Sports Simulation Board Games

PLAAY Games in San Francisco, March 28, 2015

San Francisco PLAAY GamersSF Time-Travelers: Standing, left to right: Mark Zigler, Dan Rudolph, Lenny LaFrance, Matt Benham. Seated, left to right: Matt Crawford, Gary Graff, Mike Lam, Richard McNeel.

It was a gorgeous Saturday in the Bay Area as about a dozen of us gathered at Game Kastle in Santa Clara for some tabletop baseball! Jason and the crew at Game Kastle treated us like royalty, setting up a spacious and comfortable area for us to spread out and PLAAY games! With plenty of sunshine, ample access to snacks and beverages, and some of baseball’s greatest players and teams poised for action, all of us were excited about the second annual HISTORY MAKER BASEBALL Time Machine Tournament!

In the weeks leading up to the event, we settled on a modified double-elimination tournament to determine the TMT trophy-winner, with each manager guaranteed at least two games. For the first round, we paired off our eight managers at random, with the four winners advancing to the “Winners Bracket” and the four losers moving to the “Second Chance Bracket.” From there, it was “win to stay in!”

For each game, we rolled dice to determine home team. Here’s how the first round of the tournament unfolded...

’71 Orioles (Michael Lam) vs. ’46 Red Sox (Lenny LaFrance)
Jim Palmer shut down the Sox, going the distance and scattering four hits. Brooks Robinson launched a solo HR in the second inning, and the O’s got insurance runs in the sixth, a two-run homer from Paul Blair. ’71 Orioles 3, ’46 Red Sox 0.

’01 Yankees (Richard McNeel) vs. ’72 Athletics (Dan Rudolph)
Another pitching gem, this one a duel between Catfish Hunter (4 hits, 9 strikeouts, 0 walks) and Mike Musina (6 hits, 5 strikeouts, 2 walks). Bert Campaneris’ sacrifice fly in the seventh inning scored George Hendrick (who had opened the inning with a walk) for the game’s only run. ’72 Athletics 1, ’01 Yankees 0.

’85 Cardinals (Mark Zigler) vs. ’88 Dodgers (Matt Crawford)
St. Louis got to LA starter Tim Leary early, with Vince Coleman’s lead-off double followed by walks to Tommy Herr and Willie McGee. Andy Van Slyke’s single got the Birds on the board with the first of five runs that inning. Meanwhile, Danny Cox was virtually un-hittable for St. Louis—he gave up only two hits in a complete-game shutout win. ’85 Cardinals 8, ’88 Dodgers 0.

’86 Mets (Matt Benham) vs. ’62 Giants (Gary Graff)
A decent amount of hitting in this one, with both starting pitchers (Marichal for the Giants, Ojeda for the Mets) chased by the fifth inning. New York took a 2-1 lead bottom of the first, SF came back to tie in the fourth and then gradually pulled away scoring at least a run in every inning except the sixth. ’62 Giants 8, ’86 Mets 3.

Moving to Round Two of the TMT in San FranciscoRound Two Action: Think and double-think as our TMT managers try to stay alive in the tournament. Our format was such that no team was eliminated in the first round, but starting with the second round--"win to stay in!"

After a quick break, we moved on to the SECOND ROUND of the tournament, all teams still alive...

WINNERS' BRACKET GAME ONE: ’71 Orioles (Michael Lam) vs. ’72 Athletics (Dan Rudolph)
Dave McNally was cruising along with a shutout entering the eighth inning, the O’s with a comfortable 4-0 lead. That’s when the most memorable moment of the tournament happened: a five run Oakland eighth inning rally highlighted by George Hendrick’s “decider die” (SLUGGER•) grand slam! With Rollie Fingers entering the game in the bottom of the eighth, the O’s were unable to scramble back with the tying run. ’72 Athletics 5, ’71 Orioles 4.

WINNERS' BRACKET GAME TWO: ’85 Cardinals (Mark Zigler) vs. ’62 Giants (Gary Graff)
John Tudor was spectacular for the Cards, pitching eight innings of shutout ball before being lifted In the ninth for a pinch hitter. St. Louis scratched out a run in the first inning when Vince Coleman singled, stole second and third, and Willie McGee brought him home with a sacrifice fly. They added insurance in the fifth when Ozzie Smith lofted a rare solo dinger. ’85 Cardinals 2, ’62 Giants 0.

SECOND CHANCE BRACKET GAME ONE: ’46 Red Sox (Lenny LaFrance) vs. ’01 Yankees (Richard McNeel)
Boston opened with a big four-run first inning off Roger Clemens, with singles from Dom DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Rudy York followed by a three run homer from Bobby Doerr. The Yankees rallied late, scoring once in the eighth and twice in the ninth but with the tying run on first base, BoSox’ RP Bill Zuber got New York PH Dave Justice to fly out to end the game. A classic finish to a great game. ’46 Red Sox 6, ’01 Yankees 5.

SECOND CHANCE BRACKET GAME TWO: ’88 Dodgers (Matt Crawford) vs. ’86 Mets (Matt Benham)
The Dodger bats continued their silence, finally breaking a 14-inning scoreless string with a sixth inning home run from—of all people—SS Dave Anderson. That tied the game 1-1, but the Mets regained the lead in their half of the sixth, and picked up two more in the eighth. Dwight Gooden got the win vs. Orel Hersheiser, scattering six hits over seven innings. Hersheiser had 9 strikeouts over six innings before being lifted for PH Pedro Guerrero in the seventh. ’86 Mets 4, ’88 Dodgers 1.

Now we were down to four teams. I felt kind of bad for Mike and Gary, both of whom were denied the opportunity of a "second chance" game due to the time restrictions of our tournament format. Matt and Richard decided to continue to play despite being eliminated for the trophy: but they chose DIFFERENT Dodger and Yankees teams: a classic match-up of the '47 Fall Classic teams. Richard's Yankees peppered Matt's Brooklyn pitching for 13 hits, beating "Dem Bums" 6-4. As the THIRD ROUND began...

WINNERS BRACKET FINAL: ’72 Athletics (Dan Rudolph) vs. ’85 Cardinals (Mark Zigler)
A game for the ages, as Ken Holtzman fires a one-hitter with 5 K’s and just 1 BB. Ozzie Smith’s seventh inning single spoiled the no-hitter. Joe Rudi’s two-run homer in the third was all the runs the A’s needed. ’72 Athletics 2, ’85 Cardinals 0.

SECOND CHANCE BRACKET FINAL: ’46 Red Sox (Lenny LaFrance) vs. ’86 Mets (Matt Benham)
The tournament’s only “laugher,” with Boston putting four runs on the board in both the third and ninth innings thanks largely to wildness from the Mets bullpen—Roger McDowell and Jesse Orrosco each walked three batters. ’46 Red Sox 10, ’86 Mets 1.

And so, there it was: the second-chance Bosox meeting the indomitable A's in the final, trophy-bearing FOURTH ROUND of the tournament...

TMT CHAMPIONSHIP: ’46 Red Sox (Lenny LaFrance) vs. ’72 Athletics (Dan Rudolph)
Just before the championship game, Jason checked in on us and offered to roll up the patio door and let the sunshine in—perfect! The A's plated a run in the first, but the Sox responded with two, a run-scoring double from DiMaggio and Williams' sac fly scoring Pesky. It was Pesky again in the third, lashing a single and eventually scoring on York's sac fly to make it 3-1. Moving to the bottom of the eighth, Gutteridge's pinch hit single moved Partee to third and--once again--Johnny Pesky with the clutch hit, scoring Partee to make it 4-1. Top of the ninth, Lenny went to the bullpen to seal the win, with Ryba, Johnson and Klinger each entering the game, each registering an out. '46 Red Sox 4, '72 Athletics 1.


Lenny LaFrance, the 2015 TMT Champion!The Champion: Lenny LaFrance poses with the TMT Trophy after his '46 Bosox won the tournament.

We presented Lenny with the official TMT Trophy (see photo, right) and posed for the group photo. For our tournament MVP, we decided on Boston SS Johnny Pesky. In the title game against Oakland, Pesky was 5-for-5 and also had a big game against the Mets in round three. Had the A’s won, though, I would have voted for George Hendrick as MVP. Despite his less-than-impressive ratings, he provided the game-winning plays in two of the A’s three wins. His grand slam that beat the Orioles will be one of those tabletop moments that I’ll always remember, I think.

Overall, I think we were all intrigued and maybe a little surprised that in an all-eras tournament, a team from the 1940s could win it all! To me, that’s a pretty cool thing. (Of course, it might have been different with five or seven game series instead of single games!)

After the tournament, those of us who were able to stay walked across the street to “Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food” for some gooooooood eatin’ (I had the BBQ ribs—amazingly tasty!) and some great conversation about sports games and life in general.

After dinner, Mark, Lenny and I headed back to Game Kastle for some “after hours” action with LACROSSE BLAST. I took my hometown Mammoth squad, Lenny and Mark co-coached Toronto to a 14-10 win. A great finish to a memorably fun day in the Bay Area! I'll have to make a return trip some day!!