s double to center. Kevin Appier (CY) cruised thru four shutout innings but a two run single by Merced cut the gap in the 5th.  Mathews was brought in to start the 6th, and he walked Bonilla before Buechele bombed a two run homerun to left.  Doug Jones (BYZ) threw the 8th, and he also gave up two runs on a triple hit down into the right field corner by Lind.  Smith cruised to a complete game victory after a rocky start as he allowed two earned runs and struck out eight.  His ZZ rating nullified four potential walks! These were the kinds of games I expected from both clubs as the series went on, but I really enjoyed playing my first full game using the basic version.

GAME TWO

PIT – 0000000001     1-7-0

OAK – 10010400x      6-9-1

WP – Tim Hudson (BX – Grade Advancement to A)

LP – Doug Drabek (BZ)

HR – Phillips, Grieve, Buechele

The A’s evened the series thanks to the mastery of young Hudson on the mound and some timely hitting. Phillips led off the bottom of the first with a 66-1, solo HR. With two outs and none in in the 4th, Jaha singled and Stairs tripled (yes, tripled) to plate Jaha.  Thru five innings, despite trailing 2-0, Drabek had three 1-2-3 innings. The wheels came off in the 6th when RBI doubles by Jaha and Stairs, followed by a two run shot to right by 1999 ROY Ben Grieve put the A’s up 6-0.  Hudson dodged a potential threat in the 8th with runners on second and third with one out. Van Slyke grounded out and Bonilla popped out to end the inning. A solo homer by Buechele in the 9th was the lone blemish for Hudson, who tossed a CG scattering seven hits.

GAME THREE

OAK – 004001000        5-8-2

PIT  – 000000000        0-7-1

WP – Omar Olivares (CY – Grade Advancement A)

LP – Randy Tomlin (BYZ)

HR – Stairs, Grieve

Oakland’s offense again did just enough and Olivares pitched in and out of trouble all game to give Oakland a 2-1 series lead. The A’s put together a nice two out rally in the 4th to put Olivares at ease. Hinch was on second, and he scored on a double by Giambi. Following a walk to Jaha, Stairs unleashed on a Tomlin fastball, belting a three run homer to make it a 4-0 game.  Grieve added an insurance run with a lead off homer in the 6th. Meanwhile, Olivares could’ve might as well been Houdini! He stranded 13 Pirates runners on base en route to hurling a 7-hit shutout, allowing five walks as well. Olivares pitched out of bases loaded jams in the 4th and 5th innings and also left men on 2nd and 3rd twice as well.  I was just beside myself rolling this game, but realizing that stuff like this happens in baseball………all the time! I love it!

GAME FOUR

PIT – 102000112    7-14-0

OAK – 110000000   2-3-1

WP – John Smiley (BZ)

LP – Gil Heredia (DZZ)

HR – Tejada, Bonilla

This one was all Pittsburgh! Each team traded runs in the first, but the Pirates slowly beat the A’s up to even up the series.  Oakland took a brief lead in the bottom of the 2nd on Tejada’s solo homer to left. That would be the final hit for the A’s in the game! Four straight singles in the top of the third led to two Pirate runs to make it 3-2 Pittsburgh. It stayed that way until the later innings.  Bonds’ two out double in the 7th scored Lind, Bonilla hit a solo homer in the 8th, and Wehner hit a two-run single in the 9th to round out the 7-2 win. Smiley was magnificent, going the distance. Smiley walked two and struck out two, and he didn’t allow a hit in the final seven innings, retiring the last 16 men in the game in order. Heredia, for a D pitcher, didn’t do too terrible, going 6 innings, allowing four earned runs, no walks, and nine hits, while striking out two. One more game to go in this impromptu series!

GAME FIVE

OAK – 000100004   5-8-1

PIT –   000000004    4-5-0

WP – Hudson (Grade Advancement from B to A)

LP – Smith

SV – Mathews

HR – Tejada

WOW! This game went down to the wire, and after the A’s seemingly had the game in the bag, the Pirates were in prime position to steal it only to come up microscopically short. Both Tim Hudson and Zane Smith were in the zone as few runners found their way beyond first base through the first 8 innings. Van Slyke did his part to keep the A’s off the board in the 4th. Jaha led off with a double, and he rounded third on a single hit up the middle by Stairs.  Van Slyke gunned Jaha down at the plate with Lavalliere making the tag, with Stairs advancing to second on the throw. That was big, because Grieve’s bloop single down the line in left plated Stairs for the game’s first run, putting Oakland up 1-0. Smith got out of the inning when he induced Tejada into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP. Smith would go onto retire the next 13 batters in a row into the 9th. Hudson struggled a bit with control, but had a no hitter going into the 6th when Bonds beat out an infield hit.  Through 8 innings, Hudson allowed just two hits as the A’s led just 1-0.

The 9th inning was likely the craziest 9th inning I’ve ever had playing APBA! Bar none! Here’s what happened in the top half of the inning. Smith struck out Velarde to begin the 9th, but a double by Giambi and a walk to Jaha led to a pitching change. Stan Belinda (BX) walked Stairs to load the bases. With 1992 looming in his head, Jim Leyland opted to remove Belinda in favor of Bill Landrum (BY). Landrum retired Grieve on a pop out to first for the second out. Tejada, however, made amends for his lackluster 0-3 performance as a 66-1 was rolled — Grand Slam! Now owning a 5-0 lead, and Hudson still carrying that A rating, it was a forgone conclusion that Oakland would cruise to victory….right?

Manager Art Howe envisioned Hudson going the distance, and Hudson did his part to quickly retire Bonilla and Buechele for two outs! With the bottom three hitters up next, it couldn’t have been easier one would think. Well, the lack of a Z rating bit Hudson as he walked Bell and pinch hitter Jeff King. Howe went to the bullpen to bring on grizzled veteran Doug Jones (BYZ) to slam the door. Lind rolled a 44-7, a single to right scoring Bell. Pinch hitter Lloyd McClendon rolled a 33-7, another single that plated King as the A’s led 5-2 with hometown native John Wehner stepping up as the tying run. Wehner rolls a 66-6, a two run double to dead center scoring Lind and McClendon as the Pirates now only trail by one with the tying run at second with Bonds due up. Howe sent a disgruntled Jones to the dugout and called upon TJ Mathews to get that elusive 27th out. Bonds wasn’t retired, drawing  a walk on a 45-14. Van Slyke was the next batter, and a quiet 43-29 was rolled. Van Slyke’s grounder to Mathews was fielded cleanly, tossing it to Giambi at first for the game and series ending clincher!  Unreal!

I really enjoyed playing the basic game, much more than I thought that I would. The playability was great, as was the suspense and realism as compared to the master game. It took me about 20-25 minutes to play each game, which is right on par with how long it takes me to play the master version. Probably my biggest gripe was the fact you can’t steal like you can in the master game.  I know there are likely different modifications out there to address that, but this little five game series gave me just enough of a taste of the basic game to get more comfortable with it, which now I am. I can see myself doing some solitaire tournaments playing the basic version, and using the basic game to introduce people to the game as it’s far less overwhelming to learn quickly. I’ll keep doing my master gaming with my season replays, but I’m glad I finally played some basic ball, straight out of the box!

This weekend, my birthday is Saturday, so I’m going camping with my son, dad, nephew, and two brothers in Menahga, MN.  It’s rare that we all are together like this so we plan to just keep things simple – swim, golf, eat, bonfires, and play games. I am, however, bringing the basic game so my brother Ben and I can squeeze in a couple of games. He is on the fence about coming to the Twin Cities tourney, and hasn’t really played much APBA, but I’m hoping I can rope him into the fold.  He wants to play with the 1988 Red Sox and 1989 Cubs, so I’ll bring those and a few other surprise teams, and we’ll roll away in the great outdoors….

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