THE REPLAY ZONE – MAY 2016
By Jeff Polman
May ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out “Twinbill”, my latest historical baseball novel, inspired by season replays of 1938 and 1941.
Around the World in 20 Strat Days
I’ve rolled a game of Strat in a moving car on the Massachusetts turnpike—while driving—and have rolled a game of Strat in a box seat at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, but I’ve never tried what Mark Gratkowski just did.
Gratkowski, manager of the Maryland Mayhem in the East Coast Baseball Association, recently left his residence in Jessup, MD for a work trip to four countries around the world that lasted nearly three weeks—and managed to roll fifteen “play-by-mail” games of Strat in his travels.
As part of a Federal Government team teaching fire investigation to “our international counterparts” in the Pacific Rim countries, Gratkowski first flew to Qatar in the Middle East, where he played one game against the Jerseys on the plane (“somewhere over the Atlantic, East of Newfoundland”), and another at DOH Airport in Qatar. Gratkowski has a tough time sleeping on planes and at one point was up for 41 hours straight. After the remainder of the 5-game Jerseys series was played at the Conrad Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand (with the Mayhem dropping three of five), the Bryce Harper-led Sickies were next up for the Mayhem.
His email from there hints at his ordeal:
I’m still in Bangkok. Or rather I’m back in Bangkok as we spent two exceedingly hot and humid days at a military range near Hua Hin, Thailand. Did I mention it was exceedingly hot? And that we were burning stuff? Okay, just as long as you realize it was hot.
Somehow, the Mayhem took three out of five with the Sickies (hotel air conditioning, perhaps?), before it was on to Japan, and a five-hour layover en route to Hawaii. There, the Mayhem took on Brett “Ultimate Strat Fanatic” Carow’s Poster Boys “in a quiet corner of Gate 61” in the Narita Airport outside Tokyo, Japan for the first two games. Being a little uncomfortable rolling the games on the floor, the final three games were postponed until Gratkowski reached Hawaii. There, “after visiting the USS Arizona memorial and having a hot dog for lunch, my patriotic fervor was aroused and I headed back to the hotel for America’s favorite pastime via Strat.” Site for the games was the 33rd floor room of Honolulu’s Marriott Waikiki, overlooking Diamond Head. (With that view, I may have played 33.)
The Mayhem took three of the five with the Poster Boys to finish the 15-game global adventure at 8-7 against tough squads. “Across five countries, games were played in two airports, three hotels and one airplane somewhere high over the Atlantic. Too many were played under adverse sleep deprivation or jet lag conditions. Despite that, it was a fun experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity.”
Gratkowski provided line scores and recaps of each game for league members, and as of this writing, is safely back in Maryland, jet-lagged but happy, and ready for next month’s ECBA convention in nearby Woodstock. Best of all, his dice can now roll in two more languages!
Two All-Star Games Featured in ’34 League
The 1934 Freaks League I’ve been commissioner of for months recently passed the halfway mark, and two star-filled games were played to mark the occasion.
First, the best players of the Hoover and Coolidge Divisions collided at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Coolidge team, managed by Donald Gordon and Joe Flow of the first-place Nine Stooges, pummeled the Hoovers, managed by Chris Witt and John Borack of the first-place Robert Johnsons:
HOOVERS 000 000 000 – 0 5 0
COOLIDGE 100 150 00x – 7 12 1
HRS: Lonny Frey, Lou Gehrig
Gehrig, a triple crown winner in actual 1934, is now at .345, with 38 home runs and 135 RBIs through games of August 4th, and gave us a sample of that in the All-Star Game with a single to drive in the first run and a homer later.
The next day, a combined team of our ’34 all-star rosters journeyed to Hilldale Park in Darby, PA to take on an assembled club of Negro All-stars from Strat’s wonderful Negro League set. Only players who were performing in ’34 were allowed to play, but there were plenty of good ones: Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Turkey Stearnes, and Willie Wells, among others. Keith Shiraki, manager of the ’34 Fleet Dust Runners and owner of the best-record Berlin Wallbangers in our ’61 Freaks League last year, managed the club, started Satchel Paige against Dizzy Dean, and won fairly easily, taking a three-run lead by the 5th and holding on with the help of six relief pitchers:
’34 STARS 100 000 000 – 1 7 2
NEGROES 021 010 00x – 4 8 0
Both the Robert Johnsons and Nine Stooges are loaded with offense and have fairly sizable leads in our ’34 divisions. There’s still over a month and a half of games to play so anything can happen, but a Best-of-9 World Series between these two deep juggernauts would likely be exceptional. I’ll be back at some point with an end-of-season update…