May 2008

The Pine Tar Game

In my excitement in writing about Micro League Baseball last week, I neglected to point out that Greg Holcombe went 10 for 10 in “Triple Crown TWIBia”. Even though Greg submitted 1996 Rusty Greer for choice #8 while I was looking for 1975 Ted Simmons, they had identical Triple Crown numbers. So Greg, you get awarded full credit, extending your streak to 35 for 35 which officially puts us on the Greg Holcombe watch. I also want to give a shout out to Jessica Kuethman who got 6 out of 10 correct, while also listing Greer. Good job, Mrs. Kuethman.

As for the rest of you kind readers, I ask you to feel free to write in to twib@mlb.com and I’ll get back to you either in email, or maybe even in the broadcast of the show in the revamped TWIB Notes. No question or comment is too big or small, so chime in and your voice will be heard.

I hope you’re able to catch this week’s episode of TWIB, which features the Kansas City Royals. After scuffling for most of this decade, the ball club in the town of BBQ looks like it’s beginning to turn the corner with the young talent of Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, a talented top of the rotation in Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister, an ace closer in Joakim Soria, and a manager who seems to be the perfect man for this group in Trey Hillman. We spend extra time with Bannister as he shares his love of photography around scenic Kauffman Stadium, which is one of the most underrated ball parks in the league. I hope they can put it all together and become a real contender this season, because the Royal franchise should be thought of as a winning organization. I’ll never forget those great Royals teams of the 70’s and 80’s – George Brett was the man. With a nod to their glorious past, we also take a look back at the Royals heated rivalry of that era with the New York Yankees. You may be surprised to see how aggressive they got on the field, chucking more haymakers than Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Rowdy Roddy Piper in a WWF bout, making the current NY – BOS one look pretty tame in comparison.

Of course, the ultimate KC – NY showdown has to be the infamous “Pine Tar Game” – Goose Gossage, Billy Martin, and a livid George Brett throwing a first ballot Hall of Fame tantrum. I’ll never forget that game because I was there, and I have the ticket stub to prove it. I was 9 years old sitting in the lower third base section in Yankee Stadium when Brett came screaming out of the dugout, and while I didn’t fully grasp all of the events that went down, I loved every minute of it. You can check it out for yourself in our bonus footage section.

It’s a fun show, and we’re happy to present a team that doesn’t get their fair share of national exposure.

Without further ado, here is this week’s:

Triple Crown TWIBia

1)                  .335 AVG, 30 HR, 112 RBI

2)                  .323 AVG, 15 HR, 83 RBI

3)                  .256 AVG, 32 HR, 105 RBI

4)                  .316 AVG, 31 HR, 100 RBI

5)                  .333 AVG, 29 HR, 144 RBI

6)                  .282 AVG, 24 HR, 65 RBI

7)                  .293 AVG, 22 HR, 108 RBI

8)                  .327 AVG, 16 HR, 88 RBI

9)                  .291 AVG, 20 HR, 112 RBI

     10)              .282 AVG, 11 HR, 68 RBI           Once again, send your guesses and any comments or suggestions to me at twib@mlb.com

Micro League Baseball

Vol. 5

There’s an unknown curse that exists because of me. In October of 2001,
I inadvertently put a curse on the New York Yankees. Before I explain,
here are the answers to last week’s Triple Crown TWIBia, which serve as
a lead in to how this happened:


Oakland Invaders, 1989 World Micro Champs

1) .388 AVG, 14 HR, 100 RBI – Rod Carew 1977, 2B
2) .351 AVG, 23 HR, 89 RBI – Roberto Clemente 1961, RF
3) .317 AVG, 54 HR, 128 RBI – Mickey Mantle, 1961, CF
4) .317 AVG, 52 HR, 112 RBI – Willie Mays, 1965, LF
5) .322 AVG, 42 HR, 129 RBI – Billy Williams, 1970, DH
6) .311 AVG, 46 HR, 142 RBI – Orlando Cepeda, 1961, 1B
7) .317 AVG, 28 HR, 118 RBI – Brooks Robinson, 1964, 3B
8) .332 AVG, 18 HR, 100 RBI – Ted Simmons, 1975, C
9) .322 AVG, 8 HR, 79 RBI – Garry Templeton, 1977, SS

Of course, this collection of Hall of Famers and All-Stars never
played together on a real ball field, and never donned an Oakland
Invader cap or uniform. But they did exist as a Micro League Baseball
team, drafted by me when I was 13 years old.

Micro League Baseball was played on the Commodore 64, and if you’re
familiar with that computer I’m sure you marvel at the advancements
that have been made by silicone valley since then. Back then, you
worked hard to play a game, first having to type in Load “*”,8,1 (to
this day I have no idea why) and pray that it could read the huge
floppy disk that was shredded after multiple uses. If you got through
that initial process, you’d wait about 15 to 20 minutes for the game to
load up. Like some sort of Indian tracker, you had mastered all of the
curious sounds that the disk drive made and knew which rattle was good
and which rattle meant you had to reboot.

Once you had Micro loaded, the baseball world was your oyster.
However, this was a different type of baseball game that didn’t require
you to time a Tommy Euler curve like in Hard Ball, or have you decide
when to twirl a Roger McDowell flutter ball at Reggie Jackson in RBI
Baseball. No taped up Atari 2600 joystick required – Micro League was a
baseball game for the mind, a simulator in the tradition of
Strat-O-Matic baseball that challenged you to draft and manage a group
of players whose level of production was determined by their actual MLB
stats. With Micro, you had the option to type in any player you wanted
– just open up the Baseball Encyclopedia and field the team of your
dreams. You could put fictitious players in there as well – I had Roy
Hobbs, Sidd Finch and Crash Davis in there along with a young lefty
phenom named James Potocki. Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige were allowed
to play, too.

But the real fun was getting together with my Dad and two
cousins as we held a draft of players from 1960 and on, which at the
time ended with the 1986 season. The first round was:

1. Bob Gibson, 1968
2. Sandy Koufax, 1963
3. Rod Carew, 1977
4. George Brett, 1980

Brett’s Toledo Mudhens were led by Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew,
Dick Allen, Robin Yount and George Foster. Yet somehow they seemed
destined to rule the basement of the league, and that’s exactly what
they did, even after Bryan quit following an Opening Day loss. After
trades, trades, and more trades, I ended up with the lineup mentioned
earlier and somehow had the following pitching staff:

1. Dwight Gooden 1985
2. Juan Marichal 1966
3. Ron Guidry 1978
4. Vida Blue 1971
5. Denny McLain 1968
6. Dave McNally 1968
7. Luis Tiant 1968
8. Sparky Lyle 1974
9. Tug McGraw 1971
10. Bruce Sutter 1977

The Oakland Invaders would win the division but had to face my dad’s Slippery Rock Sliders in the World Series, who had:

1. Pete Rose 1969 2B
2. Wade Boggs 1985 DH
3. George Brett 1980 3B
4. Frank Robinson 1966 CF
5. Jim Rice 1978 LF
6. Roger Maris 1961 RF
7. Jim Gentile 1961 1B
8. Joe Torre 1971 C
9. Rico Petrocelli 1969 SS

Armed with Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton in the rotation and
Dick Radatz and Ted Abernathy in the pen, they were pretty tough, and I
found my club down 3 games to 2 heading back to Oakland looking for a
miracle. Luckily for me, Game 6 would go down in the books with as much
drama as the real 1986 had. Trailing by 2 with nobody on and with 2
outs in the bottom of the 9th, Dick Radatz was on the hill for Slippery
Rock facing Oakland’s Rod Carew. A .363 hitter in the 1989 season,
Carew slashed a hard single to right field to keep my club alive.
Roberto Clemente, who platooned in the #2 hole with Cecil Cooper,
followed Carew with a blast to left-center that rattled the wall. Carew
jogged home with Clemente cruising into third with a triple that
reduced the lead to one. The scoreboard went into the monotone “charge”
sound effect as the virtual crowd (which looks a mesh of shiny pixels)
went crazy. That sent Mickey Mantle, the 1989 Micro MVP, to the plate.
The command “swing aggressively” was given, and Mantle responded by
rocketing a ball that clanged off the computer screen, only coming back
into view as it landed onto the right field wall. He chugged around the
bases, scoring Clemente with an unlikely back-to-back triple. Tie game.
Out came the manager, Radatz was pulled for Abernathy, who ushered a
free pass to Willie Mays. In stepped Billy Williams, who even though
the manager had no idea what he looked like, became his favorite after
hitting .340 on the game. The Sliders manager called for a changeup,
Billy swung aggressively, and hit an arcing Texas leaguer down the
right field line, driving in Mantle and winning the game. Game or no
game, and even though he was playing his 13 year old son, it was a
crushing blow that my Dad had to feel. Luis Tiant would then out-pitch
Sandy Koufax in Game 7, winning the Series for Oakland and a new Micro
fan for life.

22 years later, we’re still playing the game. Although the C64
and the actual Micro program are long gone, it lives on in new versions
that have enhanced play with upgraded information and speed of play. In
APBA’s Baseball for Windows, you can sim out a whole season in 10
minutes, print out in-depth draft sheets, and post results on the web.
It’s fueled a lifetime appreciation for the game of baseball and its
wonderful history, and has gone a long way in keeping relationships
going strong between family and friends. Right now we have a
progressive league that’s in its 16th season and takes up way too much
of my time. Much like in fantasy baseball, Micro can make you a fan of
players you’ve never seen play in person, or even a member of hometown
team’s biggest rival. You’ve scouted their statistics, and you have
weighed in on what type of player they are for the present and future.
You trade for them, or draft them high with hopes of winning the
elusive championship. And when they bring your club the pennant, it
doesn’t matter who they play for in real life. They’re playing for you.
For that reason, I’ll always take a Micro World Championship over my
favorite MLB club winning the World Series.
And this brings us back to 2001, when I put a horrible curse on my
favorite team, the New York Yankees. Amidst their push for their 27th
World Championship in October, I stated that wouldn’t care if the
Yankees never won another title if my Corpus Christi Crusaders won the
World Series. In the Micro world of 2001, Corpus Christi pulled it out
in 6. The Yankees – victimized by a Luis Gonzalez Texas Leaguer in Game
7 – lost their bid for a fourth straight title. They haven’t won since.
And I don’t have a single regret.

No TWIBia this week, but send any comments or suggestions to me at twib@mlb.com.

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