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Soccer, mostly, but some other stuff, too

APBA32: The Philadelphia Story

Just over a third of the way through my APBA Baseball mini-replay of the 1932 season, both of Philadelphia’s teams are in first place1. In all the time2 the teams shared the market, the closest they came to both finishing first was in 1913, when the A’s won the AL pennant and the Phillies finished second, 12 and a half games behind the Giants. Two years later, when the Phillies lost to the Red Sox in the World Series, Connie Mack’s dismantled club finished dead last, 58 and a half games out. In 1928, when the A’s finished second a year before starting a three-year pennant run, the Phillies finished eighth, 51 games off the pace. The normal distance between the two clubs’ fortunes far exceeded the distance between their two ballparks, which were only separated by a few city blocks.

In real life in 1932, the Athletics finished 13 games behind the pennant-winning Yankees, and, as has been noted before, it’s easy to see why they were a very, very good team. The Phils, meanwhile, finished fourth in the actual 1932 campaign, going 78-76 under Burt Shotton, and it’s also easy to see why: they scored a league-high 844 runs3, but their pitching staff gave up a league-high 796 runs4. Early on in this 42-game sprint, though, the Phils’ offense is a juggernaut and their team ERA is a majors-best 2.265. With three of the NL’s top five hitters (Don Hurst, Chuck Klein and Hal Lee), the Phillies are crushing it, having scored a league-high 83 runs, helping them sweep each of their last two series. On June 17 in the replay, Philadelphia rallied with three in the bottom of the ninth to beat St. Louis 6-5 and maintain a two-game edge atop the league standings.

The A’s, meanwhile, took advantage of St. Louis’ 8-6 win over New York and moved into a first place tie with the Yankees6 with a 7-1 thumping of the hapless Red Sox in Boston. Mack’s men also lead the league in runs scored, but by only five over Ruth and company, and their pitching staff’s 2.98 ERA is the best in the American League. Roy Mahaffey (2-0, 1.00) leads the league in ERA, but Lefty Grove is third at 1.33 (and is 3-0) and Rube Walberg is sixth at 2.09 (to go with a 4-1 record). It would be an upset if either Philadelphia team were able to outpace the real-life pennant winners, the Yankees and Cubs, but part of the fun of a mini-replay is that almost anything can happen.

In other games on June 17, the Senators crushed the White Sox 17-1 and the Tigers pummeled the Indians 12-5, while the Braves finished a sweep of the Reds to stay within two games of the Phillies.

Results, standings and notes after the jump.

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Schmeling Fells Louis!

blog_schmeling_louisNEW YORK, June 22, 1938 Max Schmeling became the first man to regain the world heavyweight championship tonight by beating reigning champion Joe Louis by fifth-round TKO in front of 72,000 fans at Yankee Stadium.

Schmeling, who came into the fight a 3-to-1 underdog, was in control from the outset, landing repeated jabs to Louis’ head and body in the first two rounds. One knocked the champion to the canvas for a five count in the second and another tore a gash in Louis’ mouth.

Louis – in his fourth title defense – recovered and got back in the fight by doing some damage with crosses while withstanding more blows from the German in the third and using jabs and uppercuts to score direct hits to Schmeling’s body in winning the fourth.

But the fifth round was all Schmeling as he came out the aggressor and landed punch after punch to Louis’ body and head. While Louis tried to cover up and hold on until the bell, Schmeling scored with a late flurry of two right jabs and a left cross late in the round that prompted referee Arthur Donovan to step in and stop the fight.

It marked the second time in two years that the Black Uhlan from the Rhine bested the Brown Bomber at Yankee Stadium, following the 12th round knockout that was Louis’ first-ever defeat on June 19, 1936. With the world title back in his possession, Schmeling’s record now stands at 53-7-4, while Louis is now 35-2 as a professional.
Regular readers know of my hobby of sports simulations, primarily using the APBA baseball and football games. I recently acquired a vintage (1979) copy of Title Bout, a boxing game featuring hundreds of fighters from throughout history, and while I’m not a big fan of the Sweet Science, the game is fun and it’s cool to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of immortal fighters of the past and replay some of the sport’s greatest bouts.

The story above recounts my first effort, a replay of the famous Louis-Schmeling fight of 1938. In real life, Louis avenged his knockout defeat of two years previously by crushing Schmeling and knocking him out just two minutes into the first round. But Schmeling was a strong fighter – he would finish with a record of 56-10-4 with 40 KOs and was world champion from 1930-1932 – and everything went right for him in my replay.

Schmeling’s boxing career was interrupted by World War II, in which he served as an elite paratrooper in the German Luftwaffe. He died in 2005, seven months shy of his 100th birthday and 24 years after the passing of Louis (with whom he had become friends after their history-making bouts).

What other bouts – either actual historic fights or what if? matchups – would you like to see?

APBA32: One Day In The Sun

blog_who_is_jim_mclaughlinMoonlight Graham‘s birthday was just the other day, but the real-life former ballplayer immortalized (and fictionalized) in the classic film Field of Dreams was far from the only One Game Wonder in major league history.

Another was Jim McLaughlin (left), whose lone big-league at bat for the St. Louis Browns came on April 18, 1932 in Detroit. Despite his limited playing time, McLaughlin received a card from APBA in the 1932 set. While he was apparently released by his hometown Browns not long after that game, I’ve kept him on St. Louis’ roster in the replay because I was looking for a way to get him into one game, for one at-bat, but without forcing it.

That opportunity came on June 16 when the Browns hosted the mighty New York Yankees at Sportsman’s Park. The first-place Bronx Bombers had taken an early 5-0 lead and Browns’ thirdbaseman Lin Storti had just singled with two out in the bottom of the second. With shortstop Jim Levey batting, Storti was caught stealing second, argued the call and was ejected from the game. It seemed like the perfect excuse for Browns’ manager Bill Killefer to yell down to the end of the dugout, “McLaughlin! Grab your glove and go in and play third!”

McLaughlin recorded an assist to end a 1-2-3 inning pitched by Bump Hadley in the top of the third, and probably would not have expected to come up in the bottom half of the inning. But the Browns scored four runs on five hits and a walk off Danny MacFayden, bringing McLaughlin to the plate with two on and two out. He hit a fly ball to Ben Chapman in left field for the final out of the inning, then came out of the game in a double switch that saw Ed Grimes come in at third base and Sam Gray replace Hadley on the mound. The Browns tied the game in the sixth, but lost after Lou Gehrig hit a tiebreaking home run in the eighth off Chad Kimsey.

I have written about McLaughlin before (and received a response from a niece, a baseball umpire!) because I was fascinated by his story. A 30-year-old longtime minor-leaguer (and a pretty good one) who gets one and only one plate appearance in the majors and drives in a run on a groundout before slipping into obscurity? That’s the kind of ephemera I love.

With the June 15 deadline for teams to get down to 23-player rosters (a Depression-era cost-cutting measure), McLaughlin will depart my replay with his absolutely spot-on .000 season (and lifetime) batting average. The Browns (who finished sixth at 63-91 in the actual 1932 season) are a surprising 7-7 at this point in the replay, and are hitting .314 as a team! Of course, their pitching staff has a 6.00 ERA, hence the .500 record.

APBA often imitates art, and this one at-bat ballplayer is just another example.

In other games, the A’s missed a chance to tie New York for the top spot in the AL ahead of their upcoming clash at Yankee Stadium, the Phillies stayed hot and in first place in the NL and the Braves and Reds played the longest game of the season to date. Results, standings and notes after the jump.

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Splitsville, Six Years Later

Six years ago today, a group of soccer team owners broke ranks from United Soccer Leagues (USL) with the intent of creating their own league. The drama that played out over the next several months1 gave birth to what we now know as the second division North American Soccer League (NASL), brought forth rigorous (some would say draconian) standards for USSF’s professional divisions and helped shape the lower-level soccer landscape as it exists today.

To mark the anniversary, I gathered three reporters who cover the lower divisions for a roundtable discussion of the impact of The Great Schism of ’09 and what the future holds given the events of the last six years.

The participants:

  • Brian Quarstad, whose former website Inside Minnesota Soccer was the resource for news and information on the business side of the lower divisions of the game for years, and who now blogs for Northern Pitch.
  • Neil Morris, who has covered the NASL and the Carolina RailHawks since 2009 for Indy Week in Durham, NC, Top Drawer Soccer and, more recently, for
  • Brendan Doherty, who has covered the Rochester Rhinos and USL for his site, and writes for The Bent Musket.

The discussion begins after the jump. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

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Taking Attendance 11/1/2015: NASL Sets DII Record, Up 7 Percent

With the North American Soccer League season ending earlier today, all three divisions of the men’s pro outdoor game in this country1 have completed their regular seasons, and each has set a new average attendance record for their level. The NASL’s final (unofficial2) average of 5,913 broke their own Division II record set last year (of 5,521) and represented a 7 percent rise from 2014. The league got a big boost from its clubs in Florida and Ottawa and has become – largely3 – a stable, though unspectacular4 second division.

First, the numbers. Then, after the jump, some notes and analysis. (Note: the last column here is the percentage change in average from a year ago for each team except for Jacksonville.)

Team G Total Average Median High Low Diff
Indy Eleven 15 147,139 9,809 9,866 10,524 8,500 -6.3%
Minnesota United 15 131,499 8,767 9,077 9,418 5,890 +8.4%
Jacksonville Armada 15 118,908 7,927 7,163 16,164 5,652 N/A
San Antonio Scorpions 15 101,043 6,736 7,087 8,053 4,105 -0.3%
Tampa Bay Rowdies 15 84,714 5,648 5,493 7,010 4,217 +24.1%
Ottawa Fury 15 77,464 5,164 5,175 6,899 3,023 +15.0%
New York Cosmos 15 75,927 5,062 4,503 12,550 3,326 +2.0%
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 15 67,627 4,508 3,819 11,691 1,278 +24.3%
Carolina Railhawks 15 67,520 4,501 4,180 7,217 2,998 -1.1%
Atlanta Silverbacks 15 60,366 4,024 4,111 5,511 2,302 -0.7%
FC Edmonton 15 43,329 2,889 2,986 4,240 1,112 -14.7%
NASL TOTAL 165 975,623 5,913 5,279 16,164 1,112 +7.1%

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The Fishing Line: Casting For Positives

Tampa Tarpons“Too little, too late” was the refrain for the Tampa Tarpons after a 10-10 month that was their first non-losing one since June. Needing to go on a tear to have any hope at a postseason berth, the Tarpons squandered numerous chances to pick up extra games in the standings. At 62-78 and 7 games out of the sixth and final playoff spot with just 18 games to play, dreams of the postseason are all but dead.

October began with a 3-2 home series win over the Rednexx in which Dee Gordon hit .316 (6-19) with four steals and Miguel Angel Gonzalez returned to the rotation with a two-hit complete game. But a furious comeback in the ninth inning of the fifth and final game fell short, with Miguel Cabrera striking out with the tying run at second to end the game. What could have been a 4-1 series win became a slightly disappointing 3-2 result.

Then it was off to Roseville, and the set with the Devils started with Tampa taking the first two games. But a crushing 6-5 defeat in 11 innings in the fourth game kept the Tarpons from a potential series win. (The loss was the Tarpons’ sixth in eight extra-inning games to that point of the season.) Cabrera had a series for the ages (which the Devils’ manager called the best he’d seen in 30+ years in TSL), going 12-for-22 with 3 doubles, 3 home runs and 11 RBI in the set.

Back home against the Strokers, the Tarpons dropped the first game but won the next two late. Marlon Byrd’s two-run error with two out in the bottom of the ninth of game two gift-wrapped a 6-5 Tampa victory, and an eighth-inning sacrifice fly in game three gave the home team a 2-1 win. The next night, however, the normally reliable Al Alburquerque blew a save opportunity and Ryan Howard’s 11th inning pinch-hit home run gave California a 3-2 win, the same count by which they would win the series. That dropped the Tarpons’ home record to an even 35-35 on the season.

A five-game set in Nevada against the Warthogs ended the month, and Tampa took three of the five games, capped by a 3-2 win in the finale that improved the club’s road record to 27-43.

October’s hitting stars included Cabrera (who hit .367 – 29 for 79 – with 5 homers, 17 RBI and 10 runs scored and won his second Player of the Month award), Adam Lind (who returned from the disabled list and hit .303 and slugged .515 in 9 games) and Justin Ruggiano (.333 with 20 total bases in 8 games). With staff ace Adam Wainwright missing four starts because of shoulder tightness, starters went 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA (fill-in Anibal Sanchez got bombed to the tune of a 1-3 record and 8.76 ERA). Relievers – led by Steve Cishek’s 9 scoreless innings and James Russell’s 1-0, 1.93 ERA performance – were a bit better, going 3-2 with a 3.69 ERA and 3 saves.

The last month of the season will be an attempt to play spoiler and help determine who wins the division race, while finishing the season on a positive note. A winning month will be a tall order (it would be the first winning month in club history), but a goal worth shooting for in November. The Gamefish would need to go 17-1 to get to .500 on the season, but an 11-7 month would put them right at the .500 mark since the disastrous 4-16 mark in April.

It Came From The Seventh Grade

I found I still had these in the archives…a series of print ads done by the St. Louis Steamers of the Major Indoor Soccer League back in 2004 after they were saved from extinction by a couple of local businessmen. They decided to turn the traditional method of marketing indoor soccer on its ear with some decidedly non-traditional ads and a reality TV show (which I never saw, but which I heard wasn’t going to win any Emmys). You can see more of the ads after the jump.

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Straighten That Cap, Bend That Brim, Clean That Thing Off

Completing a three-post arc for old white guys, here are examples of the single worst fashion trend in Major League Baseball: the skewed cap.

The common thread in the Skewed Cap, Civil War Re-Enactor Beard and Idiotic Necklace trends is this: you look like dorks.

What Are Major League Players Wearing Around Their Necks?

Almost as bad as the Civil War re-enactor beard trend in Major League Baseball is the proliferation of necklaces. Gold chains, ropes and other ridiculous-looking accoutrements are the order of the day in 2015, perhaps more so than ever.

With the World Series underway, please to enjoy this collection of three dozen baseball chains.

Taking Attendance 10/26/2015: MLS Up 13%, Draws Seven Million, Averages 21k

NOTE: Thanks to Neil Morris for the shoutout and thanks to alert readers for helping track down the Columbus Crew Discrepancy. Numbers will change slightly after I re-run them, but the gist remains.

Sunday was #decisionday in Major League Soccer (though not much was decided – what are you gonna do?), and the final day of the 2015 campaign saw MLS officially become the first Division I league in this country to average more than 20,000 fans per game1 and the first to draw a total of seven million fans in a season.

That’s the good news. I’ll have the other side of the coin after we look at the final numbers (which include the percentage change in average over each team’s 2014 crowds), after the jump.
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