THE REPLAY ZONE – APRIL 2014
By Jeff Polman
April ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out “Ball Nuts”, my new “fictionalized” replay book on the 1977 season.
THE DAY BARRY BONDS HOMERED OVER A STRAT GAME
It was April 2, 2002. The Giants were at Dodger Stadium for Opening Day. Arizona had won an exciting World Series the autumn before, and both clubs wanted to get off to a good start. Livan Hernandez was pitching for San Francisco and Kevin Brown for L.A. 53,356 fans had packed themselves into the place.
And only three or four of them were aware that a Strat game was being played down the first base line.
I was in a 12-member draft league called the California Baseball Association that ran for over twenty years in the Los Angeles area. My friend Keith was the commissioner, and for a few seasons we also assembled a small group of league members to attend Opening Dodger Day. Attending this event is a true ordeal, usually involving leaving for the park at 10 a.m. and sitting in gridlocked street traffic for an hour, and this time I wanted to do something to make it more fun. I was playing a solo replay of the 1955 season at home, and the Giants were about to play the Dodgers in a series, so I thought it would be special to roll one of the games with Keith at the ballpark.
We had field box seats in the front row down the right field line, which wasn’t the best vantage point for the live game but was perfect for rolling out a Strat game because the seats had a handy railing we could drape the fielding charts over. Transporting a Strat game isn’t always easy, but I reduced everything to the minimum inside my backpack. Two teams, dice, pen, charts, a shoebox top to roll the dice in and a couple sheets of lined paper.
It being Dodger Stadium, the seats were still three innings from filling up, and Keith and I were able to position ourselves with an empty chair between us to serve as the Strat table. I took the Giants, Keith the powerful Brooklyn team, and as the real Dodgers took the field we set up Johnny Antonelli and Carl Erskine on our “table”. Synchronized the first dice roll with Kevin Brown’s first pitch about 180 feet away and threw.
We played as fast as we could, not knowing if we’d have to scoot in and close up our table if the missing person in our row showed up. We were also trying to follow the live game at the same time, which wasn’t easy, and we missed a Paul Lo Duca grounder that scored Dave Roberts with the first run in the last of the 1st.
The second inning was even more of a problem, because the Giants were getting to Kevin Brown early. Singles by David Bell, Pedro Feliz, Livan Hernandez and Rich Aurilia brought in two runs. The crowd was uneasy around us, and I’m sure people were wondering what these freaky guys were doing with those dice in the front row. Were we Giants fans putting a bad mojo hex on Brown?
Suddenly, with Barry Bonds at the plate, we heard a loud crack. Looked up from our shoebox in time to see a ball soaring high over our heads, curving, curving, and landing way back in the right field bleachers for a three-run homer. It may not have been the first major league homer to fly over a Strat game in progress, but of Bonds’ eventual 762 homers, you can bet Number 568 was the only one of his to do that.
I can’t remember what happened in our 1955 game and didn’t save the score sheet, but knowing how great that Dodgers team was—though they later dropped my World Series replay to the Yankees—I imagine they beat the pants off of Antonelli. On the real field before us, it was the Giants winning easily by a 9-2 count, and Bonds homered again leading off the 7th, but by then my traveling Strat package was folded up and safely returned to my backpack. I don’t even think we dropped a die between the seats more than three times.
Today, of course, we would have been taking Strat “selfies” with our phones and posting video of the event on YouTube. Oh well. Keith and I will have to make do with a great living memory to tap whenever we want.
Be back next month with a detailed update on my ’73 Freaks League season.