Tagged: strat-o-matic

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.

To return to the twib main page: twib.mlb.com

About the Numbers

Eric Davis

Eric Davis in his 1996 comeback (James A. Finley/AP).

For me, baseball has always been about the numbers. In fact, I think
the numbers of the game made me a fan just as much as the sights and
sounds at the ballpark. Whether it was scanning the “Strat-O-Matic”
player card for 1985 Rickey Henderson, staring at .390 in bold on the
back of George Brett’s baseball card, or reading down the Sunday
paper’s list of the league’s hitters in order of batting average, stats
had me at hello. Stats help define the player just as much as a sweet
swing or a whistling fastball, commanding respect for anyone who boasts
a .300 lifetime batting average or 300 lifetime wins. Some of
baseball’s greatest moments have been defined by a number that says it


Enough said.

Today stats are more readily available than ever before.
Websites are updated pitch by pitch as game action occurs, and career
numbers are refreshed every time another game is in the books. Long
gone are the days waiting for the official season stats printed in
“Baseball Digest” that was released in, what was it, December? Ok,
maybe I don’t miss that, but I do miss the MacMillan Baseball
Encyclopedia. It made stats breathe, giving them life with every thump
as you turned a handful of its 2800 pages. I loved how the book would
seemingly auto bookmark in places you perused the most often – sliding
automatically to the page of Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams or Eric Davis.
Don’t you remember turning to Babe Ruth (always auto bookmarked in
everyone’s encyclopedia) and marveling at all the black bolded ink that
marked his league-leading numbers? And no matter what edition, Hank
Aaron was always listed first. Before I owned my own copy, my dad used
to go to the library and copy down some stats for me to use for “Micro
League Baseball” (which just happens to be the greatest game ever
invented). “Here you go, here’s ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson. You think Boggs
can hit? Well, Joe hit .408 in 1911.” Little by little, I learned about
players of the past and their dumbfounding statistical achievements,
like Sliding Billy Hamilton, who once hit .404 and stole 98 bases in a
season where he scored 192 runs. Rube Waddell once struck out 349
batters in a season long before Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax
ever did. Babe Herman once hit .393 with 48 doubles, 11 triples, 35
homeruns, 130 RBI, and garnered zero MVP votes that season. And don’t
get me started on “Old Hoss” Radbourn. It was the numbers that
introduced me to these players before I ever read a bio or saw a photo,
opening up baseball’s glorious past to me in the process. So when guys
like Nap Lajoie and Ed Delahanty started lighting up Charlie Lea and
Sid Fernandez on “Micro”, I continued to unearth new ringers for my
uber-club, and was forever hooked on how baseball can be defined by the
statistics produced. More than anything, this is what led me to the
honor of presenting “This Week in Baseball” to you every Saturday.

Today in the era of “Moneyball” and Bill James holding an
advisory position for the Red Sox, not only are stats more readily
available and more advanced, MLB clubs are basing their evaluation of
talent on them as much as a scout’s eye. Now OPS (on base percentage +
slugging percentage) is not only standard but pretty basic, while 20
years ago on base percentage wasn’t even listed in the encyclopedia. On
“This Week in Baseball”, we try our best to balance use of modern stats
with the classic ones, but we hope our audience is progressing with
these advancements. Each week in this blog, I’ll take a look some
numbers that jump out – whether it’s comparing the stars of today to
the greats of the past, pondering statistical giants in the fantasy
baseball realm, or just getting down and dirty with a random page in
that Macmillan Encyclopedia, we’ll have some fun with some raw numbers.
People need to know who Smokey Joe Wood was, and Dizzy Dean, and Ryne
Sandberg, and whether you know a lot about these guys or not, hopefully
you’ll enjoy hearing about them, and keep the discussion going in the

At the end of the blog, I’ll hit you with a little “Triple
Crown TWIBia”. I’ll list 10 unnamed triple crown stats from a single
season of a ballplayer from history. I encourage you to fill in your
guesses for the players and year and email me at twib@mlb.com.
I’ll list the answers next week, explain why I chose those players and
seasons, and also give props to anyone who was able to go 10 for 10. So
now, here’s the first addition of:

Triple Crown TWIBia

1) .363 AVG, 49 HR, 165 RBI
2) .301 AVG, 23 HR, 74 RBI
3) .320 AVG, 52 HR, 149 RBI
4) .354 AVG, 10 HR, 109 RBI
5) .401 AVG, 42 HR, 152 RBI
6) .345 AVG, 41 HR, 110 RBI
7) .398 AVG, 32 HR, 122 RBI
8) .362 AVG, 40 HR, 124 RBI
9) .313 AVG, 47 HR, 129 RBI
10) .391 AVG, 1 HR, 33 RBI

Good luck, have fun with it, and see you next week.