Notes From the Shadows of Cooperstown: Hardball
SWEET SIXTEEN PLAYOFFS: CARDINALS VS CUBS
This is the sixth in a series of reports on a simulated playoff of the sixteen “original franchise” teams. The results of the first-round American League “brackets” are in NOTES 459-461. The first results of the NL brackets are in #462 and 463. See NOTES #459 for the background and “ground rules.” So far in the NL, the Phils, Dodgers and Pirates have advanced.
The Cardinals were the third seed in the NL brackets, mainly on the strength of their 87 wins (enough to win the pennant) in the first simulated season. Somehow, the additions they made to bolster their roster improved them less than most other teams, and they played progressively worse in later simulations. But in this tournament, any team can beat any other team.
Who’s on first on the all-time Card roster? Well, I like John Mize; but Bill White makes the team, and so does Mark McGwire, for that power off the bench. At second, Red Schoendienst does well, moving Rogers Hornsby to short; or, the Rajah can play 2B if Ozzie Smith’s glove and speed are needed. I’ve replaced Garry Templeton with a Negro League draftee, Artie Wilson, who’s just a shade behind Ozzie in each department except hitting, where he excels. At third, it’s Ken Boyer, but he has competition from Ken Caminiti. The Card catchers are Ted Simmons and Tim McCarver. The outfield features Stan Musial, Joe Medwick, and Jesse Burkett, a deadball era speedster. Thanks to the DH, Lou Brock can also see some playing time, and so can another NL draftee, James “Cool Papa” Bell, who plays similar to Brock.
The A+ starters for the Cards are Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean, and Spittin’ Bill Doak; they also snatched an A+ from the Negro Leagues, Joe “Cyclone” Williams. For long relief there is Howie Pollet, Harry Brecheen, and Mort Cooper; at the end, Al Hrabosky and Lindy McDaniel.
The all-time Cubs won 80 in the first simulation, then slumped off to 69 wins (in a 154 game season); with the infusion of talent from the Negro League and the expansion team draft, they were back over .500.
At first for the Cubs, either Mark Grace or Frank Chance, the Peerless Leader of their first dynasty, will do nicely. At second, Ryne Sandberg has the glove, power and speed; if only he could hit and walk a little more! Billy Herman is his back-up. Ernie Banks played more games at 1B, but the Cubs need him to go back to SS. If defense is needed late, Shawon Dunston is handy. At third are two options, Smilin’ Stan Hack (more speed), or Ron Santo (more power). At catcher, the Cubs got the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box in the NL draft — Josh Gibson. Like many of the NL player cards, Josh’s is based partly on legend, which means it is downright Ruthian. Behind Josh is Gabby Hartnett.
There’s another Ruthian player on the Cubs, Hack Wilson in his 1930 heyday. He can DH or play OF with Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, or leadoff man Hazen “Kiki” Cuyler. Wilson “Frog” Redus, a speedy slugger from the Negro leagues, and Sammy Sosa (1998) are there, too.
The Cubs’ A+ starters include Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown; Hippo Vaughn; Clark Griffith (the Old Fox was a regular 20-game winner in Chi before the turn of the century); and Fergie Jenkins. Lon Warneke and Dick Elsworth spell long relief, Phil Regan, Lee Smith and Bruce Sutter can finish up games.
Part of the fun of these simulations is putting players from different eras on the same playing field. The Cardinals have Gas House Gangers with stars from the 60s, the Cubs have a galaxy from the deadball dynasty and from the 1930s, along with the greats who played with lesser teams later on. Playing out a season, it is also fun to make roster changes, “sending down” Hall of Famers and “bringing up” more Hall of Famers. These guys cannot all succeed, for some, the dice will roll cold.
GAME ONE, AT ST LOUIS
I have written elsewhere that should a Time Machine ever get invented in my lifetime, permitting me to travel backwards for one ball game, I would give serious thought to taking in a duel between Christy Mathewson (of McGraw’s Giants) and Three Finger Brown, of the early Cub dynasty. Alas, the Cubs instead drew the Cards in this tournament as a first-round foe, but who would be less satisfied to see Brown face off with Bob Gibson? I was looking for a tight 1-0 or 2-1 game, maybe decided in extra innings, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.
Gibby started off fine, walking Kiki Cuyler then picking him off, and fanning Grace and Dawson. But in the 2nd, Josh Gibson walked and with two out, Ryne Sandberg tripled him in. Gibson fanned Sosa to end the inning. In the third, Cuyler walked again and with two out, Dawson tripled in the second run. Josh Gibson followed with an infield single, and then Hack Wilson — I’m sure he was knocked down a few times first — homered, for a 5-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Three Finger was scattering singles, two by Rogers Hornsby. In the Cub fifth, with Brecheen pitching, two more scratch singles by Dawson and Gibson — Josh would collect four before the game was over — and another two out hit, a single by Ryno, made it 7-0. Santo’s double and Cuyler’s triple made it 8-0, before the Cards scored their first runs. In the sixth, Schoendienst beat out a hit and Bell sent him to third with a hit to right. Cool Papa then stole second. A run scored on Hornsby’s ground out and Musial singled home Bell, 8-2. But Brown didn’t give up much more — Ken Boyer’s solo HR in the 7th — and Smith and Sutter closed it out. The final was 10-3, the last Cub runs coming in on Stan Hack’s HR (he had run for Santo earlier), and an error by Hornsby, after Cuyler singled, then stole second and third. (As a Pirate fan, I was disappointed that Cuyler went to the Cubs, since he had his first great seasons with Pittsburgh, but apparently be played a bit more for the Cubs.)
GAME TWO, AT ST LOUIS
Hippo Vaughn versus Dizzy Dean ain’t a bad matchup, either. The Cubs went right to work. Cuyler walked but was tossed out trying to steal. But Billy Williams and Andre Dawson both doubled, and Dawson scored when Medwick muffed Wilson’s fly.
The Cards tied it, 2-2, in the second. Medwick doubled and Johnny Mize homered. Boyer followed with a double, but could not advance. The score remained 2-2 into the sixth. (In the Cub 5th, CF Jesse Burkett saved a couple runs: Hack Wilson double and Ernie Banks walked. Ryno fanned, but NL draftee Frog Redus drove a long ball to center that Burkett ran down, both runners advancing. Then Burkett robbed Santo of extra bases with another circus catch.
It was clearly not Dean’s day. Cuyler started off the fifth with a double, and Williams doubled him home. An out later, Josh Gibson lined a ball off Dean’s toe — it went for a single and Dizzy had to leave the game. Enter Mort Cooper, only to be greeted by Hack Wilson’s HR, making it 6-2.
Meanwhile, Hippo Vaughn settled in, giving up walks in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, and a single to Burkett in the 7th, but nothing else. The Cubs tacked on two runs in the 8th, on Santo’s triple, and back-to-back doubles again by Cuyler and Williams; Billy had three 2Bs in the game. Vaughn gave up a double to Musial in the home 8th, but nothing more. Mize led off the 9th with a double and after Ken Boyer singled him in, Sutter came in and got the last three outs. Cubs win, 8-3, to go up 2-0 in games.
GAME THREE, AT WRIGLEY FIELD
Bill Doak and Clark Griffith got the assignments for Game Three, and it turned out to be the best-pitched game of the series. The Cubs jumped ahead in the first, with that familiar combo, a Cuyler walk and a Williams double. Hack Wilson’s 2B and Ryno’s single made it 2-0 after two, and Ernie Bank’s solo shot over the ivy in the 4th made it 3-0. The Cards cut the lead to one when Stan Musial homered after a Burkett hit in the 6th.
But the Cubs retaliated, Josh Gibson’s double and another long bomb by Banks, and the 5-2 lead held up. Lon Warneke pitched two innings and Sutter closed it out. Both teams just eight hits.
GAME FOUR, WRIGLEY FIELD
The odds seem to be against any of these Sweet Sixteen scoring machines getting swept — but then, it’s hard to see any of them lose a game. Anyway, now in a sudden death situation, I had to give Bob Gibson the ball. His opponent, Fergie Jenkins.
Again the Cubs drew first blood, in the first inning, Cuyler and Williams singling on a hit-and-run. Then Gibson balked in a run, which would have scored anyway, on Josh Gibson’s double. 2-0. An error by Caminiti, another hit-and-run single, this time by Stan Hack, and Cuyler’s sac fly made it 3-0 after two. Once again, not Gibby’s day. He left in the third, after Dawson doubled, Gibson walked, and Ernie Banks reached the ivy with a two-run triple. Enter Cyclone Williams, who stopped the bleeding.
The Cards scraped for a run in the fifth, but the Cubs got that run back in their fifth when Gibson tripled and Banks hit a long fly. Musial’s HR to right in the 6th made it 6-2, and the Cards’ best shot came in their 7th when they loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. But Jenkins bore down, giving up just a sac fly to Burkett, then getting Cool Papa Bell to pop out.
The Cubs salted it away in their 8th. Frank Chance singled, then with Stan Hack at bat and showing bunt, Chance proceeded to steal second, third and home. Well, it doesn’t happen often, it was one of those “unusual plays” that comes up in my enhanced APBA simulation. Anyway, Hack followed with a single, and two more singles by Cuyler and Williams, hitting stars of the series, and a sac fly by Andre Dawson closed the scoring. Lee Smith shut the door in the 8th and 9th to preserve the 9-3 Cub win and complete the sweep.
I try to be “objective” when I manage both teams, but I sometimes find myself rooting, too. In this series, I found myself rooting for the Cardinals, at least to win a couple and make it a series — they seemed ‘way too good to be swept. And of course, there’s the history factor — I managed the Cards for several seasons back in the 1960s, back when Bob Gibson was a Grade D with a W (wild) — as low as you can go in APBA. His only plus was that he could hit, with pretty decent power. I only had Musial in his fading last years. I’ve also managed the Gas House Gang. The Cards were always my second team, behind the Pirates. But the Cubs overpowered them in this tournament, so I tip my cap to them, and wish them well in the second round.
The above is an excerpt from Issue #464 of Gene’s Notes From the Shadows of Cooperstown. To read the rest of the issue (or past issues), click here.