THE REPLAY ZONE
By Jeff Polman
October ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out all four of my season replay-inspired baseball novels on Amazon.
A Football Field to be Reckoned With
We’ve been seeing many photos of lovingly-made miniature baseball stadiums lately, but the dedicated craft-minded Strat gamer’s abilities can also transfer into the other sports.
Take Ron Harmon, for instance. The former Ford employee and resident of Milan, Michigan could also be called the Chairman of the Boards, for he not only created an extravagant playing field for his Strat football games, but has made eight other tables, some for other members in his face-to-face ensemble.
The Ann Arbor Strato League has a 16-game season and meets once a week, and Ron’s Stone Cold Axmen do battle with their opponents in the Arena of the Damned (“located somewhere in the Blood Forest,” says Harmon). The basement table is hand-painted on felt over a plywood base and poplar legs that measures 56” X 56”. Along with adding flashing lights when a team gets close to the end zone, Ron also set up a remote, website-powered scoreboard that runs on nine AAA batteries.
The real stars of Ron’s creation, though, are the player pieces that roam the playing field—miniature “axmen” from the Warhammer fantasy game. Ron has been a loyal Strat football gamer for 27 years now, and if anything, he’s come a long way from using backgammon chips for his players. Ron was a big fan of wood shop in high school, and his carefully detailed football fields are not only a natural extension of those skills, but serve as an enjoyable buffer from the preparation and stress that goes with any Strat face-to-face football play.
“It doesn’t always feel good,” he says, “and sometimes makes it so you can’t sleep at night.” His Axmen feature Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, Lamar Miller at running back and Josh Norman and Aqib Talib at cornerbacks, and it’s a tough battle every week.
When I asked Ron what his most thrilling game on the Field of the Damned was, he hedged a little. “I might be a little embarrassed to admit that while I made this table to fit my personal preferences for game comfort, my opponents have had their share of victories on it.
“The thrilling thing for me is to be able to stand back about two feet from the table and give the dice a good toss. There is nothing like the look you get when snake eyes or boxcars pop on those big Las Vegas dice, and of course the sound of tumbling dice on wood. That is really my home field advantage.”
In other words, Ron Harmon’s most thrilling game is always “the next one I get to play at home.”
Best of 2015 Tournament: Round One in the Books!
The field of sixteen in our yearly tournament has been whittled to eight, and here’s what transpired in the first round:
ASTROS (mgr. Scott Bourget) DEFEAT YANKEES (Peter Crapo), 4-2
A whole lot of Houston offense against a very ineffective Tanaka (9 IP in his two starts, allowing 14 hits, 12 runs and 5 home runs) set the tone, and Evan Gattis wrapped up matters with ten RBIs in the series, knocking in all four of his team’s runs in the finale.
TWINS (Michael Dane) DEFEAT BLUE JAYS (Tim Lemke) 4-3
In the first of three first round upsets, #7 Minnesota comes back after being down three games to one by winning late inning thrillers before Kyle Gibson throws a superb four-hit shutout in Game Seven. The Jays hit 14 homers in the series and the Twins 12, but Minnesota get more of theirs at crucial times—and with men on base.
ROYALS (Aaron Stilley) DEFEAT INDIANS (Cooper Gilbert) 4-1
No surprises here. K.C. takes the first two games behind Volquez and Young by identical 5-1 scores, then drops one in Cleveland before a 14-hit attack against a non-bleeding Trevor Bauer puts the Tribe away in Game Five.
RANGERS (Darin Orenstein) DEFEAT ANGELS (John Borack) 4-3
This series is a pretty good back-and-forth battle until Game Seven, when a 1st inning Aybar error is followed by a Beltre homer for four unearned Texas runs, all that Cole Hamels needs.
DIAMONDBACKS (Mike Kaminsky) DEFEAT CARDS (Shaun Brown) 4-0
In what was clearly the biggest upset of the tournament so far, #8 seed Arizona utterly demolishes #1 seed St. Louis with a combination of punishing offense and four games of sweet 20-sider dice rolls. After Hellickson and four relievers combine to whitewash the Cards 2-0 in the opener, the D-Backs outscore them 25-11 the next three games, racking up 42 hits in the process. Yes, strange things can happen in a short series, but this was even stranger things.
NATIONALS (Jim O’Neill) DEFEAT PIRATES (Scott Seidel) 4-1
Also an upset with the #2 seed falling, but to be honest, in their three years of participating in this tournament, Pittsburgh has yet to produce anything close to winning results. After narrowly taking the opener, the Nats pummel Burnett 7-1, blank Liriano 2-0 behind Gio Gonzalez, and after the Bucs finally win 3-0 in extras despite whiffing 18 times and blowing scads of scoring chances, Max Scherzer crushes them 8-2 in the finale.
CUBS (Chris Witt) DEFEAT GIANTS (Matt Benham) 4-2
In a battle of ex-tournament champion managers, the Cubs prevail when Rizzo, Bryant, and Schwarber go yard in the final two games. The teams also trade different kind of shutouts in Games Two and Three—Lester winning 10-0 before Peavy takes the first battle in S.F., 1-0.
METS (Tom Quirk) DEFEAT DODGERS (Brian Jacobson) 4-2
In the most thrilling N.L. series of the first round, this happens:
Gm 1-Dodgers 1, Mets 0
Combined two-hit shutout by Greinke and Jansen
Gm 2-Mets 4, Dodgers 3
Kershaw has 2-0 lead when Flores hits 3-run homer. Joc Pederson homer ties it 3-3 and Wright wins it 9th with another homer off Kershaw.
Gm 3-Mets 4, Dodgers 2
Travis D’Arnaud drives in three of four Met runs with homer and double, winners scoring in 8th after two errors by Jimmy Rollins.
Gm 4-Mets 9, Dodgers 5
Greinke has nothing but bad luck in a six-run Mets 2nd, but the Dodgers battle back against Matz and cut it to 6-5 when Ethier drops a fly with two gone in the 8th. Two batters later, Conforto hits his second three-run homer of the game to ice it.
Gm 5-Dodgers 6, Mets 0
Kershaw sends series back to L.A. with brilliant five-hit shutout, Ethier with a homer and double to atone for his error in previous game.
Gm 6-Mets 2, Dodgers 1
Harvey and Familia combine on four-hitter, all the scoring happening in the 4th inning.
Recaps of Rounds Two, Three, and the 2015 World Series coming next month! Updated results can be found daily on my personal Strat site.