Tag Archives: National League

The Grease Game

For those of you visiting this post because you happened to see the heading above, thinking this was an article about a charity softball game with teams managed by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, I apologize…this is definitely not that article. Instead, this is a story about a Statis Pro baseball game played nearly forty years ago, outside of the confines of my SP78 Replay season, between two teams managed by my brother and his friend, and played while they snacked on a decidedly non SP78-sanctioned snack item.

The date was July 8, 1981. My brother Scott was at our house on Palacio Place in Rancho Bernardo, California, hanging out with his friend Matt, while I was at a screening of Superman II at our local multiplex with my friend Brent. At some point during the evening, the two decided to play my Statis Pro Baseball board game, with Scott taking the reins of his favorite team, the Dodgers, against Matt and the hometown Padres.

First, take a look at the pair of Statis Pro player cards below, featuring two random players drawn from NL teams that were not involved in Scott and Matt’s game:

Now have a look at the player cards for second baseman Davey Lopes and relief pitcher Bobby Castillo, both from the Dodgers, who were managed by Scott that fateful day:

Trust me, those dark spots aren’t the result of headfirst slides. No, those are the remains left by greasy 14-year-old fingers, which had indulged in a now-forgotten brand of potato chips while playing the game: Lays, Bell, Granny Goose, Laura Scudder, Charles Chips…any one of them could be held responsible. After 30-plus years of oxidation, handling, and whatever other cardstock-darkening powers had taken their toll, the stains have since turned a sickly rust brown, a permanent reminder of the ill-fated exhibition contest that took place that summer evening so many years ago.

But what of the opposing team’s cards, managed and handled by Matt? Wouldn’t his hands have been greasy as well? A check of the Padres squad tells us a different story: there is noticeable staining, but it’s very light, and though I did find one tell-tale spot on Matt’s starting pitcher that day, Mickey Lolich, the cards were otherwise fine. Which then makes me wonder: was Matt wiping his hands each time before handling the cards, or was Scott just hogging all the chips?

In the end, did any good come out of this? Well, besides the fact the Padres topped the Dodgers by a slim 1-0 score, and Scott and Matt no doubt had a fun time playing the game, the event prompted me to initiate a new set of rules when it came to snacking during gameplay: only pretzels or Cheez-Its were allowed from that point on. Anything else, including Fritos, Cheetos, Corn Nuts, and Nacho Cheese Doritos, were now strictly forbidden.


I’m sure Matt, wherever he is, has long forgotten about the game, but what about Scott? He would partake in only 14 more official Replay games over the course of the next ten years (and one more co-managing stint in 2000), so perhaps his memories of the season aren’t as sharp as they used to be. Does he remember the game, and the havoc his grease-laden mitts wreaked? When I asked him about it over the phone recently, he told me he had no recollection of the game, or even the incident itself. Did the experience leave such an emotional scar that his mind had wiped it clean from memory? Or is he ashamed to admit the truth: that his unabated eighth-grade hunger defiled the bright-white home uniforms of the LA squad forever?

Either way, I’m happy to say the damage was only cosmetic, and the cards have remained as playable and functional as they ever were. Now, the Grease Game can be looked back upon fondly, as another memorable—and yes, important—side note to my SP78 Replay season. As for you Grease enthusiasts, who’ve stuck it out to the end, here’s a little something for you:

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LA’s Smith First to Reach 100 RBI

With his 41st home run of the season, a two-run shot off Phillies right-hander Jim Lonborg in the third inning of an August 17th game at Veterans Stadium, Dodgers slugger Reggie Smith became the first player in either league to collect one hundred RBI during the SP78 season. It was the second time Smith has achieved that coveted plateau in his career; he last reached the mark in 1974, hitting an even 100 as a member of the Cardinals. He’s also the SP78 single-game record holder for runs batted in, having collected ten in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 16th.

No other National League player is even close to one hundred (George Foster of the Reds is in second place with 86), and with a league-leading 41 home runs and a robust .366 average, Smith is a serious contender for the Triple Crown award, with just under a month and a half remaining in the season. It would be the first Triple Crown in the major leagues since Boston outfielder Carl Yastrzemski won the award in 1967, and the first in the National League since Joe Medwick turned the trick for the Cardinals forty years earlier, in 1937.

What makes this particular RBI milestone even more amazing is that Smith has missed three weeks of the season due to injury; if he stays healthy, he’ll still have a whopping 42 games remaining in the LA schedule to add to his total. At his current pace of one RBI per game, he’d finish the 1978 campaign with 142 (and at one HR hit every 2.4 games, he’d break Roger Maris’ home run record of 61 by one). The question now is, will he remain healthy?

Said Smith in the locker room after the game in Philadelphia, “Oh yeah…I’m done with all this injury crap.”

All NL Statistics Are Now Current!

Believe it or not, for the first time since 1989, statistics for the National League are up-to-date to the current point of my SP78 season: August 16th, 1978. No more will I have to take the collected stats for June (which I completed while playing July games, well after June had wrapped up), add them to the stats for July, then add them to the current stats for August, just to get up to the minute stats for a particular player or team. Let me repeat: the NL is CAUGHT UP!

I know it may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, it is; having gone nearly thirty years without current stats, and to suddenly (well, after a few months of relentless work) now have them full and complete at my fingertips, well, that’s definitely something for me to celebrate. Which I think I’ll do later this afternoon with a bike ride to a nearby Barro’s for pizza.

These updated stats can be found by clicking the ‘Statistics’ drop-down on the main page header, hovering the pointer over an NL division and team, then clicking on ‘Current Season Stats’. You’ll find that some stats and stat totals are blank; those will remain that way until the end of August. Right now, figuring out those numbers game-by-game is much more time-consuming than I’m willing to commit to.

And later today I’ll begin work on the American League pages, which hopefully won’t take very long now that I have a system and rhythm down. Though NL games for the 17th are complete, I’ll let you enjoy these stats from the 16th for a bit before I add those other numbers in. And don’t forget to take a look at the Cardinals stat page and see how that 15-year-old rookie sensation is doing thus far in the ’78 campaign!

Current NL Leaders Have Been Updated!

I’ve now reached the middle of August of my SP78 season, so I thought it might be a good idea to update the current league leaders in all the major batting and pitching categories, for both players and teams. The most recent leaders were posted for July 31st, so only two SP78 weeks have passed to reach this latest update; not many names have changed for the each category’s top five spots, but the numbers definitely have. The updated leader boards can be found on this main page, in the left-hand column under the National League logo.

Dodgers outfielder Reggie Smith is still the leader in several batting categories, and if it weren’t for a pair of injuries in May and July that cost him 21 games, he could be leading in a handful of other categories as well. As it stands, he has a solid chance of winning the National League’s first Triple Crown since Joe Medwick of the Cardinals did it in 1937. And what the hell’s going on with Pepe Frias? He had just one triple during the actual 1978 season, but already has 14 in SP78! Maybe that 32-42 triple range on his player card has something to do with it (thanks again, Avalon Hill!); if so, maybe I should start playing him more, so he can be the first batter since Willie Mays in 1957 to hit twenty in a season.

And you’d think Mets pitcher Craig Swan’s current league-leading ERA of 1.58 is some sort of board game anomaly, but no, he actually was the NL’s earned run average leader in 1978! And could Gaylord Perry be this season’s only 20-game winner in the National League? (Wait, Steve Carlton has now cracked the top five in wins, so he has a chance as well). And look at Bucs reliever Kent Tekulve, about to break his own career record for saves in a season, with 31.

I’m still working on the American League leaders; those players and teams should be posted in a few weeks.