The Nation's Pastime ...
The annual Sports Illustrated (a.k.a. Superstar) Baseball
tournament took place in its traditional Saturday 9 a.m. slot
and gained a few participants this year. Twenty-two players congregated
for the draft, where players selected an all-franchise all-star
team when their name was selected from the random draw. First
up was Harry Flawd, wearing his Boston shirt and he chose his
beloved Red Sox. A generous gift from Greg Schmittgens allowed
each manager to wear a team button depicting their franchise
about 25 minutes, all 22 managers had selected a team and been
assigned to one of six tables. Four tables included four teams
while the other two were one man short, meaning those managers
played only two games apiece to complete the round-robin league
Table 1 was our newbie table. As a coached event, the GM guided
these four players through the mechanics of game play. In this
table's first games, Ken Richard's Astros came back to defeat
Dan Dolan Sr's Late Negro League stars 8-6 while Timothy Tilch
and his Rangers were topping Steve Vance's Tigers 9-7. Game 2
saw the Negro Leaguers edging the Tigers 2-1 while the Rangers
won a nail-biter over the Astros on a 13th inning walk-off grand
slam by Don Lock. When the Astros shut out the Tigers 4-0 in
their final game, they were hoping for the Negro Leaguers to
knock off the undefeated Rangers to cause a 3-way tie for the
table crown. Then it would come down to run differential. Well,
manager Dolan must have realized this, as he not only topped
the pitching-depleted Rangers, but did so in convincing fashion,
12-1, to wind up with the best run differential and win the table
with his two victories. Late Negro Leaguers advance.
At table 2, Harry's Red Sox lost a close one to Jon Welage's
Athletics, 4-3 while Greg's surprising Pirates were unhinging
David Rynkowski's Reds 6-2. Jon's A's continued their steamroll
by outscoring Pittsburgh 8-6 as Harry was winning his first (and
only) game over the hapless reds by a score of 6-4. When John
put away the Reds 9-4, the table was decided. The final game
at the table saw the Red Sox curse continue as they were outscored
by the Pirates 7-5. The A's advance.
Meanwhile, over at Table 3, Joe Haardt's Cleveland Indians
bested Mike Destro's beloved Phils 6-5 while the Seattle Mariners,
under the tutelage of Devin Flawd were shutting out Steven Campbell's
Orioles, 3-0. It pays to have Randy Johnson on staff. Round 2
saw another one-run loss by the Phils, this time by a tally of
5-4 to the O's. But the statistical highlight was taking place
in the other game, where the Indians' Herb Score no-hit the Mariners
in an 8-0 whitewash. Seven, count them, seven walks kept Score's
ego somewhat in check. When Mike lost his third one-run game
4-3 to the Mariners, Devin needed an O's victory to create the
three-way tie, much like Table 1. And, that's what happened as
Baltimore outscored Cleveland 7-2, leaving the table in a tiebreaker
situation. Joe's Indians had a slim +4 run differential and that
edged the Orioles by one run. Indians advance.
our last full table, Lee Fitzgerrell's Yankees were poised to
dominate when they took on perennial bridesmaid Chris Palermo's
Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. But Greg Maddux must have been
too much for the Yanks (not to mention the three-out handicap
New York had to give) and the Braves won the game 6-3. At the
same time, past champion Mike Hazel's Mets were topping Bob Jamelli's
Twins and Senators 7-4. Game two saw the Braves lose a close
one to Bob's team 2-1 while the Yankees went down to their cross-town
rivals 4-3. A third loss by the Yanks could set up yet another
three-way tie, and of course that's what happened as they lost
another one-run game (7-6) to the Twins & Senators. Chris'
task was to defeat the Mets and hold on to his positive run differential.
And his Braves took care of business, brushing off the Mets 8-3.
Our first short table led off with an excellent game. Not
only was it played swiftly (always a good thing for any tournament),
but a Willie Mays walk-off, 11th inning homer allowed Bruce Young's
Giants to defeat Greg Berry's Early Negro League All-Stars 3-1.
But there was no rest for the weary. The second round bye went
to the Negro Leaguers and Bruce faced Alex Vye's underappreciated
Montreal Expos. Even with the four-out handicap the Giants conceded,
they won their second game 4-1. By going 2-for-2 (and being given
a victory for the bye), the Giants had guaranteed the league
crown. In the final game, for honor and higher pecking order
in the wild card draw, the Early Negro Leaguers squeaked by Montreal
8-7. Giants advance.
Our last table was interesting. Off the bat, Pete Putnam's
Brooklyn/LA Dodgers topped Jeremy Billones' Cardinals 6-2. When
they pummeled John Emery's Cubs 11-2 in their second game, the
table championship was sealed, just as was the case at Table
5. But rather than playing the consolation game, John forfeited
to Jeremy in the mostly meaningless final game so he could make
it to the Britannia semi-finals. So, the Dodgers advanced.
The interesting thing here is that Jeremy played exactly one
game (the first one, against the Dodgers) and lost. But the forfeit
and bye combined to make the Cardinals record 2-1, qualifying
them for the second draw in the Wild Card selection process.
And with six teams chosen, it was time for that Wild Card
draw to round out the eight-team single-elimination playoffs.
The first draw included only teams who lost their table championship
due to the tiebreaker formula and the team drawn was the Houston
Astros, from Table 1. Then, all other 2-1 teams (like Billones'
Cards) were added to the bag and our second wild card became
the Pittsburgh Pirates. But when Bruce Young had to withdraw
his Giants (also to make those pesky Britannia semis),
one more draw was necessary. Per our rules, we had to add teams
with only one victory to the mix, and that meant Harry Flawd
had new life. To further set the stage, this draw would face
Harry's long-time foe, Chris Palermo, in the first playoff bracket.
And the draw revealed, drum roll, Flawd! But instead of Harry,
it was his son Devin, whose Mariners were a legitimate 2-1 team.
In the first round of the playoffs, Greg S's Pirates jumped
out early on Dolan's Late Negro Leaguers. But those potent Negro
League bats are fierce and they kept pecking away until, in the
ninth inning, the mighty Josh Gibson came to the plate as the
tying run. Alas, this time Casey struck out and Pittsburgh's
Wilbur Cooper had survived for the victory over the immortal
Satchel Paige, 10-8. In the sister bracket, the Athletics' Catfish
Hunter couldn't stop the Astros. The 'stros won in a walkover
by a score of 6-1. Nolan Ryan struck out 8 of the first 10 A's
he faced and 10 total for the day.
Cleveland sent Hall of Famer Bob Feller to the mound to face
a strong Dodger team. And in 8 of the nine innings, he
Indians did well. But a big seven-run inning did enough damage
for the Trolly Dodgers to advance with an 8-4 victory. Roy Campanella
was the star, going four-for-five with three ribbies, behind
Orel Hershiser's pitching. And in the last quarterfinal game,
Devin decided to hold Randy Johnson in reserve for game 2 and
sent unheralded Mike Moore to the mound against the Braves. Lo
and behold, the Mariners had a comfortable three-run lead going
into the last-chance ninth inning when pinch-hitter Rico Carty
tied the game with a home run. A minute later, it was over and
the Braves had come from behind to secure the victory. As Devin
noted upon his departure, "it wasn't so bad, he got lucky."
The first semi-final game pitted Mike Scott and the Astros
against John Candelaria and the Pirates. Scott got a complete
game 2-1 victory in a somewhat uneventful game. Similarly uneventful
was the Braves-Dodgers game. Greg Maddux went the distance, tossing
a four-hitter and allowing only one walk as Atlanta shut out
LA 6-0. Dazzy Vance didn't dazzle for the Dodgers, allowing nine
hits and seven walks in seven innings. But he did strike out
So the final was set. The pitching-deep Astros were the favorites
against the Braves who had used both Glavine and Maddux in their
journey to the finals.
The championship game came down to a contest between two pitching
icons of the 1980s-Phil Niekro of the Braves against a visiting
Astros with J.R. Richard on the mound. And they didn't fail to
please, as we saw a dandy pitchers' duel. Though the Astros placed
runners on base in each of the first three innings, defensive
gems from Ralph Garr (twice!) and Fred Tenney squelched the scoring
threats. In the bottom of the third, Richard allowed a lead-off
single to Niekro and, after Garr flied out to right, he was still
obviously addled by the hit from the opposing pitcher and he
walked Herman Long. Jose Cruz saved a run with a diving catch
in shallow right field and there were two down and two on for
Eddie Matthews. A clutch triple cleared the bases before Richard
struck out Aaron to end the inning. After three complete, the
Braves led 2-0.
A two-out double by Atlanta's Sweeney in the bottom of the
fourth, followed by a walk to Niekro could have blown the game
open, but Richard took charge by striking out Garr. The top of
the fifth saw Houston put men on first and second with one out.
A fielder's choice followed by a clutch single by Cruz plated
Denis Menke to bring the score to 2-1.
The bottom of the sixth had Astro fans holding their collective
breath. Berger led off with a single, and Tenney lined a shot
towards right-center field, but Bill Doran leapt high to make
the out and keep the runner on first. Sweeney singled and Warren
Spahn (who was relieving for Niekro) walked, loading the bases
with only one out for Ralph Garr. As he had done in the fourth
inning, Garr struck out leaving the bases jammed and two down
for Herman Long. A scorcher to the hot corner was snared by Doug
Rader and Richard was out of the jam. In game terms, that was
a strikeout and two exceptional defensive plays nestled inside
two singles and a walk.
Little happened until the top of the ninth inning, when Don
McMahon relieved a tiring Spahn. Things started well when McMahon
struck out Ausmus, but Menke doubled to bring up J.R. Richard.
Bill Spiers was chosen to pinch hit and he worked a walk from
the new reliever.
Manager Chris Palermo decided to stick with McMahon, but his
counterpart, Ken Richards, surprisingly chose to pinch hit for
Cesar Cedeno with two on and one out. The selected pinch-hitter
was Jerry Mumphrey, who grounded to second base, leaving runners
on first and third for Jose Cruz, who was two-for-three with
an RBI and would have been perfect for the day had it not been
for a diving catch by Ralph Garr. McMahon gritted his teeth,
delivered the 3-2 pitch, and Cruz watched as the final strike
crossed the plate, sealing the victory for the Bravos.
Houston 000 010 000 - 1 7 0
Atlanta 002 000 00x - 2 9 0
ab r h b po a e
Cedeno cf 4 0 1 0 1 0 0
Mumphrey ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cruz rf 4 0 2 1 4 0 0
Bagwell 1b 4 0 0 0 5 1 0
Gonzalez lf 3 0 0 0 1 0 0
Doran 2b 3 0 0 0 3 2 0
Rader 3b 4 0 2 0 1 2 0
Ausmus c 4 0 0 0 8 1 0
Menke ss 4 1 2 0 0 1 0
Richard p 2 0 0 0 1 0 0
Spiers ph 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
33 1 7 1 24 7 0
ab r h b po a e
Garr lf 4 0 0 0 6 0 0
Long ss 3 1 0 0 3 4 0
Murphy c 4 0 2 0 7 1 0
Mathews 3b 4 0 1 2 0 0 0
Aaron rf 4 0 2 0 2 0 0
Berger cf 4 0 1 0 2 0 0
Tenney 1b 3 0 0 0 5 1 0
Sweeney 2b 4 0 2 0 2 2 0
Niekro p 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Spahn p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Carty ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
McMahon p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
32 2 9 2 27 8 0
DP-Hou 1, Atl 1. LOB-Hou 10, Atl 10.
2B-Cedeno, Menke, Murphy, Aaron,
ip h r er bb so
Richard L(0-1) 8 9 2 2 4 8
Niekro W(1-0) 5 5 1 1 2 2
Spahn 3 1 0 0 2 3
McMahon S(1) 1 1 0 0 1 2
Tbl.1 Badge Name Team W L R OR Diff
A 485 Dan Dolan Sr. Late Negro 2 1 20 10 +10
B 1688 Ken Richards Astros 2 1 12 10 +2
C 2099 Steven Vance Tigers 0 3 8 15 -7
D 2629 Timothy Tilch Rangers 2 1 14 19 -5
Astros 8-Negro 6 Rangers 9-Tigers 7
Negro 2-Tigers 1 Rangers 4-Astros 0
Negro 12-Rangers 1 Astros 4-Tigers 0
A 637 Harry Flawd Red Sox 1 2 14 15 -1
B 2158 Jon Welage A's 3 0 21 13 +8
C 2746 David Rynkowski Reds 0 3 10 21 -11
D 1804 Greg Schmittgens Pirates 2 1 19 15 +4
A's 4-Red Sox 3 Pirats 6-Reds 2
Red Sox 6-Reds 4 A's 8-Pirates 6
Pirates 7-Red Sox 5 A's 9-Reds 4
A 460 Mike Destro Phillies 0 3 12 15 -3
B 821 Joe Haardt Indians 2 1 16 12 +4
C 276 Steven Campbell Orioles/Browns 2 1 12 9 +3
D 636 Devin Flawd Mariners 2 1 7 11 -4
Indians 6-Phillies 5 Mariners 3-Orioles 0
Orioles 5-Phillies 4 Indians 8-Mariners 0
Mariners 4-Philles 3 Orioles 7-Indians 2
A 2593 Lee Fitzgerrells Yankees 0 3 12 17 -5
B 1539 Chris Palermo Braves 2 1 15 8 +7
C 871 Mike Hazel Mets 2 1 14 15 -1
D 974 Bob Jamelli Twins/Senators 2 1 13 14 -1
Braves 6-Yankees 3 Mets 7-Twins 4
Mets 4-Yankees 3 Twins 2-Braves 1
Twins 7-Yankees 6 Braves 8-Mets 3
Tbl.5 Teams below received 1 extra win via bye
A 2241 Bruce Young Giants 3 0 7 2 +5
B 137 Greg Berry Late Negro 2 1 9 10 -1
C 2689 Alex Vye Expos 1 2 8 12 -4
Giants 3-Negro 1
Giants 4-Expos 1
Negro 8-Expos 7
Tbl.6 Teams below received 1 extra win via bye
A 2047 Pete Putnam Dodgers 3 0 17 4 +13
B 152 Jeremy Billones Cardinals 2 1 2 6 -4
C 557 John Emery Cubs 1 2 2 11 -9
Dodgers 6-Cardinals 2
Dodgers 11-Cubs 2
Cardinals win by forfeit against Cubs
From the winner's perspective . . .
Picking in the middle of the pack is never a good sign. Looking
at the handicaps, it was important to pick a 'mid-level' team
-- one that was still good, but didn't give up too many outs.
I ended up getting lucky and choosing the Atlanta Braves -- by
far my favorite team -- with the complete attitude of "I'm
just going to have fun."
I got placed in a division with the New York Mets, Minnesota
Twins and New York Yankees. I immediately decided I would play
for the wildcard spot, and saved my best pitchers for the Mets
and Twins (assuming the Yankees were going to beat me badly,
Still, I realized the Yankees were loaded with lefties --
Ruth, Gehrig, Berra, Mattingly -- and only one or two 'great'
righties -- primarily DiMaggio (Mantle is, of course, a switch
hitter). So, in my one 'strategic' move, I elected to start leftie
Warren Spahn against the Yankees, hoping to stave off some of
that leftie power.
Spahn pitched a masterful game, and the Braves got to Guidry
early. In the second inning, a two-run double by Bob Horner scored
Wally Berger and Dale Murphy, to put the Braves up 2-0. The Yankees
scored in the 4th, when Derek Jeter drove home Stuffy Stirnweiss
from second on a two-out single, and Ruth's homerun in the 5th
seemed destined to open the floodgates.
But Spahn bore down, an
d retired Mantle, Randolph and Gehrig
in order, following Ruth's homer, and in the top of the 6th inning,
with two outs and Chipper Jones on first, Spahn came to the plate
and promptly drove the Guidry offering over the right-field wall,
helping his cause.
The Yankees scored again in the 6th, with Jeter driving in
his second run of the day, but the wind had definitely been taken
from their sails, and two innings later, the Braves scored another
two when Eddie Mathews, pinch-hitting for Spahn, hit a two-out,
two-run homer to give the Braves a 6-3 cushion that they held
till the end of the game.
Spahn pitched seven innings, allowing only five hits, two
walks and three earned runs, and of course, hit the 2-run homer
that put the Braves ahead for good. Comparatively, Guidry lasted
seven innings as well, but allowed eight hits and fuve walks,
with the five earned runs.
Feeling quite good, I marched into Minnesota to take on the
Twins. What resulted was a tremendous pitcher's duel. Through
five innings, Greg Maddux and Bert Blyleven had faced a TOTAL
of five batters more than the minimum. In the sixth inning, Dale
Murphy singled and Eddie Mathews singled him to second. A Hank
Aaron double-play seemingly killed the rally, but Wally Berger's
single did score Murphy.
But, in the bottom of the 6th, Maddux allowed a single to
Rod Carew, and Travers sacrificed him to second. After deciding
against the intentional walk, Maddux got Harmon Killebrew to
ground out. With Tony Oliva up and Kirby Puckett on deck, Maddux
made the decision to pitch to Oliva, and Oliva made him pay,
with a two-run homerun.
Worse still, Blyleven retired the next nine batters he faced,
in order, and the Braves never had a chance. Blyleven pitched
well -- with seven hits, three walks and eight strikeouts in
nine innings, while Maddux pitched even better -- six hits, no
walks and eight strikeouts in eight innings; but Blyleven got
the stat that counts: the win.
At this point, the stage was set for the endgame -- The Yankees
had also lost to the Mets, putting them at 0-2. The Mets had
also beat the Twins, so they were 2-0, and the Twins and Braves
were 1-1. As long as the Braves beat the Mets, the Braves SHOULD
be guaranteed the division win. The Twins-Yankees game was only
important in that the Twins couldn't win by a landslide.
The Mets struck first, with Dwight Gooden driving in one run
and Mookie Wilson driving in a second in the second inning. The
Braves threatened -- Mathews hit a triple in the 4th, and Aaron
walked, but Berger flied out to end the inning. In the bottom
of the 5th, the Braves finally scored a run, as Sweeney singled,
was sacrificed to second by pitcher John Smoltz, and scored on
Ralph Garr's single, but Long struck out to end the inning.
And, adding insult, in the top of the 6th, the Mets scored
a run themselves, when Darryl Strawberry singled home Todd Hundley,
after two consecutive wild pitches from Smoltz.
Looking defeated, the Braves staggered into the bottom of
the 6th. Dale Murphy led off with a flyout to left field. Mathews
reached on an error, and Hank Aaron singled. Wally Berger singled
(after his homerun was negated by Gooden's "(HR)" rating),
driving home Mathews and putting Aaron on second. Gooden then
hit Tenney with a pitch, loading the bases. Sweney cleared the
bases with a double, making the score 5-3. Smoltz, left in the
game, struck out, and Ralph Garr singled, driving in Sweeney.
Long than blasted a two-run homerun to make the score 8-3, and
Smoltz coasted the rest of the way.
With a +7 run differential in my three games, I was the clear
winner of the division, and advanced to face the Seattle Mariners.
I decided to pitch a 3-man rotation of Sain, Maddux and Smoltz
in the playoffs. That decision did NOT work out.
Sain started and ran into trouble in the first inning, when
Edgar Martinez launched a three-run home run. Meanwhile, Mike
Moore (MIKE MOORE!!!!) was coasting through the lineup, only
running into a little trouble in the 4th, when Tenney's single
scored Berger after his double.
Sain only lasted through the 3rd, when he was pinch hit for.
Playing for their playoff lives, Smoltz was brought in, and,
again, the Mariners scored another insurance run in the 7th,
after Griffey's groundout scored Ichiro from 3rd, after Suzuki's
In the bottom of the 8th, the Braves tried to scrape back,
when Murphy's triple scored Long with no outs, but Moore knuckled
down to retire the next three batters without incident.
In the bottom of the 9th, Tenney led off with a single. Duffy
pinch-hit for Sweeney and struckout, and Rico Carty strutted
to the plate for his first appearance of the tournament, pinch-hitting
for the pitcher. A second alter, the game was tied at 4, as Carty
blasted a two-run shot. Moore, now clearly shaken, allowed a
double to the ubiquitous Ralph Garr, and Moore was taken out
(after a dynamite performance -- 13 hits, 0 walks and nine strikeouts
in 8.1 innings). Jeff Nelson was brought in to face Long, who
ripped a single scoring Garr, and just like that, the game was
over. Braves win, 5-4.
Up next was the Dodgers, and the Braves elected to throw Maddux,
figuring that, even a second place finish was okay (since you
got a plaque [this was not true, however]), so it made more sense
to GET to the finals, rather than save Maddux for the finals.
Maddux pitched a gem, allowing only four hits and a walk over
nine innings. Everyone was shut down, with only Dolph Camilli
and Duke Snider reaching base more than once. For the Braves,
the scoring and hitting was spread out, as they scored a run
each in the 1st and 5th innings and a pair in the 2nd and 6th
innings, to get past the Dodgers 6-0. Dazzy Vance was feast or
famine in a losing effort, allowing nine hits, seven walks and
12 strikeouts in seven innings.
On to the finals, against the Houston Astros, who STILL had
JR Richard for the final game. For the Braves, the ball was handed
to Phil Niekro, who made HIS first start of the tournament. The
Braves struck first, on a two-out triple by Eddie Mathews in
the 3rd, which scored Niekro and Long. The Astros cut the deficit
in half in the 5th, when Jose Cruz's two-out single scored Menke.
Niekro was promptly removed, and Warren Spahn was put in to shut
Both teams threatened after that -- the Braves loaded the
bases in the 6th, with one out, but Richard retired the next
two batters. In the 8th, Houston had runners on first and second
with two outs, but Rader flied out. Finally, in the top of the
9th, Spahn got tight, and had to be removed. Atlanta's first
pure-reliever to enter a game was Don McMahon. He started off
well, with a strikeout of Ausmus, but Menke doubled, and pinch-hitter
Spiers walked. At this point, all I was thinking was 1) let's
hope they don't score more than one run, and 2) at least Richard
is finally out.
Houston pinch-hit for Cedeno and the result was a ground out.
With two outs and runners on first and third, Jose Cruz stepped
to the plate the same situation as the 5th inning. This
time though, McMahon came at him harder than Niekro did, and
Cruz went down on strikes.
Two interesting points about the last game: Ralph Garr, who
entered the game hitting .524, was held hitless, and the Atlanta
pitchers reached base every time they were up (a single and two
For the tournament, even with his lackluster final game, Garr
still led the team in hitting at .440. Mathews was second at
.350,and Aaron hit .304. The team hit four t
riples and five homers
in six games -- with no one hitting more than one homerun (but
Murphy and Mathews had two triples apiece). The pitchers, collectively,
had the second highest on-base percentage on the team. The team,
as a whole, scored 28 runs and allowed 13, and batted .297, with
a team era of only 2.21. By far, one of the most overachieving
performances in WBC history.