The 1972 Oak Park Little League Rams, American League Champs, Padre Steve’s One and Only Trip to the Post Season
Well, I gave my divisional playoff picks last night and as I start this post the Twinkies and Pussy Cats are going to the 12th inning tied at 5. As I said last night I hope the game goes as long as the Braves-Astros NLDS game that went 18 innings back in 2004. While I’m waiting and watching to see who wins I need a bit of a review to see how my teams in the major and minor teams do this year?
Well…let me change the order of things here, the Twins just won the game actually fulfilling my prediction. It was one of the best baseball games that I have watched in a long time. Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenier both did a great job of managing and both teams played really hard. There were some amazing plays and the Twins pitchers came up big when they needed to in difficult situations often aided by outstanding defense including a play at the plate with the bases loaded with one out in the top of the 12th. It ended with one out in the bottom of the 12th when Alexei Casilla singled to right off Tigers closer Fernando Rodney to drive in Carlos Gomez. As I predicted the Twins had the advantage of the 10th man in the Metro Dome. To win the AL Central they won 17 of their last 21 games and overcame a 7 game Tigers lead. Even more amazing they came back from 3 three game deficit with only four games left in the season to force the playoff against the Tigers. When they did that I knew that they would win tonight. There are some things in baseball that you can feel and no matter how many times the Tigers took the lead I knew that it wouldn’t last. On a side note, Twins reliever Bobby Keppel got the win. Keppel pitched here in Norfolk when the Mets were the Tides major league affiliate. It was good to see one of the Tides come through in the clutch to deliver the win. What a game, I hope every playoff series is this exciting.
As anyone who knows me can tell you I love the game of baseball. So unlike most people who live and die with one team I can honestly say that I have a number of favorite teams, often for different reasons but always because I like something about them. This doesn’t mean that they are all winners as is evidenced by some of the records this season, or maybe the past few seasons. Likewise it means I get conflicted sometimes when two of my favorites play one another.
Of course my favorite team is the San Francisco Giants. They came out west the year before I was born across the Bay in Oakland. I cannot forget all the greats who have played there and how close they have come to winning the World Series but not doing so. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichel, Bobby Bonds, Gaylord Perry and the list can just keep going. I saw my one no-hitter back in 1975 at Candlestick when Ed Halicki no-hit the Mets. I won’t forget watching the 1989 World Series when the Bay Area was rocked by a major earthquake or when I saw Barry Bonds hit 756 when sitting in a Army Dining Facility eating breakfast at Camp Victory in Baghdad.
I also have liked the A’s, well I was born in Oakland and even though my dad hated Charlie Finely and never was a fan of the American League I enjoyed the freewheeling A’s of the 1970s, the teams fielded by Tony LaRussa and Billy Ball. We saw a couple of games in the A’s and Tigers Championship series. It is really amazing to think that back then you could get field level tickets for a decent price on game day. There is some tension here because I have a soft spot for the Anaheim Angels who happened to be the California Angels when my dad took us to a huge number of games at the “Big A” before Disney redid everything. I really came to love the feel of a ballpark in the confines of the “Big A.” I still have a Angels hat signed by a number of the players from that era including Jim Fregosi, Sandy Alomar, Jim Spencer and Chico Ruiz. I have pictures of my brother and I with Angles Manager Left Phillips and 3rd Base Coach Rocky Bridges. Back in those days’ players and managers still had interesting nicknames like Lefty, Rocky, Catfish and Mudcat.
I also liked the Orioles because when we moved to Stockton California they were affiliated with the Stockton Ports of the California League. I had an Orioles cap that I got there for many years afterward. I visited Orioles Park back in 2004 and fell in love with the place. When the Orioles affiliated with the Tides in 2007 I renewed that affection for the O’s even though they have not been very good the past few years. This year was great to see a number of Tides go up to the majors and do well.
In 2003 I came to follow the Atlanta Braves after seeing their AA and AAA affiliates on a regular basis beginning when I saw the AA affiliate when they played Jacksonville in the Southern League and the Richmond, now the Gwinnett Braves play Norfolk in the International League. In 2004 when they had the year of the “baby Braves” I had seen all play in the minors that same season.
So how did my teams do?
San Francisco finished 3rd in the NL West despite having an 88-74 .546 record. The Braves had a very similar situation finishing at 86-76 .531 behind the Marlins and Phillies. Both teams were in contention for the NL Wild Card until the last week of the season. They had the 6th and 7th best records in the National League.
My American League Teams did not do well with the exception of the Angels. The Orioles had a bad season topped by a dismal September. They were able to pull off a 4 game win streak to end the season and keep from losing 100 games. They finished 64-98 .395 and 39 games out of first place. They have some positives to build on as they had a very young and fluid roster. I expect them to be significantly better next year. The A’s also had a bad year, not as bad as the O’s but bad. They finish last in the AL West at 75-87 for a .463 winning percentage 22 games behind the Angels. The Angels though won the AL West with a 97-65 .599 winning percentage. They had the second best record in the American League.
That is why there is always next year. Besides I still have the game and this post season could be a great one if tonight was any indication. I’m sorry but the battles on the gridiron cannot compare to the drama that happens on the diamond. That is why I belong to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish and this is my view from 102.