THE REPLAY ZONE – MAY 2014
By Jeff Polman
May ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out “Ball Nuts”, my new “fictionalized” replay book on the 1977 season.
A DAY IN THE ’73 FREAKS LEAGUE
Back in March, I wrote about my new dice-rolling venture on Facebook called the ’73 Freaks League. It’s well into June now, and our two division pennant races are beginning to sort out. With the Eastern-leading Black Diamonds kicking off a big three game-series against the Western-leading One for Five Dotcoms, I thought it would be fun for an imaginary Dotcoms fan to spend an “evening” in the Dotcoms’ home park, Dodger Stadium, and describe some league action…
Friday, June 8, 1973—Takes me a while to get into the park, because a Volkswagen van with flowers painted on it breaks down at the Sunset Boulevard entrance gate. By the time I reach my upper deck seat on the third base side, Reggie Cleveland is throwing his warm-ups for the Dotcoms. Reggie is a decent 6-3 so far, and he’ll be going against Luis Tiant tonight in the opener. The 31-24 Diamonds, leading the East by one game over the Jordannaires, have been doing it with sheer muscle. Playing in the famous “Atlanta Launching Pad”, they lead the league in runs scored, home runs, and OPS, while the 32-21 Dotcoms, second to the Diamonds in team hitting, have offered more balance and a LOT of speed, leading in stolen bases by a wide margin.
The second I bite into my Dotcoms Dog, Amos Otis singles to start the game. Cleveland bears down, gets out of the mini-jam on a double play ball from Ron Blomberg. Tiant has slipped to a 5-5 record after a great start, but he also induces a DP ball by Davey Johnson to escape the 1st. The crowd groans a little when they see that the Kuhnskinners, trailing the Dotcoms by just a game, have taken an early 4-0 lead on the Jordannaires in St. Louis, but cheers erupt in the 2nd when Rick Monday picks out an El Tiante curve and slams it into the right-field bleachers for a 1-0 lead! An inning later, Dave Concepcion and Rich Coggins hit back-to-back doubles and it looks like it might be an easy evening.
Not so at all. A Darrell Evans walk and Richie Zisk triple get one Diamonds run back in the 4th, and after Ron Santo homers and the Dotcoms plate another for a 4-1 lead, the Diamonds open the 5th with a double and three straight singles off Cleveland and it’s suddenly 4-3. “Come on, Cleveland!”, yells a dad in a Dotcoms sweatshirt behind me, “pitch the ball!” Reggie gets Blomberg, Evans and Bill Robinson to escape the jam, but in the 6th, a Don Kessinger sac fly ties the game 4-4.
On the out-of-town board, the Jordannaires have scored two runs off Doc Medich in St. Louis to make that game 4-2 Kuhnskinners, so that’s hopeful. Also newsworthy is the fact the Great Danes, losers of 12 straight games, have scored nine runs in the 3rd inning to take a 10-2 lead on the Frank Lloyd Wrights. I duck out to a refreshment stand to get some soft ice cream served in a little Dotcoms helmet, and miss singles by Coggins and Ken Griffey to put men at first and third with one out in the last of the 7th. Hurry back to my seat just in time to see Davey Johnson loft a deep fly to the warning track in center, scoring Coggins with the go-ahead run.
Dick Baney has taken over for Cleveland on the mound for us, and Zisk greets him rudely with his second straight double leading off the 8th. A Carlton Fisk single ties the game again. In St. Louis, a Dick MacAuliffe single has tied the Jordannaire/Kuhnskinners in the 9th inning at 4-4! It’s nervous time at Doctom Stadium. Tiant goes back out to start the last of the 8th, but he’s breaking down, allows singles to Monday and Santo and a go-ahead single by Thurman Munson to put us ahead 6-5. In comes Bill Campbell, but he’s just as rattled, throwing a wild pitch for one run and a Concepcion single for another.
Up 8-5 in the 9th, it’s John Hiller time, he of the 3-0 record and 7 saves. Tom Grieve bats for Blomberg and singles to start the inning. The Jordannaires and Kuhnskinners are going into extras. The mom behind me wants to get the kids home to bed, but the dad doesn’t want to leave. “Rear back, Hiller!” he screams, “Rear back and throw!” Hiller does, whiffing the deadly Evans, Robinson, and Zisk to end the game!
I get to my car in time to hear two things on Dotcom Radio: that the Frank Lloyd Wrights scored 13 unanswered runs off Great Danes pitching to hand them their 13th straight loss, and that Johnny Bench has homered in the 10th off Doug Bird to beat the Kuhnskinners 6-4. We have a two-game lead in the West…at least for tonight. (See the attached updated scoreboard.)
Feel free to invite yourself in at the ’73 Freaks League group page as a spectator. Standings and scores are posted daily, league leaders once a week. I’ll be back next month with a feature story on the yearly ECBA convention in Maryland.