Notes from the Shadows of Cooperstown: October 27, 2008
Sweet 16 Continues: The Bums Take on the Big Red Machine
SWEET SIXTEEN PLAYOFFS: DODGERS VS. REDS
In the next NL series, the Reds were managed by an old friend, who in fact managed the Reds when we were both rookies to APBA baseball, in 1959. He continued to manage them in the summers that followed, being rewarded with the cards based on the Reds\' 1961 pennant-winning season. That included pitchers Jim O\'Toole, Joey Jay and Bob Purkey, sluggers Gene Freese, Frank Robinson, Wally Post, and Gordy Coleman, as well as speedy Vada Pinson, who hit .343. I may be wrong, but I seem to remember Gordy Coleman being quoted, in the stretch run of 1961, saying "I\'d rather be lucky than good." I don\'t think he originated the saying, but I associate it with Gordy. And part of the reason is that my friend Jim, managing those Reds in our APBA simulation, had good cards, but unlucky dice. In each previous simulation, the team that won the NL pennant "in real life" -- the Braves, Dodgers, and Pirates -- won in APBA, too. But not the Reds.
So against that background, it was fun to get together with Jim in the Adirondacks and spend an evening rolling the dice, as we had not done together in well over forty years. I managed the all-time Dodgers, and Jim the Reds.
The all-time Dodgers are terrific, like all of these all-time teams, capable of beating anyone on any given day. But in my previous simulations, they emerged as a .500 team.
When I think Dodgers, I think pitching, and while the franchise certainly has produced a bumper crop of Grade A\'s over the decades, only Sandy Koufax has an A+ rating from APBA. I picked Orel Hershiser, Don Newcombe, and Don Drysdale for this tournament rotation, with Dazzy Vance, Ron Perranoski, Mike Marshall, Jim Brewer and Steve Howe in the pen (the last two also have A+ credentials).
I also think speed in Dodger blue, and that is only amplified by their top draftee from the Negro Leagues, "Terrible Ted" Page, a slap-hitter outfielder. Their other NL draftee is Alex Radcliffe, who can play infield and hit for average, but like Page is not a long-ball threat. But talk about speed -- how about that infield, Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, with Maury Wills and Davey Lopes? The two Boys of Summer have the better leather, but all of these guys are fun to watch. Power at the infield corners: Gil Hodges and Pedro Guerrero.
All-timer Babe Herman is a born designated hitter, and around him a manager can pack more power in Duke Snider or Raul Mondesi or rifle-armed Carl Furillo; or more hitting with Hall of Famers Zack Wheat or draftee Tony Gwynn. The Dodgers also have one of the best catching tandems, in Roy Campanella and Mike Piazza. With all this talent, the DH is extremely helpful.
In my first simulated season, the Reds finished dead last, with a 64-90 record. With an infusion of talent in the second season, they almost made the jump from last (eighth) place to first -- in fact they did, with 83 wins in 154 games, but they lost a 3-game playoff, 2-1, to the Phils. With yet another infusion, they were +7 and in second place.
The Reds\' all-timers have a couple A+ starters, Frank "Noodles" Hahn, and Cuban Adolfo Luque. They team up with Bob Purkey and draftee Tom Seaver. Long relief has aces Hod Eller, Eppa "Jeptha" Rixey and Mario Soto; and their Captain Hook can also draw on Ewell Blackwell and Clay Carroll.
The "Big Red Machine" label fits this all-time roster. Johnny Bench makes Ernie Lombardi a back-up C. Joe Morgan has one of those all-time great leadoff cards and plays a dazzling 2B. Pete Rose can play almost anywhere. The Reds get Frank Robinson and drafted Jeff Bagwell, and have no power shortage, with Ted Kluszewski, George Foster, and speedy Eric Davis. They have more outfield speed with Vada Pinson, Edd Roush and draftee Marquis Grissom. Barry Larkin has pop at SS and Chico Cardenas backs him up. Finally, there is third base, where I took Chris Sabo over Tony Perez only because the team already has so much power, and Sabo has better leather. So does Negro League draftee Judy Johnson.
GAME ONE, AT CINCINNATI
Koufax against Hahn in the opener. The Dodgers score first, Snider & Gwynn with back-to-back doubles in the second, and Raul Mondesi going deep with one out to make it 3-0. The Reds got one back in their fourth when Pinson doubled and Robinson singled him home. But the Dodgers came back in the top of the fifth. Guerrero single and Wills was safe when his sac bunt was fumbled by Bench. Page bunted them up, and they moved up another notch on a passed ball, 4-1. Jackie Robinson\'s double made it 5-1.
The Reds\' best chance came in the 7th when they loaded the bases on a hit by Robinson, a walk and an error. But Larkin\'s long sac fly fell short and Koufax fanned Judy Johnson. Both teams tacked on a few at the end but the Dodgers won, 8-3.
GAME TWO, AT CINCINNATI
Hershiser versus Luque in Game Two, and the Dodgers broke on top again, Babe Herman\'s 1st-inning triple followed by Duke Snider\'s long poke to left. The wind was blowing out strong to left all during this game, and was a factor for both teams.
Joe Morgan walked and stole second before Edd Roush tripled him home in the Reds\' 1st, then Vada Pinson got one up in that gale to left and it was 3-2 Reds. Jackie Robinson\'s 3rd-inning HR tied it, but the Reds went ahead in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Morgan and Robinson. In the Dodger 4th, Guerrero led off with a HR, Wills singled and stole, and Page doubled him in, chasing Luque, 5-4 Dodgers. Hershiser had to leave the game in the 2nd after pulling a muscle, and Dazzy Vance had taken over.
The Dodgers put the game away with six runs in their sixth. The first three came in on a HR by Ted Page -- this guy can only get the ball out of the park on a fly with help from the wind. A hit and a walk later, Blackwell was gone and Hod Eller\'s first shine ball was planted in deep right by Snider (no help from the wind), making it 11-4. Solo homers by Frank Robinson and Jeff Bagwell were not enough, Marshall and Howe finished up, and the final was 12-6. The Reds fanned 11 times vs 4 Dodger pitchers.
GAME THREE, BROOKLYN
Don Drysdale and Bob Purkey faced off in this one. Roy Campanella\'s 2-run HR got the Dodgers on the board in the second, and they chased Purkey with five more in the third. Snider\'s 3-run HR was the big blast, and Gil Hodges doubled after Campy and Jackie drew walks. Hits by Zack Wheat and Babe Herman in the sixth made it 10-0. Meanwhile, Drysdale was holding the Reds in check, finally giving up a two-run pinch HR to Barry Larkin in the 7th, but at the end it was 10-2 and looking bleak for the Reds.
GAME FOUR, BROOKLYN
Tom Seaver versus Don Newcombe, and while the Reds\' bats came alive, their pitching let them down again. With the Reds up 2-1 in the 2nd, the Dodgers scored five on two singles, two walks, and error by Larkin, and Snider\'s bases-loaded triple. The Reds came back, scoring two on Robinson\'s double in the third, and another on Pinson\'s double and Larkin\'s sac fly in the 4th. But the Reds\' pen could not contain the Dodgers. Mondesi homered (the wind was blowing out again) and Hodges singled home Piazza, making it 8-5. It was 8-6 after singles by Johnson and Pinson and a ground-out by Larkin.
Then one more nightmarish inning for the Reds. Furillo doubled, Herman walked and Snider singled to load the bases. Blackwell, on in relief again, got Mondesi and Piazza to pop up and was almost out of it, but Jackie Robinson singled home two runs and Gil Hodges (batting 8th!) followed with a long HR to make it 13-6.
Newcombe had turned the ball over to Vance in the 4th, and Dazzy carried the lead into the 8th. One-out singles by Johnson and Pinson and a HR by Marquis Grissom chased Vance and made it 13-9. Larkin greeted Perranoski with a triple, and after Rose\' pop up for the second out, Morgan and Robinson walked. Jeff Bagwell batted for Kluszewski, and took a game-tying grand slam swing, but his fly to left was hauled down by Mondesi, and that was pretty much the game and the series, 13-9 and 4-0.
Would the outcome have been different with different managers rolling the dice? Of course. The outcomes will always be different (although the 1919 Reds still have not taken a series from the 1919 White Sox, in my APBA simulations). The fact is that any team -- given the hotter dice -- can sweep any other team. Remember, this Sweet Sixteen tournament started with the Senators eliminating the all-time Yankees in six games.
I think fans tend to think that teams that are swept are vastly inferior to the sweepers, but I do not believe that is the case. In 1927, the Murderer\'s Row Yankees swept the Pirates in the Series, but two games were decided by one run (one of them lost on a wild pitch), and in the two other games, the Yankees scored in just two innings in each game. The very first team to be swept (Detroit, in 1907, by the Cubs) started the series with a 3-3 12-inning tie. The next team, the Philadelphia A\'s, lost to the "Miracle Braves" by 1-0, 5-4 and 3-1. And so on.
Small consolation for the Reds\' fans and my friend Jim, but I have a hunch that we will roll dice together again some day, maybe with me managing my all-time Pirates against his Reds, or maybe the Big Red Machine against the Lumber Company, or maybe the Reds of the 60s against the Impossible Pirates. So many possibilities. But it comes down to the dice, and whoever said it, had it right: I\'d rather be lucky -- in a short series, anyway -- than good.