April 6, 2014

The Mets and Phillies opened the final day of July with a morning game at site CA14, my brother’s apartment in Carlsbad, California, where Bud Harrelson’s fielder’s choice groundout in the sixth snapped a 3-3 tie and helped Philadelphia to a 6-3 victory. Larry Christenson (13-4) went six innings for the win, with Ron Reed going a scoreless three to earn his 12th save; Nino Espinosa (5-8) allowed all six Philadelphia runs and took the loss. Richie Hebner had three hits and scored three runs for the Phillies, while John Stearns and Steve Henderson led the Mets with two hits apiece.  (Game #1374,  7/31/78)

Inside the SP78 Vault: 1978 Padres Program

Perhaps my very first addition to the SP78 vault, even before their was an SP78! On September 29th, 1978, my Dad and brother Scott and I attended the third-to-last game of the Padres season (and my fifth of the year, and first since June), a Friday night match-up against the Dodgers, who were in first place and headed for the World Series against the Yankees. LA’s Burt Hooton was going for his 20th win, but it wasn’t to be as the Padres pulled out a 3-1 win, in a game that took just 1 hour, 58 minutes to play.

On the way in, I paid a vendor fifty cents for the program, whose cover celebrated the Padres’ tenth year of existence, as well as them being the host team of that summer’s All-Star Game. It’s fun for me to look through the program now and check out all the San Diego ads, and the places I used to frequent that are no longer around: Square Pan Pizza, Dow Sound City, Monterey Jack’s, Picnic ‘n Chicken, Kinney Shoes, and sadly, San Diego Stadium itself, which hasn’t seen a Padres game played there since 2003.

Besides acquiring this program, this was also the game where I caught my first batting practice home run ball, in the left field seats off the bat of LA outfielder Dusty Baker. My brother also got himself a baseball, tossed to him by Dodgers utility player Joe Simpson from the bullpen, where Scott was watching some players warm up before the game.

My Friend Bob

It was forty years ago today that my friend Bob passed away, struck down by leukemia at age sixteen, when he was just a junior in high school and had plenty of years still ahead of him. Besides being my friend, and being someone I could share a love of baseball and football with, and ride bikes and watch movies and simply hang out with, he was also the one who introduced me to Statis Pro Baseball, back in October of 1979, and it was his excitement and enthusiasm for the game that convinced me to buy one for myself.

Nowadays, it’s hard for me to fathom how long he’s actually been gone, and it sobers me to realize that I’ve lived more than two of his lifetimes since 1980. And then, it saddens me to think about all he’s missed—and all I’ve done without him—over those four decades. And how he’d visited me in Washington during that final summer, and how I eventually moved back to San Diego not long after he’d returned to the hospital for good, when my Dad and brother and I stayed with his family until we could find a place of our own. And how I got off the school bus that February afternoon with our friends Brent and Reid, and saw my Dad parked nearby, waiting to drive us home and tell us Bob had passed away earlier that day.

After we’d both purchased the games, Bob and I decided that we would each manage a league—he was a Red Sox fan, so he’d take the AL, while I was a Reds fan and would manage the NL—and replay the entire 1978 season, game by game, and mail each other the results of our daily or weekly match-ups. We’d keep track of stats and scores, and at some point down the line, when the regular season and league playoffs ended, we’d somehow find a way to get together and face each other in a four-to-seven game World Series. Sadly, it wasn’t too be, but a few months after his passing, I decided that I would honor that commitment and play the entire season—both NL and AL—on my own, no matter how long it took me. And here I am, forty years and 1,631 games later, still replaying that season, and getting ever closer to the World Series that would’ve finally allowed us to square off against one another.

If you’re a frequent visitor to this blog, you may have seen him in some of the posts or page headers on the site, in various photos of the game board; a small picture of him sitting on his bed, smiling happily, and wearing a red Hawaii t-shirt that for me now defines his look. Every now and then, and most often for Red Sox games, I’ll prop his photo up somewhere beyond the board’s outfield, so he can be a part of the game (and I’d like to think watch that game as well, but photo or not, I’m sure he’s there for every game I play anyway). I know that may sound silly, but for me, it makes me feel good knowing he can still take part in the fun.

A few years after he’d died, I had a very vivid dream where he was somehow alive again, magically returned in a way I didn’t bother to question, and I remember how elated I was when I saw him, convinced that he was really, truly back. As my dreams tend to do, the scene shifted without reason to an indoor shopping center in a neighboring town, and as he and I walked through the mall from store to store, I remember telling him about everything he’d missed the years he’d been gone, and all the things I’d done during that time. I distinctly remember telling him how the Moody Blues had released an album during his absence, but more importantly, I also told him about our replay season that I’d finally started, and how he could now take over managerial duties for the American League, just as we’d planned.

Of course, I still think about him all these years later, especially when playing a an SP78 game, or when his birthday arrives in August, or when I find old videos of the Red Sox or Steelers on-line. And sometimes I wonder if his parents and sister think about him as often as I do, and if they remember him on his birthday and at Christmas, and then I tell myself you idiot, of course they do, and more so and more deeply than you. And I’m sure Brent and Reid think about him as well, as do all the other friends and relatives who knew him throughout his sixteen years. So I decided today, on one of the many days I’m always reminded of him, that I’d take a moment and share this story of Bob with you. And when I play a Statis Pro game later this evening, I’ll place his photo in center field and think about him again, and wish he was there to manage the other team.

The Oscillating Fan of Learning

Many years ago, when I was not so knowledgeable about baseball’s past, I was looking through a book and found a picture of old Forbes Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates played their home games before moving into Three Rivers Stadium in 1970. The black-and-white photo showed a game in-progress as seen from the right field seats; what caught my attention was the obviously phony image of a skyscraper in the background, poorly crammed into the existing photo by some overzealous artist who didn’t care at all about realism.

I mean, c’mon! Was I supposed to think the ballpark was located in some empty section of downtown, where only one skyscraper had been built? It reminded me of those postcards I’d find in gas stations during vacation drives across the Midwest, showing a rabbit with antlers or a man standing next to a strawberry the size of a semi truck. I mean, pretty ridiculous, right? Continue reading

TWISP Notes #72


January 11, 2020

• In the August 20th game against the Yankees at the Kingdome in Seattle, M’s second baseman Julio Cruz stole his 91st base of the season, a sixth-inning theft of second off NY pitcher Bob Kammeyer, leaving him just five short of tying Ty Cobb’s AL record of 96.

• Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith of the Dodgers connected for two home runs apiece in LA’s 11-2 win over the Mets at Los Angeles. The four round-trippers came at the expense of four different New York pitchers: Nino Espinosa, Paul Siebert, Dwight Bernard, and Dale Murray. It was the second time this season two NL players on the same team had connected for two HR’s in the same game; Ellis Valentine and Larry Parrish each hit two against the Reds on July 18th, while Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas of the Brewers accomplished the feat in the AL on July 1st at Seattle.

• The Blue Jays have lost six games in a row, while the Mariners and Red Sox have lost five. Continue reading