July 10, 2020

‘Fros, ‘Stros, ‘Spos, and Discos: Play That Funky Baseball

March 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

When my good friend, fellow Seamhead, and self-proclaimed “Strat-O-Matic fanatic” Jeff Polman turned me on to his latest project, I was instantly enthralled and excited.  I was already familiar with Jeff’s fantastic replay of the 1924 season, an era that’s right up my alley, but when I learned that he was going to be replaying the 1977 season, I couldn’t wait for him to get started.  I was only nine years old when the ’77 campaign got under way and turned 10 only 20 games in.  Though I recall bits and pieces of previous seasons and events—I knew the Oakland A’s were good; I knew who Nolan Ryan was; I remember Luis Tiant forgetting to step on home plate in the 1975 World Series; I remember Reggie Jackson going to Baltimore in 1976, and how disappointed I was when Bowie Kuhn voided the deal that would have brought Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi to Boston—1977 was the first year I was fully invested in baseball and it had quite an impact on me.

Oscar Gamble in all his afroed glory

Being a Red Sox fan, I was ecstatic that my team featured such a fearsome lineup that boasted five men who hit at least 25 homers and eight who reached double figures, and tied the A.L. record for home runs in a game when they blasted eight against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 4.  As a large kid who wanted to be a power hitter some day, I couldn’t have picked a better team to set an example that I could follow later (in fact, I ended up being the epitome of George Scott: overweight, could hit the ball a mile, struck out too much).

But enough about me, let’s get back to Jeff, or should I say Carlton B. Gip (aka, C. Buzz Gip), Jeff’s alter ego.  Many of us can wax nostalgic about sitting at our parents’ kitchen table and tossing dice, then recording the outcomes in our scorebooks, whether for Sherco’s Grand Slam Baseball, Strat-O-Matic, APBA, Pursue the Pennant, or the myriad of other games that have been created over the years, but Jeff takes this stuff to a whole new level, and in his deft hands it’s all very clever and quite humorous.

Carlton B. Gip (aka C. Buzz Gip)

Enter Carlton Bosworth Gip, a psychiatric patient at the fictional Squallpocket State Hospital in the equally fictional Squallpocket, Maine.  Gip, under the observation of Dr. Sheila H. Grossinger, believes he lives in a trailer, has been left by his significant other Pam who took their son Timmy with her, and was visited by “Men In Black” types who ordered Gip to replay the 1977 season using Strat-O-Matic cards and four glowing dice.

“These are called 4-D Cubes,” the Tommy Lee Jones look-a-like explains to Gip, “a new product we are secretly experimenting with, and they’ve been programmed to transport you virtually to the 1977 contest of your choice whenever you wish, for a more enriching and reliable experience.”

“I stared at him, the Sam Adams sloshing through my head. ‘Are you kidding me? I can actually go back to that amazing year and maybe see my Crunch Bunch win this time? And groove on all those awful uniforms? And not hear the word steroids even once?'”

“’Yes, Mr. Gip. We expect you to send us reports every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with occasional Twitter dispatches in between.’”

So far Gip has done just that, regaling readers with hip and far out reports from his alternate universe, while being carefully monitored by Grossinger.  Like C. Buzz, followers of Play That Funky Baseball are transported back in time almost instantly, the names of Carew, Hisle, Patek, Guidry, Bench, and Candelaria being shoved back into our consciousness.  And the teams are being led by friends and colleagues in the industry, including Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus (Yankees), Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski (Indians), writer, author and friend of Seamheads.com, Jonah Keri (Expos), Daniel Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Phillies), Seamheads’ own Ted Leavengood (Rangers), and a host of other writers and bloggers from across the Internet.

Opening Day blessed us with an epic 1-0, extra-inning battle between the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins, in which Dennis Leonard battled Dave Goltz to a draw before a John Mayberry single, stolen base by pinch-runner Willie Wilson, and RBI single by Frank White decided the contest in the bottom of the 10th.

Day two featured another barn-burner, this time between the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs tied the game at 2-2 in the fourth, but neither team could score again until the 12th when the Astros plated four in the top of the inning and the Cubs tallied one to make it more respectable at 6-3.  In Philadelphia, Pirates slugger Bill Robinson single-handedly pounded the Phillies for two homers and five ribbies in an 18-6 shellacking.  Meanwhile Grossinger reports about Gip’s odd behavior—”Mr. Gip has seemingly stabilized, and spends his every waking moment seated at his little table by the window on the west side of Ward Five, his right hand making a ‘dice-rolling’ motion while his left ‘keeps score’ on a blank legal pad.”

And so it’s gone through the first seven, eight or nine games, depending on which team you’re looking at.  At 3-6 my Red Sox are staring up at six teams from their seventh-place perch and sit only a game and a half out of last place (Jeff is using only eight teams per league in this 16-team adventure).  In the cellar resides the lowly and cursed Minnesota Twins, who, after starting the season at 1-7, recently hired Father Augustus Rallycappus, “the famous spiritual sports consultant, to cast out an apparent demon possessing the bats, balls, and dice at ancient Metropolitan Stadium.”

Father Augustus Rallycappus surveys the scene outside demonically-possessed Metropolitan Stadium, soiling himself while he decides whether or not to enter

Apparently the Twins aren’t the only thing that’s possessed in Gip’s world, either.  Last night he was attacked by bed 14 patient Spano, who attempted to pilfer Gip’s dice.  Gip was knocked unconscious during the assault, but his injuries are not serious and he’s expected back in a few days.  Spano was transferred to “Chronic and Severe for minor electro-shock therapy.”  Sherman Wayman, formerly of Los Angeles and currently residing in bed 11, has taken over dice-rolling duties in Gip’s stead.  Unfortunately Wayman’s tosses aren’t doing my Sox any favors either; they lost a heart-breaker to the Orioles, 8-7, when Rick Wise served up a meatball that Doug DeCinces smoked over the Green Monster in the 15th.

Hopefully Gip or the Men In Black come up with a solution soon.  I don’t think I can handle a whole fictional season of seventh-place baseball.  Get well soon, C. Buzz.

Mike Lynch is the author of Harry Frazee, Ban Johnson and the Feud That Nearly Destroyed the American League and It Ain’t So: A Might-Have-Been History of the White Sox in 1919 and Beyond, and the founder of Seamheads.com.

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