A Battle For the Ages: 1908 Cubs vs. 1984 Tigers

Today we have a guest post from Out of the Park Developments!

A Battle For the Ages: 1908 Cubs vs. 1984 Tigers

One of the great new features in Out of the Park Baseball 17 is the Historical Exhibition Mode that lets you replay any World Series from history, complete with accurate rosters, as well as match up any two historical teams for an exhibition game or a series. It’s a fun way to create all kinds of “What if?” scenarios or get revenge for a favorite team that lost a heartbreaking World Series or two (or three or…).

You can also decide the era, the modern one (2016) or one of the team’s eras, that will dictate the managerial strategy and statistical parameters. For example, you can bring a dead ball era club into the modern era, which means their AI manager will utilize his bullpen differently and his sluggers will enjoy watching a few of their hits sail into the stands. Or you can put a modern team in an earlier era and watch their AI manager keep his starters in until their arms fall off, while the power hitters endure some frustrating at-bats.

When we talked to Eric about doing a guest post, he mentioned that he’s a fan of the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs, so we proposed matching the 1984 Tigers against the 1908 Cubs in four seven-game series. Each team would have two chances to be the home team and play according to their era’s strategy and stats.

Eric thought that was a great idea, so we set up the first series. Here’s how the Historical Exhibition setup screen looks. We left the rosters at their default limits of 25 players but turned injuries off so no one lost a star player with the series on the line.

08Cubs-84Tigers-setup

After you choose your teams, you move on to the Team Roster Setup screen. We left the default rosters intact, but you can tinker with them, if you want.

08Cubs-84Tigers-rosters

Then it’s time to play ball. You can either simulate the action or control one or both teams.

Series One: Tigers, 4-2

Here’s how the first series, hosted by the Tigers, turned out as they won in six games. You can click “Box” next to any game result to see the box score and pitch-by-pitch game log.

Cubs-at-Tigers-series-1

As you can see, neither team’s top starters fared well: Chicago’s Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown posted an 0-2 record with a 5.06 ERA and Detroit Jack Morris was 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA. Both clubs put on hitting clinics, though, and Detroit third baseman Howard Johnson was the MVP, going 10-for-24 (.417) with a pair of homers and six RBI.

The series opened with a 4-0 win by the Tigers as Dan Petry pitched eight strong innings. In Game Two, the Tigers carried a 7-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning and Morris exited after giving up a lead-off single. Bill Scherrer entered in relief and coaxed a flyball out but gave up a single and a run-scoring double. Willie Hernandez then entered the game and gave up two more runs before striking out Joe Tinker to finally end the game.

That late-inning mojo carried over into Game Three as the Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the eighth and won with a walk-off two-out single by Del Howard in the bottom of the ninth. The Tigers returned the favor, though, in Game Four with solo home runs by Chet Lemon and Darrell Evans in the top of the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, for the win and a 3-1 series lead.

In Game Five, the Tigers took a 4-2 lead, but Howard singled in a run in the bottom of the seventh for the Cubs and Tinker delivered a two-run homer that put his team ahead for good. Game Six saw the Cubs take a 3-0 lead after the first inning, but the Tigers knotted the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh and Kirk Gibson delivered a series-winning walk-off two-out RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.

Series Two: Cubs, 4-1

In the second series, though, the Cubs got their revenge with a 4-1 win:

Cubs-at-Tigers-series-2

Brown and Jack Pfeister earned all four of their team’s wins while Dan Petry posted a 2.13 ERA in two starts but was 0-1. Morris was 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA. The Tigers’ hitters also struggled while the Cubs got used to playing the modern era. Joe Tinker was 12-for-21 (.571) with a home run and eight RBI, earning himself series MVP honors.

In Game One, the Cubs took a 3-0 lead into the late innings and Brown allowed a solo home run by Gibson in the bottom of the eighth. Since the series was played according to 1984 strategies, Rube Kroh entered in the bottom of the ninth and gave up a solo home run by Larry Herndon before nailing down the save. Tired of close games, the Cubs then rolled to a 14-2 win in Game Two.

The Tigers earned their only win of the series in Game Three but Willie Hernandez made his teammates sweat by allowing a run on three singles before striking out Frank Chance to end the game. The Cubs won Games Four and Five, though, nailing down the final contest with a 3-2 victory that was void of late-inning drama.

Another cool feature in OOTP 17 is the automated recap that appears at the top of the box score of a series-winning game:

Cubs-at-Tigers-series-2-recap

Series Three: Cubs, 4-2

For the next two series, we moved the action to the 1908 Cubs’ home era, and they took advantage of that in the third series as they won, 4-2. The Tigers had a 2-1 series lead, but the Cubs reeled off three straight wins, including shutouts in Games Five and Six. Here’s the series rundown. Note the pitching stats:

Tigers-at-Cubs-series-3

Even though the Cubs won, Morris earned series MVP honors, thanks to his 2-0 record with a 0.50 ERA. Seems that 1908 suited him well, whereas Dan Petry fell apart, going 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA. The Cubs rode three starters to victory. Unlike the last two series, this one had no late-inning drama.

Series Four: Tigers, 4-2

Moving on to the final series, the Tigers emerged victorious, 4-2, as they won Games One, Two, Five, and Six. Morris was again a stud, going 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA, and Dan Petry twirled a shutout in his lone start. However, Alan Trammell was 10-for-26 (.385) with one home run (his team’s only dinger0 and eight RBI for series MVP honors.

Here’s how the final series went down:

Tigers-at-Cubs-series-4

In Game One, Morris and Brown traded goose eggs through seven innings before the Tigers put up four runs in the top of the eighth on five singles and a triple (welcome to 1908, guys). Game Two saw the Tigers lead 1-0 until they put together a three-run rally in the top of the seventh to give them breathing room.

In Game Three, the Cubs averted a 3-0 deficit by rallying for two rungs in the top of the eighth for a 5-4 win, and in Game Four they carried a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth but allowed a pair of runs before finally securing the win (amazingly, both teams’ starters were left in the entire time).

Game Five saw Petry toss his shutout, 4-0, and the Tigers secured the series win at home with a 9-2 romp in Game Six.

Who’s the Better Team?

As these sims showed, the 1908 Cubs and 1984 Tigers were fairly evenly matched teams. They split the four series, and three of the four went six games. As they showed, anything can happen in baseball, and the fun with these “What if?” sessions is found in the discussions that happen afterward.

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Movie Review: 42 [2013]

42 [2013]

42 [2013]
Director: Brian Helgeland
Screenplay: Brian Helgeland
Genre: Biography/Drama/Sport
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie
Running Time: 128 minutes

Jackie Robinson will always be known as the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, but many seem to forget that he was also a damn good player. In a ten year career, he was a 6-time All-Star, an MVP winner, Rookie of the Year, and a World Series champion. In the new biopic, 42, his excellent career is only glossed over in favor of taking a look at his tumultuous first season.

First, we begin in 1945. Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is looking to improve his team and comes up with an unfathomable idea — why not sign a talented African American player? While there was no rule against letting minorities play Major League Baseball, there was an unwritten code that every team adhered by. After taking a look at several of the big names in the Negro leagues — including Roy Campanella and Satchel Paige — Rickey settles on the then 26-year-old Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), citing his strong demeanor and ability to withstand verbal abuse.

42 [2013]

Jackie, accompanied by his lovely wife, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), spends a season in the minor leagues before hitting the majors in 1947. As soon as he steps on the field on Opening Day, Jackie is surrounded by reporters. This is commonplace, as is the racist heckling from the crowd, written death threats and even petitions against him from his own teammates. It’s hard to believe that just over 60 years ago, the U.S. was so heavily segregated. Toilets, water fountains and even baseball stadiums were divided, with different lines for “whites” and “colored” patrons.

Many of the character interactions in this film are downright disgusting, and sadly enough, most of them actually happened. The most notorious example is when Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) attempts to rattle Robinson while he’s at the plate by spewing racial epithets at him over and over again. Chapman is relentless, and this is when Jackie reaches his breaking point. Is he really ready to do this? Can he continue to handle all of the pressure bestowed upon him as MLB’s first African American player, essentially a trailblazing pioneer? Of course, we know the answer to this.

42 [2013]

It’s somewhat disappointing that 42 only focuses on Jackie’s first season, simply because he had an impressive career with many noteworthy moments. This makes sense from a film perspective since it gives director Brian Helgeland a chance to portray Robinson in the brightest possible light (which I have no complaints about), but it still feels like there is just so much more to tell.

The film is given the full Hollywood treatment with tried-and-true cliches, dramatic music and a number of heavy-handed scenes (I half-expected Steven Spielberg’s name to be attached to the project), and it concludes with notes on what later happened to Jackie and a select few teammates. While I was fully expecting this “where did they go?” epilogue, it was bizarre to see notes given on players who weren’t even named in the film. Much of the supporting cast (re: teammates) are briefly acknowledged by a first name, if we’re lucky, and they all just blur together. While it’s nice to know Ralph Branca played for three different teams in his career, why should the audience care when he was given maybe a few lines in the movie?

42 [2013]

Regardless of these head-scratching end notes, it should be stated that the entire cast did a hell of a job with their roles. Chadwick Boseman perfectly nails Jackie’s baseball mannerisms, and Harrison Ford hits one out of the park with his scenery-chewing performance as the cigar-chomping old codger running the Dodgers. An impressive array of character actors fills out the supporting cast, led by John C. McGinley as the legendary announcer, Red Barber, and Alan Tudyk as the racist manager, Ben Chapman.

42 is a serviceable biopic, and it hits all of the proper emotional notes. It is an important film, one that deserves to be seen, even though it may be too “Hollywood” for its own good. Jackie Robinson’s legacy is undeniable, and at the very least this film has deservedly brought him back into the forefront.

7/10

Thoughts from a Devoted Detroit Lions Fan

Lions vs Saints

I don’t think I have ever wrote about sports in this blog, which is a bit surprising considering how big of a fan I am. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer… I do my best to keep up with all of them. If I were to choose my favorite sport and my favorite team, however, it would without a doubt be football and the Detroit Lions.

This should come as no surprise. I was born and raised in Michigan, and spent the first 22 years of my life there  before moving to greener pastures. I grew up watching Detroit sports and have stuck by their teams through the thick and the thin. Being a Lions fan in particular has not exactly been easy.

During the 1990s, I was a casual fan of the team. I had accepted their mediocrity and would passively watch their games. Their motif seemed to be to put together a slightly above average season, sneak into the playoffs and then promptly get their asses kicked. It became something of a yearly tradition, and by 1999, the team’s greatest player, Barry Sanders, had enough of it and shockingly retired. His reasoning? He simply could not handle any more of the Lions losing culture.

The team stumbled into the playoffs during that 1999 season despite a mere 8-8 record, and once again lost in the first round. The next year they managed a winning season at 9-7 but didn’t make the playoffs. Then the Dark Ages began.

Matt Millen took over the reins as the Lions Team President and CEO in 2001, and ironically, this is when I took the plunge into being a hardcore fan. What transpired next was eight years of sheer torture and pain as a fan of the once proud franchise. The Lions compiled an astoundingly bad 31-97 record during Millen’s tenure, culminating in an embarrassing 0-16 season that finally convinced owner William Clay Ford, Sr. to terminate his contract.

The Lions found ways to lose games and embarrass themselves in every way possible. Who could forget head coach Marty Mornhinweg’s decision to “take the wind” after winning an overtime coin toss? How about the time coaching assistant Joe Cullen made headlines for passing through a Wendy’s drive-thru while naked? What about Millen’s countless wasted draft picks? The list goes on and on. The Lions and their fans were the laughingstock of the NFL.

Enter Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand and Jim Schwartz. In 2009, this trio took over a franchise that had hit rock bottom. Slowly but surely, they worked together to develop a plan to bring the Lions back to relevance. During the ’09 season, the team finished 2-14, a marginal improvement over the 0-16 season a year before. In 2010, the team started 2-10 before suddenly going on a tear and finishing 6-10. This year, the Lions are 10-6 and are in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Let me repeat that: The Detroit Lions are in the playoffs.

The decade of misery is over. Tomorrow night the Lions will be playing a wild card game against the red-hot New Orleans Saints. The odds are stacked against them: they are 11-point underdogs, and they lost 31-17 in their previous encounter this season. No one expects them to win, but there is reason for hope. This is an explosive football team that can drop 30+ points on anyone, and they are as healthy as they have been all year. This is going to be a battle.

Regardless of the outcome, this is one of the first times in my life that I can proudly state that I am a Detroit Lions fan.

My lovely girlfriend and I at Ford Field earlier this season