This past week we staged our second Strat-O-Matic Negro League All-Stars Series. In the end, Cameron ( @CoolPapaC) took the series from me 3 games to 2. Once again it took us a full five games to settle the Series. In case you missed it, you can catch up on how the Inaugural Negro League All Stars Series went. We had a fantastic evening of great baseball excitement, great music, and enjoyed keeping everyone informed via Twitter as the Series progressed.
Our intention competing via this board game, is to get to know these great players who were playing in the Negro Leagues. The folks at Strat-O-Matic have done an amazing job of making these games play out as realistically as anything played on a ball field, and we feel that the outcomes are consistent with what might have happened had these players played with these lineups back in the day.
We made the decision right from the start to draft entirely new teams each Series so that we get the broadest exposure to players. Maybe when we have used the complete set of 103 cards in the set, we will choose up more permanent teams. We end up drafting a full roster of nine position players and three pitchers. If we decide to use a pinch hitter at any point in the series we go back into the player pile to pick up another hitter.
We played at the Basic level, but we intend to get to the Advanced and Super Advanced versions as we get comfortable with the formats. Moving up to those levels provides a more realistic ballgame, as it takes into account park conditions, defensive options, pitcher workloads and righty/lefty matchups. As this stage however we are getting familiar with the basic elements of the games. It also helps us from a time standpoint, competing in a Best of Five Series might take us more than one sitting!
In Game 1, I throw Leon Day at Cameron’s Eggie Hensley. After scratching out a run in the second inning, I get the first of what turns out to be a few more homeruns in this Series than in the last one. Frog Redus delivers a solo shot to extend the lead to 2 – 0.
Eggie continues to allow runners but only cracks for one more run in the sixth when Josh Gibson doubles home leadoff man Willie Wells.
Cameron has to go to the pen in the bottom of the seventh after Eggie gets in trouble again, and calls on Smokey Joe Williams to get out of a two out jam with runners on the corners, forcing Dick Seay to ground out. In the top of the eighth, Williams triples to clear the bases to tie the score in the top of the eighth at three, and propels him on his way to eventual Series MVP honors.
Leon Day cannot hold them in the ninth and gives up the winning RBI to cleanup hitter Alejandro Ohms.
Game 2 is all mine 10 – 2, as Nip Winters gets more run support than required facing off against Dizzy Dismukes. My team is powered by three run innings in the second, fourth and fifth innings. Big RBI production comes from Willie Wells who connects for a three run shot, a Josh Gibson solo homer and a Chaney White two run double.
We go with Hilton Smith in Game 3, while Eggie Hensley comes back on short rest for Cameron. Once again Hensley gets hit hard and hit early as he is touched for four runs in the first on another Josh Gibson homerun, this time a three run mammoth blast, and by Buck O’Neill getting his first hit of the series, driving in a run and eventually collecting three hits on the game.
The story of the game is the easy work of Hilton Smith, who allows a run in the first on a hit by catcher Double Duty Radcliffe but cruises the rest of the way to collect a 6 – 1 victory. It’s the first time we have had back to back games that weren’t close knit affairs.
Game 4 makes up for the lack of drama in Games 2 and 3, as it takes extra innings to decide this one. Smokey Joe Williams gets the start against my Game 1 starter Leon Day. Day is provided a two run lead by his teammates in the first, as we start to contemplate the potential that this Series could be a short one.
Willie Wells and Frog Redus continue to get on in front of the middle of the order, but the offense stalls as Smokey Joe settles down and forces ground outs and strikeouts. Cameron’s newly constituted batting order gets him solo runs in the third and sixth innings with a big hit coming from Home Run Johnson down in the bottom of the order. Johnson ironically doesn’t provide much pop in the lineup.
Neither team can push across any runs in the final frames, which includes a great catch in the 9th by left fielder Fats Jenkins who takes one at the wall off the bat of Frog Redus. We go to our first extra inning game of our Stratomatic Negro League All Stars Series. In the bottom of the eleventh clean up hitter Alejandro Ohms, who had been silent all series except for an HR in Game 1, singles home Cristobal Torriente with the series tying run!
For the decisive Game 5, Cameron rolls the dice on Eggie Hensley who has one loss and one no-decision in the Series, while I maintain my standard rotation and pitch Nip Winters in the deciding ballgame.
Eggie bends but doesn’t break in the fourth inning as he gets Ray Dandridge to fly out with the bases loaded to get out of the threat. Through five shutout innings, many base runners are left stranded and the pressure continues to mount.
In the top of the sixth inning, Ben Taylor gets to Nip Winters and comes around to score the Series winning run on a hit from centerfielder Torriente. Still in the sixth, with runners on and Jelly Gardner batting, my first baseman Buck O’Neill makes an unfortunate error allowing a run to score and keeping the inning alive for an eventual third run in the inning. It is the first real fielding error in this well played Series.
After Bingo Demoss scores an insurance run in the ninth, Eggie Hensley gets my guys in order to preserve a 4 – 0 shutout and to even our great Stratomatic Negro League All Stars Series at 1 – 1.
Here is what the Negro League Baseball Museum says about Series MVP Smokey Joe Williams:
During the first half of its existence, Smokey Joe Williams was to black baseball what Satchel Paige was to the latter half. Indeed, Williams made the footprints in which Satchel later walked. Old-timers who saw him play remember him as Satchel’s equal, if not his superior.
Huge praise if ever there was any, and he proved it for Cameron on this night!
Sharing Our Series
We want our experience of discovery to be a part of the community at Baseballisms.com. What good is it if you can’t spread around some of the fun!?! Truthfully, we believe that baseball is such an important part of the fabric of our lives that the best way to celebrate it, is to share it. We hope that you will share too.
In case you missed it, here is the tweet stream from Tuesday night. Live, as it happened commentary as the Series progressed. Unfortunately, capturing tweets to present here graphically produces a reverse chronological order of how they were posted, so to get a good feel read from the bottom up …
We would still love to speak with someone at Strat-O-Matic to let them know our thoughts on the packaging and materials, but we’d also like to thank them for giving us such an enjoyable game.
We did notice that they have posted a number of recent pictures on their Facebook Fan Page.
How about your Strat-O-Matic experience? Did you play as a kid? Do you play the computer version of it today? Look for future posts as the Series continues and we discover many more players of the Negro Leagues.