Author Archives: Minnesota APBA

2003 Cubs Vindicated – Claim Inaugural 2nd Chance Invitational Tourney Title

The First Lofgren 2nd Chance Invitational Tournament is officially in the books.  Tournament play wrapped up last night with Guest Roller Mr. Ben Lofgren (my older brother, fellow teacher and coach).

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Tournament Sponsors Hardee’s, Nintendo, Turbografx16, Sega, APBA, and Earl Weaver Baseball were honored pregame at APBA PARK.

The games were rolled in my tabletop ballpark aptly named APBA PARK with college football on the TV in the background serving as “white noise” while my wife and three boys had fallen soundly asleep upstairs.  Sounds like the perfect way to spend time with your brother, right?  After talking about the current events of the day, and dealing out some of our dry humor to each other, it was time to get after it!

The final four teams were all looking at redemption, and especially in the case of the 1994 Yankees, simply to have a chance to win due to the strike wiping out their opportunity 23 years ago.  The 2003 Cubs likely have the biggest monkey on their collective backs, losing in seven games to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 NLCS after being up 3 games to 2 and ahead 3-1 with one out in the top of the 8th inning with Mark Prior on the hill.  Enter Steve Bartman – and the rest is history as the Cubs imploded!  The 2008 Brewers and 1992 A’s were teams that fell into the “pretty good” category. Nothing really notably stands out about these two squads, but all around, are certainly solid squads.

The first semi-final pitted the 2008 Brewers up against the 1994 Yankees as a bunting-filled Cleveland Municipal Stadium never looked better.

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Jimmy Key looks on after serving up Mike Cameron’s two-run homer.

Milwaukee’s offense got to Jimmy Key (BYZ) early and often.  The Brewers would plate eight runs off Key in just three innings of work as Milwaukee won 9-4 over the hapless Yankees.  A two-run triple by Corey Hart and a two-run homer to left by Mike Cameron were the big blows.  CC Sabathia (BXYZ) pitched a complete game for Milwaukee, allowing two earned runs, eight hits, and striking out five to win his third game of the tournament as the ’08 Brewers advanced to the championship.

The second semi-final saw the 2003 Cubs take on the 1992 A’s with Mark Prior (AXZ) squaring off with Ron Darling (B).  As in the first game, the winning team scored early and often to coast to a comfortable win.  The Cubs knew the A’s possessed a strong bullpen, so it was key for them to get to Ron Darling early.  They did. After scoring a pair of runs in the first two innings, the Cubs put up three more runs in the 3rd to take a 5-0 lead.  Sammy Sosa’s two-run homer to dead center knocked Darling out of the game, entering in Oakland’s string of four “A” relievers.

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Sosa’s blast sent Darling and the A’s packing.

It proved to be too little, too late. The A’s scored three runs to cut it to 6-3 before eventually losing 7-3.  Prior tossed a complete game for the Cubbies, allowing three earned runs, seven hits, and struck out five.  Vince Horsman (A), Jim Corsi (A), Dennis Eckersley (AXYZZ), and Jeff Russell (ACY) tossed 6 2/3 innings of relief, allowing a pair of runs while striking out 9 to keep the A’s close.  Guest Roller Ben Lofgren rolled both the Brewers and the Cubs to victory so I gave him first dibs on this team for the title bout – he chose to roll with the ’08 Brewers in the grand finale.

I would not have pegged this championship matchup at ALL back in April when I started this journey.  Nonetheless, here we were with the 2008 Brewers and the 2003 Cubs, two very deserving teams for a shot at redemption.  I was happy that the two finalists were non-pennant winning teams, proving the point that the margin of victory/defeat is a fine line in MLB, as well as other sports.  For the Brewers, Ben Sheets (BYZ) took the ball while Carlos Zambrano (BY) started for the Cubs.  Both would go on to pitch GEMS for their respective clubs….but only one would wind up a winner.

After a scoreless first, Moises Alou hit the first pitch Sheets threw in the 2nd inning for a solo homer into Municipal Stadium’s left-field bleachers to break the scoreless tie.

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Alou’s solo homer was the Cubs’ first and ONLY hit of the game.

Corey Patterson and Eric Karros both worked out walks and later executed a perfect double-steal, forcing an intentional walk to Amaris Ramirez to load the bases for Damian Miller with no outs.  Miller grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, scoring Patterson while Alex Gonzalez lined out to 2nd to end the inning as the Cubs led 2-0.  The Cubs would manage just two baserunners for the rest of the game (walks worked out by Miller) as Sheets held the Cubs’ lineup in check.  However, the Brewers had no answer for Zambrano as he had allowed one lone single through five innings.  With two outs in the 6th, Ray Durham lined a double down the left field line.  Ryan Braun then hit a grounder deep into the hole at shortstop.  Alex Gonzalez fielded the ball and fired it to Ramirez at third to nab Durham to end the inning.  Mike Cameron led off the 8th with a double, but was unable to get any closer.  With the 9th inning looming and Zambrano now an A, would it be Zambrano in to seal the deal or closer Joe Borowski (AXZ)?  The decision was made to stick with Zambrano.  A lead off single by Braun sent Borowski to warm up in the bullpen.  Prince Fielder struck out and Russell Branyan grounded out to third, moving Braun to second with two outs.  Gabe Kapler was the last hope for the Brewers, but his 46-13 resulted in a game-ending strikeout as the 2003 Cubs nipped the 2008 Brewers 2-0 to take home the championship!

Carlos Zambrano was the winning pitcher, tossing a four-hit shoutout with 9 K’s and zero walks!

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The 2003 Cubs rode the right arm of the always jacked-up Zambrano.

He also took home the 2nd Chance Invitational Tournament MVP Award as he was 3-0 with two complete games, four earned runs allowed in 25 IP with 24 K’s in his three starts.  Ben Sheets was just as amazing in defeat, throwing a complete game while allowing just one hit!  He gave up one hit, two earned runs, and five walks (one intentional) with four strikeouts to take the loss.  Even with the recent World Series championship by the 2016 Cubs, these 2003 Chicago Cubs can now officially close the book on their traumatic ending to their otherwise stellar season as this title puts them above, at least, the multitude of hard-luck losers MLB has come to know.  I’m very pleased that this team wound up winning!  Whenever the next 2nd-Chance Invitational will be held, the 2003 Cubs will be invited to play and it will be their one chance to defend their title.  Tournament winners will be invited back to play in the following tournament and then that will be it.

Following the championship game, the crowd at Municipal Stadium wanted more and chanted, “Encore! Encore!”

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Despite his ’92 A’s bowing out in the semis, McGwire made amends by winning the Home Run Derby.

With Ben and myself still amped to burn the midnight oil, we decided to break out the APBA Baseball Home Run Derby Game, something neither of us have ever touched.  We decided to pick one representative from the teams that lost in the semi-finals.  The 1992 A’s selected Mark McGwire to participate while the 1994 Yankees elected to have Mike Stanley take his whacks.  The Derby consisted of 9 innings with three outs apiece for each participant per inning.  Stanley led most of the competition.  However, a five homerun effort by McGwire in the 8th inning propelled him to an eventual 16-12 win over Stanley to officially conclude the events of the tournament.  The City of Cleveland did a spectacular job of reconstructing Municipal Stadium for this event.  However, Cleveland said it would not be able to host any future events due to the negative publicity regarding former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell that resurfaced during the tournament.

All in all, this tournament took WAY LONGER than I wanted it to.  I was hoping it would take me a couple of months…instead of 8!!  I’m accustomed to single-team replays, so doing a 64 team tournament challenged my organizational skills, constantly changing teams, writing down/tweaking lineups, etc.  My window to play games isn’t at my peak time of attentiveness and alertness (after 9 PM once the kids are all in bed).  Life has been very busy (and tiring), and APBA sometimes so low on the totem pole for me that I sometimes forget it’s even there.  BUT…it is ALWAYS on my mind! It was especially fun to share parts of this with my brother Ben, and I’m blessed to have an APBA-holic just a few blocks away from where I live and he also works where I work…so we’re constantly talking APBA!

With the dawn of hardcore winter setting it, I really wanted to get this done because it was really fun, I miss playing the game, and now to focus back on a season replay of some type. What that will be, I’m not so sure yet, but I have plenty of ideas!  Thanks for reading and for those that followed this – I really appreciate your insight and comments!  Look below for some final tournament tidbits!

 

TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS

2003 CHICAGO CUBS (88-74, Lost in 2003 NLCS to the Florida Marlins 4-3)

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Beat 2009 Phillies 4-2

Beat 1989 Giants 3-2

Beat 2004 Cardinals 7-4

Beat 1994 Expos 9-2

Beat 1992 A’s 7-3

Beat 2008 Brewers 2-0

TOURNAMENT MVP: SP Carlos Zambrano (2003 Cubs)

HOME RUN DERBY CHAMPION: 1B Mark McGwire (1992 A’s)

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RECORDS OF

PENNANT-WINNING TEAMS: 22-29

NON PENNANT-WINNING TEAMS: 41-34

TEAMS OF THE 80’s: 9-19

TEAMS OF THE 90’s: 26-23

TEAMS OF THE 2000’s: 28-21

FINAL TOURNAMENT BRACKET

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As soon as the final fans filed out and the four teams boarded their buses back to the airport, Cleveland City Officials wasted no time in the 2nd demolition process of Municipal Stadium.  “For those of you that liked this old relic, consider this a miracle that it somehow was rebuilt on our watch,” said one local official. “This will be the final chapter of the ‘Mistake by the Lake’….PERIOD!”

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LOFGREN 2ND CHANCE INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT – FINAL FOUR FIELD SET

Merry Boxing Day!

With daytime temperatures hovering in the -10 to -15 range here in west-central Minnesota, my three boys busily playing with their array of Christmas toys, I figured it was an appropriate time to update everyone on my latest APBA happenings.  I’m just about done with my latest project, and it will likely be completed tonight.  64 non-World Series winning teams from the era of 1980-2010 entered the field of the First Lofgren 2nd Chance Invitational Tournament back in April.  I’ve used the basic game with the old APBA JOURNAL error/rare play randomizer for the entire tournament.  The DH has been used for each game, and teams must use their top two starting pitchers in back-to-back games.

Now the time has come to commence the Final Four, which will be held at venerable Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, OH.

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The tournament bracket from the First Lofgren 2nd Chance Invitational Tournament.

A majority of these games have gone down to there wire, with the occasional blowout.

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Ben Lofgren (left) will help finish off my tournament.

Nonetheless, I’ve learned a great deal about some of these teams, and it’s opened up more possibilities for teams I might pick for a face-to-face tournament in the future.  The Final Four schedule will be played out tonight with Guest Roller – Mr. Ben Lofgren –
helping me finish out the tournament.  Below is a profile of each of the final four teams:

1994 Yankees (70-43)yanks

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Beat 1998 Rangers 4-2

Beat 1999 Braves 8-2

Beat 1993 Phillies 7-4

Beat 2000 A’s 8-6 (13 Innings – Walk-Off 2-Run HR by Randy Velarde)

STRENGTH – POWERFUL LINEUP

WEAKNESS – STARTING PITCHING (One B Starter – Jimmy Key)

WHO’S CARRIED THE TEAM: DH Matt Nokes (5-16, 2 HR. 11 RBI)

2008 Milwaukee Brewers (90-72)

HOW THEY GOT HERE:x1poitlhifc8srw64hicefsh9

Beat 1983 Phillies 6-4

Beat 2007 Diamondbacks 10-0

Beat 2010 Rangers 4-2

Beat 1996 Braves 5-4

STRENGTH – BALANCED LINEUP 1-9

WEANKESS – BULLPEN (NO A PITCHERS)

WHO’S CARRIED THE TEAM: LF Ryan Braun (6-17, 1 HR, 2 3B, 7 RBI)

2003 Chicago Cubs (88-74)

HOW THEY GOT HERE:q9gvs07u72gc9xr3395u6jh68

Beat 2009 Phillies 4-2

Beat 1989 Giants 3-2

Beat 2004 Cardinals 7-4

Beat 1994 Expos 9-2

STRENGTH – STARTING PITCHING

WEAKNESS – LOW TEAM ON-BASE PERCENTAGE

WHO’S CARRIED THE TEAM: P Carlos Zambrano (2-0, 16IP, CG, 15K’s, 4ER)

1992 Oakland Athletics (96-66)

HOW THEY GOT HERE:gxyi5nc8yptah3ju6ab0ylc2y

Beat 2006 Tigers 10-4

Beat 2001 Yankees 2-1

Beat 1992 Pirates 4-3

Beat 2010 Twins 3-1

STRENGTH – BULLPEN

WEAKNESS – STARTING PITCHING

WHO’S CARRIED THE TEAM: 2B Lance Blankenship (4-12, 4 BB, 4 RBI, 4 Runs)


Of the four teams that are left, the 1994 Yankees clearly have the best chance to win in my opinion.  There are some monster cards this team possesses, which makes up for their lack of pitching.  I’m a little surprised that the other three teams made it this far, and would not have guessed they’d be a part of the final four teams standing.  It will be fun to crown one of these teams champion later on tonight!  Old Municipal Stadium will be rocking!

HERE’S THE SCHEDULE:

2008 Brewers – SABATHIA (BXYZ) vs. 1994 Yankees – KEY (BYZ)

2003 Cubs – PRIOR (AXZ) vs. 1992 Athletics – DARLING (B)

Winners will play for the championship.

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Cleveland Municipal Stadium – Site of the Lofgren 2nd-Chance Invitational Championship.

2nd Chance Invitational Reaches Elite 8

Greetings!

This project is taking me forever to finish, but I’m near its end.  I shelved the master game for a time to familiarize myself with the basic game.  I have several seasons of cards sitting on my shelf, never seeing the light of day.  I decided to run a “2nd Chance” tournament with teams from my so-called glory days of baseball which is from 1980-2010.  I was born in 1980 and I religiously followed baseball through 2010.  I still do follow the game, but not nearly as close as I used to.  Coincidentally, that’s about the time I really got involved with APBA.

Anyway, I wanted to hold a 64 team tournament, similar to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  I know this concept has been done several times in the APBA Baseball World.  My tournament would consist of all of the World Series losers from 1980-2010, followed by the rest of the field being selected at random (out of a hat).  The teams eligible had to fulfill one of the following requirements:

*Qualified for the postseason (All 1994 division/wild card leaders were eligible)

*Won at least 100 games, but did not qualify for the postseason

*Qualified for a tie-breaker game, but lost

There’s a pretty impressive number of teams.  The 1980’s are very interesting because of the lack on a single dominant franchise.  However, from 1994-onward, there are so many more teams from that era in the pool because of the added divisions and wild cards.  I drew the teams and ended up with a fun bracket full of great teams from my youth and beyond!  For the tournament, teams are able to use their top two starting pitchers.  For example, in the first round, a team uses their #1 pitcher.  If they win, they’ll have to use their #2 for the second round game.  If their team makes it to the Sweet 16, the rotation resets and the team will use their #1 again.  This way, teams are forced to go a little deeper into their pitching, but for the most part, these teams have a pretty good 1-2 punch (unless you’re the 1994 Yankees or 1995 Rockies, for example).  I also use the DH for all games and score all games by hand (I usually use the iScore app on iPad, but I wanted to get back to my roots and go off the grid).

I will say doing a tournament is a lot different from a single-team season replay –  My organizational skills have been challenged to say the least.  I have really enjoyed just thumbing through all of the different cards and reading up on some of these teams and players I’ve forgotten about.  It’s also given me some ideas as to what my next season replay will be, and teams to take to an APBA Tournament someday.  Most of these games have been very close right up to the last dice roll!

Below is the bracket so far.  Four regional games will decide which teams will advance to the Final Four, which will be held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

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The pitching matchups are set, and the dice will be rolling with a few 66’s for sure!

2000 Oakland A’s (Heredia CYZ) vs. 1994 New York Yankees (Perez CY) – RFK Stadium

2008 Milwaukee Brewers (Sheets BYZ) vs. 1996 Atlanta Braves (Maddux BYZZ) – HHH Metrodome

2003 Chicago Cubs (Zambrano BX) vs. 1994 Montreal Expos (Fassero BZ) – Kingdome

1992 Oakland A’s (Stewart CY) vs. 2010 Minnesota Twins (Duensing BZ) – Joe Robbie Stadium

My predictions?  2000 A’s, 2008 Brewers, 2003 Cubs, and 2010 Twins

We shall see!

What Do You Do When You Have the APBA Blues?

Hey Everyone!

It’s been a LOOONG time since I’ve made a post.  WAY TOO LONG!  I plan on several blog posts about what I’ve been up to APBA-wise here in the coming weeks.  Teaching, coaching, raising three kids, and just life in general has really shelved my APBA Baseball playing since the Spring.  After I wrapped up my 1984 Minnesota Twins Replay and my Father-Son Series, I’ve sort of had the “APBA Blues.”  I’ve had some very long stretches without APBA, which has been the case for me at times since I began playing back in 2010.

I started a “2nd Chance Tournament” last spring that I’ve posted results of on the APBA Facebook site.  I played it through the early summer, shelved it, and then after five months of no solitaire play, I finally picked it back up here last week.  I played in both the Spring and Fall Twin Cities APBA Tournaments and had a blast there.  I also built an APBA Ballpark this summer.  I’ll highlight these events in the coming weeks.

I also have to give a big shoutout to John Asalon and his new weekly show, “This Week in APBA.”  For years now, I’ve slowly squeezed out most forms of media or talk shows out of my schedule.  Why?  Because they’re all negative and seem to give less than the facts.  Plus…I have better things to do.  However, this exciting venture by John and the APBA Game Company is well worth the listen!  On Tuesday after my three kids and wife were in bed, I went to my classroom at the school I teach to decorate the room for Christmas.  I was there from about 9PM to just before midnight.  I listened to the first four episodes of the show….and it was SO REFRESHING!  Hearing all of this discussion about the game we’re all so passionate about was like nothing I’ve ever listened to before!  Make this a regular part of your APBA-therapy!  Hearing from Mr. John Herson was especially interesting and eye-opening!  Below is the link to all of the archived episodes:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ttLw83mMwq7

So to those of you out there – Do you ever get the APBA Blues and shelve the game for an extended time?  If so, is it by choice or does life get in the way?  For those of you that don’t, what’s your secret in keeping a steady diet of APBA Baseball when it’s hard to find time for it?  What projects do you do to keep from getting out of the APBA loop!  I’d like to hear your stories!  Thank you!

My Jonny Boy

Fatherhood.  A role that is so important, enjoyable, and stressful all wrapped into one.  Life is a single journey, filled with so many chapters.  It’s a winding, curvy, uphill/downhill, meandering pathway to an unknown ending.  I’m 36 years old right now, but can vividly recall memories of my first days as a kindergartner.  In 1987, our school’s varsity boy’s basketball team was dubbed “The Dream Team,” earning the state’s #1 ranking all season long.  The Hawley Nuggets eventually took their undefeated record of 26-0 to the state semi-finals, losing 54-53 in a heartbreaking loss.  That experience fed my love and lore for sports, coupled with the 1987 Twins winning the Worlds Series.  Canoe trips, visits to the Metrodome to cheer on the Twins (and whenever the A’s were in town) and being involved in a multitude of school sports and activities dot my entire youth days.  I don’t know why, but I can still remember many school/life events during my youth.  That part of my brain must be wired differently than the rest of my brain — I have a terrible working/organizational mind when it comes to getting things done sometimes.  My youth culminated in meeting my eventual bride-to-be, my high school sweetheart Tonia.  College and later being a teacher and coach brought much more responsibility, pride, and free time.  My wife and I both attended college in Bemidji, MN, and later relocated back to Hawley, MN.  We were married in 2002 and lived seven busy, but quiet years without children.  Coaching year round fit the bill for me, whether it was junior high football in the fall, junior high and elementary traveling-team basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer.  Being immersed in my first full-time post-college job, third grade teacher at Atkinson Elementary in Barnesville also consumed my time with incredible memories and growth as an educator.  My wife, meanwhile, plugged away with her career goals— her first in education but then turned nursing career, busy with school and work, she’s always carried the bigger share of the load (and still does today!).  Life was good back then I’ve gotta say — we bought our first home, traveled all over, and thought we were too busy enough then.

Flash forward to 2017 — we’ve been married almost 15 years, and now have three sons.  Jonathan is 7 and is in 2nd grade, Carter is 4 and in preschool, and Luke just turned two in December.  Each day brings new challenges, joys, frustrations, and emotions.

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Tonia and I with Jonathan – just one month old. My team made it to the  State Baseball Tournament for the 2nd straight season in 2009.  This was taken before our state semi-final game.

First and foremost, you want your children to be healthy — we are so blessed to have three healthy boys!  Some days, there’s peace in the valley at home and all three coexist in harmony.  Those days, however, are few and far between.

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Dad and his 3 boys with more hardware – a 21-4 season with a bittersweet ending, finishing runner-up in the Section Tournament in 2015.

With the commotion of the everyday tasks of life, the events we’re involved in with our jobs, kids’ activities, and church, and the needs of our boys, it can be difficult to find quality one-on-one time with the boys, let alone each other.  They’re great playmates, but are now finding ways to meddle and be mischievous to each other, resulting in being more police officer than father in the house.  Nonetheless, we know it’s all part of growing up, both for the boys and for us as parents.  We certainly want to soak it all in because these years will zip by in the blink of an eye!

My oldest son Jonathan is a typical oldest-child.  He’s a sponge when it comes to learning new information, he’s very caring and sincere, and at school is the consummate rule-follower.  In his four years of school, he’s been in trouble just one time — for kissing a girl in kindergarten.  I’ll take that compared over a lot of other things he could be getting in trouble with!  He’s super curious, loves Legos, playing piano, and is a geography nut.  HELLO — his favorite TV Show is “How the States Got Their Shapes.”  He even has the first two seasons on DVD!  He would rather have a notepad and a pen to play with instead of a device or a video game.  He’s a throwback kid in that regard.  He is, however, the most uncompetitive competitor when it comes to playing games or sports.  Win or lose, he’s just pleased to be a part of the action.

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Jonny kind enough to pose with Dad as we prep for our venture.

He could care less how he does (so he says) — It’s a tough thing to tackle as a parent — how much influence should you have in terms of your child’s interests?  How much do you push versus let them go their own way?  I know what MY interests are…..but what about his?  I’ve come to the conclusion that I want my boys to choose their paths on own, and that they alone by the choices they make will determine their success/failure within each of those activities or ventures.  Just as long as they’re involved in activities and try as many things as they can as they get older instead of coming right home after school to play 5 hours of video games (there’s too much of this in today’s world unfortunately).  Luckily, our little community on the edge of the prairie has a great deal to offer for youth.  I’ll always be there as a resource for help or advice, and he will always be exposed to sports with what I do, but I want the boys to do what they want.  The last thing I want to do on my deathbed is have the regret of pursuing the dreams of my youth vicariously through my children.

So Jonathan….he’s always been somewhat interested in my all-time, yet somewhat recent favorite hobby — APBA Baseball.  For those that don’t know what APBA (pronounced APP-buh) Baseball is, it’s a simple yet complicated baseball board game that involves cards and dice.  You basically “play” games with Major League teams using special cards, dice, and a playbook.  For me, it’s the one thing I do to let go of all that’s around me….when I play it, I’m not thinking about work, bills, doing the laundry, renovating the bathroom, etc.  It’s just the game and me, and it’s a trip back into the past….into simpler times…

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Three month-old Jonny living it up at his 1st Twins game – July 28, 2009.

Recently, Jonathan asked me when he could play the game with me.  He’d played a couple times before, but lost interest as he didn’t quite have the patience to finish a game (a game takes about 20-30 minutes).  We started talking some more.  He really wanted to play and to “use the i-Pad for keeping track of the score” (I use an app that’s an interactive scorebook and stat keeper).  As far as the teams, I came up with an idea. When he was born in 2009, baseball was at the forefront that whole year.  Jonathan was born on May 15th.  A day later, I was back in Hawley for a double-header on a Saturday as we won two big games.  Our team advanced to the Minnesota State Class A Baseball Tournament for the second consecutive season.  We finished 3rd in the state in 2008 and 4th in 2009–some of the best times of my life!

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I know it’s crazy, but I miss the simplicity of the Metrodome.

Later that summer, the Twins celebrated their final season in the Metrodome.  9,999 out of 10,000 people were happy to see the ‘Dome go and couldn’t wait to go to Target Field the following season.  I was that 1 out of 10,000 that was going to miss the ‘Dome (more on that in another blog post).  It was my mission to see as many Twins games as I could that summer down in Minneapolis before the end of the Twins’ era at the Metrodome.  We were fortunate enough to take Jonathan to four games in the Metrodome that year (out of the ten I saw).  So I talked to Jonathan about what team he would like to play with.  He wasn’t quite sure, so I told him about the 2009 Twins and the connections he had with them.  He was sold right away…and not a minute later, he suggested that I choose a team from the year I was born (1980), and that it should be the Oakland A’s (my favorite franchise).  I was like, “That’s a really cool idea, buddy!”  He just grinned ear-to-ear with pride!  So…the ball was rolling here for something potentially special!

Over the last couple of days in the mornings before we’d head to school, I had Jonathan enter the 2009 Twins and 1980 A’s team information into the I-PAD, a task he immensely enjoyed!  He entered all of the players, their numbers, and positions using baseball-reference.com.  It kept the house in harmony as those mornings trying to get three young kids ready for the day aren’t exactly smooth sailing most mornings!  Today (a Saturday), after playing outside on a balmy 50 degree February day here in west-central Minnesota, we were on a mission to start to play a game of APBA.  Jonathan wanted to play a best-of-seven series “just like the real teams do.”  I asked him if we should make up a name for the series, and he said yes.  So….we are calling it the “Father-Son Birthyear World Series.”  Original, huh?  LOL.  I got the game all set up with the cards, dice, iPad, rulebook, team pennants, and my own little slice of heaven, my custom-built ballpark I roll games in (another future blog post).  Meanwhile, as I did the prep work, Jonathan went upstairs.  Since it was noon, I figured he was fixing himself a quick drink or snack.

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Jonny’s Lego-themed fans sitting in the center field bleachers!

He comes back downstairs.  With what you might ask?  Baseball “fans” cheering on the bleachers!  He’d gone up to his room to quickly assemble a set of bleachers with whatever Lego people he could find, “So we can have fans watching what we do,” he said.  LOL – what a kid!  As we were about to finally begin this epic series,  we heard the better half of the Lofgren Household call for lunch.  After our tasty meal wrapped up at 12:45, it was nap time for Luke so that was my job  (yes…I squeezed in a nap, too!) Tonia entertained Jonny and Carter playing the new card game version of Oregon Trail.  Two hours slipped by.  Instead of being hunkered down in the house all day, Jonny, Carter, and I ended up running to Fargo, ND (because it’s nice to get out of town once in awhile) to watch the new Lego Batman movie with Grandma (If you like Legos and Batman–the movie is a MUST SEE).  After the movie and supper at Culver’s, we returned home at 8:00 PM , just in time for bed.  So….our little series didn’t start.  However, the game will be awaiting our return whenever time permits.

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Our impromptu “series” is all ready to go! When it’s time……it’s time!

I’m hoping that it will sway his confidence and curiously just a tad bit more into baseball, but more importantly, I’m looking forward to the time spent with my Jonny boy, rolling some dice, teaching about baseball, and just talking about the events of the day in both of our worlds.  The series itself should be a doozy as the 2009 Twins were 86-77 while the 1980 A’s were 86-76 during their respective seasons.  Jonny’s Twins will be the home team for Games 1 and 2 as he had the highest dice roll to determine home/away for the series.  What will happen?  Who knows!  We will continue to meander down life’s path, and the game will await until life deals us the time to sit and play together.  Until then….

 

1984 Twins: You’ve Made a Difference

Well….it’s over.  Just like that, it’s over.  In October of 2015, I began my quest of replaying the season of the 1984 Minnesota Twins.  And now….it’s done.  It’s crazy how you can get so immersed into a replay, thinking it’ll take eons to complete.  All of the sudden, you realize you’re rolling the final batters of the replay and it’s very depressing!  I still can’t wrap my head for the exact reason why I picked this team — most likely because I needed a change of pace from the ’87-’89 Oakland replays I’ve done.  But I wanted to take a chance on a team that was mediocre and take them to the playoffs.

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My brother Ben, Randy Bush, nephew Chris, Tom Brunansky, and me in 2009.

I learned a lot about the 1984 Twins while I was at the Metrodome for several games during the 2009 season, the last at the ‘Dome.  I attended the final two scheduled regular season games against the KC Royals.  On Fan Appreciation Day, several former Twins’ greats were in the Metrodome concourses available for pictures.   My brother Ben (a now-conformed APBA-holic), nephew Chris, and myself were there and scoured hallways trying to get as many photos as possible.  It was awesome seeing all of these Twins greats!  Tom Brunansky! Randy Bush! Al Newman!  And then….RON DAVIS!  YES….THAT RON DAVIS!  After all of the horror stories I’d heard and read about, there he was!  A rather tame and unintimidating fellow…we were able to get a quick pic of him before he and all the others had to leave.

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RON DAVIS!  CHECK OUT THE HAT!

That moment, coupled with Fox Sports North running a series that year called “The Top 100 Metrodome Moments.”  The ’84 Twins were mentioned a few times during that series, and when it came down to picking a Twins’ replay, once I dug deeper about this team, I knew I found the perfect replay opportunity.

My goal was to take the Twins to the post-season.  Minnesota went 81-81 that year, three games behind the 84-78 AL West Champion Royals.  The replay was very much up and down. I had winning streaks of 6-7 games, followed by losing streaks of the same number.  The replay went through times of intensity where I’d roll 3-4 games a day, to withdrawing from the project for two spans of three months apiece.  It’s been beaten to a dead horse, but APBA will always be waiting for you when time allows.  And when I was mentally ready to proceed or resume, it didn’t take long to get hooked.

The ’84 Twins held a lead in the West heading into the final month of the season.  I almost made a blockbuster trade involving Kirby Puckett and Rollie Fingers to strengthen up my paltry bullpen, but common sense prevailed and I kept things as-was in terms of my roster make-up.  Little by little, my lead diminished right up to the final week of the season.  With the Twins being tied with the Royals on the final day of the regular season, it was Ken Schrom (DZ) outdueling Bert Blyleven (BYZ) aided by a Randy Bush homer and two RBI by Puckett, along with a Royals’ loss, that catapulted the ’84 Twins into the postseason limelight.  Throughout that final month, I recapped each game on the APBA Facebook page — I think I had just as much fun writing those up as I did playing (almost).

Before I recap the postseason, I’ll touch a little on the regular season numbers.  Starting pitcher John Butcher alone made this replay my most favorite of all time.  Butcher, who in the real 1984 was 13-11 with a 3.44 ERA and WHIP of 1.311, totally outdid himself in the replay.  Butcher went 20-5, 1.95 ERA, and WHIP of 0.978!!

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John Butcher’s efforts in the replay garnered enough votes for the ’84 Cy Young Award.

He had a scoreless innings streak of 39 in the early parts of the year.  He also carried that momentum into the ALCS with a huge Game 3 complete game, allowing one earned run.  I’m sorry, but, in this alternate 1984, he’s the Cy Young Award winner — BAR NONE!  I can’t believe I’d never heard of Butcher before this replay. Frank Viola and Mike Smithson also pitched deep into games giving me a solid 1-2-3 punch atop the rotation.  Closer Ron Davis (CX, MG 6) actually did better than I thought he would do.  Even though he blew 12 saves, he still ended up with 38 and a sub-5.00 ERA (1.6 WHIP – YUCK).  I savored every minute with him closing, because it was going to be like winning the lottery or losing a limb depending on the outcome!  I also counted on Rick Lysander and Len Whitehouse heavily down the stretch – two more guys I’d never heard of before, either.  Pitching as a whole did alright.  I can’t complain a whole lot considering they weren’t the 90’s Braves, nor were they the 2003 Tigers!

Offensively, when this team hit, they were unstoppable.  When they didn’t, it was impossible to win.  What made this team great was the top of their lineup.  Puckett, Mickey Hatcher, Kent Hrbek, and Tom Brunansky carried this team most of the year.

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Puckett thrived in his rookie season, smacking 200 hits.

Puckett, Hatcher, and Hrbek all managed to get 200 hits in the replay!!  (DYK—the 1991 TEXAS RANGERS were the last team to have 3-200 hit teammates?? LOOK IT UP!) It helped having their cards littered with 7’s, although Puckett and Hatcher’s on-base percentage wasn’t the best.  Puckett and Hatcher’s average hovered around .350 thru the All-Star break, but both came back down to almost reality as Puckett hit .313 while Hatcher hit .336 thanks to a late-season surge.   Hrbek’s heroics, however, took the cake.  After finishing 2nd in MVP voting in the real ’84, Hrbek needed to step his game up for team success. He did just that, helping Minnesota to the playoffs and also snatching the alternate ’84 MVP from Willie Hernandez.  Hrbek was simply amazing!  For me, he hit .351, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 102 runs, and OPS of 0.990.  He didn’t make a single error in the field. He was lights out for about the first 100 games, then curtailed a bit, but still, those numbers are rock solid, especially for 1984.  Tom Brunansky definitely was my team’s MVP in the second half of the season.  Bruno ended the campaign with a team-leading 35 HR and 122 RBI.  He hit 22 of his 35 HR after the break!  After those four guys, it was really a crapshoot.  Randy Bush batted against righties, and he belted 14 homers.  So did Tim Teufel.  Outside of those two, there was no chance of any power threat whatsoever.  John Castino made the most of his second chances, batting .330 with an OBP of .396 in limited action.  I managed to play Gary Gaetti in all 162 games, and he swatted an abysmal 4 HR in 595 plate appearances.  During the last two weeks, I started Ron Washington at third and let him play until the 7th/8th inning and then swapped Gaetti in with his 5 defensive rating.

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Brunansky, Gaetti, and Laudner celebrate at the Metrodome after a Bruno homerun.

Thank goodness my light-hitting Houston Jimenez (yet another no-name I’d NEVER known of) hit 70 points higher in the replay (.271 instead of .201).  That warranted some extra playing time down the stretch.  I couldn’t figure out Tim Laudner.  In 1984, he had 284 PA, batting .206, 10 HR, and 35 RBI.  In my replay, in 269 PA, he hit .131 with 4 HR and 11 RBI.  THAT AIN’T GOOD!!  He had a nice single-column one, but he was immune to the 66.  Dave Engle hit .260 for me but failed to go deep once.  Other players like Darrell Brown, Dave Meier, Andre David, Lenny Faedo, Jim Eisenreich, Jeff Reed, and Mike Hart all took some cuts.  These Twins, however, had decent base running speed, but no stolen base potential.  As a team, they had a TOTAL of 14 stolen bases in 35 attempts!  YEP – a 40% success rate!  It was always a stretch to get the game going.  I utilized sac bunts more heavily that I’ve ever done before.  My team hit .280 overall, and again, did enough collectively to get the job done.

The task in the ALCS was biggie – beat the ’84 Tigers in a best-of-five.  As you all know, those Tigers could mash the ball, and had a terrific pitching staff with stellar defense.

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There were no spare seats to be found at the Metrodome during the ’84 ALCS.

Games 1 &2 would be played in front of capacity crowds at the two year-old HHH Metrodome. In Game One, Smithson allowed five first inning singles which led to three runs.  Little did Detroit know, those would be their only three of the game.  However, Jack Morris and Hernandez turned the ‘Dome into morgue, allowing a lone solo homer by Brunansky as Detroit won 3-1.  Game Two was the lone “blowout” of the series….if you can call a 4-run win a blowout.  Lance Parrish launched a two-run homer off Viola in the first and the Tigers built an early 5-0 lead.  Hrbek and Teufel would hit homers, but Dan Petry and Aurelio Lopez nailed down the doors as Minnesota was down 0-2 in the best-of-five series.

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Morris and Parrish could do no wrong in the Metrodome.

The series shifted to historic Tiger Stadium for Game Three and Games Four/Five if necessary.  At this point, I was pretty much relegated to the fact that it was over.  I clung onto what little hope I had as my tried-and-true John Butcher took the mound against Milt Wilcox.  A Randy Bush solo homer and an RBI single by Gaetti (inserted back into the starting lineup after Washington’s 0-8 resume in the first two games) put Minnesota up 2-0 early.  Dave Bergman rose the crown to its feet with a solo shot to right in the 5th.  But…..that was all they got!  Butcher went the distance in the Twins 2-1 win!  Game Four was a rematch of Morris and Smithson.  Morris took a 1-0 lead into the 7th.  Hrbek tied the game in the 7th with a solo shot to RF, and his RBI single in the 8th inning put Minnesota ahead 2-1.  Lysander hurled the final 1 2/3 innings to shut out the Tigers as the Twins again were 2-1 victors, forcing a decisive Game Five.  At this point, all bets were off, and I truly was just happy to have a chance now to beat Detroit.  Would it happen next?

Game Five pitted Frank Viola versus Dan Petry.  Scoreless in the bottom of the third, Marty Castillo hit a low liner to CF for a single, but the ball scooted through Puckett’s legs.  The ball rolled all the way to the 440 FT sign in center as Castillo chugged around the bases to score on a huge 3-base error for the game’s first run.  In the top of the 5th, the Twins tied the game on an RBI single by Puckett and had the bases loaded with one out for their top two hitters – Hatcher and Hrbek.  Both flew out to end the inning….and Minnesota’s best chance at victory.

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If I have to lose to the Tigers, I don’t mind if this guy beats me.  I’ve always been a big Darrell Evans fan!

Darrell Evans took that momentum by hitting a solo homer into the upper reaches of the second deck in RF, putting Detroit up 2-1 and the home fans into pandemonium.  An RBI double by Barbaro Garbey in the 6th added an insurance run.  Hernandez slammed the door in the 8th and 9th innings, retiring all six men he faced to save the game and the series for the Tigers as they beat Minnesota 3-1.  Detroit was able to clinch the pennant on their home field as they did in 1984, but they certainly had to earn it!  The Twins were worthy opponents in this master game replay. Dan Petry was named ALCS MVP, going 2-0 in the series.

I was so disappointed in Mickey Hatcher and Kirby Puckett, who went a combined 4-40 in the series atop my lineup.  That really hurt!  Hatcher alone was 1-20.  He hurt me by not showing up in this replay, but hurt my in my 1988 A’s replay in the World Series when he was torrid for the Dodgers against me in that one!  Grrrr — the curse of Mickey Hatcher!  I was overjoyed at how close all these LCS games were, but without a doubt, the best team won.  I’m just so happy the Twins were able to qualify, which was my number one goal overall.

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Even The Joker knows the hardships between APBA projects and time to complete them.

The saddest part of this whole thing is when you put those cards back in the envelope….and you wonder if you’ll ever play with them again?  In the words of The Joker in the 1989 film Batman, “There’s so much to do…..and so little time….”

In conclusion, this replay made a big difference for me.  I’m so content right now with APBA, and what it’s given to me.  This replay taught me so much to just enjoy the game, win or lose, and to savor the tidbits you come across. So many times, I’ve become lost on Google or baseball-reference, researching and pondering what was or what might be.  This all alleviates maybe some things that I should be doing, but rather takes away from a lot of the other garbage I could be involved with or might watch on TV.  I have such a greater appreciation for these 1984 Twins…the Twins team that was a prelude to the championship seasons.  Who played in my favorite ballpark of all time — The Metrodome.  I love Target Field, but I miss the simplicity of the ‘Dome.

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Game 162 – 2009 season at the Metrodome – the original “final home game.”  Twins beat KC 13-4 to force Game 163, the epic 12-inning win over Detroit!  Talk about memories!

 

A building I shared countless memories in right until the end, and even was able to bring my firstborn son to on several occasions in the summer of 2009.  He’s seven now, and he’s just starting to appreciate these stories I tell him about the ‘Dome.  And someday, I’ll tell Jonathan and my other two boys about this fantastic replay I’ve just finished.

What’s on the APBA docket next?  No idea….but I’ll let you know when it comes to fruition.  Until then, enjoy APBA-ing the best way you all see fit!  Thanks for reading!

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Thanks for taking me on a fantastic voyage, ’84 Twins!

THEY DID IT!

It’s over!  The regular season of the 1984 Minnesota Twins’ Master Game Replay has concluded. To backtrack, I still consider myself somewhat of an APBA rookie.  I’ve played APBA on and off since 2010, exclusively the master version when I’m playing solo.  In that time, I’ve completed three team-season replays: The 1987, ’88, and ’89 Oakland A’s.  All three were exciting, fun, and very different from each other.  After losing in the World Series in ’87 and ’88, the ’89 A’s defeated the SF Giants for the world’s championship.  I pondered for a long time as to what my next project would be.  Replays that were on my radar included the 1922 St. Louis Browns, 1990 A’s, or 1979/1980/2002/2003 Expos.  I shelved the game for quite some time in 2015 as I was a little burnt out, but eventually, gained a renewed interest when my brother Ben became hooked on APBA.  With the Twins having such struggles in recent history, it led me to wanting to do a Twins replay.

Of course, I was not going to pick an obvious choice like 1956, 1987, or 1991.  I researched the Twins year-by-year records and wanted to replay a team that was close, but fell short of a playoff berth.  1979, 1984, 1988, 1992, and 2008 were seasons I all considered.  It was the 1984 team that won out.  I can’t say why exactly, but that’s what my gut was telling me.   In the real ’84 season, Minnesota finished at 81-81, three games back of the Kansas City Royals.  My goal was to lead the Twins to a division title.  In previous replays, I’ve never made any major tweaks of any kind, but with this one, I decided I’d be more aggressive in terms of making realistic changes.

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Castino hit .330 in a platoon role to help bolster the Twins offense.

The two significant changes were bringing rookie Kirby Puckett up from the minors in early April instead of early May, and having John Castino be a part of the team in a reserve/platoon role all season using all six of his career cards (1979-1984).  I have to say that I’m extremely thankful I chose this team because it’s been the best regular season replay experience I’ve had playing APBA!

It started in October of 2015 when I was on a mini-vacation with my wife without our three young boys.  We spent a weekend in Minneapolis, and, of course, I brought my APBA Game with, anticipating a late-nite session of my cards and dice.  I rolled the opening series with the ’84 Twins, which was a two-game series against the ’84 Tigers.  Detroit rolled over my Twins, but it was very refreshing to roll with a non-A’s team for the first time.  This replay took longer than I wanted to, but life gets busy and I simply am “too tired” to even roll dice a lot of the time.  Ever since this past Thanksgiving, however, the replay’s end was in sight and I decided to ramp things up.

The Twins held the division lead for most of the second half of the season.  This team was quick streaky, though, throughout the year.  The had three separate losing streaks of six games, and two streaks of seven wins in a row.  I strongly considered trading Kirby Puckett away for Rollie Fingers to help solidify my less-than-ideal bullpen, but decided at the last minute to keep things as is.  That ended up being the best thing I did (or didn’t do).  The team’s divisional lead slowly was eaten away up through the final week of the season.  The Twins would go onto lose four games in September against “D” pitchers and time appeared to be running out.  With seven games to go (all on the road), Minnesota regrouped and went 5-2 to nip the Kansas City Royals by one game in the West to finish at 86-76.

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Ken Schrom sits with a satisfied look after earning the win in the Twins regular season finale.

 

With MN and KC tied for first on the last day of the season, Ken Schrom (DZ, MG 3) outdueled Cleveland’s Bert Blyleven (BYZ, MG 15) while Ron Davis (CX, MG 6) earned his 38th save to win 4-2. Randy Bush hit a two-run homer, but it was a pair of 55-7 RBI singles by Puckett that gave MN the insurance it needed to beat the Tribe.  Meanwhile, the Royals lost to Oakland 8-2, paving the way for the Twins to take the AL West crown!  That was MY GOAL, and that alone has made this replay rewarding.  I’ve learned a great deal about 1984 baseball through this replay.

The strengths all season for the ’84 Twins has been the starting pitching of John Butcher, Frank Viola, and Mike Smithson and the top half of the lineup consisting of Puckett, Mickey Hatcher, Kent Hrbek, and Tom Brunansky. They will need to step up once the ALCS begins with the powerful Detroit Tigers.  I really don’t know what to expect in the upcoming ALCS, but I plan to enjoy every moment of it.  Look for a more detailed season recap once the post-season is over.  I really wonder, though, what would’ve happened to the Twins had they really won the AL West in 1984.  How would’ve it impacted future Twins’ teams? Would it have thrown a wrench into the Royals’ title season in ’85?  Who knows…and WHO CARES!  I’m about to roll a post-season series with the ’84 Twins!  I can’t wait!

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The 1984 Twins will christen post-season play in the HHH Metrodome in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.