Great Moments in Strat – January, 2009

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A Different Ending to 1927 Season
            My 60-game 1927 replay is finished.  Lou Gehrig finished with 20 home runs, Ruth “settled” for 19, after coming to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth in their season finale (he bounced to third, but reached on a fielding miscue).

The Yankees faced the Pirates in a replay of the original ‘27 match-up.  True to the way it actually went down, Kiki Cuyler was still riding the pine and did not appear, even after the Pirates lost the first three games. Low and behold, however, after seven games and 81 years, the Pirates finally broke through, winning Game Four, 11-8, at Yankee Stadium.  But not without some tense moments.  From my summary:

“There remained the task of securing today’s win, though, and Meadows would have his hands full.

Dugan led the last of the ninth with a walk.  Ced Durst batted for Thomas, but popped out to Harris.  Combs, however, worked Meadows for another walk, as the Pirate righthander started to fidget. Koenig smashed a vicious one-hopper at Grantham, who could do little more than knock it down.  The sacks were packed, as Ruth stood in.

Just one year ago — also in Game Four — Ruth had powered three home runs in a single Series contest.  Today, he already had two.  One more, here and now, would bring the Yankees to within a single run, with Gehrig waiting on deck.

Meadows eyed the Yankee slugger, fully aware that Ruth had taken him out of Forbes Field in the opener.  His first pitch was a fastball, up high, drifting away slightly.  Ruth tensed as he recognized the pitch, uncoiled his huge warclub and let fly a mighty swing.

Had he connected solidly, the ball might have never been found.  Instead, Ruth got under the pitch, just enough to send it toward the vast expanse of center field.  Showing the grace that he has brought to all his first-year efforts, Lloyd Waner tracked the flight of the ball as he drifted back, and made the catch.  Dugan tagged at third and dashed home.

Gehrig, no longer the tying run, nonetheless sliced a double to left field, bringing Combs in from second as Koenig was halted at third.  That meant Long Bob Meusel would have a shot at keeping the game alive.

Working cautiously, Meadows fed Meusel a change of pace offering, off the plate. Meusel let it go, for ball one.  Meadows’ second offering, though, was a fastball, expertly located up and tailing in on Meusel.  Not reading the motion of the pitch until it was too late, Meusel connected with an awkward, inside-out swing, sending the ball on a slicing arc over second baseman Grantham’s head and toward right-center field.  Grantham raced back a half-dozen steps and cradled the ball for the win.”

            That wasn’t all. The Bucs won Game Five, 4-1, on a four-hitter by Carmen Hill.  The clubs returned to Pittsburgh, and the Pirates won again, 8-4.  What was happening?  Eight decades of pent-up frustration finally released?  All those years of being considered almost a laughing stock for the way they originally folded in ‘27? Alas, the dream died in the finale.  Wilcy Moore started with five innings of perfect ball, en route to a 6-3 win.  Ruth’s three-run homer in the first inning was all the Yankees would need.

            The 1927 Pirates need no longer bow their heads in shame.  They did not win, but this time around, they took the legendary Murderers’ Row to the brink:

“… New York took their 6-1 lead into the last of the ninth, but had to face one last-gasp effort from the Pirates, who weren’t about to go down without a fight.

Lloyd Waner opened the Pirates’ last stand with a base hit, just his sixth of the Series.  Barnhart lofted soft fly ball to shallow left-center field that fell untouched.  When Traynor bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, however, the Pirates looked to be done.

But Big Poison stuck it to the Yankees again, driving Little Poison in from third with a single.  Sensing Moore was done, Huggins called on George Pipgras, who had been warming since the start of the inning.

Grantham greeted Pipgras rudely, with another hit.  Darned if they weren’t at it again.  Like a machine gun, rat-tat-tat-tat-tat, with base hits, perfectly placed.   It seemed impossible to stem the tide once it had begun.

Joe Harris flipped another looper into short left-center field.  The Pirates were almost able to hit that one spot as if it were marked with an “X”.  The bases were loaded.  Pipgras continued to struggle, as Manager Miller Huggins motioned to get Shocker ready.

Wright closely inspected four pitches for the slightest flaws, then dutifully trotted to first base, as the umpire declared them all wide of the strike zone.  Paul Waner came in from third, and the potential tying run — Gooch — stepped up to hit.

Here would be the biggest-possible test of Bush’s determination.  Just how far was he willing to go in his punishment of Cuyler?

“We won the pennant without him.  We’ll live or die here without him,”  Bush declared later.  “He’s not bigger than the team.”

Gooch took two pitches, splitting the count.  Finding one to his liking, he went for it, grounding hard, but right at Joe Dugan at third.  Dugan fielded the hop cleanly, then fired straight and true to Gehrig for the win.”

            It is so much fun to write these summaries.  The template SOM provides through these card sets is pure magic.  It is truly the next best thing to actually being there.  I’m anxiously awaiting the release of 1924. Thanks again for a wondrously wild ride.

Jeff Woodhouse, Seattle, WA
Shutouts and More Shutouts
            As a 40+ player of SOM I decided to play several exhibition games. First my beloved Yankees of 1927 against Washington Senators of 1924. Walter Johnson managed to shut out my 1927 Yankees. Well, I will get revenge with the 1961 Yankees against 1953 Dodgers. You guessed it: Carl Erskine shut out my Yankees again! Then the 1946 Red Sox against my 1946 Yankees were being shutout again until they erupted in the 9th inning with 5 runs but still lost, 7-5. I was amazed (since I can’t stand the Red Sox, as any good Yankee fan). Next I tried the 1961 Yankees against the 1967 Red Sox. I started “The Chairman of the Board” Whitey Ford against Jim Lonborg. The Yankees managed to get a run in the first inning and from then on it was all goose eggs. Whitey got in trouble in the 6th & with the bases loaded & 1 out I brought in Ralph Terry (remembering what happened in the 1960 World Series with Pittsburgh) I was scared to death. Terry had Reggie Smith ground for a double play to end the inning! I pinch-hit for Lonborg in the 7th with Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson, who promptly struck out. We went the rest of the game with no incidents and finally the Yankees won via shut out by Ford and Terry. I said to myself I hope this is not an omen of the next Yankee season. Another great experience with my beloved SOM Baseball.

Orlando Leon, Polk City, FL  
A Decent Quarterback Would be Nice
            I am playing an Everybody In tournament with all 343 teams I have at my disposal. In the Round of 256 I just played the ‘72 Colts (led by Johnny U.) at the ‘99 Bucs.   I always coach the home team.   Now, Trent Dilfer was one of my favorite players, but … he threw four interceptions in the first half and I pulled him at halftime and inserted Shaun King. He was possibly even worse. The Colts pulled the upset, 21-10. Dilfer had five picks (I put him back in the 2nd half) with one lost fumble. King had two picks with one lost fumble. Colts RCB Lonnie Hepburn had four interceptions and a TD. Maybe I should have put third-stringer Eric Zeier in.
Mark D. Harrington, Everett, WA