Notes from the Shadows of Cooperstown: December 10, 2008
The Sweet Sixteen Hosts the National League Semi-Finals: Cubs vs. Phillies
This is the twelfth in a series of reports on a simulated playoff of the sixteen "original franchise" teams. To access prior results and ground rules (I\'ve added some prominent Negro League players to the rosters of the participating clubs), click "Columnists" in our homepage, and then click, "Gene Carney."
One reader pointed out the irony, I guess, of the Final Four teams in this tournament. None of them have been known for their consistent or recent success. When I started rooting in the late 1950s, the Cubs and Phils were usually battling to stay out of the cellar, and finishing fifth or six in the 8-team NL was a mark of improvement. Yet here they are, in the NL finals.
GAME ONE, AT PHILADELPHIA
Both of these teams cruised easily into this showdown series. The Phils dispensed with the all-time Braves and then the Pirates in five-game sets. The Cubs swept the Cardinals, then dropped just one game to the Dodgers. So the teams were a combined 16-3; the Cub starters got all their decisions, but the Phils\' starters earned just four of their eight wins.
Three-Finger Brown (3-0) would take on Grover Cleveland Alexander (1-1) in the opener. Old Pete won 28 as a rookie in 1911, en route to his 373; Three Finger won 21 that summer, but his best seasons were behind him. In the APBA simulation, they meet in their prime.
And they begin the series by tossing goose-eggs at each other, until the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Richard Lundy, the Negro League draftee SS, poked a double and Granny Hamner walked. Darren Daulton, batting ninth, then sliced a two-run triple to right-center to end the double shutout. Billy Hamilton was nicked with a pitch, and Big Ed Delahanty drew a walk to load the bases for Sam Thompson. And Sam comes through with another long triple, putting the Phils up 5-0.
Alexander gives up an infield hit to Stan Hack, a hit-and-run single bounced into right by Billy Herman, and a sac fly to Kiki Cuyler -- and nothing more. Solo homers by Thompson (who also had a single, but fell a double shy of the cycle) and Mike Schmidt make the final 7-1, the Cubs get just four singles all day.
GAME TWO, AT PHILADELPHIA
Clark Griffith starred for the Cubs in the 1890s, so we know he never faced off with Steve Carlton before. This is the Carlton of 1972, a 27-game winner on a team that won 59. Both pitchers were 2-0 in the first rounds of the tournament.
And both were on their game today. When DH Cy Williams homers for the Phils in the fifth, it is just their second hit, and the 1-0 lead stands up into the 8th inning. The Cubs have scratched out just four singles, looking a lot like yesterday. Then in the 8th, the visitors come to life. Cuyler singles and moves to second on Billy Williams hit-and-run ground out. Andre Dawson is called back for Gabby Hartnett, who promptly rockets a Carlton fastball into the seats, Cubs up 2-1. The homer came in the daylight, but the Cubs\' hopes were sure a\'glomin\' at the time. Then Josh Gibson singles and Hack Wilson goes deep, showing off that 56-HR fire-hydrant power. That ends Carlton\'s day, but the Cubs are not done. Ernie Banks doubles and Stan Hack scores him with a single. Frank Chance ends the scoring with a double.
Griff takes the 6-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th. He has pitched a gem, yielding just three singles and that HR, and when he retires the first two Phils in the ninth, it\'s ten in a row and 13/14. But Schmidt walks and Lundy doubles him home, and Bruce Sutter comes in. Pinch-hitters Richie Ashburn and Popeye Harris get one, via a walk and a single, so it is now 6-3 with the tying run at bat, a third straight pinch-hitter, Larry Parrish, who can tie the score with one swing. But Sutter fans him, and the series is tied.
GAME THREE, AT WRIGLEY FIELD
In his only tourney game, Jim Bunning tossed a two-hit shutout for the Phils; he\'ll start today against Hippo Vaughn, 2-0 but just one quality start.
The Cubs pick up where they left off in Game Two. Cuyler hits a leadoff double, but is stranded. In the second, Hack Wilson singles and Ernie Banks clears the ivy in left, 2-0. In the third, Josh Gibson finds the bleachers with Billy Williams aboard on a hit, and it\'s 4-0. Hack Wilson breaks hit bat on a fly to right, but it fins the stands, too; Ryne Sandberg was aboard on a double, so now it is 6-0 after six.
Hippo Vaughn has scattered four singles so far, but the Phils get to him in their 7th on doubles by Mike Schmidt and Cy Williams. Jon Matlack took over for the Phils and retires the Cubs in order again in the bottom of the inning. With two out in the eighth, Vaughn is running on empty. Chuck Klein singles and Dick Allen homers, 6-3. Schmidt doubles, and Lee Smith takes over for Hippo. Lundy greets Smith with a HR to left and it\'s a one-run game, 6-5. Sutter gets the last out in the 8th.
Tug McGraw takes the hill for the visitors, trying to keep the score close. But Billy Williams nicks him for a single, and after Ryno fans, Josh Gibson connects, his second round-tripper today, making it 8-5 Cubs. But it ain\'t over. Richie Ashburn comes off the bench and singles, and after Hamilton forces him, Delahanty singles. No one is holding Delahanty, and he steals second, eliminating the chance for a ground-out DP. Big Sam Thompson gets all of a split-finger pitch and rifles it toward right-center, but Ryne Sandberg leaps and snags it, and beats Delahanty to second, end the game on a spectacular DP. The Phils out-hit the Cubs 12-9, but the 8-5 final has the Cubs up 2-1 in games.
We\'ll pick up with Game Four tomorrow.