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THE BRAGGING ZONE

 
May ruminations on The Bragging Rights League, my latest alternative history Strat replay (http://braggingleague.wordpress.com)
 
 
 
 
By Jeff Polman
 
I’m almost at the halfway mark of my 60-game season, and two things are pretty clear: the Newark Ellingtons and Birmingham Armstrongs. Both squads of self-drafted Negro League cards are the only ones playing over .500—and I mean well over.
 
While the main focus of my blog storyline has been the attempt by the all-white Chicago Dorseys to compete in the “black major league,” it’s been remarkable how these two clubs have separated themselves from the pack. There are nothing but all-stars in the league, with every roster designed to take advantage of their home ballparks, but a combination of timely dice rolls and buzzard’s luck for the opposition have helped Newark and Birmingham rise to the top.
 
There’s an extensive play-by-play of their second showdown series by “baseball blabber” Jupiter Dobbs in this week’s chapter, but I thought I’d detail some of the goings-on here with each team:
 
NEWARK ELLINGTONS 19-8 (Ruppert Stadium)
Juggernaut potential. Tops in team on-base, slugging and ERA in a great park for the long ball, and Mule Suttles has 35 RBIs in 27 games. Josh Gibson is only at .288 with four dingers and 19 RBIs, but five of those are game-winners. Nip Winters (6-0, 2.82) and Smokey Joe Williams (4-2, 5.03) head the pitching staff, which seems to be their Achilles heel. If Big Josh puts it together, watch out.
 
BIRMINGHAM ARMSTRONGS 18-9 (Rickwood Field)
Like the Ellies, doing it with great late-inning clutchness. They have the lowest team average (.268) and second least runs, but Pop Lloyd (.359), Oscar Charleston (.352, 4 game-winning hits) and Biz Mackey almost akways seem to come through when needed. Big Bill Foster (6-1, 2.14) and Leon Day (5-2, 3.69) have been incredible, and pitching in spacious Rickwood Field hasn’t hurt.
 
CHICAGO DORSEYS 11-16 (Comiskey Park)
Well, they were playing so badly that I tweaked the story to enable them to add four National Leaguers to the roster: Johnny Mize, Arky Vaughn, Whit Wyatt and Elmer Riddle. Wyatt and Riddle were desperately needed for the suffering staff, with Bob Feller (0-3, 6.59, 18 walks in 24 innings) getting demoted to the bullpen. It’s certainly helped them, but it’s questionable whether they’ll be able to make a run at the contenders in the half-season that’s left. Ted Williams (.350, 8, 22, 1.129 OPS) has played like himself, but Joe DiMaggio (.326, with only 1 HR, 10 RBIs) has mostly been in the doldrums, Joe Gordon (.173, 7 errors) a total stiff at second base and Vaughn (.194) and manager Luke Appling (.267) offering little at shortstop. Blog narrator Jeff Heath is hitting okay at .328 but his fielding is a nightmare and has to be taken out for Charlie Keller halfway through every close game. The good news is that they’ve still managed to tie three other clubs for third place.
 
PITTSBURGH JORDANS 11-16 (Greenlee Field)
These guys are the league’s underachievers. With their park’s short right field porch in mind, I drafted Turkey Stearnes, Buck Leonard, Tank Carr, and Hurley McNair to whale away, but instead they’ve largely resembled beached whales. Turkey (.298, 6 homers) has picked it up a little bit lately, but Buck (.237), Tank (.190) and alleged right-handed bruiser Rap Dixon (.200, 11 RBIs) have been total busts. Combine that with lukewarm pitching—Max Manning (4-3, 3.49) their only reliable arm—and you can see why they’ve joined the Mediocrity Bowl.
 
DETROIT CALLOWAYS 11-16 (Mack Field)
The Callows started out strong but have slid down a chute in the last month. Despite Slim Jones’ nearly unhittable pitching card, he’s only managed a 2-5 record and 5.26 ERA. Detroit can hit with anyone in their short-fence park, but haven’t been able to stop anyone else from doing the same. The big sticks have been John Beckwith, leading the league with 10 homers and 39 RBIs, and the .415 bat of Home Run Johnson (who mostly hits singles). Like their 11-16 brothers, this team could get hot or not at any moment.
 
KANSAS CITY BASIES 11-16 (Muehlebach Field)
Slowly improving, and it’s all about Satchel Paige. He’s won his last three outings in dominating fashion, dropped his ERA to 3.38, and the bats of Cristabal Torriente (.402), Jud Wilson, Willie Wells and Spoony Palm (9 homers!) have picked up the offense. Probably not enough here to make a big run, but in this league, with its razor-thin margin for dice karma, anything is possible.
 
See you in a month!