GREAT MOMENTS IN STRAT
OPENING DAY NO-HITTER
I started a 2006 mini-season (16 teams, 42-game season) and things got interesting in a hurry. On Opening Day in Cincinnati, the San Diego Padres’ Jake Peavy tossed a no-hitter against the Reds.
For a while it looked to be one of those games where you lose the no-no because the pitcher’s team can’t score for him, but that changed in the top of the 8th inning. Dave Roberts led off with a walk off of Reds’ starter Aaron Harang, stole his 3rd base of the contest, then scored on Mike Cameron’s RBI single. That left it up to Peavy to close out his masterpiece and he came through fine, retiring the final six batters in order. Peavy walked none and struck out eight, with errors by both himself and shortstop Khalil Greene costing him a perfect game. Royce Clayton almost busted up the no-no in the bottom of the 5th, rolling a 3 on a SINGLE*(1-2)/lineout(3-20) split.
This is my second ever no-hitter, the other one coming in the summer of 2013 when 1965 Ralph Terry tossed one for Cleveland against the 1963 Yankees.
Chris Witt, Madison, Wisconsin
THE WHOLE STORY: 1981
I started playing Strat-O-Matic baseball with the original card game in 1986 using the 1985 season. I got away from it when I went to college but “re-found” it in 1995 after the strike season. I used to play single elimination tournaments with everybody that I had; at one point, the tournament had 256 teams in it. But I have enjoyed replaying the seasons since I got the computer game in 2014. I have done this for 2013, 1995, 1994, and now 1981.
I replayed the 1981 baseball season using a computer-generated schedule. Instead of using the playoffs that they used that year (the dreaded split season schedule), I used the current version with 6 divisions and wild card format. Most of the regular season was done automatically by the game but I picked a Saturday Game of the Week for the 26 weeks of the season. The playoffs ended up being quite interesting and who ended up as the participants in the World Series might surprise you.
The Regular Season:
AL East – The Yankees took the lead in June and never really looked back. At one point, they had an 18 game lead over 2nd place at the time Baltimore. They finished at 98-64 and had the best record in baseball, 12 games over Boston. The Red Sox got hot in September and finished 86-76 and got the 2nd wild card spot by one game over slumping Kansas City (the Royals led the Central most of the way.) Of note, Toronto finished with the worst record in the American League, 38 games behind the Yankees.
AL Central – Kansas City as mentioned led most of the way but never had a big lead; no more than four games. The Brewers came on strong in September with some great hitting and some timely pitching, particularly from closer Rollie Fingers who won the Cy Young Award. The White Sox led in April, got cold but came on toward the end. At the end, Milwaukee won the division with a 94-68 record, taking out Chicago by four games. The White Sox did qualify for the 1st wild card spot.
AL West – Probably the least interesting division race, the Texas Rangers took control early and never really looked back. They slumped a bit in September but finished with a 95-67 record to get the 2nd seed and took out Oakland by 12 games.
NL East – The race was close up until August with Montreal, Atlanta, and Philadelphia in a three way tie on August 1. Then, the Expos got red hot. They ended up finishing 12 games ahead of Atlanta and 17 games in front of the Phillies. Montreal finished with a 94-68 record and the third seed. Atlanta’s slump in September knocked them out of the playoffs, two games behind the Dodgers.
NL Central – A two team race and the closest of them all. The Cardinals and Reds fought back and forth throughout the season. On the season’s last day, St. Louis beat Cincinnati 5-2 and won the division with a 95-67 record. Cincinnati got the first wildcard spot, 10 games ahead of the Dodgers at 94-68.
NL West – Houston was challenged early by the Giants but started to pull away in July. They ended up winning the division by a pretty healthy margin with a 95-67 record and the number two seed behind the Cardinals who had a better head to head record. The story is the Dodgers. Playing .450 baseball in the middle of August, they caught fire led by Fernando Valenzuela, the NL Cy Young Winner, and took the 2nd wild card spot with an 84-78 record and beat the Braves by two. Of note, the worst record in baseball belonged to the San Diego Padres who won 53 games and finished 42 games behind the Astros.
Unlike the regular season, I played the entire playoff and changed the lineups and pitching staff as needed.
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox
Dennis Lamp shut out Boston and youngster John Tudor in the opening game of the playoffs. Lamp was on fire going the distance, striking out 7.
Boston 0 6 1
Chicago 5 10 2
NL Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers at Cincinnati Reds
A pretty intense game put Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers against Mario Soto of the Reds. The Dodgers scored first with Fernando helping himself with an RBI single. But the hero was the veteran Johnny Bench who drove in all three runs including a two run home run in the 8th off of Valenzuela. Paul Moskau got the win in relief with Joe Price picking up the save.
Los Angeles 1 6 0
Cincinnati 3 7 1
AL Divisional Series: Milwaukee Brewers vs. Texas Rangers
After three one-run games had Milwaukee up two games to one, Charlie Hough stymied the Brewers for a 7-2 Texas win in Game 4. The deciding game five in Arlington was a slugfest with the Rangers winning 9-7. Al Oliver, Bump Wills, and Bill Stein had two RBIs each, overcoming off the Brewers’ three home runs.
AL Divisional Series: Chicago White Sox vs. New York Yankees
Dave Righetti’s two-hit pitching and Bucky Dent’s two-run homer gave the Yankees Game 1, 2-0. Reggie Jackson starred in Game 3 and the Yanks wrapped up the series in Game 4 when Graig Nettles’ bases-loaded triple provided a 4-3 win.
NL Divisional Series: Montreal Expos vs. Houston Astros
Houston’s pitching was decisive in this four-game series. Nolan Ryan’s 2-hit shutout with 9 strikeouts set the tone in Game 1. Bob Knepper’s four-hitter won Game 2, 6-1. Don Sutton gave the Astros three complete-game wins in the finale, 4-2, with much help from Jose Cruz’ two homers and three RBIs.
NL Divisional Series: Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals
What was expected to be the closest of the four division series did not disappoint. Tom Seaver’s four-hitter in Game 1 and Mario Soto’s win in Game 3 put Cincinnati within a game of clinching, and the Reds held a 7-1 lead in Game 4. But St. Louis scored eight times in three innings to win, 9-7, setting up the dramatic Game 5. Bob Forsch and Tom Seaver had a rematch and both pitched 10 innings, each giving up one run. The Reds scored three runs in the 16th inning, keyed by Dave Concepcion’s double driving in two, and they won, 4-1.
American League Championship Series: Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees
Nobody thought the Rangers had much of a chance against New York and Dave Righetti and Reggie Jackson led the Yankees to victory in Game 1, 5-1. But pinch-hitter Pat Putnum’s two-run single and Dave Schmidt’s relief pitching evened the series with Texas’ 3-2 win in Game 2.
Jackson drove in all three runs in the Yankees’ Game 3 victory, then Oscar Gamble’s game-tying ninth-inning home run in Game 4 propelled New York to a 10-inning win in Game 4. With Righetti on the mound for Game 5, the Rangers’ chances seemed slim, but Danny Darwin was better and Texas won, 4-3.
Game 6 was back in the Bronx and will be remembered as the Buddy Bell game. Hitting .125 at the beginning of the game, he went 5-for-5 with a home run and a playoff record-tying 7 RBIs. The Rangers managed 17 hits off of Ron Guidry and a good part of the Yankee bullpen, winning 10-3.
Could the Rangers win Game 7 after trailing this series three games to one? It looked that way with Texas’ 5-1 lead going into the 8th inning. But the Yankees hit reliever Jim Kern for two runs and were down 5-3 going into the 9th. The Rangers scored an unearned run in the 9th based on a throwing error on Larry Milbourne. They held on as the Yankees scored two in the bottom of the 9th and had the tying run at third when Steve Comer struck out Bobby Brown for the final out. Texas won 6-5, and pulled off the miracle, winning the series. Buddy Bell was named MVP of the series.
Game 7 @ New York
Texas 6 13 0
New York 5 10 3 Game MVP: Charlie Hough
WP: Hough (2-1) LP: John (1-1) S: Comer (3)
National League Championship Series: Cincinnati Reds vs. Houston Astros
Most anticipated a close series between two teams separated by one victory in the regular season. Game 1 in the Astrodome met expectations, a 10-inning thriller won by a walk off single by Jose Cruz. Game 2 was much of the same. In the bottom of the 9th with the score 4-4, seldom-used Scott Loucks singled and Art Howe ripped an infield hit to Ray Knight who threw the ball away, scoring Loucks and giving the Astros a 5-4 win.
Game 3 in Cincinnati was close again, with the Astros winning in 10 innings, 4-2. Joe Pittman drove in Tony Scott with a single and Terry Puhl then tripled in Scott for the runs in the 10th. Dave Smith, who had won the first two games, saved this one. Smith saved Game 4.
The World Series: Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers
A Lone Star Series? Houston’s appearance was not too surprising. They tied for the best record in the National League, looked dominant against Montreal and swept Cincinnati. The Rangers had to come back from 2 games to 1 against the Milwaukee Brewers and from 3-1 in the ALCS against the New York Yankees. Though the Houston and Texas offenses were pretty even statistically, nobody thought the Rangers would hit much against a rotation of Nolan Ryan, Bob Knepper, Don Sutton, and Joe Niekro.
Game 1: Ryan vs. Doc Medich. It was scoreless after six innings and 1-1 going into the bottom of the eighth at Texas. Oliver doubled with one out. Houston catcher Alan Ashby booted a ball in front of the plate to put runners at the corners. Ryan got the next out, but ALCS MVP Buddy Bell singled home Oliver, chasing Ryan. Billy Sample then doubled off Frank LaCorte for the last runs in Texas’ 3-1 win.
Game 2: Knepper vs. Darwin. Darwin had a no-hitter and a 1-0 lead through five innings. But in the Houston sixth, Joe Pittman tripled, Terry Puhl singled him home and Tony Scott doubled home Puhl. With Houston up 2-1 in the seventh inning, the Astros had two on and two out when Puhl doubled to Darwin’s night. Tony Scott greeted Dave Schmidt with a run-scoring double and Jose Cruz put the game away with a two-run homer. Houston won, 7-1.
Game 3: Sutton vs. Hough. Texas tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, but neither team scored again until the 10th. With NLCS hero Dave Smith on the mound for Houston, Sample and Bob Jones hit consecutive doubles for a 4-3 lead. Texas closer Jim Kern walked three in the bottom of the 10th, but the Astros could not get the tying run home.
Game 4: Niekro vs. Rick Honeycutt. In the bottom of the third, they did something that had only happened twice in Series play. They scored 10 runs in the inning. They also managed 11 hits — nine singles, a double, and a Jose Cruz three-run home run. Craig Reynolds and Kiko Garcia each had two hits in the inning and the score was 10-1. But wait. Texas answered with three runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and two more in the sixth, now a 10-8 game with three innings to go. But that would be it as Smith closed the door with two scoreless innings of relief. The Series is tied, 2-2.
Game 5: Ryan vs. Darwin. Ryan gave up only four hits and had a 9-0 lead when he surrendered Texas’ only run in the eighth. Houston scored twice in the first, four times in the sixth against reliever Schmidt and three in the seventh. This was Darwin’s four loss of the playoffs. The Astros had outscored the Rangers 19-9 over the last two games and were confident as the Series returned for its finish in Arlington.
Game 6: Knepper vs. Medich. Houston led 3-0 in the sixth when Texas scored its first run without a hit – on third baseman Art Howe’s throwing error, a hit batsmen and two ground outs. Three Texas singles in the seventh inning scored another run, but the Rangers still trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. Medich had kept the game close by retiring 13 Astros in a row down the stretch. With one out, Howe erred again and Houston brought in its ace, Smith, who retired Bell on a fielder’s choice. With Texas down to its last out, Leon Roberts hit a long fly ball to the usually reliable center fielder Tony Scott. The ball went off his glove resulting in a two base error. That brought up Sample with men at second and third. No power hitter (only hitting six home runs in the regular season), Sample nevertheless Sample parked Smith’s pitch into the left field stands, sending Arlington Stadium and the whole Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex into bedlam, and this Series to Game 7. For the second time in this Series, Houston committed four errors in a game and it cost them dearly both times. Tonight, it broke their heart.
Game 7: Sutton vs. Hough. It was 2-1 Texas in the bottom of the fifth when the Rangers took charge, scoring three more on Oliver’s home run. Cesar Cedeno hit a solo shot for Houston in the seventh to cut Texas’ lead to 5-2, but in the eighth, the Rangers’ Jim Sundberg hit a three-run homer off Joe Sambito, the Rangers added another run and won the finale and the Series, 9-2.
Game 7 @ Arlington
Houston 010 000 100 2 4 0
Texas 200 030 04X 9 16 1 Game MVP: Al Oliver
WP: Hough (3-1) LP: Sutton (1-1)
Charlie Hough was MVP of the Series based on two quality outings, pitching 16 innings with an ERA of 2.25 and the Game 7 victory. It was a close pick as Billy Sample hit .375 with 6 RBIs and the miracle game winner in the 6th game. Also of note was Bill Stein who hit .409 and Al Oliver who matched Sample with 6 RBIs. Doc Medich also had a series of note winning that 6th game with a Series ERA of 2.20.
Houston could blame its fielding (11 errors), a shame as they outscored the Rangers 35-31. Tony Scott led Houston with 9 RBIs but only hit .194 and his error in Game 6 led to the eventual loss. Jose Cruz had 2 home runs and 6 RBIs but only hit .207. Their starting pitching was good. Nolan Ryan went 1-1 with an ERA of 1.10 with 14 strikeouts. Bob Knepper went 1-0 with an ERA of 1.15. Howe committed three errors at 3rd base and one error at 1st base. He was not in the starting lineup for Houston in Game 7.
Fred Meyer, Iowa Colony, Texas (about 25 miles south of Houston)