1981 World Series Replay Game 5

October 28th, 2014

1981 World Series programThe 1981 World Series is memorable for coming at the end of a season interrupted by a 59-day players’ strike, George Steinbrenner‘s bizarre maybe-it-happened-maybe-it-didn’t encounter with Dodger fans in an elevator and Dave Winfield’s 1-for-22 performance that set the stage for his owner later calling him “Mr. March.” My APBA replay of the 1981 World Series has been a memorable one, too. You can catch up on Games One, Two, Three and Four before you read all about how it wraps up after the jump.
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Taking Attendance 10/27/2014: MLS Up 3%, Sets New Record

October 27th, 2014

The 19th Major League Soccer season ended Sunday with a new record for total (6,184,980) and average (19,149) attendance, poising the league to potentially average 20k in its 20th season in 2015.

First the numbers:


Team G Tot. Avg. Med. Hi Lo Ch.
Seattle 17 743,485 43,734 38,976 64,207 38,441 -0.7%
Toronto 17 375,463 22,086 22,591 22,591 18,269 +21.9%
Los Angeles 17 361,392 21,258 20,847 27,244 14,615 -3.3%
Portland 17 353,838 20,814 20,814 20,814 20,814 +0.7%
Vancouver 17 346,943 20,408 21,000 22,500 17,183 +1.9%
Salt Lake 17 345,971 20,351 20,483 20,701 18,881 +5.9%
Houston 17 341,994 20,117 20,283 22,332 15,030 +1.0%
Kansas City 17 340,058 20,003 19,914 21,493 18,938 +1.5%
New York 17 330,162 19,421 20,176 25,000 13,278 -0.2%
Philadelphia 17 299,730 17,631 18,091 18,843 14,838 -1.3%
Montreal 17 296,159 17,421 16,665 27,207 13,916 -15.4%
DC 17 289,506 17,030 14,106 53,267 8,224 +24.8%
Columbus 17 286,976 16,881 17,517 21,318 11,121 5.0%
Dallas 17 285,880 16,816 16,792 21,182 14,601 +9.4%
New England 17 283,583 16,681 14,806 32,766 11,293 +12.4%
Chicago 17 273,293 16,076 16,228 18,776 12,699 +5.6%
Colorado 17 256,386 15,082 15,135 18,432 10,086 -2.3%
San Jose 17 254,098 14,947 10,525 50,006 9,114 +17.1%
Chivas USA 17 120,063 7,063 5,571 18,652 3,702 -15.6%
MLS TOTAL 323 6,184,980 19,149 18,679 64,207 3,702 +3.0%


Now, some notes and such:

  • Seattle led the league in attendance for the fifth straight year, though their average actually dropped slightly (less than 1%, nothing to be concerned about) for the first time. Overall, eight of the league’s 19 teams averaged over 20k, the first time that’s ever happened.
  • DC United was the biggest gainer from a year ago, as their average in 2014 was almost 25% ahead of 2013’s numbers. Toronto (up 22%), San Jose (up 17% thanks to a couple of marquee off-site games) and New England (up 12%) showed significant growth. Most of the other clubs were within a few percentage points of their performance of a year ago (we’re getting close to capacity in most of these places), but Chivas USA (who is no longer with us) dropped about 16% in their swan song season and Montreal was off 15%.
  • My number for Portland doesn’t match the league’s, because I believe they have a transposition error somewhere. The Timbers announced – to my knowledge, anyway – a capacity crowd of 20,814 for each of their 17 home league matches. That should result in a total of 353,838, but the league has them at 353,208. The error – 630 – is common when someone enters a number incorrectly. (My guess is someone entered one of Portland’s games as 20,184 instead of 20,814. The error is – wait for it – 630.) I have alerted the league, but they don’t usually listen to me, so we’ll see what happens.
  • With San Jose moving into its new stadium next year, Chivas going to the Great Beyond and New York and Orlando coming on board, there would seem to be a very good chance the league can draw 6,800,000 for its 340 matches in 2015. That would give it an average of 20,000 in its twentieth season. Not bad considering where we were 10 or 12 years ago.
  • October was the best average month (20,365), but they were all good (the low was April at 17,242).
  • Weekdays used to be scary. And there was great angst when the Friday night TV package was unveiled a few years ago. Now Monday-through-Thursday games averaged 16,269, while Friday through Sunday games averaged 19,579. And Friday was the best night of the week at 22,012 in a small sample (25 games). The real takeaway is that even Wednesdays aren’t a big problem anymore. And the difference between weekends and weekdays, once huge, has narrowed. (Just as a comparison, weekday games averaged under 10k from 1997-1999.)
  • The first 161 games averaged 18,524, while the last 162 averaged 19,970.
  • Home openers averaged 19,610. Home finales averaged 20,979.
  • National TV games – which were also scary, once, averaged 21,623.
  • As for the World Cup Effect, MLS averaged 18,497 before the World Cup (18,068 median), 20,338 during its knockout stages (19,633 median) and 19,492 after it (18,989 median). A mild statistical bump that we don’t usually see, but which could be attributed to many things.
  • Without Chivas USA as a drag, the league would still have drawn 6 million (6,064,917), but wouldn’t have averaged 20k (close, though – 19,820).

1981 World Series Replay Game 4

October 27th, 2014

1981 World Series programThe Yankees and Dodgers were meeting in the World Series for the third time in five years when they decided the champions of the strangest baseball season in memory in late October of 1981. A midseason strike that wiped out a third of the season resulted in a Frankensteinian playoff format that saw the Dodgers – who had the second-best overall record in the NL West – and Yankees – the fourth-best team overall in the AL East – emerge to play on the game’s biggest stage. With the outcome still up for grabs, we resume the story of my APBA replay of the 1981 Fall Classic with Game Four, which you can read about after the jump.
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1981 World Series Replay Game 3

October 26th, 2014

1981 World Series programAfter two exciting games in the Bronx in my 1981 World Series APBA replay, the scene shifted to Dodger Stadium, where LA had won six of their last eight going back to the end of the strike-interrupted regular season and 37 of 61 games overall. As if the excitement of the first World Series at Chavez Ravine since 1978 wasn’t enough, the Dodger faithful would be cheering on the electrifying lefthanded rookie, Fernando Valenzuela, who went 7-2 with a 1.57 ERA at home. The story of Game Three is after the jump.
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1981 World Series Replay Game 2

October 25th, 2014

1981 World Series programGame One of my APBA replay of the 1981 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees was an extra-inning pitcher’s duel, and as the teams took to the Yankee Stadium field for Game Two on Wednesday night, October 21, the question was whether the series would be tied heading to Los Angeles or if one team would take a commanding 2-0 lead. The pitching matchup featured a pair of veterans in LA’s Burt Hooton and New York’s Tommy John. Find out more after the jump.
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1981 World Series Replay Game 1

October 24th, 2014

1981 World Series programIt’s time for another World Series replay, courtesy of the APBA Baseball game. This time, we go back to 1981, where the infamous strike forced a strange split season and three-round postseason that was a harbinger of the system we have today. That October, the Yankees and Dodgers – no strangers to each other or to the Fall Classic – squared off despite having the tenth and fourth-best records overall in the interrupted regular season. The Yankees were without 1978 playoff hero Bucky Dent, as he was injured in late August. He won’t be playing in this replay, either, but many other stars will be, so, enjoy the first game after the jump.
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A Pointed Discussion

October 24th, 2014

An indoor soccer game

Did you know the indoor soccer season starts tomorrow? You probably did not. Even the handful of true aficionados of the six-a-side game with walls find themselves paying more attention to lingering drama from the offseason than excitement in thoughts of the new season.

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Bill Peterson Says Crazy Stuff, Vol. 584

October 22nd, 2014

The Commissioner of the North American Soccer League is a really special kind of crazy. He’s at it again, this time opining about how great the US Open Cup could and should be:

“Here is a chance to get three leagues and the amateurs involved and light up over 70-80 communities at once.” 

No, absolutely no communities get “lit up” over the first two rounds of the Cup when it’s Red Force against the Colorado Rovers.

“It has the capacity to be followed by the whole country.”

Absolutely ridiculous. The Super Bowl is followed by just over half the country.

“You have got 340 million people in the United States alone…” 

2013 estimate from the US Census bureau: 316M. Only off by 24 million. And it doesn’t matter, because there aren’t 340 million soccer fans.

“Why can’t our champions have a direct entry (to the CONCACAF Champions League)?” 

Because you’re a second division league and main continental competitions don’t give second-division leagues direct access. You want us to be just like Europe except when it benefits you.

If Lovie Smith Got Fired, It Wouldn’t Be Unprecedented, But Nearly So

October 14th, 2014

Lovie Smith courtesy Buccaneers.com

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-5 under new head coach Lovie Smith, and two of the five losses have been humiliating blowouts. Smith is in the first year of a four-year deal, and as the Bucs’ third head coach in the six years post-Jon Gruden, was supposed to bring stability to the position, so it’s unlikely he’ll get fired so quickly into his tenure. A handful of others haven’t been so lucky, though.

I wanted to see if any other NFL teams had fired a head coach during the coach’s first season with the team. (There have been several one-and-done guys who have been fired after their first – usually woeful – season, with Rob Chudzinski and Cam Cameron recent examples.)

Turns out you have to go back 36 years – to 1978 – to find instances where an NFL team cut bait with a new coach during his first season. And it happened twice that season.

George Allen Fired in 1978

The first is the all-time record, one that can only be topped in a Wally Backman-like circumstance. Los Angeles Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom fired George Allen after just two preseason games, saying he had made “a serious error in judgement (sic) in believing George Allen could work within our framework.” Allen’s training camp had been criticized by players for its long workouts and as many as five players had walked out for one reason or another during the preseason.

On November 1, 1978, the San Francisco 49ers fired first-year head coach Pete McCulley  – nine games into a three-year contract – after a 38-20 loss at Washington that dropped the Niners’ record to 1-8. Offensive coordinator Fred O’Connor finished out the 2-14 season, and San Francisco hired a guy named Bill Walsh for 1979. That worked out pretty well. McCulley – who kept coaching for another decade – died in 1992 at the age of 61.

I could only find two other instances of a current team firing its coach during his first season. Before McCulley, there was John Whelchel, a former Navy Vice Admiral hired by George Preston Marshall to coach the Washington Redskins in 1949. After a 3-3-1 start, Marshall set Whelchel adrift, despite him actually winning his final game, 27-13 at Pittsburgh on November 6. (Marshall was in a stretch where he went through six head coaches in seven years. In 1954, Marshall got into a hotel lobby argument with Curly Lambeau after the team’s third preseason game and fired Lambeau on the spot, replacing him with Joe Kuharich, who somehow lasted five seasons.)

And in November 1941, the Pittsburgh Steelers fired Aldo “Buff” Donelli, who had only been their coach for just over a month. Donelli had not started the season as the Steelers’ head man (Bert Bell had, but the future NFL commissioner had “resigned” under pressure after an 0-2 start), but had gone 0-5 to run the team’s record to 0-7. As Donelli was concurrently coaching the football team at his alma mater, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh (his Dukes would finish undefeated at 8-0), a weary then-NFL commissioner Elmer Layden forced Donelli to choose between assignments and the Steelers lost. As they would for most of the next three decades.

Besides Bell’s two-game stint at the helm of the Steelers in 1941, a handful of other coaches have resigned during their first seasons in charge of NFL teams:

  • LeRoy Andrews quit the Chicago Cardinals’ job after a season-opening 13-3 loss at Portsmouth on September 23, 1931.
  • Alvin (Bo) McMillan retired despite a 2-0 record as coach of the Eagles in 1951.
  • Sid Gillman, who had led the San Diego Chargers during the 1960s and then retired, lasted 10 games in a 1971 comeback before retiring again.
  • Lou Holtz decided 13 games in the pro ranks were enough when he bailed on the New York Jets in 1976 with a 3-10 record. He would surface at Arkansas in 1977…
  • …which is where Bobby Petrino high-tailed it to after quitting 13 games into his first season with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. That’s probably one Petrino wishes he had back, but not the only one.

Given the Bucs gave Greg Schiano two years (11-21) and Raheem Morris three (17-31), and neither of those two had NFL head coaching pedigrees even approaching Smith’s, it’s not likely Smith will be cleaning out his office anytime soon. But if it does happen, it won’t be the first time.

Down The Rabbit Hole With A Long-Dead Ballplayer

October 10th, 2014


I’ve recently acquired the 1932 set of APBA baseball cards, and while going through them, I found a very interesting story.

Apparently the St. Louis Browns of ’32 had a thirdbaseman named Jim McLaughlin (I stopped for a second because I have a friend with the same name.)

Turns out Mr. McLaughlin received a card for the Browns in that set, despite having just one plate appearance.

Also as it turns out, that was Jim McLaughlin’s only plate appearance in the major leagues.

Apparently in the late stages of a 14-7 loss to Detroit on April 18, 1932 at Navin Field, McLaughin – a St. Louis native who somehow found his way to the Browns after six years in the Pacific Coast League – either pinch-hit for or went into the field for thirdbaseman Red Kress (who had gone 0-for-4) and in his only at-bat, drove in a run on a groundout.

That was it. He never played again in the majors or (apparently) the minors.

One at-bat on a Monday afternoon in Detroit at the age of 30. A groundout. An RBI. A lopsided loss.

McLaughlin had a pretty good record in the PCL: He was a career .299 hitter, but his career was interrupted (by what, we don’t know) a couple of times. He played for Sacramento in 1924 and 1925 (that’s him pictured, above, in a Sacramento uniform), then disappeared in 1926 and 1927 before re-surfacing and hitting .310 with 10 homers for the Senators in 1928. He was a regular in Sacramento until 1931, but doesn’t seem to have played in 1932 before appearing on the roster of the Browns early in the 1932 season.

I’m intrigued by this guy I had never heard of until 15 minutes ago. How did he come to be with the Browns? (As you probably know, the Brownies were bad, but not unprecedentedly bad. They finished sixth in 1932 and had finished fifth the year before with an identical 63-91 record.) What was he doing in 1932? Why did his career have a break in 1926 and 1927? And why was he out of the game at 30?

Jim McLaughlin died December 15, 1968 at the age of 66 in Mount Vernon, Illinois and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery. He’s not even a footnote in the history of baseball. But he has an APBA card and, as of now, someone interested in finding out about him.

I’ve put the word out to some folks. I’ll let you know what I find.