Great Western Lightning League — Round Four

Reno hits a bump, while Cambria and Merced have strong rounds to create a breakaway group of three teams at the top of the standings. Meanwhile, Sacramento appears to have won the race to the bottom, though woeful hitting in Fresno and Ventura could might yet offer the Solons hope.

El Centro Imperials 3-1Reno Silver Sox 1-3
Cambria Otters 3-1Las Vegas Wranglers 1-3
Fresno Tigers 0-4Mesa Moons 4-0
Sacramento Solons 1-3Merced Bears 3-1
Ventura Gulls 1-3Santa Cruz Crabs 3-1

Reno Silver Sox vs. El Centro Imperials

Nice bullpen effort from Imperials cools off the streaking Sox. Late-inning solo blast from Romero Yadier makes it two straight. The El Centro bullpen keeps it rolling as the series shifts to Reno; bench player Cameron Seagren with a two-run blast in the 11th to win it for the Imperials! Silver Sox bounced back with a half dozen runs in the final, more than enough runs for Max Murphy to go the distance and avert the sweep, but the Imperials still came away from Reno on a high from their biggest result of the year.

Cambria Otters vs. Las Vegas Wranglers

Otters jump all over Christian Mercado when he was forced to take the mound after Chico Loya was a late scratch. Cambria swept the home series and came into Las Vegas riding momentum and maybe starting to believe in themselves. Only Ramon Vergara’s near-perfect game for the Wranglers averted an Otters sweep, as Cambria claimed a share of first place in the Lightning League.

Fresno Tigers vs. Mesa Moons

The Moons were out-of-synch, but the Tigers were absolutely woeful, with their bullpen blowing both games in Fresno’s home half of the set. Back in the City Suburban Sportsdome, Mesa went for the kill, with Wally Bellard hurling a shutout, and the Moons launching six homeruns in the final two games of the series to secure the sweep.

Sacramento Solons vs. Merced Bears

Sacramento pitchers scatter 11 hits to beat a visibly unhappy Fumi Suzuki, 2-1. Bears bounced back to earn the split, but they had to go nine innings to break a scoreless tie. Bears pitching remained sharp at home, with Jonathan Petrie going the distance and striking out 10 to win 1-0, and allowing only one run in the final game of the series to finish their homestand on a three-game winning streak. Only nine total runs scored in this series.

Ventura Gulls vs. Santa Cruz Crabs

Gulls collapse in every aspect of the game in an embarassing 14-4 loss at home. Luis Orosco seemed to take that insult personally, dominating with eight strikeouts and only one hit allowed to lead the Gulls to a 1-0 bounce-back win, but Santa Cruz returned to form and won both games at home against a listless Gulls squad in what felt like a crossroads series for both teams.

Lightning Strikes — Merced Bears

Two questions leap to mind when considering the Merced Bears. First, how can Fumi Suzuki have an ERA/9 of 0.72 after four starts? Second, how did he manage to lose a game? For the first, look no further than Suzuki’s season-opening perfect game. For the second, well, the Lightning League is nothing if not a pitcher’s league, and Suzuki came out second-best in a 2-1 loss to the lowly Sacramento Solons (with the Bears leaving eleven men on base!).

It is that razor-thin margin between first and worst that makes every game count in the 36-game Lightning League season, and as mid-season comes into view, the Bears appear to have positioned themselves among the league’s better teams. Merced pitching has been strong, with Jonathan Petrie and DeAngelo Ellis just a notch below the excellent Suzuki, and Wildredo Dzialo has top-of-the-rotation stuff, even if a bit of bad luck has him landed on a 1-2 start. Robert Morales has five saves in as many opportunities and has yet to allow a run (or even a hit)

On the offensive side, Jayson Mrockzka may be off to an even faster start than Suzuki, with 24 hits in his first 48 at-bats of the year. His OPS is likewise off-the-charts at 1.330. If the Bears have cause to worry, it’s that Jayson is clearly carrying this offense, and he can’t keep this up forever (can he?) — aside from Mitch Lavelle’s .308 average in the leadoff spot, the rest of the Merced lineup is batting in line with league averages (which is to say, poorly).

But for now, at least, the Bears are roaring, and hoping to avoid the “Lightning Strikes Jinx” that saw Reno hit the skids after they received their own spotlight time in this same column …

From The Commissioner: Real life stomped all over my optimistic plans to stick to a schedule for the Lightning League, but it was good to get back to the games, however “late” they may be. I was worried for a fatal loss of momentum (with interest wandering to other projects), but this round of games reinvigorated my interest in the league, and I remain optimistic I can finish the season this calendar year.

The season is a bit less than half-way done, with Merced putting on a welcome push to join Reno and Cambria at the top of the league, and Sacramento sinking to the bottom (with Fresno seemingly doomed to follow in due course). I’ve decided the league will deserve playoffs, and while I reserve the right to change my mind, I expect the top three teams will qualify, with team #4 hosting #5 for a play-in game. These “wild cards” will have to respect their current pitching order, while the top three teams will be able to re-set their rotations. After the play-in game, there will be a three-game opening round, followed by a five game series to determine the champion.

Great Western Lightning league — Round Three

The inaugural season of the Great Western Lightning League is one third complete, and the pitchers are dominating — none more than Jeff Ducote, who threw the second perfect game in the young league’s history! Thanks in no small part to Ducote’s heroics, the Reno Silver Sox slashed their way into first place in the league, thanks to their sweep of Santa Cruz.

Cambria Otters 2-2El Centro Imperials 2-2
Santa Cruz Crabs 0-4Reno Silver Sox 4-0
Ventura Gulls 2-2Las Vegas Wranglers 2-2
Sacramento Solons 1-3Fresno Tigers 3-1
Merced Bears 2-2Mesa Moons 2-2

Ventura Gulls vs. Las Vegas Wranglers

No sooner does the league press praise the Wranglers pen than Tod Hampa is lit up for the loss. Hampa would recover to earn the save — and secure a split — in the final game of the series in Ventura. In between the two teams played a sloppy and sometimes chippy series, alternating blown games with poor concentration and bad defensive plays in the late innings. Series felt like a lost opportunity for Las Vegas to make headway in the standings at the expense of an inferior Ventura squad.

Merced Bears vs. Mesa Moons

Fumi Suzuki stays red-hot for the Bears, leading a combined shutout for the Merced staff. Kent Brunner’s 3-run bomb woke up the Moons bats to earn the split in Mesa. The teams split again in Merced, in a pair of games where power bats had a bit more say; both Kent Brunner (Mesa) and Jayson Mroczka (Merced) are off to monster starts for their teams.

Fresno Tigers vs. Sacramento Solons

With the league approaching the one-third mark of the schedule, this series between Great Western Lightning League cellar-dwellers feels like an elimination round. And it was the punchless Solons who saw the sun go down, fortunate to scrape out even a single win in a series that saw them score five runs in four games, including twice being shut out in Fresno. The fourteen runs plated by the Tigers in this series might not seem like much, but Fresno had scored only ten runs in total coming into this match-up — thanks to that comparative offensive explosion, the Tigers managed to claw their way back to .500 and forestall irrelevance for at least another round.

Santa Cruz Crabs vs. Reno Silver Sox

Sox manage only four hits in the opener in Santa Cruz, but two of them are solo shots from Alex Imbrogno, which was just enough to win a bullpen duel. The second game followed the same script, as the Sox showed they can win with pitching, too, holding the Crabs to just two runs in as many home games. Back in Reno, the Silver Sox shut down the Crabs again, but another fine pitching performance was a just a preamble to the greatest outing of them all, as Jeff Ducote threw the second perfect game in the young history of the Lightning League in the final game of the series. Ducote was otherworldly, striking out fourteen, including the first nine batters of the game! Almost as an after-thought, the league office noted Reno completed the first sweep of the season, putting the Silver Sox atop the standings with a commanding 10-2 record.

El Centro Imperials vs. Cambria Otters

Imperials twice came from behind to edge the Otters in Cambria, but the Otters didn’t panic, returning the favor in El Centro to split the series. Cambria was admirably calm under fire to retain second place in the Lighting League, but observers can’t help but feel that manager Vic Kalustian’s boys are doing it with mirrors. 

Lightning Strikes — Reno Silver Sox

The Sox stormed to the top of the Lightning League this round thanks to a sweep of the Santa Cruz Crabs. At 10-2, they lead the Cambria Otters by two games (and no one really believes Cambria is as good as their record). The hopeless Sacramento Solons, meanwhile, trail Reno by seven after having only played 12 games, which is a sign of ugliness to come.

The rest of the league will find themselves as helpless as the Solons, if early-season trends hold in Reno. The Silver Sox are not only winning games — they’re winning them with ease. Their .307 team batting is 70 points better than the Lightning League’s woeful average, and Reno’s 2.28 ERA/9 is likewise the best on the circuit. With a +26 run differential, the Sox have posted a better scoring margin than Cambria, Merced, Las Vegas, El Centro, and Mesa combined … and those other teams just happen to be the only other teams in the league with a positive run differential.

It might be pointed out that Reno has built their record at the expense of Ventura, Santa Cruz, and Sacramento — the bottom three teams in the league. But in this early going, those teams might well be at the bottom because they’ve had to face the Silver Sox. Reno surely won’t maintain their .833 pace for the League’s full 36-game schedule, but at the one-third mark of the season, they are threatening to run away with the pennant. 

The ingredients aren’t hard to identify. The Sox are knocking the cover off of the ball — Larry Borrego, Billy Bechtel, Karim McCarthy, and Ricky Guerra all have OPS well north of 900 — and the team has managed 34 walks, which is a lot in a league where whiffs are up everywhere. Combine that production with a pitching staff that allows only a .197 batting average against, and you start to wonder how the Sox managed to lose two games. The answer is the bullpen, which blew the two games Reno has lost, but it seems premature to brand this a Sox weakness. They’ve also managed six saves, Led by three for Adam Gorman, who has yet to allow a run.

From the Commissioner: Lightning League teams are averaging only 2.95 runs per game. It would stand to reason that scoring will be down in this format — with seven-inning games, that’s 33% fewer innings where runs can be scored, versus a nine-inning league. Seven-inning games also reduce the load for pitching staffs, keeping bullpens fresh and ensuring that fewer workmen and strugglers take the mound. But even normalizing for nine innings, offense rises only to a bit less than four runs per game, which has more in common with the Deadball era than modern MLB.

The pitchers are definiitely ahead of the hitters. With a league average hovring around .238, we are talking “Year of the Pitcher/1968” numbers, but it is still early in the year. And I don’t much mind if offense stays at this level — I like dominating pitching, and there’s no arguing that games go faster when batters stay off the bases, which comports with the Lightning League’s ethos for speed-of-play. No intervention is coming from the league office — no one will be moving the mound in this league — so the batters will just have to claw back on their own, and maybe show a bit more discipline at the plate, where Lightning League batters are managing to strike out once per inning or more.

Jeff Ducote Pitching Perfection

It remains to be seen if the experimental format of the Great Western Lightning League is perfect for baseball, but it is certainly proving perfect for pitchers, as Reno’s Jeff Ducote recorded the second perfect game in the league’s young history for the Silver Sox.

If it is possible to improve on perfection, Ducote did it, striking out the first nine men he faced, on the way to fanning fourteen Santa Cruz batters in the seven-inning effort.

The win completed a sweep for the Sox, putting them atop the league with a 10-2 record. More news to follow when the Lightning League’s third round concludes!

Great Western Lightning league — Round Two

The Lightning League returns to action, and is now the primary project of Distant Replay.

Second round pairings:

Santa Cruz Crabs 2-2El Centro Imperials 2-2
Ventura Gulls 1-3Reno Silver Sox 3-1
Cambria Otters 3-1Mesa Moons 1-3
Sacramento Solons 1-3Las Vegas Wranglers 3-1
Merced Bears 2-2Fresno Tigers 2-2

Santa Cruz Crabs vs. El Centro Imperials: Splits at home and on the road in this series, with the Crabs winning on a combined shutout from Charlie Guerrero and Isao Sasaki, then walking off a 1-0 victory on Glenn McGoldricks homerun; while the Imperials won a 12-8 slugfest and saw Paul Fiala go the distance and strike out seven in his starting debut.

Ventura Gulls vs. Reno Silver Sox: Reno won a couple close games at home, with Max Murphy pitching a 1-hit shutout, and the Silver Sox breaking out in a close second game (which saw fifteen batters strike out) when the Gulls committed two errors in the 7th. The teams split in Ventura, but the Silver Sox looked far the better team, and put their stamp on the young Lightning League season with their second straight winning series.

Cambria Otters vs. Mesa Moons: Josh Bell’s 7th inning double was the big blow as Cambria came from behind against Moons closer Mert Martzell in Mesa. Jeff Stillings outdueled Fernando de la Rosa to send the Otters back home to Pemoco Park up 2-0, then the Moons steadied the ship with a shutout of Cambria, with Martzell bouncing back to earn the save. But any hopes of a split for the Moons were shattered when Josh Bell’s homerun walked off an Otters victory for the second time in as many homestands.

Sacramento Solons vs. Las Vegas Wranglers: Solons took the opener when Dale Watanabe got the win (after blowing the save), but the rest of the series was all Wranglers. The Las Vegas bullpen was pretty much perfect on the series, with Isao Fujiwara collecting a pair of saves. Last round the league wondered if it was too early for Sacramento to panic — now that they’ve fallen to the bottom of the standings, it looks like panic is in season.

Merced Bears vs. Fresno Tigers: Home team disadvantage in this series, as visiting teams won every game. In truth is it hard to see how the Tigers managed a split — their offense is woeful, managing only six runs in the series, but they made them count. Fumi Suzuki followed up his perfect game by allowing three hits in six scoreless innings for the Bears.

Lightning Strikes — Las Vegas Wranglers: Las Vegas coach John Henry has elected to lean into his pen early and often, and so far it has paid off — despite Yuniel Encaracion taking the loss in their opener with Sacramento, the Wranglers bullpen allowed only one run in 10 2/3rds innings in their most recent series. The Las Vegas formula seems to be two trips through the lineup for starters, and then a succession of fresh power arms from the pen to close it out, whether they are ahead or behind. It makes sense to turn to the pen for innings — in a 7-inning league, bullpens need length less than they need impact, and unless a game goes to extra innings, there’s little risk of running out of innings from relievers. It remains to be seen if the other teams around the league will follow the Las Vegas example and give their starters the early hook. Everything is accelerated in the Lightning League!

From the Commissioner: With two rounds of nine complete for the Lightning League, I’ve decided to prioritize this project for the rest of the year, with a scratch plan in place to complete the league before the real-life MLB season wraps-up. I really appreciate the pace of these games, which allow me to easily knock off a home-and-home in a single sitting, and to sneak in a second series if I really want to go for it. 

My pitching rules are working well for seven-inning games. Starters are fresh their first trip through the lineup, semi-fresh the second, and not fresh starting with the third time through … unless they are riding a shutout, where they remain semi-fresh. If a starter carries a shutout into the seventh, they can roll the decider die to determine if they remain semi-fresh. This feels about right, and corresponds with contemporary MLB play, where five innings seems a good outing for starters. Lightning League starters can earn a win with a four inning start, rather than five; with the DH in play, it’s easy to leave a pitcher in for an extra batter or two to qualify if they have a lead, even if they aren’t fresh. Numbering starters 1-2-3-4-Dot (with Dot pitcher getting a start only when confirmed by the decider die) effectively means teams have 4.5 starters, which introduces just enough chaos to test starting depth, while also ensuring teams aren’t always matching their 1-4 starters directly with each other series after series. Combined with plenty of innings in the pen (though relievers are forbidden from making back-to-back appearances), the league should favor pitchers, though this has yet to really manifest. Regardless, strong pitching makes for faster games, and speed is a central Lighting League ethos — so far, so good!

Century League Week 5

The Century League returned to action with their fifth week of play — a streaky week of haves and have-nots, as five out of six series ended in sweeps.

Greenville Mutuals vs. Clayton Brown Stockings (3-0 Mutuals)

Vic Aragon wins battle of the youngsters, turning in a shutout while Mutuals chase Phil Leite early … A pair of homeruns from Jimmy Giaccomo kept things rolling for Greenville in game two … Mutals complete the sweep with an extra-innings win in a game where both sides blew saves, before Jimmy Giaccomo put it away with yet another blast, his second two-homer game in as many days. Clayton scored only eight runs in the home series — a shocking result for what was reckoned as one of the league’s better offenses.

HOT: Giaccomo (Greenville) Clouse (Clayton) NOT: Smythe (Greenville) Riske (Clayton)

Jackson Grays vs. Centerville Blues (2-1 Grays)

The Blue & Gray series resumes as Jackson travels to Centerville. Before the series, Jackson announced that Cha Cha Marrero — himself filling in for the injured Iron Man Miller — had suffered a groin injury and was expected to be out at least a month.

Blues score enough to overcome some inattentive play in the field; Chick Lavagetto gets the bases-loaded save, thanks to Happy Kurowski’s diving stab out in right … Virgil Devore goes the distance to even series for the Grays, getting three homeruns in support … Fred Choate goes strikes out ten in a shutout to secure the series for Jackson.

HOT: Stevens (Centerville) Howard (Jackson) NOT: Cleaver (Centerville) Wilson (Jackson)

Springfield Colonels vs. Burlington Pilots (3-0 Pilots)

Pilots looks to extend their lead atop the league as the Colonels visit Burlington.

Joe Horton continues his excellent run, shutting out the Colonels in the opener … Pilots pitching stays sharp in the second game, as Enzo Poretti goes the distance and allows only one run … Deuce Carroll works four innings from the pen to save the sweep for the Pilots.

Streaking Pilots have won five straight, and are excelling in an area where the rest of the league is not: pitching. They lead the league with a 2.89 team ERA (and their team batting average of .307 is also best in the Century League).

HOT: Berg (Burlington) Noyes (Springfield) NOT: Callison (Burlington) Fiore (Springfield)

Kingston Keystones vs. Fairview Saints (3-0 Keystones)

Second straight week of doubleheaders kicks off for the Keystones as they visit the Saints. Fairview will need a strong showing if they are to keep close to the streaking Pilots.

Keystones chase Mel Voiselle and then hang on to win, needing nearly all of their eleven runs as a ninth-inning grand slame from Beer Bottle Burley makes it uncomfortably close … Keystones were all over Sting Bean Sammons, who continued his uncharacteristic struggles on the young season; Bell Boy Bess with the complete game … Keystones bring out the brooms to win a close third game, with Tom Jankowski going two innings to earn the save. (And so much for the Saints staying close to the Pilots … after winning four straight they have now been swept at home and look utterly lost).

HOT: Caswell (Kingston) Syzmanski (Fairview) NOT: Francis (Kingston) Alcantar (Fairview)

Madison Maroons vs. Kingston Keystones (3-0 Keystones)

Keystones are firing on all cylinders as they return home to Liberty Stadium to face the Maroons.

Keystones explode for eleven runs in the opener, including three hits from pitcher Sid Monroy, and three homeruns and seven RBI from Ralph Blosell … First game of series-concluding doubleheader brought even more humiliation for the Maroons, with Rip Bayer going the distance in an 11-0 blowout … With starter Mickey Taggart a late scratch with injury, Kingston had to stich together a bullpen game to complete the double-header; the pen allowed five runs but also stranded 14 Maroons, and another double-digit offensive outburst proved more than enought to propell the Keystones to their second straight sweep.

HOT: Blosell (Kingston) Goldman (Madison) NOT: Francis (Kingston) Goldstein (Madison)

Standings after five weeks of play:

Note: The Century League is going on hiatus as Distant Replay concentrates on the Great Western Lightning League. The old-timers of the Century League will return at a date to be determined!

Back To The Track For Stock Car Racing Pioneers

After a real-life (and baseball-filled) gap of several weeks, the Pioneers series roared back to life, with 22 drivers taking the green on the half-mile Richmond dirt oval. A competitive qualifying session saw both Tim Flock and Buck Baker fail to make the field with mechanical issues. Few were surprised to see a Petty on the pole, but heads turned to see it was Richard Petty, started ahead of Lee in 2nd. But neither Petty would figure in the finish, as it was Gywn Staley who shouldered past a spinning Speedy Thompson to claim his first victory of the year, and the second for Chevy.

22 cars started, 17 finished. Winner: Gwyn Staley #34 Chevy (1)

Three-hundred miles await at the Raleigh paved oval, with series leader Buck Baker on the pole. And after three-hundred miles of furious racing, with multiple lead changes but relatively few challenges or mechanical failures, it was Buck Baker who found the winner’s circle for the fifth time this season, gaining some daylight at the top of the standings in a race where the rest of the top drivers finished well down the pack.

27 cars started, 24 finished. Winner: Buck Baker #87 Olds (5)

A $6000 purse awaits the winner of 500 miles of paved oval at Trenton. The unheralded Gober Sosebee led a fast field in qualifying, with Buck Baker earning himself no friends by suggesting to the press that a couple drivers might have been running illegal packages. But the stewards found no wrong-doing and the green flag dropped on a field of 22.

Baker found little to complain about for much of the race, running out front for nearly the entire second half, before falling back to finish 8th. It was Ralph Moody who was strongest down the stretch, twice battling into the lead before he could make it stick. Big payday for the backmarkers, with non-trophy drivers finishing 2-4, including Sarah Smith in second, who passed Baker just before the final pit stop and was fast enough to win, but never got a chance to pass Moody. A part-time driver, Moody jumped a dozen spots on the strength of this single race’s showing.

23 cars started, 19 finished. Winner: Ralph Moody, #12 Ford (1)

Back to half-mile dirt ovals for a series of shorter races, starting with Lincoln Speedway, in New Oxford PA, which attracted a healthy field of 31 cars. Ralph Moody claimed the pole, looking for his second win in as many races. The race was a torture-test for man and machine, with duels throughout the pack and eleven drivers — a third of the pack — failing to finish. Buck Baker had his first retirement of the year, parking his Olds just short of one-third distance with clutch problems. When the dust cleared it was Junior Johnson on top, finally driving up to expectations to claim a welcome first win of the year.

31 cars started, 20 finished. Winner: Junior Johnson #27 Chevy (1)

Standings after 19 races:

Classic Bank Invitational

From Bowl 360 in Astoria New York, it’s the Classic Bank Invitational!

classic_bank

Fascinating field for today’s finals, with juggernaut Hank Pym failing to make TV day for the first time (and barely making the money in position #16), while Rocket Raccoon makes his first TV appearance with a perfect qualifying day! Of the TV day bowlers, J.J. Jameson looks the strongest by far, but can Jonah put together a full performance … and run the table from the fifth rung of the ladder? Let’s find out!

TV Day bowlers:

  1. Rocket Raccoon — 300
  2. Danny Rand — 218
  3. Johnny Storm — 217
  4. Norrin Radd — 206
  5. J.J. Jameson — 205

J.J. Jameson kicks it off against a strange, silvery visitor — Norrin Radd.

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Uncomfortable with many Earth customs — including bowling — Radd proved little challenge for Jameson, who advanced to the next rung of the ladder against Johnny Storm.

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It was practically a walk-over for Jameson, as Johnny was anything but hot. A restless TV audience is ready to change channels as Danny Rand makes his TV debut.

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Neither bowler was especially strong in this match, but Danny kept it close, and when Jameson faltered in the final frames, the K’un-Lun Kid won through to the finals against Rocket Raccoon.

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Plenty of eyes on the Rollin’ Rodent for this match. Is it because it’s his first TV appearance? His perfect game in qualifying? Maybe the fact that he’s a freaking raccoon?

Rocket wowed the crowd with a pair of perfect opening frames, but Rand was unshaken, rolling steady the whole way through to claim the title in the end.

Money leaders after seven tournaments:

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Congratulations to Danny Rand for showing the heart of a dragon in his first TV appearance!

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ITEM: League headquarters has announced that the current Marvel Bowling Series — projected to last ten rounds — will culminate with a Contest of Champions! The Contest of Champions will match the top ten money winners from the Series against each other in a $10,000 stepladder tournament. Stay tuned for details!

Girth Watch Invitational

girth_watchFrom the secret S.H.I.E.L.D. lanes beneath an unassuming barbershop in New York City, the Merry Marvel Bowling Society returns with the Girth Watch Invitational!

New faces in the field as three bowlers make their TV day debuts. But there’s an intimidating force atop the ladder.

TV Day bowlers:

  1. Hank Pym — 224
  2. Jennifer Walters — 218
  3. Adam Warlock — 204
  4. J. J. Jameson — 196
  5. M.J. Watson — 194

The cut line for money finish was 167.

The opening match saw Mary Jane Watson hoping to stick it to J. Jonah Jameson for being such a constant pain for her poor Petey.

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J.J. had a terrible 6th frame to open the door, but M.J. couldn’t take advantage, and the sour-tempered Daily Bugle editor claimed his first TV victory.

Next up — another first-time TV bowler, from the moon of Titan and points beyond, the mysterious Adam Warlock!

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Adam found his form in the later frames, but it was too little, too late, as the cigar-chomping newspaperman put away the golden space stranger.

From gold to green as Jonah next faced off with Jennifer Walters — aka She-Hulk!

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Jen had some first-time TV nerves early in the match, but Jameson was never better than steady, and when Jen started bowling overhand in the middle frames, Jameson folded from the pressure. Hank Pym cannot be stopped!

The TV final saw Jen with a truly giant task — series legend Hank Pym!

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The giant man versus giant woman final proved a giant anticlimax as Hank Pym again proved himself the master of the lanes, easily collecting his fourth championship!

Money leaders, after six tournaments … Hank with more than twice the winnings of the next-closest competitor:

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Victory dance for Hank, rocking his alternate yellow costume for this tournament:

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1962 Dodgers Replay, Part 2

Part two of my replay went better for the Blue, with the Dodgers going 22-7, thanks to plenty of rotten teams on the schedule (Houston, New York, Philadelphia), and Don Drysdale finally rounding into form. After 54 games, my Dodgers sit at 34-20, which is three games behind LA’s historical pace, and six back of the National League leading Giants. If you put stock in Pythagorean W-L the 1962 Dodgers were an historical over-achiever, so I feel doubly behind the eight ball with LA right now. If they are to catch the Giants, they will have to get unreasonably hot.

But the journey is the reward, right? I can tell this game is getting under my skin because I was stunned to see the Dodgers went 22-7 in this portion. I felt like I was losing all the time. I am remembering, now, the slot machine-like feeling of Strat, with the illusion of “near-misses,” particularly with split results, and how much it can wear on you when you passionately care about an outcome. (That I care passionately is a win! But it also drives me crazy, sometimes). There’s also something extra-agonizing in playing against known results, and losing games the record said you won. Plus the season isn’t open-ended — every step of the way, I know the number the Dodgers need to hit to beat the Giants, so even after a .758 stretch I feel a step behind, because LA is still three games off their historical pace.

This was a fun section, though, giving me my first look at 1962’s two expansion teams, the Houston Colt .45s, and the New York Mets. Losing a pair of games to the Mets at Dodger Stadium was torment, particularly the game where the Dodgers scored five runs in the first, only to lose 6-5 in eleven innings, commiting six errors along the way!

Put there were some big moments for the Dodgers, too:

This was a fun section, though, giving me my first look at 1962’s two expansion teams, the Houston Colt .45s, and the New York Mets. Losing a pair of games to the Mets at Dodger Stadium was torment, particularly the game where the Dodgers scored five runs in the first, only to lose 6-5 in eleven innings, commiting six errors along the way!

Put there were some big moments for the Dodgers, too …

Duke Snider walking off a win with a two-out, game winning pinch hit homerun in the bottomn of the ninth against Houston.

Sandy Koufax striking out sixteen against the Mets, and hitting a homerun, too.

Tommy Davis robbing the Giants of a homerun in a game decided by a shocking three-base error for Willie Mays.

Frank Howard going 5-for-5 with a grand slam and 6 RBI in Philadelphia.

Willie Davis with a homerun before throwing the tieing run out at the plate vesus the Phils.

And Maury Wills stealing home against Philadelphia!

There have been some stand-out statistical performances, as you’d expect from a team going on bottom-feeding tear. Don Drysdale turned it around, going 5-0 and lowering his ERA to 3.80. He hasn’t really been dominant, but he hasn’t been unlucky, either, and I’ll take that. Koufax and Podres have been excellent, and as much as I hold my breath when Joe Moeller or Stan Williams takes the mound, those two have a combined record of 6-3. The team ERA of 3.43 is almost .20 better than historical.

On the offensive side, Frank Howard has moved into a full-time role in right field, and he is red hot, with a 1.005 OPS. Tommy Davis remains in striking distance of the batting crown, and Maury Wills is hitting .326 with 7 homeruns — already one more dinger than he had in all of 1962. On the basepaths, Wills has stolen 27 bases in 33 attempts, putting him on a pace for 81 on the year, well behind his historical 104.

Defensively, the Dodgers are still dire, though not quite so dire as before. They sit on 71 errors, with 21 of those for Wills, but both those numbers are an improvement over the first 25 games. Aside from that Mets game, the errors haven’t seemed to come at such rotten times, either, so I am (almost) to the point where I can face the X-chart without getting the shakes.

A special joy of this project has been tuning into the day-to-day rhythm of running a baseball club. You really have to keep an eye on pitcher usage, particularly with frequent double-headers. At one point in this stretch, six out of seven games were part of a double-header, with the as-played lineups showing a disarming number of players going both halves (even at catcher). Men were men in 1962.

I am missing Dodger Stadium, though … these road trips are long.

The next section of my schedule will bring me to 81 games, and the half-way mark of the season. It my tell the tale for my replay, with the Giants coming back to the pack in the stretch, and the Dodgers playing plenty more games with Houston, New York, and flawed Milwaukee team. At that point, maybe I take a break … I figured this to be a two-year project, but with the replay up to June 4th as I file this report, I’m only a few weeks behind the real calendar. We will see … the next sports project that doesn’t get distracted along the way will be the first one that doesn’t get distracted along the way. And I have plenty of other projects already on the boil.

Deadlines are optional! This isn’t work, after all, however much it might feel like it when Larry Burright comes to bat.

Great Western Lightning League — Round One

The Lightning League plays a balanced 36-game schedule, conducted over nine rounds. In each round, pairs of teams play a 4-game, home-and-home series.

First round pairings:

Cambria Otters: 3-1Fresno Tigers: 1-3
Santa Cruz Crabs: 2-2Mesa Moons: 2-2
Ventura Gulls: 2-2El Centro Imperials: 2-2
Sacramento Solons: 1-3Reno Silver Sox: 3-1
Merced Bears: 3-1Las Vegas Wranglers: 1-3

Cambria Otters vs. Fresno Tigers: The opening series of the Lightning League, between Cambria and Fresno, delivered the promised mix of tight and speedy action, with the Otters winning in extra innings on the road, and walking one off on a Josh Bell homerun at home. It was a golden start for Cambria, with manager Vic Kalustian striking a harmonious tone that extended to his squad, shrugging off a season-opening loss where Donnie Lee Gross allowed only one hit (a homer to Fresno’s Mike Kettle) to rally for three straight wins to take the series.

Merced Bears vs. Las Vegas Wranglers: Fumi Suzuki got the Bears franchise started with a bang by throwing a perfect game in the team’s inaugural outing! The Wranglers rallied to make a series of it, and might have earned a split if not for a bullpen meltdown in the series-concluding game in Merced. Aside from the opener, the ball flew out of the park for both teams, with 13 homers on the series!

Sacramento Solons vs. Reno Silver Sox: Major blow for the Sox as #1 starter Francisco Torrez was injured in pre-game warmups — he is out indefinitely! But the Sox dug in to win three out of four, including an epic extra-innings affair in Sacramento that saw Reno blow leads in the bottom of the 7th and the bottom of the 9th before finally breaking it open with a 4-run 11th.

Mesa Moons vs. Santa Cruz Crabs: Santos Uraneta brought the Mesa crowd to their feet with a first inning grand slam off a clearly struggling Charlie Guerrero, and the Moons never looked back, though they did have to turn to Mert Martzell to bail them out of a bases loaded, no-one-out situation in the bottom of the 7th. Brent Carlin shrugged off a pair of Steve Van Gorder homeruns to even the series for the Crabs, striking out 10 in 4 2/3 innings. The series would conclude with a split for these dynamic and evenly-matched teams.

Ventura Gulls vs. El Centro Imperials: The Gulls and lmperials split a series long on heat and short on discipline. There were more strikeouts than hits across the four games, and batters struck out over five times more often than they walked.

Lightning Strikes — Sacramento Solons: Is it too soon to panic for Sacramento? They’re off to a 1-3 start, but so are two other teams, and the Solons are only two games behind first. But when your schedule is more than ten percent complete, and you’ve already suffering a negative 11 run differential, you have to feel some urgency. That Sacramento lost their series to a team without their #1 starting pitcher just adds to the misery. The Lightning League is expected to be decided by the narrowest of margins, so the Solons probably can’t afford another pratfall if they hope to compete for the pennant.

From The Commissioner: The first round of the Lightning League was greatly entertaining, with plenty of energetic and exciting games, and only a few blowouts. There were shutouts and perfect games; multi-homerun games and stolen bases; clutch relief performances and late-inning meltdowns.

Seven-inning games lend just the right urgency to the contest, and the league’s pitcher fatigue rules — with starters tiring in their third trip through the lineup, and relievers forbidden from pitching in consecutive games — combine to test each team’s entire pitching staff, despite reduced innings. Seven inning games with designated hitters (simplifying pitcher substitutions) allow entire series to be completed — including stats — in around two hours. That feels about the perfect investment by me.

It is too soon to tell just yet if the league’s designed-to-be-balanced rosters are truly balanced, but so far, at least (and despite what the ERA/9 numbers below would indicate) it seems that every team has a respectable pitching staff. The differences in teams is likely to emerge from things like team defense and power, and even baserunning speed. It will be fascinating to watch the league evolve and to see the personalities of each team develop.

Click here for team rosters and details.

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