Great Moments in Strat – March, 2012

Have you experienced a game of Strat-O-Matic so thrilling, unique or bizarre that you just HAVE to share it with someone? That would be us. Send your Great Moments in Strat to Please include your name and hometown. Readers like to see that and you deserve the credit.
            My son Christian and I just finished our first game of Baseball Express. We played off and on over three days. The game is at just the right level for him. He’s good at math, loves baseball, and is a strategic thinker. He was thrilled Ryan Zimmerman, his favorite player, was included in the set. He took the NL guys, me the AL.
Dad’s Line-up:
Ichiro – 9
Jeter – 6
Hamilton – 8
Mauer – 2
Cabrera – 3
Pedroia – 4
Longoria – 5
Crawford – 7
Verlander – 1
Christian’s Line-up:
Gonzalez – 8
Braun – 7
Pujols – 3
Zimmerman – 5
Utley – 4
Ethier – 9
Ramirez – 6
McCann – 2
Lincecum – 1
            Both starters didn’t last long. Lincecum was out after 2, replaced by Cliff Lee. I put in Sabathia for Verlander after 4. After 2, I led, 9-5 thanks to a nine-run 2nd inning. Christian’s team chipped away until it was 9-8 with 2-out and nobody on base in the bottom of the 9th (Christian was home team). With Neftali Feliz pitching, Joey Votto pinch-hit and walked, bringing up Hanley Ramirez. Game on the line. The set. The dice roll … 1-8, game-winning, walk-off homerun for a 10-9 victory.
            Other wow moments: Ichiro caught stealing (1-17 chance) 3 times! … Pujols’ home run … 26 hits between the two teams. I had at least one base runner every inning, but only scored in the 2nd inning. Another great game for Strat-O-Matic and a sweet father-son moment for me!
Steve Walker, Ellicott City, MD
            I am two-thirds of the way through a 10-team, 81-game cards-and-dice basic replay of the 1955 season. Currently, the Brooklyn Dodgers are in 1st place (40-25) with the surging Boston Red Sox in 2nd (34-25). The ‘55 American League pennant-winning Yankees have struggled (26-42).
            This great moment in Strat occurred recently in a game between Brooklyn and Cleveland at Municipal Stadium. In the top of the 6th, Dodger first baseman Gil Hodges hit into a triple play against the Indians’ Art Houtteman. The score was 2-0, Brooklyn. Next inning, top of the 7th, Gil Hodges comes to bat again. With Jackie, Duke, and Campy on base, one out and Don Mossi now pitching. Bases loaded. Roll the dice and it’s a 1-3 Home Run on Mossi’s pitching card! C’mon Gil … please do it! I roll the big die and it’s a 3! He did it! Gil Hodges hits a Grand Slam Home Run. Brooklyn goes on to victory, 9-0 behind Don Newcombe. Has any player in MLB history ever hit into a triple play AND hit a grand slam in the same ball game? WHY is Gil Hodges not in the Hall Of Fame?
            In the second game of the three-game Brooklyn/Cleveland series, bonus baby rookie Sandy Koufax received a rare start and proceeded to spin a 1-hit, complete-game shutout in a 4-0 Brooklyn win. The lone Tribe hit came in the 3rd inning on an Al Smith single. Koufax walked 7 and struck out 8 in a game that hints at the awesome days ahead for one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history.
            Looking forward to a replay of the new 1958 season some time in 2012. What a great era for baseball!
Scott Acton, Hackettstown, NJ
            The past is not supposed to be surprising, but my 1956 American League replay was full of unexpected excitement.
            The favored Yankees, with Triple Crown winner Mickey Mantle, underachieved by six games. Their 91 replay wins were more than any other AL team won during the real ’56 season, but was good enough only for third in the replay, as Chicago and Cleveland improved. Mantle and cleanup hitter Yogi Berra were seldom hot at the same time. Berra was awful on both sides of the plate in the first half, when he made 13 of his astonishing 23 errors, many on misplayed bunts. He finished on a 13-game hitting streak to close at .300-20-92, but Mantle finished the season feebly, in a six-week slump that saw him go from Triple Crown candidate to .318-42-115, which was ninth in batting, second in home runs and fourth in RBIs.
            Mantle had been hitting .354 in mid-August, and had led the league in homers and was one behind in the RBI race on Aug. 30. His league-high 142 walks, 23 of them intentional, had much to do with this, and also with Mantle finishing first in runs (131), second to Al Kaline in total bases and second to Ted Williams in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total average and runs created.
            It was this type of season for the Yankees: Whitey Ford, in search of his 16th win on Aug. 31, held a 3-2 lead with two out in the 8th when Washington’s Eddie Yost came up with the bases loaded. Yost’s fly ball could have been caught by LF Enos Slaughter or CF Mantle. But they collided and Yost circled the bases for an inside-park grand slam that won the game, 6-3.
            We didn’t have a pennant race until Sept. 2, when Cleveland completed a four-game sweep at Comiskey Park to draw within four games of the White Sox. The Sox were wire-to-wire winners, starting 13-1 and 31-9 as lefty Billy Pierce began the season 10-0. Chicago was an unbeatable 72-30 on Aug. 8 and came home at 101-53. Its 16-game improvement over the real ’56 made it the only team to be more than +/- seven games compared to actual.
            Thank Minnie Minoso, who hit .334 with 117 runs, 108 RBIs, 30 doubles, 16 triples, 18 homers, 16 stolen bases, 91 walks and 25 times hit by a pitch. Sherm Lollar hit .327, Larry Doby drove in 108 runs and ERA leader Dick Donovan (2.29) joined Pierce as 20-game winners.
            MVP/Cy Young Herb Score and surprising HR/RBI leader Vic Wertz (.302-46-134) led Cleveland to 95 wins, a seven-game improvement, and second place. At the All-Star break, Wertz was .301-23-57. One month later on Aug. 14, he was .315-36-103.
            Score achieved his league-best 25th win and 300th strikeout in the most unusual way. He need only to beat last-place Kansas City – a team Cleveland had drummed 17 times in 21 tries – and record five strikeouts in his final start Sept. 26. Instead, Score was battered for 12 hits and 8 runs, while striking out three. He lost. Three days later, he relieved Art Houtteman for five innings and took a 3-2 lead into the ninth. He got his 300th K that inning. But Kaline then drilled his 34th home run to tie the game. In the bottom of the ninth, Score got the victory when Gold Glove-RF Kaline flat out dropped a two-out fly that scored the winning run.
            The Tribe won the season’s other oddest game, a 1-0 triumph in 22 innings at Yankee Stadium on May 8. Cleveland’s Early Wynn and New York’s Johnny Kucks each pitched 11 scoreless innings. The Yanks had an excellent chance to win in the 9th, when Billy Martin led off with a double. But Mantle popped out to 3B and Berra’s single advanced Martin only to third with one out. Bill Skowron lifted a potential sacrifice fly to CF. But Jim Busby, playing in, had a shorter throw to nail Martin and Cleveland catcher Jim Hegan successfully blocked the plate to prevent the run. The winning hit was a single by Rudy Regalado, who had only two RBIs in the real ’56, during Tom Morgan’s fifth inning of relief.
            Some shutouts weren’t so dramatic. Chicago thumped Washington 19-0 on Sept. 16. Three days later, Cleveland humiliated the A’s in KC, 20-0.
            No one threw a no-hitter. But we had seven one-hitters, one by Score and one by Wynn, and three by righty Dave Sisler, who overachieved gloriously at 11-4, 2.45 for 77-77 Boston. The Red Sox’ Ted Williams (.374-31-105) won the batting title and teammate Mickey Vernon was runner-up at .345.
            Fourth-place Detroit (78-76) had by far the best offense (884 runs). Kaline led the AL with 212 hits and 376 total bases, was sixth in batting average (.332) and home runs (34), second in RBIs (127) and second in runs (122). Tiger teammates Harvey Kuenn and Ray Boone were 3-4 in batting average (.336 and .334) and Kuenn had the season’s longest hitting streak (24 games). Tiger Charley Maxwell, fourth in homers with 36, batted .303 and non-qualifier Red Wilson hit .305, giving Detroit five regulars at .303 or better. Still, Detroit’s two actual 20-game winners, Frank Lary and Billy Hoeft, settled for 15 each and neither was above .500.
Glenn Guzzo, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL