Notes From the Shadows of Cooperstown: Winter Stars
Feedback on my APBA simulations has been meager so far, and what little I’ve received has been split. So I suspect that I will gradually phase it out, relegating it to occasional mention here, the way it used to be. This issue begins with a commentary on the latest “Hall of Famer-elect,” but then I report on yet another pair of APBA simulated series, and I think there may be at least one more on deck, then I’ll stop. Probably. By then it will be 2009, and I am hoping to have lots of new stuff to report on next year. Could be a big year for B-Sox Research.
FLASH: GORDON IN THE HALL
I was glad to see the re-configured-again Veterans Committee vote somebody in the Hall this winter, and while I was rooting for a few players to get the bronze cheer before Joe Gordon, I guess I really don’t object. To be honest, those plaques don’t mean as much to me as they used to — although I’m sure they remain an extremely high honor for those so honored. And for most baseball fans.
I remember my first visit to Cooperstown, in 1965, and being surprised that Ralph Kiner, an idol in Pittsburgh, was not a member of the HOF — it took another decade for that to happen. I moved to the shadows of Cooperstown in 1974, and could have attended Ralph’s induction, but I really wasn’t following baseball and its history that closely at the time. That changed by 1988, when Willie Stargell was inducted, and I really can’t say why I missed that one; I regret that. A year later I started writing baseball, and joined SABR soon after, and while I never became a HOF junkie, I did start to lobby for the induction of Bill Mazeroski, and when Maz was inducted, in 2001, I attended my first and last ceremony. (If Barry Bonds is elected, I may go again.)
I think Joe Gordon is the first player to be elected since Maz. He was long gone before I started following MLB, but not so faded into the past that his name didn’t come up a lot. So often that I thought he was in Cooperstown, long ago. I remember him mostly as a manager, back when only sixteen of those jobs existed in the majors. I guess I’ve seen him on some grainy B & W films of World Series past. I guess “Flash” was a natural nickname for a guy named Gordon, who also fielded his position with a little acrobatic skill. But somehow, even with the nickname, and the NY City media voters pushing pinstripers, Gordon was passed over.
Even Tony Lazzeri, of whom Gordon is a descendant in the line of Yankee second-basemen — Lazzeri, whose top HR season was 18, and whose glove is rarely compared to Gordon’s or Mazeroski’s — made it to bronze sooner, even with the burden of “Poosh ‘em Up” as a nickname.
Maybe as the the I-Day of this summer draws nearer, I’ll read somewhere a better explanation of why Gordon took so long.
To repeat, the plaques don’t have the meaning for me that they used to. I have come to believe that some who have them do not deserve them, at least not over others more-deserving. I don’t mind the scoundrels and rascals so much, and wouldn’t mind Pete Rose going in, to add to that sub-grouping. I’m interested more these days in Joe Jackson’s case, impossibly complicated and beyond Bud Selig’s grasp, apparently. And I just finished reading an excellent new biography of Jack Coombs, whose career was shortened by typhoid, but who was surely headed for Cooperstown until then, and who still seems to rate bronze for a lifetime achievement in baseball, and for “character” on the level of Addie Joss. The Hall, it seems, will always be — too small.
DEADBALL STARS VERSUS SLUGGERS
The background for this simulated series is in the previous issue of NOTES, #469.
Imagine a crisp October afternoon, at your favorite ballpark — say, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. It’s a park where Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb faced off in its first season, 1909, but it is also the place where Mantle and Maris and the Yankees’ latter-day Murderer’s Row played in the Fall of 1960. It’s a hitter’s park, built for triples and inside-the-park homers in the gaps; never was a no-hitter there, although a few pitchers came close. Babe Ruth hit his last three home runs at Forbes, the last one clearing the roof of the grandstand in right.
Ty Cobb aproaches home plate, where the umpires stand, chatting with that same Babe Ruth. Cobb snarls at the taller player and kicks some dirt toward Ruth’s spikes. He is still sore about the three-straight thrashings he took when he took on the Bambino one-on-one (see last issue). This time, the two icons are team captains. Bill Klem tosses the coin, Cobb calls it and wins, and the Deadballers will be home team. “May the best ream win,” says Klem. Ruth winks at Cobb, and extends a hand, but Cobb hustles back to his dugout. Ruth laughs, waves at the Peach, and trots in the other direction.
Willie Mays, CF
Al Simmons, RF
Babe Ruth, LF
Lou Gehrig, DH
Jimmie Foxx, 1B
Rogers Hornsby, SS
Eddie Mathews, 3B
Ryne Sandberg, 2B
Johnny Bench, C
Hugh Duffy, CF
Ty Cobb, LF
Tris Speaker, RF
Sam Thompson, DH
Honus Wagner, SS
Ed Delahanty, 1B
Nap Lajoie, 2B
Frank Baker, 3B
Roger Bresnahan, C
Bob Gibson will start for the sluggers, Walter Johnson for the Deadballers.
The Big Train starts the series by fanning Willie Mays. After Simmons bounces out, Ruth doubles and Gehrig walks, but Foxx is retired on a grounder. Gibson starts with a strikeout and a 1-2-3 inning. With two out, Sandberg singles and steals in the visitors’ second, but Johnson fans Bench. Gibson turns in another 1-2-3, ending the inning by fanning Delahanty. Johnson gives up a walk to Mays and a single to Gehrig but Foxx’ long fly to left falls short, and Walter has shut out the sluggers for three innings.
And he’s given a one-run lead in the third when Lajoie doubles to left, moves to third on Baker’s grounder to the right side, and scores on Bresnahan’s squeeze bunt, which is so perfectly placed that Roger beats it out without a throw to first. Gibson fumes, fans Duffy a second time, and gets Cobb on a comebacker.
The Sluggers tie it up in their fourth, on doubles by Mathews and Bench. Honus Wagner’s two-out triple is followed by a walk to Delahanty, but Gibson gets Lajoie to fly out to center and it’s 1-1 after four.
In the home fifth, the Deadballers break through. Baker doubles, and Gibson hits Bresnahan — maybe Gibby is still upset about that squeeze bunt hit. Duffy bunts the runners up, and Cobb raps a clutch single into right, scoring two. Tris Speaker then doubles and Cobb races around to score easily — it’s 4-1. Vida Blue takes over for Gibson and Thompson hits it hard, but right at Sandberg, and it’s a 4-6 line drive DP, ending the inning. In the home sixth, Honus Wagner opens with a single to right, and he moves up on a hit-and-run ground out. Lajoie flies to left, but Baker tags Blue for a long ball high off the scoreboard in left, as Honus scores to make it 5-1.
And Walter Johnson is coasting. After giving up the run, Walter has yielded just one more runner, on a walk, and going into the eighth inning, he’s fanned eight. But it ain’t over. Ruth doubles to start the eighth, and Gehrig finds the upper deck in right to make it 5-3. Johnson fans Foxx, but Hornsby singles. Mathews’ fly to right center is not deep enough, two down. But Sandberg doubles, making it 5-4, and Christy Mathewson comes in to face Bench. And he strikes him out to end the threat.
The Deadballs can use some insurance runs in their half of the eighth, and Wagner starts it off with his third hit, a liner over short. Honus is running but Delahanty grounds out, 6-3. Lajoie is next, but he flies out again, and Blue is almost out of the inning. But Frank Baker raps his third double — can we change that nickname from Home Run to Two-Bagger? — to plate Honus, 6-4. Bresnahan follows with a double off the screen in right, 7-4, and Eckersley replaces Blue. But Duffy raps his second single of the game, and it’s 8-4.
Matty retires Mays and Simmons on long flies to center, and Ruth grounds out, and the game ends, 8-4 Deadballers. The little guys out-hit the big guys, 13-9. They may lose the next four in a row, but this is a sweet victory, and after the way Ruth handled Cobb in that one-on-one, it’s a bit unexpected.
The key to Walter Johnson’s pitching success was tossing those first three shutout innings. (See last issue for details on how pitchers upgrade or degrade in this simulation.) The same will be true for the other Deadball starters, they begin with the grade of AB, and the three opening gooseeggs make them ABCs — and ABCs will give up fewer gopher balls. (The doubles in the top of the fourth by Mathews and Bench would both have been home runs against any pitcher except a grade ABC. It only meant a difference of one run, but at a crucial moment.)
The Deadballers not only out-hit their more muscular rivals, they had more total bases, 21-17. Oddly, they drew just one walk (and had the one hit batsman), while Johnson walked three.
One last footnote: the Sluggers are fielding a team that emphasizes power. Most of the players in the lineup also have high batting averages, are good fielders, and draw walks, too. Again, McGwire and Sosa are not on the roster, so it’s not just pure brawn. On paper, it looks to me like the Sluggers ought to score more than four runs a game, even against ABC pitching, so this opening win by the Deadballers feels like an anomaly for their offense. Let’s see what happens as the series goes on.
The Sluggers bat first again, this time facing Smoky Joe Wood, vintage 1912. Sandy Koufax will take the hill for the visitors, so we might guess that there will be a few K’s today.
The lineups are the same as yesterday. Mays leads off with a single, and steals second before the crowd has settled in. An out later, Babe Ruth connects and drills a long shot into the right-center stands, lower deck. Wood is unshaken, and fans Gehrig and Foxx. Koufax gives up a one-out single to Cobb, and Ty steals second, but speaker is caught looking and Thompson flies out, so it’s 2-0 after the first inning.
Wood is smoking in the second, he gets all three Sluggers swinging, Hornsby, Mathews and Sandberg. Five K’s in a row, and Carl Hubbell, tomorrow’s starter for the Sluggers, tips his cap from the visitors’ dugout. King Carl is known for his streak of K’s in the 1934 All Star Game, but he knows that K’s are easier to come by against these big fellows who like to shoot for the fences; striking out five of the Deadballers in a row — now that’s a feat worthy of going down in history!
Koufax tosses another shutout inning in the second, ending it with a K, Frank Baker, who did so much damage yesterday. Both teams go down 1-2-3 in the third. Wood has retired ten in a row when he walks Foxx in the third, but Hornsby bounces out. The Deadballers finally get on the board in the home fourth. Sam Thompson walks, moves to second on Wagner’s grounder to short (Sam was running, otherwise, it’s a DP), and comes around on Ed Delahanty’s base hit. 2-1 Sluggers.
Wood hangs another zero on the scoreboard in the fifth, and fans Sandberg a second time, his 6th K. Koufax yields a single to Duffy, but no runs. In the top of the sixth, the Sluggers do some slugging — Al Simmons finds the right-center gap for a one-out triple. The infield pulls in, and Ruth’s smash to short in snagged by Honus Wagner, and the Dutchman nips Simmons at home. But Gehrig follows with an RBI double, to make it 3-1.
In the home sixth, Speaker leads off with a double — it’s his thing. Thompson bunts him to third, and with the infield back, Wagner’s grounder to short gets the run in, 3-2. Why was Hornby playing back? Because he’s an OK infielder, at both short and second — a bit better at second — but he’s no Honus Wagner. If he had been playing close, Wagner would have had a hit. The Deadballers do not have much of an edge in fielding, if any, but the two plays in this inning pointed out one difference.
Wood fans two more in a 1-2-3 7th, and it looks like the Deadballers have the momentum. Koufax hits the showers, turning it over to Lefty Grove. Baker greets Grove with a single, and Bresnahan grounds to the right side with Baker running. That extra base doesn’t matter, though, when Hugh Duffy slaps a ball down the line in left, which caroms off the 365′ mark for a triple. It’s 3-3, with Ty Cobb drooling at the plate. But Grove rears back and fires three strikes past Cobb. Speaker walks, but Sam Thompson taps meekly to Hornsby at short, so it’s still tied.
Joe Wood is still on the mound for the home team, but his smoke is thinning. Johnny Bench draws a walk to start the 8th, and A-Rod pinch-runs — possibly the highest-paid pinch runner in history, but we forget about salaries in these simulations. Willie Mays bounces to first, Rodriguez moving to second. Next is Al Simmons, 0-for-5 in Game One, 0-for-2 today before that triple, and now 2-for-9 as he slices a double off the screen in right, putting the Sluggers up, 4-3. Wood makes a bad pitch to Ruth, and the Babe makes him pay, swatting it into the upper deck, and it’s 6-3. Exit Wood, enter Three Finger Brown. Gehrig walks, but Foxx raps into a DP. Wait — Gehrig is hurt on his slide into second. The Iron Man is carried off the field — how man times did THAT ever happen? But he’s DH today, and may not need to bat again, and he’ll get tomorrow off to heal.
Ron Guidry comes on for the Sluggers, and fires some Louisiana Lightning past Honus Wagner. Delahanty bounces out and then Guidry catches Lajoie looking, a 1-2-3 8th. Brown keeps the bases clean in the top of the ninth, so it’s Guidry on in the 9th for the close-out. Shoeless Joe Jackson is sent back to the dugout for a pair of spikes by Jocko Conlon; when he comes back, he hits a blue darter up the middle. Another pinch-hitter (there were none yesterday, for either team), Billy Hamilton, but Slidin’ Billy forces Jackson. Guidry out of the pen is just too much, Duffy and Cobb both ground out sharply to Foxx, and this game is in the books, a 6-3 victory for the Sluggers, to even the series.
Worth noting: although Wood gave up the two-run HR in the first, that did not lower his grade, and when he followed that with nine outs (actually, 15) and no runs, he became an ABC, like Walter Johnson in the series opener. Koufax upgraded to AB after three shutout innings, and will start the next game as an AB because he gave up just two runs before departing after six.
The Deadballs got more walks (4-3), and more hits (7-6), but five of the Sluggers’ hits went for extra bases, and they all figured in the scoring — no wasted hits! The Deadballs left six on base, the Sluggers just two. Simmons and Ruth accounted for most of the victors’ offense. Again, it felt like the Deadballers did well to hold the Sluggers to just six runs — I think that is a low total, and the Deadballers did not take advantage of it.
The Big Guys are the home team now, for this and the next two games. I say “Big” but the Deadballers have a little heft, too, Lajoie, Delahanty and Thompson are all over six feet tall and five other position players are right at that mark. I have been reminded in the first two games that there was power before Ruth came along. And among the Sluggers are six players under six feet tall, including the 5’6″ fireplug, no-neck Hack Wilson. And many of these homer-hitting fellows can not only hit, but run and steal.
Anyway, in Game Three, it’s Big Ed Walsh versus Carl Hubbell. Good news for the “Little Guys” — the wind is gusting IN, so it will take a little more to reach the seats today.
Hugh Duffy doesn’t aim there, he smacks the first pitch on a line into the RC gap and is on third as the ball is cut off by Hubbell. Cobb then walks, and Speaker puts on the hit-and-run, so Duffy comes home on his grounder to second. But Hubbell gets two more grounders and it’s just 1-0. Walsh gives up just a walk to Ruth in the home half of the first.
Neither team gets a hit in the second, Hubbell fans two, Walsh one. But Ray Schalk leads off the third with a hit to left, and Cracker scores on a two-out double by Tris Speaker, 2-0. Hubbell settles down after that, giving up runners but not runs over the next three innings. But Ed Walsh is psyched. He fans Campanella and Mays in the third. In the fourth, Ruth gets the first home team hit, but is out trying to steal. Costly: Gehrig follows with a long double, held in by that gusting wind. But Foxx fouls out and Walsh fans Hornsby to end the threat. When he fans Gehrig to end the sixth, Walsh has yielded just three hits and it is still 2-0.
Top of the 7th, Eddie Collins opens with a hit and steals second as Schalk whiffs. But Hugh Duffy (5’7″) cracks his second double and third extra-base hit of the game to make it 3-0. That chases Hubbell. Vida Blue retires Cobb on a fly to right, but Speaker raps a single and it’s 4-0. Next inning, the Deadballers are scrapping for more. Honus Wagner gets aboard when Mike Schmidt bobbles his roller to third. It’s hit-and-run time again, but Delahanty bounces out. Frank Baker walks, and Shoeless Joe Jackson pinch hits for Eddie Collins. Jackson’s two-run double makes it 6-0; Sam Crawford swings for Schalk, and singles home Jackson, 7-0. Enter Eckersley to get Duffy to ground into a DP and shut down the Deadballers the rest of the way — possibly they are distracted by that mustache?
In the Sluggers’ 8th, Al Simmons pokes his second double of the game, and Babe Ruth connects, despite the wind, to make it 7-2. But Walsh fans Lou Gehrig, his 7th K, and Three Finger Brown comes in to pitch the ninth, giving up only a two-out walk to Schmidt, and the Deadballers go up 2-1 in the series.
The Sluggers managed just one single to go with their three doubles and the Bambino’s dinger. The DBs had ten hits, five for extra bases. More walks by the Slugs, 4-3, but their lone error was costly. For a second straight game, the bottom of their lineup was not productive. They can still erupt and pound out three straight wins, that’s for sure. In fact, that seems more likely than the Deadballers clawing their way to two more wins. But this is baseball — anything can happen. In this Game, Ed Walsh started with seven shutout innings, but his grade turned out to be not much of a factor. The Sluggers had the cold dice — I mean, bats. When you’re hot, you’re hot, when you’re not — you lose.
A rematch of the Game One duelers, Walter Johnson and Sandy Koufax. The Deadballers strike first. With one down in the second, Ed Delahanty and Nap Lajoie rap singles, and Jimmy Collins, taking over the hot corner today for Baker, slams a triple. A minute later, Roger Bresnaham squeezes him home for a 3-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Tris Speaker homers with two outs and the bases empty — the first HR for the Deadballers during this series. In the sixth, Honus Wagner singles and Collins’ third hit of the game, a double, makes it 5-0.
Walter Johnson has roared through the first five innings like, well, a Big Train, giving up just two singles and a walk. In the 4th, Hank Aaron just missed an RBI extra-base hit when his long fly to right was hauled down by Speaker. This was not the most spectacular catch of the game though. In the third inning, Joe Jackson launched one to center and Al Simmons ran it down, crashing into the wall. All runners would have scored, but there were none. Simmons was injured and will be out for the rest of this series. (Joe DiMaggio will take his spot on the roster.)
In the home sixth, the Sluggers wake up. Hornsby leads off with a double and after Mays bounces out, Ruth walks. Gehrig ends Johnson’s shutout with a triple to center. He trots home on Hack Wilson’s sac fly to left and it’s 5-3. Bob Gibson takes over for Koufax, and is greeted by Hugh Duffy’s homer down the rightifield line, 6-3.
Johnson navigates the 7th, but tires in the 8th. He walks Ruth (a third time), and then Gehrig (keeping it away), and after Wilson pops up, he plunks Aaron to load the bases. Enter Christy Mathewson in relief — pitching in the pinch. Jimmie Foxx pinch-hits a liner toward right, but Lajoie leaps and snags it — two outs. But Ryne Sandberg drills a double to left, clearing the bases and tying the game, 6-6. Johnny Bench almost puts his team ahead, but Honus Wagner goes deep into the hole to stop his sharp hit, and then nips Bench at first.
It’s a new game. Dennis Eckersley takes over from Gibson. And Roger Bresnahan greets him with a two-base hit. The table is set, the Deadballers love to move runners around. Hugh Duffy bunts perfectly to Mathews, no play at third, one out. And Ty Cobb is up. The infield plays back, and Cobb will not bunt. He swings away, but Eckersley grabs his one-hopper and tosses out Cobb. Now it’s up to Tris Speaker, who has a double and homer already, but Spoke pops it high in the infield and Hornsby hangs onto it.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cy Young takes over the pitching duty for the Deadballers, and gets leadoff batter Hornsby to pop to third. But Willie Mays — 0-for-3 since he took over for Al Simmons — rips a fastball out of the park, giving the Sluggers a 7-6 win and evening the series at two games apiece.
In a best-of-seven series that is tied after four games, Game Five always has the feel of a Game Seven. The winner will need just one more win, and might get it by sheer luck. The loser must win two in a row, they cannot make any more mistakes.
Smoky Joe Wood, who was roughed up some in Game Two, will start for the Deadballers. He’ll face Steve Carlton this time. Carlton gets thru the first giving up only a walk to Speaker. Wood is shaky. Wagner saves an opening hit, Hornsby’s shot up the middle. Willie Mays walks, then steals, but he didn’t need to, Babe Ruth follows with a clout to deep right and it’s 2-0. Hornsby’s triple starts the home third; Mays fans and Ruth’s fly to right is not deep enough to score the Rajah. But Gehrig smokes one to second, Lajoie knocks it down but has no play anywhere, it’s ruled a hit and the Sluggers are up 3-0. When Hank Aaron opens the 4th with a hit, Grover Alexander takes over for Wood, and holds the Sluggers in check for his two innings.
The Deadballers finally nick Carlton for a pair of runs in the fifth. Jimmy Collins doubles and after two ground outs, Cobb singles him in. Cobb promptly steals second — his second SB of this game but just his third of the series. And Speaker knocks him home with a single, it’s 3-2.
In the 7th, the Deadballers manufacture two more runs. Bresnahan singles and makes it to third when Duffy follows with a hit. Duffy steals second, and both runners move up on Ty Cobb’s sac fly to right. Tris Speaker fails to squeeze-bunt Duffy home, twice, then is nicked by a pitch. Eckersley takes over for Carlton, but Thompson’s fly to left is good enough to get Duffy home, 4-3 Deadballers.
Cy Young tossed a scoreless 6th inning, but in the 7th, Campanella singles and Rogers Hornsby connects, putting the Sluggers back on top, 5-4. Jack Chesbro takes the hill, and is greeted by a Willie Mays single, but Ruth lines into a DP and Gehrig pops out.
Big Ed Delahanty faces Eckersley, who is in his fourth game, and has not yet given up a run. But Del whacks a triple. The infield is pulled in, everyone knows Nap Lajoie will be bunting, and he is — but Eck’s pitch is high and away, Nap cannot reach it, and Delahanty has committed, he dives head-first into a cloud of dust, reaches between Bench’s legs and is safe, he steals home and the game is tied. Bench goes berserk, but the replay shows the call was correct. Lajoie then walks and Bench squawks again, but not too much, if he’s tossed, Jimmie Foxx will have to catch! Jimmy Collins follows with a line drive to third, Lajoie was off and running and is easily doubled up.
The Sluggers get the leadoff batter on in their 8th, Foxx walks, but cannot move him up. Eckersley fans Cobb and Speaker to end a 1-2-3 ninth, but Chesbro tosses his own 1-2-3, and this game goes to extra innings.
Ron Guidry comes in for the home team; he saved Game Two with a couple fine innings of relief. Sam Thompson is the first batter he faces. Sam was 0-for-11 in the first three games, with just one walk, was benched for Game Four, and is 0-for-3 today, altho he did have that sac fly last time up. So he’s due, and sure enough, he rifles a triple to the RC gap. That brings up Honus Wagner, three singles today; the infield pulls in, but Honus is not bunting. He shoots the ball into that same gap, Thompson scores, but Aaron hits relay man Sandberg and Honus is out trying to stretch his hit into a triple. Ouch! Delahanty follows with a fly to deep center, but it’s just a long out. And Guidry gets Lajoie, so it’s just 6-5 going to the bottom of the 10th.
Chesbro is in his fourth inning of relief, and may be tiring, but no one is warming up in the Deadballer’s pen, this is Jack’s game to win or lose. Babe Ruth walks. Gehring follows with a single, and while Chesbro is worrying about Mike Schmidt, the Iron Horse steals second. Schmidt lifts a fly to center, but it’s too shallow, Duffy has it and fires it home, holding Ruth. Hank Aaron is given the intentional pass, his run means nothing, and with Eddie Mathews at bat, the infield plays back. In the 8th, Mathews’ speed turned a DP grounder into a force out, Mathews is not easy to double up. But this time he raps a hard one-hopper to Lajoie, who feeds it to the Flying Dutchman at short and the 4-6-3 ends the game.
The Deadballers had more hits for the fifth straight time, not a surprise. What is a surprise, is that neither team could muster a big inning — only 1′s and 2′s on the scoreboard today, and looking back, neither team has scored more than three runs in any inning in the series. It’s partly the pitching, of course. And the tight defense. But the winning teams so far have scored 8, 6, 7, 7 and now another 6 — pretty amazing when you look at the lineups. Surely there is a 20-18 waiting to happen.
And maybe the slugfest will be today. It’s Carl Hubbell for the Sluggers, Ed Walsh for the Deadballers, they dueled in Game Three, with Walsh coming out on top. And Big Ed is staked to a lead in the home first when Cobb doubles, and Thompson gets a two-out single; Thompson steals, and Honus Wagner plates him with a hit through the infield. Then Honus steals, and scores easily on Delahanty’s bash off the scoreboard, which now reads 3-0. The wind is blowing out a gale to left today, but Del’s hit was a line drive.
The Sluggers live up to their name in the second. Gehrig walks and Foxx connects, 3-2. Aaron walks and Eddie Mathews connects, 4-3. Walsh recovers, to get A-Rod and Campanella, but then walks Hornsby. Willie Mays drives the first pitch deep, but Hugh Duffy runs it down, stumbling on the warning track but holding on for the third out. Duffy is injured, leaves the game, and if the series goes seven, he will miss the final game.
The 4-3 score remains the same into the home fifth. Tris Speaker singles and moves to third on Sam Thompson’s single. Honus Wagner pops up, A-Rod backpedals, Babe Ruth lumbers in from left, and both players go down. A-Rod has the ball in his glove, but the runners move up, give the Dutchman a sac fly to short. Ruth shakes it off and stays in the game, but A-Rod limps to the bench, and he’ll miss a Game Seven, if there is one, too.
The Sluggers break the tie in their next ups. Gehrig’s roller to third is scooped by Frank Baker but his throw is in the dirt, Gehrig is safe. E-5. Jimmie Foxx makes the Deadballers pay, launching another shot over the wall in left, no wind needed, and it’s 6-4.
But the Deadballers respond with two runs of their own. With two out, Billy Hamilton — he took over for Duffy — singles, and Cobb rips a double to right. Speaker follows with a hit up the middle, it’s 6-6. Enter Dizzy Dean, his first series appearance, and he retires Thompson.
Again, the Sluggers strike right back. Campanella doubles, and Rogers Hornsby takes Walsh deep. It’s the fourth two-run gopher Walsh has yielded today, and he hands the ball to Christy Mathewson. Matty got the save in Game One, but gave up the winning hit in Game Four. Today he retires Mays, Ruth and Gehrig in order, so it’s 8-6. Dean gives up just a single in the home 7th, and time is running out for the Deadballers.
The Sluggers can use some insurance, and Matty looks like he’ll oblige in the 8th. Jimmie Foxx walks, and Mike Schmidt runs. Hank Aaron tops a ball toward short, and beats the throw to first, an infield hit, two on, none out. The pinch. Eddie Mathews gets under one but Speaker has it all the way, and his throw to third holds Schmidt. Ryne Sandberg entered the game for A-Rod (Hornsby moved to short), and Ryno fans. All up to Campanella, but he skies it to deep center, lots of room for Hamilton, and Matty gets out of the jam.
Roger Bresnahan leads off the bottom of the 8th, and draws a walk. Billy Hamilton would be bunting if the lead was just one run, but he’s swinging away, and grounds a ball into right past the diving Gehrig. Bringing up Ty Cobb, and he’s not bunting, either. Dean works carefully, and Hamilton steals second. And Cobb rockets the next pitch off the wall in right, to tie the game ay 8-all. Lefty Grove takes over for Dean, and faces Tris Speaker. Spoke is bunting, but instead draws a walk. Sam Thompson is up next, maybe the closest player on his team to a slugger, but he sacrifices the runners up to second and third, one out. Grove walks Honus on four wide ones, setting up the force at any base, and faces Ed Delahanty, who hits into a lot of DPs. But Del gets good wood on the ball and drives it to right, Hank Aaron has it and fires home, but this is Ty Cobb coming down the line, and he crashes into Campanella. Campy hangs on, and is OK, but Bill Klem has a good view and calls the Peach — safe. 9-8 home team. Grove is furious, and is yanked, Dennis Eckersley comes on one more time, and gets Home Run Baker to sky one to Aaron.
Matty still needs three outs. Rogers Hornsby opens the 9th with a solid hit to center. Willie Mays, robbed of an extra-base hit by Duffy back in the 2nd inning, is 0-for-4 today, and now 0-for-5, but his ground to second advances the tying run to second. Matty faces Ruth, and walks him on a close 3-2 pitch. Now it’s Gehrig, who has hit safely in each game, and has had some big hits — and he hasn’t homered since Game One. But Mathewson gets Lou to pop up, Honus Wagner calls everyone off, and it’s two out. Mike Schmidt is due up, but the Sluggers need a better hitter, and Joe DiMaggio gets the call. He’s on the roster only because of the injury to Al Simmons, and it’s the Clipper’s first at bat. Mathewson reaches back, DiMaggio fouls off pitch after pitch, then Matty gets him swinging on a fadeaway. The Deadballers have slain the Goliaths, 9-8, thousands of straw hats are fired toward the diamond, confetti rains down from the upper decks.
The Deadballers out-hit the Sluggers 14-8 in this one, and 66-45 in the series. They also scored 39 runs to the long-ballers’ 32. They were out-homered, 11 to 2. Forget the scores, all of the six games could have gone either way, if only a hit had instead been a DP, or vice-versa.
Of course, I was rooting for a Game Seven, but an exciting finish in a Game Six ain’t bad, either. If there was a turning point in the series, it might have been that 8-4 Deadballer victory in Game One. It showed that they were not going to get bombed to smithereens. We can beat these guys. Remember, Ruth had decisively put Cobb away in a three-game one-on-one, so there was some concern about the Deadballers being able to hold their own. The last three games were all decided by one run, all won in the last at bats.
Personally, I have to wonder why I never did this before, it was really a lot of fun. What’s next? Well, I thought I saw Rube Foster heading to the Deadballers’ clubhouse, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he challenged them to a best-of-seven with the Negro League stars.
There is a feeling that surges through players, fans, whole cities sometimes, and I hope everyone has experienced it at least once in their life, or will. It happens when your high school or college football team goes undefeated, or the basketballers win the State, or your Little Leaguers finish strong. You’ve had a terrific season, you are playing better than ever, maybe you’ve overcome some early obstacles or tough losses. Now you have won big, at the end, when it counted — and you’ve run out of games. The 9-0-1 HS gridiron guys want to challenge someone else — WE CAN BEAT ANYBODY. If you won the State, LET’S GO NATIONAL.
The feeling is this: Do we HAVE to stop here and now? Can’t we keep on playing — maybe FOREVER? That is precisely the feeling I have about this Deadballer team. Geez, these guys are such fun to manage. But now what? Well, keep reading.
SCOUTING THE NEGRO LEAGUERS
What’s next? Well, I thought I saw Rube Foster heading to the Deadballers’ clubhouse, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he challenged them to a best-of-seven with the Negro League stars.
Let me say right up front that I’m not an expert on the Negro Leagues. But I know a terrific APBA card when I see one. There are some problems when you play an APBA simulation using the Negro League teams against other “Great Teams of the Past” or the All-Time Franchise Stars, or most any other team — say, the 1960 Pirates or the 1961 Yankees. No, the players get along fine. But the Negro Leaguers’ cards are — necessarily — part guesswork. The record-keeping in the Negro Leagues was just not as comprehensive as MLB’s, and while huge strides have been made to piece together this slice of baseball history, I think there will always be some uncertainty about the skills of any NL player, and we tend to give them all the benefit of that doubt.
So when I scan the Negro League APBA cards that I have, I realize that pitting these guys, as a team, against any other team — like the Deadball Stars who just defeated the Sluggers — is not quite fair. The numbers on their cards were not based on competition in the Majors — thru no fault of the players, of course, and MLB is poorer for this tragic segregation of talent.
Even if I was an expert on the Negro Leagues, I’m not sure how I could make adjustments to level the playing field. So I’m just going to put these guys out there and see what happens.
Incidentally, I understand that APBA has produced cards based on the AAPGBL, of “A League of Their Own” fame. Those cards would have the same “problem” as the Negro Leaguers’ — they would be based on something, but hitting .400 in the AAPGBL is not exactly hitting .400 in the majors. Still, it would be fun to add some female talent to my mega-teams….
For those not familiar with the APBA Negro Leaguers — and that is probably most of you — their APBA cards share one thing that jumps right out at you. They all have high Injury Factors, none less than 3 and many with a 4. This means that if/when they get hurt, they will be out of action a long time. I don’t know why they are this way, but they are. For my simulated series, I will disregard those high IF numbers; if anyone suffers an injury, they will leave the game, and miss one more, then they can return. The same rule will apply to their opponents — even Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken.
The other feature worth noting is the pitching grades for the Negro Leaguers are lower, in general, than the grades for their MLB-seasoned counterparts. They have plenty of Grade A’s, and that is important to do well for whole seasons. But only one NL pitcher (Joe “Cyclone” Williams) is rated A & C. Even Satchel Paige is a mere Grade A, altho he does have that ZZ, indicating exceptional control. Some of the other NL pitchers have ZZ, too, and in the simulated series with the Deadballers, I will put that in play — the ZZ pitchers will give up fewer walks than the Z’s. ALL of the pitchers have at least one Z.
The Deadballers had the edge in pitching against the Sluggers, but it seemed to make only a small difference — it took the Slug pitchers longer to upgrade. The difference between the DB hurlers and the Negro League arms is greater, and may offset the offensive edge that the NLers may have.
The roster for the Deadballers is in Notes #469 and their starting lineup, in #470 (last issue). Here’s who made the cut for the Negro League Stars (note: I do not have a collection of stars, so there no doubt will be some names that are conspicuously absent from the lists below — eg, Ray Dandridge, Frank Grant, Spotswood Poles. I wish I had their APBA cards, but I don’t.
Joe Williams, Satchel, Cannonball Dick Redding, and Nip Winters will get the initial starts for the NLS team; out of the pen are southpaws Willie Foster and Leroy Matlock; righties are Ray Brown, Jimmy Newberry, and Arthur “Rats” Henderson.
The reserves of this team would make any manager drool, and you should see some of the guys that didn’t make the roster! Cool Papa Bell, Rap Dixon, Oscar Charleston (Oscar is nudged out at 1B by Buck Leonard, and at DH by Mule Suttles, and the outfield is very crowded), Popeye Harris, Monte Irvin, John Lloyd, and Biz Mackey.
THE STARTING LINEUP
Judy Johnson, 3B
Pete Hill, CF
Josh Gibson, C
Buck Leonard, 1B
Mule Suttles, DH
Turkey Stearnes, RF
Tubby Scales, 2B
Christobal Torriente, LF
King Richard Lundy, SS
For newcomers, I’m familiar with all of these guys, having managed them in a simulated season — but there, they were all spread out across sixteen different teams.
GAME ONE (All Games Played at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh)
The coin is flipped, Ty Cobb yells “Heads!” but it comes up Tails. Josh Gibson smiles, shakes Ty’s hand, and says, “We’ll be the home team.” And so they are, for games One and Two, and if necessary, Six and Seven. Cobb signals for Walter Johnson, the DB starter, to give it a rest. Gibson waves Cyclone Williams toward the mound.
Williams works his way thru the Deadballers lineup carefully, giving up a walk in the first, a single to Lajoie in the second, then a single and a walk in the third, but ho runs. In the 4th, singles by Lajoie and Baker but they come with two out and Williams fans Bresnahan, his third K. His second K was a called third to start the inning, Honus Wagner arguing the call too long, and getting ejected as a result.
But Walter Johnson has started off with four goose-eggs, too, giving up just three hits, two to Judy Johnson. In the top of the fifth, Williams serves up a mistake-ball to Hugh Duffy, who deposits it into the lower deck down the right field line, and the Deadballers are up 1-0 on, of all things, a home run. Cobb follows with a shot to right but Turkey Stearnes hauls it in on the run. Williams then fans Speaker and Thompson. Walter gives up a two-out triple to Torriente in the fifth, but gets Lundy to bounce out, and the game starts to feel like a 1-0 affair.
Then without warning, the Deadball offense erupts. Unable to score more than three runs in any inning in the whole series versus the Sluggers, the “Little Guys” show they can explode. It goes like this: Eddie Collins, who took over for the Ejected Dutchman (Lajoie moved to short), walks and steals. Delahanty tries to bunt him over, but he draws a walk, too. Now Lajoie is bunting, but he fouls off two attempts, and gets the sign to swing away. He does, launching a triple into the LC gap to score two. Baker singles him in and steals while Bresnahan draws a walk. Duffy, who homered last inning, bunts them up a base. Cobb gets the intentional pass — it’s still just 4-0, and a DP ball from Speaker will keep it that way.
But the Gray Eagle sends Williams to the showers with a bases-clearing triple to center; 7-0. Enter Leroy Matlock, who gets Thompson on a fly to right, but Speaker streaks home, 8-0. Eddie Collins in up again, and this time he singles. Ed Delahanty doubles him in, and Lajoie’s second triple of the inning plates the ninth run of the half-inning, giving the Train a 10-0 lead.
Ray Brown and Willie Foster come on to hold the Deadballers to just two more runs, both in the ninth after two were out, and both driven in by Cobb, who had been 0-for-4. So Game One ends 12-0, but it could easily have been much closer.
Walter Johnson notches a 7-hit shutout, but he had lots of help, from his defense and Lady Luck. With two on and one out in the first, Buck Leonard scorched a ball to right but Lajoie leaped and snared it and made an unassisted DP. With a runner on second in the third, Lundy lined to Lajoie who fired to Wagner for another DP. Gibson singled to start the fourth and took off on a hit-and-run, only to have Leonard line to Eddie Collins, and then flip to first, a third DP in four innings. Josh Gibson ended the sixth with a mundane 6-4-3 DP, and fittingly, the game ended with Gibson on third in the ninth, having tripled, and Buck Leonard lining to Baker, who turned his shot into — a DP. I think the word that fits best is “snake bit.” Those hard-hit balls that are converted from hits to two outs, are hard to overcome, and the Deadballers pulled off five.
I confess that before this game, I was already thinking ahead to making up a team of Deadballers and Sluggers, that would more closely match offenses with the Negro League stars. And I might do that. But this game showed that the Deadballers can play with these legendary supermen of what Ken Burns called Shadowball.
It was a rout — easier to accept, in many ways, than a close loss. Buck O’Neil dominates the post-game interviews, no one can dampen his enthusiasm, he’s just happy to see all these fine fellows on the same diamond, and watch out tomorrow because ol’ Satchel will be tossin’.
Satchel indeed is on the hill as Game Two starts. His mound opponent, as they say, is Three Finger Brown. I guess if you could pick two pretty good duelers, Brown and Paige would not be a bad choice.
Satchel catches breaks in both the first and second innings, when the Deadballers put runners on (Cobb & Wagner singling), but both times by starting the runners, on the hit-and-run, follow-up hits are turned into outs by the moving infielders. In the third, the Deadballers break on top when Duffy doubles and Cobb knocks him in. Speaker flies out, but then Cobb steals second, and comes home on Thompson’s single. Honus Wagner’s triple makes it 3-0.
Meanwhile, T-F Brown retires the first nine Negro Leaguers, Tubby Scales smash to Wagner being the closest they come to a hit. In the top of the 4th, Frank Baker doubles. Ray Schalk bunts him to third, and Cracker is safe when Josh Gibson’s throw to first goes into the dirt and Leonard can’t scoop it. Hugh Duffy follows with a clean hit to right, scoring Baker to make it 4-0, but Schalk is out at third on a nice throw by CF Pete Hill.
The Negro Leaguers finally get on the board in their 4th. With one out, Hill singles and steals, and after Brown fans Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard — frustrated yesterday — singles in the first NL run. Mule Suttle follows with an RBI double, it’s 4-2.
Satchel Paige, on the ropes early, settles in, retiring the Deadballers 1-2-3 in the 5th and 6th. His teammates tie the score in their 6th, when Hill doubles and Gibson whacks a long HR to left. It’s 4-4.
Top of the 7th, the visitors small-ball ahead. Duffy gets it started with a single and Cobb is called on to hit-and-run, and Ty finds the vacated hole with a precision single, first & third. Speaker flies to shallow left, no chance for Duffy to score, but Sam Thompson follows with a deeper fly to right, Stearnes throw is a hair late and it’s a 5-4 game.
Brown has regrouped after Gibson’s HR, and retires the next six batters. In the 8th, Judy Johnson singles but that’s it. So after eight innings, it’s 5-4. The Deadballers are looking for an insurance run in their ninth. Shoeless Joe Jackson pinch hits for Schalk, and lines a homer to right. 6-4. Duffy follows with jis fourth hit, a single, and Cobb forces him. Then Speaker connects and drills a double off the scoreboard in left, Cobb flies home and it’s 7-4. Paige reluctantly gives up the ball, Matlock takes over. Sam Thompson is looking for a fast ball and gets it on the first pitch, and rockets it into the upper deck in right, and the Deadballers are on top, 9-4. For Thompson, 4 RBIs.
Old Pete Alexander comes on to finish the game for Brown. He is greeted by a Mule Suttles shot that clears the 365′ mark in left. An out later, Tubby Scales whacks a curve in the stands in right, and it’s 9-6. But Alex fans Torriente, and after Lundy works a walk on 3-2, Judy Johnson goes down on three high hard ones. The Negro Leaguers needed a rally, and sometimes a double or triple does more to get one started than a homer. Oh well.
So the Deadballers go up 2-zip in games. This loss must feel better for Buck O’Neil, who is still smiling for the cameras long after the field has emptied of players. No snake bites — no DPs at all. And the hitters are starting to get the solid part of the bat on the ball. That four-run ninth was a bit demoralizing, but 9-6 is better than 12-0 any day.
Again, the saying of Charles Schultz (or Charlie Brown) comes to mind: “There is no heavier burder than a great potential.” And all of these players have that great potential, every time they come to bat, or toss a pitch. The fact is that in every All Star Game, there is a winning and losing team. Buck O’Neil is right to smile. He just enjoys watching the action.
The Deadballers are the home team, and send Big Ed Walsh to the mound. The Negro Leaguers counter with Richard “Cannonball” Redding. Both pitchers give up first-inning hits, but no runs.
The visitors get on the board first, Cool Papa Bell swatting a solo HR in the second. Redding fans two in a hitless bottom of the inning. With one out in the third, Pete Hill singles and on a hit-and-run, Josh Gibson singles him to third. Buck Leonard’s long fly to left scores Hill, and Mule Suttle follows with a single. Now it’s Cool Papa up again, and this time he whacks a triple to left, scoring both runners and giving his team a 4-0 lead.
Roger Bresnahan leads off the home third and bounces to the right side, Leonard feeds it to Redding covering, and the Duke of Tralee is out by a hair … but so is Redding, he’s pulled a muscle, and has to leave the game. Jimmy Newberry warms up and is greeted by infield singles by Duffy and Cobb. Then Tris Speaker clears the bases with a patented double, 4-2. Sam Thompson rips a hit up the middle, but Pete Hill guns down Speaker at home.
With two out in the 4th, Newberry gives up a hit to Eddie Collins, and Bresnahan doubles Cocky home, 4-3. The NLers get the run back in their fifth, on Gibson’s single and Mule Suttles’ double. Visitors are up 5-3.
Arthur “Rats” Henderson replaces Newberry. Rats gives up four singles, to Cobb, Thompson, Wagner and Delahanty, before retiring the Deadballers, and now it’s 6-5 home team. Christy Mathewson took over from Walsh after Suttles’ hit, and Matty retires eight in a row. The streak is broken by Suttles, who leads off the 8th with a long HR that fades away somewhere over the left field wall. 6-6. Tubby Scales doubles with one out, but Matty gets out of the inning without further damage.
Henderson, tagged for four singles in the fifth, and two more in the sixth (no runs), suddenly finds his groove, and the Deadballers go down 1-2-3 in the 7th and 8th. Cy Young takes over for Matty as the ninth begins, and tosses his own 1-2-3. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Speaker singles. Thompson grounds out, moving Spoke to 2nd, and Honus Wagner is given a free pass. Henderson then gets Delahanty on a comebacker. Extra innings.
Buck Leonard walks to start the tenth, but is tossed out by Bresnahan, trying to steal second. Young then fans Suttle and Bell. In the home 10th, Frank Baker puts on the pressure right away with a double. Eddie Collins is up to bunt, a sure bet — but Cocky pops it up, Henderson grabs it and fires to second to nail Baker, two out, none on.
But Bresnahan singles, and Hugh Duffy cracks his fourth single of the day, sending Roger to third. When Duffy steals second, Cobb is walked. Henderson has pitched heroically — but now he faces Tris Speaker, and Speaker pulls one through the hole into right, ending the game, 7-6.
The Deadballers out-hit their opponents, 18-11, fifteen of the hits being singles, and three doubles. They are clearly taking advantage of that edge they have in pitching, and now I’m wondering why the folks who made up the APBA Negro League cards didn’t do some inflating of the pitchers’ grades, as they seem to have done for the hitters. Still, you can’t get a much closer game, and who knows, maybe it all hinged on that play by Redding that forced him out of the game (right before he could have upgraded a notch).
Buck O’Neil still smiles as he protects his clubhouse from the press. “It ain’t over yet, and my, my — did we see some baseball out there today?” He is right, of course, no one who was at this game would dream of asking for a refund. This one took ten innings, but seemed to go ‘way too fast.
The whole series seems to have gone too fast. The Deadballer fans fill the park, looking for a sweep. Smoky Joe Wood will take the mound first. The Negro Leaguers will send out Nip Winters, but Cannonball Redding says he’s feeling MUCH better and could throw some if necessary.
The visitors strike first. Mules Suttles doubles with one out in the second and after Bell grounds out, Tubby Scales pokes one down the line and it just makes it over the screen, 2-0. Winters starts strongly, retiring the side 1-2-3 in the first two innings, fanning three. Oscar Charleston homers to right to open the third, Wood walks two, but avoids further scoring. Winters turns in another 1-2-3 and it’s 3-0 after three.
Wood sets down the NLers in order in the 4th, fanning two. Duffy draws a walk to open the home 4th, the first runner Winters has allowed, but he’s quickly erased as Cobb’s shot is turned into a 4-6-3 DP. Then Speaker walks and races to third on the first Deadballer hit of the game, a single by Thompson, but Honus Wagner flies to left to end the threat.
Top of the 5th, Charleston singles and is forced by Pete Hill. Josh Gibson clouts a mammoth home run to make it 5-0. Joe Wood walks Buck Leonard, and Iron Man McGinnity comes in from the pen, to retire Suttles and Bell and end the inning. Sam Crawford, giving Ed Delahanty a rest, starts the home 5th with a single, and steals second. Nap Lajoie promptly singles to right, ending Winters’ shutout try. Scales make a great stop and throws out Baker, and Bresnahan grounds out, too. But Hugh Duffy hits one down the line in right, and it sneaks over the screen (right where Tubby’s landed), and it’s 5-3. Cobb pounces on the stunned pitcher with a single and steal and Speaker walks, but Winters regroups and fans Sam Thompson.
McGinnity retires the side in order in the top of the sixth, and his teammates small-ball a run for him in the bottom. Cannonball Redding has taken over the mound duties. Honus Wagner singles to left, steals, moves to third on Crawford’s bouncer to first, and the Dutchman flies home on Lajoie’s long fly to center. 5-4.
Oscar Charleston doubles to start the 7th, his third hit, and Hill moves him over a base on a grounder to Lajoie. The infield pulls close, and Josh Gibson raps it hard but right at Nap Lajoie, who tosses home to nail Oscar. In the home 7th, Redding walks Bresnahan, and Hugh Duffy rips one down the left field line, and it clears the wall, a two-run dinger to put his team up 6-5. Leroy Matlock takes over, and retires Cobb, Speaker and Thompson in order. But time is running out.
McGinnity needs six more outs, and he gets two of them right away, striking out Suttles and Bell. But Scales rips a double. Monte Irwin pinch hits, and draws a walk. Rap Dixon is sent up to swing for Lundy, but Dixon’s long fly is hauled down by Duffy. Matlock gives up just a harmless single in the home 8th, and it comes down to the ninth. Oscar Charleston’s bid for a fourth hit is caught on a line by 3B Baker, one out. Pete Hill walks, and if Josh Gibson can do it again — but he grounds to short; Hill was moving and there’s no DP. Buck Leonard stands in against the Iron Man, runs the count full, then swings and — misses. The final is 6-5, the Deadballers have pulled off the sweep.
The hits were even today, a first, and like the last two contests, this game could have gone either way. The visitors left seven men on base, the home team just five, but two of those guys in visiting gray had made it to third. There were other little things: Scales was retired in the sixth on a great play by Wagner, so he was not on base when Charleston doubled.
Buck O’Neil is signing autographs for the media, chatting up a storm. It is easy to imagine both teams getting together after this series and having a dinner in a restaurant full of food and jazz and not leaving till the joint closes. The next day, everyone is back at the park for a cookout — chicken at the grill on first, ribs on second, steaks on third, catfish at home. It’s a family affair, no reporters. The Sluggers are there wit their families, too.
Because this series was so short, and the games so close (after Game One), I just have to let these two teams go at each other again. But this time, I will over-rule the APBA pitching grades. All pitchers will start the series as Grade A’s, and go from there. I make the announcement over the P.A. at the height of the infield picnic, and the news is greeted with cheers all around. The Sluggers want to challenge the winners of the rematch, under the same conditions — I knew they would. And I think I see some friendly wagering going on — is that Bill Klem holding the money? I turn away, it’s only a game.