Diehard, statistics-driven baseball fans are well aware of the original fantasy baseball game, Strat-O-Matic. For any reader who thinks I’m speaking martian, let me just briefly explain— this game allows baseball fans to use statistical data, complex formulas, and the roll of some dice to re-live a past baseball season. Baseball fiends like myself draft and manage teams comprised of all the players from that season. In my case, I have time traveled back to the 1948 National League season. This was the last season in which the Cleveland Indians won the world series, beating the Boston Braves.
So, imagine now that we are back in 1948; we are three years removed from WW II and americans are thirsty to put the memories of the early part of the decade behind them; baseball is at the height of it’s popularity; Harry Truman has pulled off a political upset by barely beating Republican Thomas Dewey to win the Presidency; families are piling into their Crosley Station Wagons; the first post-war Winter Olympics are being held in St. Moritz, Switzerland; Ted Williams is on his way to another batting title; and in Fantasy-Land, the National League has contracted into a six-team league with completely new ownerships, rosters and team names.
I am the proud owner of one of theses new teams, the BROOKLYN CABBIES. Harry Brecheen and Preacher Roe are the aces on my staff, while Bob Elliott and Jeff Heath anchor a lefty dominated lineup. The Cabbies play in Ebbets Field, where ‘Hebrew National’ hot dogs go for a nickel and watered down beer costs 2 cents. Ebbets Field is basically as it was, except I have installed adjustable foot rests and cushioned benches in the dugouts. A meditation hall is currently under construction behind the center field wall, so Cabbie relievers can have some quiet time during the later innings before they have to warm-up. Our opening series is at home against the PHILADELPHIA PACHYDERMS, owned by real estate baron Adam Janeiro. The uncouth and legendary John McGraw is their leader. Janeiro has established himself as a maverick by employing the first two African-Americans to play in the National League in 64 years- infielder Jackie Robinson and catcher Roy Campanella. Here now is a recap of the opening series as reported in the Brooklyn Eagle:
Enos Delivers Dagger As Bullpen Collapses In Brooklyn
Leading 7-3, with only two runs earned and four hits surrendered, Cabbie skipper Carl Shimkin lifted ace hurler Harry Brecheen after seven complete. The result was a mammoth bullpen collapse that led to six Pachyderm runs over the final two innings for a wild 9-7 opening day comeback victory.
The big blow came in the ninth with two out, two on and the Cabbies ahead by one.
Spiritual leader and Cabbie star pitcher Preacher Roe came into the game to face the always-clutch Enos Slaughter (in photo). Slaughter delivered the dagger, a three-run shot off the ‘Hebrew National’ facade in rightfield. Though the ball left the park, Slaughter rounded the bases as fast as he could and then in what appeared to be a warning shot to the rest of the league- slid into homeplate, demonstrating the Pachyderms’ relentless style. After the game a sullen Preacher softly said, "I threw a hanging curve and Enos was all over it. What can I say, except I really need to pray now. I’m in a lot of pain."
While the bullpen doomed the Cabbies late, the Brooklyn defense let them down early. Two Brooklyn errors, both by brilliant corner sacker Bob Elliott, accounted for three unearned runs. Manager Shimkin presided over a downbeat Brooklyn locker room, "We relaxed after Heath’s big shot [a two-run homer in the seventh], and the first two outs in the eighth. We learned a lesson today–you can’t relax against a good team like the Pachyderms. This one is on me, with Don lang on deck and a base open, I never should have let Roe face Enos."
Philadelphia made use of their deep pen after starter Monk Dubiel surrendered four runs in the first two innings, marching six men to the mound with Kirby Higbe getting the win, and Nels Potter gaining the save. Ken Heintzelman, who had a crucial wild pitch in the ninth, took the loss.
Cabbies Routed— Shimkin To Step Down As Manager
The Pachyderms stampeded the Cabbies yesterday afternoon on ‘Free Mustard Day’ at Ebbets Field. Philadelphia pounded out 13 hits on their way to an 8-1 rout. The Pachyderms have now taken a 2-0 series edge, with Brooklyn finale scheduled Friday.
The Cabbie bullpen was once again the culprit as Tiny Bonham, and Clint Hartung combined to give
up six runs over the final three innings to break the 2-1 game wide open. After the game, rumors floated throughout the evening that a Managerial change is imminent. Casey Stengel is likely to take over the reins after serving the first two games as a bench babysitter for Manager/Owner Carl Shimkin. In a hasty press release, Shimkin expressed self-doubt, and fatigue, "I’ve been involved in a lot of off-field stuff, negotiating the deal with ‘Hebrew National’, making team arrangements, and I’ve probably been stretched a little thin."
Meanwhile, Pachyderm Manager McGraw railed against complacency, "We didn’t come up here to get two wins, we came to get three. We’ll likely face Brecheen again, and we were lucky to beat him the first time–we have to close this series strong." Closing is one thing the Pachyderms seem to excell at in this early season- Pitchers, Rex Barney, Ken Raffensberger, Ewell Blackwell (in photo above), and Ted Wilks all tossed scoreless innings in relief of Johnny Schmitz who left after one inning with a blister.
Cabbies Swept At Home
A pattern seems to have emerged— steller Pachyderm relief pitching and late innings offense. This time the Philadelphians overcame a strong effort by Brooklyn starter Preacher Roe to win 4-3, on a ninth inning home run by Willard Marshall (in photo below). Before the game, Brooklyn officially installed Casey Stengel as their new manager. Said Casey, "We’re very close, with better defensive execution we can win in Philly."
The series now takes a day off, before resuming Monday at City Beautiful Ballpark. Brooklyn intends to bring Harry Brecheen back to the mound, while the Pac’ have penciled in Kirby Higbe. Marshall, who hit the game winner, reflected on the moment, "It was a long day. Up to that point I was 0-4, and Roe had struck me out twice. Enos [Slaugher] has had great success against Roe and he kept telling me what to look for. Finally, I got a hold of something." Gil Hodges, who singled twice, was one of the few Cabbies who addressed the media, "We all need the day off. They’re a tiring team to play against, there’s a lot of barking, a lot of goading."
Whereas the Pachyderms returned to Philadelphia late last night by rail, Brooklyn has–in another of Team President Carl Shimkin’s virtuoso marketing deals–unveiled a new fleet of luxury motor cars, painted hack yellow, in which the Cabbies will travel. In a good-will gesture, the Cabbies will pick up any fares trying to get to Philly for half-price.
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Carl the Cabbie