The Greatest Game

Sunday, February 01, 2004

A quick synopsis of my baseball history 

Hey, it's Sunday morning and I noticed that I haven't written anything of much substance the past couple days except for a short blurb on Ron Villone. Hey Vinny, thanks for the drunken comment! :) So I thought that on this cold Atlanta morning (well, it's only 32 degrees out, but that's pretty cold for Atlanta) I'd write up a quick little story of my history with baseball.

It all started in 1978 or so (or was it 1977?). My father was a diehard Mets fan since his beloved Bums abandoned him and the rest of Brooklyn. He loved talking about 1969 and Clendenon and Agee and especially Swaboda's miracle catch. So of course I fell in love with the Yankees. Munson, Nettles, Guidry, Chambliss, Randolph, Rivers, well, you guys know them all, I'm sure. I hated Kansas City as much as any life-long Yankee fan. When Brett's home run was upheld in the pinetar incident, I was appalled! Ah, the late 70's and early 80's - it was a good time to be a Yankee fan. Of course we lost to the Dodgers in the World Series, and that was a heart breaker. But then came the slide of the Yankees and the rise of Don Mattingly. And of course Dave Winfield. My neighbor Mike, who ended up becoming the brother I never had, and I talked baseball non-stop. And we still do.

It was 1985 - I was in high school - and a wonderful thing happened. Some guys in my father's office were starting up a Roterisserie Baseball League. I was intrigued! I loved baseball. And I loved stats. It was perfect! There were 12 of us or so gathered in his Manhattan office on a Saturday (or was it Sunday?) with reams of paper and baseball magazines. My father and I researched all the players for weeks before the draft. Eight hours later I had my team. I don't remember much of the team anymore, but I DO remember getting Darrell Evans for something like $3 and he put up some monster numbers that year. 34 HR, 99 RBI, 90 RS. Not bad for a late roster-filling pickup. I also remember picking up Casey Candaele in midseason - we were short on Runs Scored. I loved that guy! He scored us some runs and his batting average was ok, but that's really about it.

And then an odd thing happened. I think it sometime after the 1987 season, maybe early 1988. I bought a little computer game called Earl Weaver's Baseball for my Amiga. This was one of the transforming moments in my baseball history. My friends and I bought a Bill Mazeroski Baseball magazine with all the 1987 stats in it and put in all the players by hand. We also created a rating system to grade each player in the 6 stats: power, contact, speed, arm, range, and there was another one I can't remember right now. Oh yeah, pitchers had power, accuracy and durability. We used K/IP for power, BB/IP for accuracy, and IP for durability. It was wonderful. I was the fastest high school keypad entry person on Long Island. We'd draft teams, play a bunch of games, then draft again. We did this for about 2 years or so. Eventually, we needed better stats so we went to the bookstore and found a baseball stat book that contained split stats. The author's name was Bill James. Earl's (as we used to call it) was that much better with split stats. Need a platoon for thirdbase? How about Kevin Mitchell and Rance Mulliniks? You couldn't get a better hitting platoon in 1987 than those two guys! Mike always went for power, while Bryan always went for a speedy team. Me? I was somewhere in the middle - I liked to have a well-balanced attack with low strikeouts. The highest rated player in Earl's according to our rating system? Kal Daniels (who would NEVER play against lefties) and Eric Davis (34 HR, 50 SB in 474 AB). Don't ask me how Kal Daniels was rated higher than some of the other guys, especially considering his 368 AB, but he was. And he almost always played fantastically. There were innumerable memorable moments while playing Earl's - me being no hit, Darryl Strawberry hitting 4 HR in one game, my 26 inning game against Mike where Chet Lemon beat me with a home run. Ah, the memories. I still have the Amiga *AND* the Earl's disk somewhere, but I'm sure the disk has long since bit the dust.

All this happened during the Yankees' long down time. Then the early 90's came, and the Yankees got worse. I was in Atlanta at this point and the Braves became the powerhouse. I hated the Braves. Still do. All my friends were huge Braves fans, and strangely enough they all told me that they were ALWAYS Braves fans, even when they sucks in the 80's. Yeah, right. If the Braves had that many fans why did they draw 3000 fans per game year after year. They were always Braves fans and I have a bridge to sell you. Mike and I still kept in touch. We'd chat on the phone once in a while and we'd talk about the Yankees for hours on end.

Now I have this blog and I get to share baseball with a whole new set of people, people who understand what baseball means to me. It's not everything, but it is definitely Something. It's something special to all of us. And I don't mean to end on a cheesy note, but it really is The Greatest Game.
# posted by shawn : 2/01/2004 09:43:00 AM -
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