I have started a smaller project, which will utilize just 4 teams at a time. Any 4 teams from the history of MLB, 1901 to present. The 4 teams selected will play a 36-game season. The 4 teams selected will be from the same league, so either 4 National League teams or 4 American League teams at a time. I will alternate leagues, for each 4-team season I complete. I am starting with 4 NL teams. Whoever wins the 36-game NL season, will wait to play the champion of the 36-game AL season. The project will allow the winner of the league, to not only play in a World Series, but then remain in the 4-team league for the next 36-game season for that league, with 3 new challengers. Stats will be kept using BallStat/BallScore (http://www.ballstat.com/). Records will be kept, season-to-season, all-time leaders, as the 36-game seasons are completed. I am hoping this will be a long continuous project, with many 36-game seasons rolled. 72 total games to complete one league is definitely attainable in a relatively short amount of time. In my case, with a 1965 full season replay going steady (367 games into the 1620 total to be played), semi-annual TCABT tournaments to be organized and played, and miscellaneous solo tournaments on the side (my 1973 tourney), not to mention getting in as much APBA Saddle Racing during the Spring and Summer months as I can, the 4-team league is just another project, in having a variety of options available, and to keep all projects fresh.
My first ABCL season will be 4 teams selected from the National League. I am not necessarily looking to select only teams deemed to be the greatest. In future seasons, I plan to mix in an also-ran here and there, a team worthy of a chance to play for a World Series opportunity, while maybe not winning their real-life season (the 1922 St. Louis Browns, the 1969 Chicago Cubs, etc). For this first season, I am choosing 4 NL teams from my Great Teams of the Past collection, the older style (no stats on the cards). APBA Game Co. produced 62 Great Teams originally, from the 1906 Cubs and White Sox to the 1975 Red Sox (released in 1985). The ’75 Red Sox were the last team produced of the original marketing of Great Teams of the Past by APBA Game Co. Fast forward to the 2000’s, APBA Game Co, marketed 60 “newly issued” Great Teams, which include many of the same teams as from the original 62 teams, but upgraded as far as “formula” and with the stats on the cards (APBA has had player stats on the cards since 2000), and 25 players per team instead of just 20 players per team. As I accomplish completing more 4-team seasons, I will include teams from stock seasons as well. But feeling nostalgic, to get things started, I wanted to use the old Great Teams of the Past.
I like to mix eras. While normalization works for some, I like the teams to be what they are, even when playing vs a team from a completely different era. In 1906, the HR leader was Tim Jordan of the Dodgers with 12 and Harry Davis of the Athletics with 12. If the 1906 season was “normalized” to an “average” season statistically, Jordan and Davis might hit approx 30 to 40 HR. But that is not what I am after with this league. I accept the fact that the teams are playing other teams, from other eras, whether pitching rich seasons like 1968 or slugfest seasons like 1930. The teams are what they are, and that is ok by me.
Here are the 4 teams I have selected for Season 1, NL:
APBA BASEBALL CHALLENGE LEAGUE – SEASON 1
1953 Brooklyn Dodgers
1906 Chicago Cubs
1969 New York Mets
1927 Pittsburgh Pirates
Note: The schedule comprises of a 36-game season, with each team playing the other 3 teams in the league, 12 times (6 home, 6 away). I have the schedule being played with 2-game series, so each team plays 6 2-game series vs each team.
1953 Brooklyn Dodgers
W: 105 L: 49 PCT: .682
The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers are typically considered the best Brooklyn Dodger team of all-time, although they failed to win the World Series in ’53, vs the New York Yankees. The lineup was strong 1 thru 8. The defense was strong up the middle, at the corners and behind the plate. They finished 13 games ahead of the 2nd place Milwaukee Braves in ’53. They averaged 6.2 runs per game, and gave up 4.4 runs per game. Meaning on average they outscored their opponent by almost 2 runs per game, which is quite remarkable. Their one Achilles heel is their pitching. The staff ace is Carl Erskine, who at 20-6 with a 3.54 ERA, had a terrific season.
(Erskine, Grade BX)
But when you look at the rest of the rotation, the next best ERA was Johnny Podres with a 4.23 ERA. He started only 18 games and was their 5th starter. For the ’53 Dodgers, an ERA of 4.50 meant you were still going to win games. After all, you are going to see 6.2 runs per game on average from your offense. Note, I will always be using a 4-man rotation for each team, based on actual number of starts, but if each team has a 5th starter who made a significant number of starts, they will also start a few games in place of the #4 starter.
1953 Dodgers Pitching Rotation (based on actual starts made):
Carl Eskine – BX
Russ Meyer – CYZ
Billy Loes – DZ
Preacher Roe – CYZ
(5th) Johnny Podres – DYW (will spot start for Roe)
Clem Labine – C(B*)Z
Jim Hughes – B*Y
Bobo Milliken – CY (longer relief)
Offensively, the home runs piled up in bunches, with the Dodgers totaling 208 HR for the 1953 season. Duke Snider led all Dodger sluggers with 42 HR. Roy Campanella hit 41. Gil Hodges hit 31 and Carl Furillo hit 21.
The Dodgers had 8 players with 10 or more HR. My league will use the DH as well. While I am not necessarily “pro-DH”, I do not have a problem with the DH either. And since the version of the 4 Great Teams of the Past I have selected only have 20 players per team, the bench is limited for late game pinch-hitting for the pitcher, etc. So I decided I would use the DH, which also allows for getting another player into the lineup on a regular basis. For the 1953 Dodgers, their main DH will be Wayne Belardi (Bats: Left), who in 180 PA, hit .239 with 11 HR and will face more RHP. Bobby Morgan (Bats: Right, 232 PA) and George Shuba (Bats: Left – 189 PA) will also see time at DH, depending on what handed pitcher is starting vs the Dodgers. Although APBA Basic does not take into account the RvsR, LvsL, match-ups (except for certain relief situations), I like to platoon that way (RvsL, and LvsR), when it comes to realistic use of players and how they were typically used in real-life as opposed to just playing “APBA-ball” and letting the best card hit, in my solo projects.
(DH Dilemma: Belardi – Morgan – Shuba)
Defense in the Major Leagues and APBA, are often overlooked. This Brooklyn Dodger team can field. Which means more outs, for their less than stellar pitching staff. Roy Campanella was not just an offensive dynamo. He is rated C-9, 9 being the highest rating for a catcher in the APBA Basic game. At first base, Gil Hodges is a 1B-5, 5 being the highest rating for a 1stbaseman. Jim Gilliam is at 2nd base, with a rating of 7, 7 is considered Fielding Two, with 9 being the highest rating for a 2ndbaseman. The ever dependable Pee Wee Reese is at SS, with a 9 rating, also Fielding One, with 10 being the highest possible rating for a SS. At 3rd base, is Billy Cox. Cox is rated as a 3B-6, with 6 being the top rating at the hot corner. To put the 6 in perspective, 5 is also considered Fielding One in APBA for a 3rdbaseman. One of the greatest fielding 3rdbaseman of all-time was Brooks Robinson, and Brooks was a 3B-6 for almost every APBA card he appeared on. This infield, is one of the highest defensive rated infields in APBA card history. With Duke Snider and Carl Furillo both an OF-3, with a 3 being the highest rating for an outfielder, you complete a very strong up-the-middle defense, as well as outfield defense.
(3B-6, Cox / SS-9, Reese)
I have yet to mention my favorite player from this Dodgers era, and this 1953 team, Jackie Robinson. While the lineup card included with this ’53 Dodgers squad has Jackie batting clean-up, I will most likely have Jackie Robinson leading off. Jackie has the highest OBP on the team, at .425. And while his 17 stolen bases did not lead the team (Reese stole 22), his “F” rating for base-running, with an “11” at dice roll “15”, the “7” on dice roll “22” and “44”and his overall ability to get on base (5 “14’s” and a “22”) while still hitting for power (53 XBH), he fits the lead-off slot better than anyone else. He was also blessed with 3 “31’s” on his card, so the H&R is a matter of getting the right runner on-base in front of him. Jackie also has the ability to play 5 different positions in the field.
(A signature slide from Jackie)
(1953 Jackie Robinson APBA card)
1953 Brooklyn Dodgers Schedule:
Games 1-2, (13-14, 25-26): ’53 Dodgers at ’27 Pirates
Games 3-4, (15-16, 27-28): ’53 Dodgers at ’06 Cubs
Games 5-6, (17-18, 29-30): ’69 Mets at ’53 Dodgers
Games 7-8, (19-20, 31-32): ’27 Pirates at ’53 Dodgers
Games 9-10, (21-22, 33-34): ’06 Cubs at ’53 Dodgers
Games 11-12, (23-24, 35-36): ’53 Dodgers at ’69 Mets
APBA BASEBALL CHALLENGE LEAGUE – SEASON 1:
(Up next, the 1906 Chicago Cubs)