SteveMRyan's Blog

October 14, 2016

36 Hours On the Road in Three Days

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 9:19 pm

On Friday morning, September 30 at 6:27am EST, my wife and I left for Maple Grove, Minnesota.  I had just completed a 12-hour shift (at 6:00am) and not slept particularly well the day before.  My wife started the drive because she was better rested.  The idea was that I would sleep and take over later in the afternoon.  We were traveling with Honey, Coach had been dropped off at our Vet – for the reasonable price of $24/night, and Diane and Carla were left at home with two large bowls of food and a couple of large water bowls.  We put a pillow by Carla’s bowl of food because we suspected she would guard her bowl all weekend while we were gone.

The purpose of the trip was for me to meet some new APBA Friends while competing in the Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournament VI.  (Click on the link for an awesome recap and pictures!)  Darrell Skogen was the gracious host and Jim Fraasch organized the event.  The odd numbered TCABT events are held on the first Saturday in April while the even numbered events occur on the first Saturday in October.  My wife had started a new job in early August.  She was still in her 90-day probation period but had notified her boss that she needed this particular weekend off for our trip.  I can’t say enough about our relationship and the lengths to which my wife goes to prove her devotion to me.  I am truly a very fortunate man!

On the drive, my excitement and opportunity to spend time with my wife prevented me from sleeping much.  I work a lot of hours.  With my wife now working this was an opportunity to spend time together.  We talked and generally enjoyed the trip.  We laugh a lot when we are together.  Most of our amusement comes from sharing thoughts before we even speak them.  We hit Nashville smack in the middle of morning rush hour but there seemed to be a little less construction than usual for the Music City.  My boss had been touting Waze as an exceptional navigational app.  My boss’ previous recommendations have been questionable due to a couple of poor movies.  After watching one of his recommended films, my wife’s feeling was that we would never get those two hours back and I agreed.  By the end of our trip, my boss was further vilified by his suggestions – now expanded to the app arena.  I’ll just say we used Google Maps for our return home.

We were amused by the number of people participating in distracted driving, mainly phone use, but also eating and grooming.  We did encounter one driver looking at the paper.  We did do a fair amount of eating in the car during our trip.  We tend to limit our driving food to items that require less effort and one-handed maneuvering.  We brought some protein bars and some crackers along with other snacks.  We had our Yeti cups with ice for our beverages.  We also visited gas stations frequently to walk around, stretch our legs and bathroom breaks.  Even with a lengthy trip, we wanted to stay as fresh as possible.  We kept the gas tank from getting too low and kept an eye on our tire pressure.  We both like to travel slow and steady.  We resemble the turtle much more than the hare.

During our trip, we observed that Missouri, especially around St Louis, doesn’t have any type of vehicle inspection or other requirements for a vehicle to be considered road-worthy.  Iowa is one big God-forsaken cornfield with a lot of two lane roads.  Kentucky has signs that say the left lane is intended for passing slower vehicles which is mainly for a tractor-trailer going 50 to pass another tractor-trailer going 45 in a 65 MPH zone – forget using cruise control.  Minneapolis/St Paul, MN has some of the most dangerous construction zones with the shortest on/off ramps and the worst detours ever!  Other than that, Minnesota has the best roads.

We arrived at our destination around 12:30am CST.  Around 10pm, while we were in an area of Iowa between cell phone towers, the place where we had reservations for Friday & Saturday nights called to see if we still planned on keeping our reservations.  I called them back and assured them we were in route.  I had called Wednesday evening to confirm our reservation and make sure they still accepted pets.  This was confirmed along with the pet rate.  The Ryder Cup was being held the same weekend in the area and we probably got one of the last remaining rooms.  So I imagine the hotel was looking to make sure our room would be used.  More on this establishment later.

We got to the room, brought our stuff from the car, set our alarm and went to sleep.  My alarm was set for 6:45am since we were only a five-minute drive from Mr Skogen’s house.  The shower rod was falling down and there was a unique smell in the hotel so I didn’t have any faith that the water would offer any refreshment properties.  My wife is made of much sturdier stock so she actually took a shower and survived.  I used deodorant and a fresh change of clothes and went down to check out the free breakfast.  Free is a misleading word since the breakfast was included with our room but you get what you pay for.  Have I mentioned that we called another budget-type hotel chain after calling Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn and discovering there were no rooms available at the more trusted options?  The budget option wanted $240 a night so that was when I researched local events and discovered the Ryder Cup conflict.  We were paying $80 a night plus $15 a night for our dog.

I checked the breakfast and tried a bagel but I must have accidentally picked one of the rubber display bagels.  That was the most visually appetizing item in the breakfast room so we checked Google and discovered a Chick-Fil-A on the way to the tournament.  Breakfast was wonderful and since Chick-Fil-A is a Southern chain, they offer sweet tea north of the Mason-Dixon line.  (I am not sure but I believe sweet tea north of the Mason-Dixon line is like Coors Beer east of Colorado – or a Smokey & The Bandit situation!)  This was not lost on me due to a previous experience in Lansing, MI 25 years ago.  My wife had some of her breakfast combo left over and decided she would save it for later.  I had nectar remaining, which would come in handy for sipping on the rest of the day.  She dropped me off and headed back to the room for more sleep.

I knew several people at the tourney and it was good to meet new friends as well.  We went inside and mulled around for a few minutes before things got underway.  There were several people I specifically wanted to meet that I feel I know from either their blogs or YouTube channels.  There was one guy there who I didn’t get to meet but we are in at least one BBW email league together.  My division was in Mr Skogen’s office area so we were a bit isolated from the other divisions.  My second series was against Beau Lofgren, who writes the Minnesota APBA blog.  He uses the iScore app to score games on his iPad and I was able to ask him a few questions about that during our games.  He was a big help and I have since entered all of my TCABT VI Divisional games into iScore.  (I somehow lost them and only have the first two playoff games in iScore.) I also got to play George Adams who has been featured in an APBA’view by Mr Fraasch.  I was fortunate to win seven games while only losing three and qualifying for the playoffs as the 2nd Place finisher in my division.

The playoffs were held in the basement after a well done Announcement Show.  I was the beneficiary of good rolls and hot dice and matched up with Darrell Skogen’s 2014 Baltimore Orioles in the first round.  The dice were with me as I rolled to an 8-1 victory in the opening game.  My dice stayed hot in the second game with a 4-2 win.  I faced Leroy Arnoldi’s 1977 Philadelphia Phillies in the semi-finals and my luck ran out along with facing a very good team and manager.  I am pretty sure if managing ability was more important, I wouldn’t have made it out of Divisional Play.  That is one of the things I like about APBA.  Hot dice are usually the most important thing which reflects the baseball dictum, “That how baseball go,” as uttered by the wise baseball sage Ron Washington.  Mr Arnoldi swept me 3-1 & 4-2 but his hot dice failed him in the finals as Bruce Tyler’s 1930 St Louis Cardinals were crowned TCABT VI Champions.  Mr Arnoldi had won the two previous October Twin Cities Tournaments.

My wife picked me up and I shared the days’ events and proclaimed that this was one of the two greatest days of the year, along with the APBA Convention in June.  We headed back to the hotel to pack our things and hit the road.  My wife said she had to leave the room to finish her breakfast as the smell was ruining her appetite.  She tried to sleep but since our room didn’t include a Do Not Disturb door hanger, she was disturbed by housekeeping before she could get much sleep.  While we were packing, the girl at the front desk called our room and asked if we had an animal.  I replied that we did and when we booked our room as well as when I called to confirm our reservation I had made sure pets were allowed and reminded her we had also checked the fee.  The front desk clerk told us that pets weren’t allowed and we hadn’t been charged.  I told her we planned to pay the fee.  She was a bit rude but if I had to smell that smell all the time, I would be a bit rude too.  I reviewed the hotel on tripadvisor.com and it shouldn’t be too hard to pick out mine or my wife’s reviews.  We checked out around 8:15pm CST and hit the road.

My wife drove since I was going on about seven hours sleep since I had woken around 2:30pm EST Thursday afternoon.  My wife probably had about twice that since she went to bed Thursday evening.  Maple Grove is a nice community and the weather was great.  I even wore a hoodie I had bought on a clearance sale from the MLBshop.com shop for $17.  We are a month away from hoodie weather in Tennessee but Minnesota was brisk approaching chilly.  The MLBShop site will have items with previous year’s Playoff/All-Star patches on sale for very good prices.  My hoodie was a 2013 Red Sox World Series Championship item for 75% off.  I also got a Twins hat with a 2014 All-Star Patch for $15 along with some other items.  I love baseball so I will wear almost any team item within reason.

The trip home was much better since we went through Wisconsin and Illinois.  There were many more construction zones and even a toll road, but most of our trip was at night and there wasn’t much traffic at all.  We did encounter one deer but that was more of a monster sighting/wake-up call than anything.  We like the Illinois roads continued our stops every hour and a half or so for fuel, bathrooms, and other pit stops.  We stopped at a Denny’s in southern Illinois for breakfast Sunday Morning and it was very good.  We arrived home around 3:30pm EST, unpacked the car and I was in bed by 5:30pm.  I had to be at work the following morning at 6am and needed some sleep.  My alarm woke me up around 4:20am and my routine started over again.

tcabt-vi-envelope

Custom APBA Envelopes from Jim Fraasch!

 

When I finished that stretch of work days on Thursday evening at 6pm, I had a few things to do and was busy pretty much until I returned to work Sunday evening at 6pm.  I wasn’t even able to play any APBA but more importantly, I got the lawn mower tuned up for what would be one of the last yard cuts of the year.  We have even looked at different APBA Tournaments and hope to maybe return to Minnesota in April or possibly try another event in Michigan.

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September 26, 2016

Passage of Time, Plans, Projects and Roadtrips

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 6:57 am

July 31, 1992 – September 25, 2016

jftt

This was part of the dash.

Like a comet across the sky, if you weren’t looking for it, you might have missed it.

This Friday, my wife, Honey and I plan to drive to Maple Grove, Minnesota.  Coach is going to the Vet Kennel for the weekend and Carla and Diane will be tasked with protecting the house.  Honey loves a road trip and at her age, we are reluctant to leave her at home.  According to GoogleMaps, it is approximately 2100 miles roundtrip.  We are looking forward to a good time together.  I will probably sleep a bit during the ride.

It is a long trip for me to play ten APBA games in the TCABT VI.  While long and quick, this trip will be a welcome break.  I am in a rough division and optimistically, hope to split with the 1966 Astros and 2008 Cubs.  The 1939 Yankees, 1930 Cardinals and 1990 A’s are extremely tough and can score twenty runs in any given game.  That makes 2-8 a realistic possibility.  I hope to catch a few breaks and go 5-5.  I will be competing against the other managers as well as my own fatigue.  I do have some experience competing in the APBA Convention in Alpharetta the past few years.  My first year there I started 1-4 and finished 4-1 to end with a 5-5 overall record.  APBA is more about friends and community than a silly little tabletop baseball game.  I expect to have a great time and am very excited regardless of the outcome during the games.

I am finishing an APBA project with the 1965 Baseball set.  Using the challonge.com bracket site, I created four groups and am playing games to determine group winners.  The four winners will play in a quick one-&-done tournament to decide the Champion.  It has been a lot of fun.  So far the Reds, Braves, and Yankees have advanced.  The Dodgers are leading the final group at the halfway point.  Like most of my APBA games, I am posting results at the Delphi site on the APBA Between the Lines Forum.  If interested, look for The Twenty 65ers folder.

My next project will be something on a much larger scale.  I have done my research and determined that the 1938 Reds had a dismal 16-28 record in 1-run games.  They finished in 4th place just six games behind the pennant-winning Chicago Cubs.  I am just going to replay those 1-run games for the Reds.  If I can go 22-22, that should make it interesting depending on the head-to-head games with the Cubs.  I don’t know much about that season beyond Johnny Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters.  Neither of those games was a 1-run game so I won’t be replaying either of those games.  I am looking forward to getting into that project!  Results will also be posted at Delphi in the APBA Between the Lines Forum.

I read an interesting article concerning Bruce Springsteen and how the article’s author associated certain songs with the timeline of her life through the prism of Bruce Springsteen’s work.  I got to thinking about the soundtrack of my life.  What songs would I hear or better still, what songs take me back in time?  I enjoy several recording artists and a few songs stand out.  There are a couple I associate with breaking up from old girlfriends.  There are a few that take me back to the summertime when I was young.  And there are others that help me attain a particular state of mind.

Music can be a powerful trigger for memories or moods.  I see our hot basement in August passing the time with AFX until school was back in session.  I remember a college instructor asking us to choose a song that we felt currently captured our persona.  I didn’t know a single song any of my classmates chose and they probably didn’t recognize the song I chose, Over The Rhine’s, “I Don’t Wanna Waste Your Time.”  The song is from their album, “The Trumpet Child.”  I have had that CD in my truck for close to six years.  It is a favorite of mine but I chose that song for the title as much as anything.  I won’t deny there could have been a tongue firmly planted in my cheek.  Oddly enough, the teacher asked me to borrow the CD since she enjoyed the singer’s voice.  It might have been due to me being twice as old as the other people in the class and closer to the instructor’s age than the other students.

Natalie Cole takes me back to a particular job since I had her “Unforgettable” CD in the CD player the four years I worked there and played it daily.  Kenny Rogers’ songs make me think about hot afternoons stacking Little Debbie cases in trailers during my time with the Shipping Department at the bakery.  Similarly, theme songs for TV shows have the same effect.  Sanford & Son reminds me of evenings watching TBS with my grandfather since it came on before and after the Braves games.  Other shows and songs rekindle different memories, some bad but the vast majority are good and make me smile.

This week should be fun and I only need to burn one vacation day for the trip.  In the meantime, the excitement might make sleep difficult.  Then again, sometimes fatigue simply wins.

September 11, 2016

My Hall of Famer…

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 4:00 am

In 1997 Keyshawn Johnson had a book published.  In that book, he hoped to explain how he would help turn the Jets from losers into winners.  The title of the book sounds interesting but if I was writing a book, I would change three words in the title to chronicle my drive to work.  I would change the second word from Give to Hang.  I would change the third word from Me to Up.  Then I would change the sixth word from Ball to Phone.

My daily commute on the way home when I work days or to work when I am on the night shift is between 5:30pm until about 6:30pm. I am usually in the minority when I work nights because I am on my way to work when everyone else is on their way home.  People feel they have to be taking advantage of the drive time by communicating with other people.  Hands-Free is the second best way to go.  Just driving is the best way.  Today I was crossing Chickamauga Dam, speed limit 55, and I passed a woman who was in the fast lane.  I was going 40 Mph so she was going 35ish.  But she was doing two things at once, driving and talking on her cell.  Granted, traffic was bumper to bumper but there were close to 200 yds between her car and the car in front of her.

I wish Tennessee had some type of law against cell phone-distracted driving.  Maybe they do.  My wife and I have made a pact with each other not to talk when we are driving unless we can do so using a hands-free device or speaker phone if we are stopped at a red light.  We both feel that anything we have to say to each other is secondary to surviving the journey to our destination.  This is even true if we need to make an extra trip because we might have needed something from the store along the way.

I enjoy listening to books and have a monthly membership to the Audible.com Book Club.  For about $15 I can download one book each month.  I also receive daily specials, usually under $5, that might interest me.  Usually, I get one of those specials about once every three months or so.  A couple of weeks ago I bought a David Baldacci book that was very good.  It was part of a series with the main character who does some type of contract work for a government agency.  In that particular book, the hero saved the President from an assassin.  He also helped a girl who became an orphan.

Lots of kids overcome difficult situations in becoming who they are as adults.  I have been fortunate to have great parents who have guided me and helped me throughout my life.  There have also been other people who have had a lot of influence.  I have been very fortunate.  If I have had much adversity or difficulties to overcome, those situations have been 100% self-inflicted.

One Saturday this past December, my dad came by my house and I remember we had a discussion about installing a motion sensor security light above our garage doors.  He said he could help me and I looked forward to spending time with him as much as installing the light.  My dad is probably the most reliable person I have known in my whole life and I strive to be like him.

I’m still waiting to put up that light.  The Wednesday after that conversation, my Dad had a terrible accident while driving his delivery route.  Our best Christmas Gift was him surviving the crash.  He is still recovering from the injuries he received almost 270 days ago.  That has caused me to think about my dad a lot in the past few months.  He has had a positive outlook and keeps hoping for a full recovery even as he is still walking with a walker or cane and on a feeding tube.

As I grow older I enjoy my technical devices and enjoy being able to ‘Google’ information or watch instructional videos on YouTube.  I understand that technology is a tool and not the be all and end all –  to use a Shakespearean phrase.  (And yes, I googled that.)  I recently acquired some wooden items to assist my enjoyment in my APBA hobby.  I watched some YouTube videos to help me put a coating on the items so they would be protected from the wear and tear of constant use and travel.  I also understand that I could find information using Google or YouTube to put up the light but I’ll wait for Dad.

Rudyard Kipling grew up in India and was sent to a boarding house for his education at the age of five.  The boarding house parents treated him and his sister cruelly.  As a child, he felt it was meant to be and would just get worse if he said something.  Most of his stories revolve around a theme of children needing their fathers.  The Jungle Book is basically about how Mowgli needs his dad.  Most of the statistics indicate that having both parents plays a vital role in how offspring approach and succeed in life.  I couldn’t agree more.

This past Father’s Day, Gillette had a commercial titled, ‘Go Ask Dad.’  Young men were placed in a room with a computer and asked to look up various information such as how to ask a girl out, how to tie a tie or how to cook an egg.  First, the kids tried to perform these tasks using the computer and Google.  Then after a few blundered attempts their father walks in and they ask him.  The dads all understood their sons and enjoyed showing them how to accomplish these seemingly trivial tasks.  At the close of the commercial, the sons all say that their dad was much better at helping them because there is a relationship.

My best source throughout my life has been my dad.  I remember a couple of years ago he was helping me repair my dryer.  We had gotten the broken part out and replaced it with a new part.  We tried it out and it worked well.  As we are packing up our tools and Fix-It Book, my dad told me that he and my mom were buying a new place to live and would be moving.  I was shocked since I didn’t even know they were looking to move.  My mom was having some trouble getting around and was scheduled to have her knee replacement redone.  Having everything on a single level made sense.  A two-story house wasn’t all that practical for two people approaching their mid-seventies.

I am in my fifties and my wife is in her forties.  She is my rock and we love being together.  She has been a great help to my parents through their trials in the past few years.  I have no doubt that my parents like her better than me at times.  I don’t blame them.  She is awesome and absolutely my better half.

I am a knucklehead and have made my share of knuckle-headed decisions in my life.  I am responsible for my mistakes and have suffered the consequences in spite of my parents’ best efforts.  I know that I make my own choices and don’t blame others when things turn out badly.  I also know that I must share the credit if by some miracle I can overcome my inefficiencies and things work out well.  My best quality is being able to rely on others and accept guidance and direction when it is available.  If I am left to my own devices, then things will usually turn into a train wreck.  This is part of the aging process and as I get older it seems the more I learn, the less I know.

Currently, I am listening to an audiobook from Sports Illustrated, “Great Football Writing.”  This is a good book but some of the stories don’t really interest me.  Mainly because sports talk radio killed my enjoyment of the sport of football.  Usually, there are two weeks between the NFL Conference Championship Games and the Super Bowl.  I understand ratings drives radio, but in those two weeks, there is talk about football that can barely be classified as talk.  Well, that is if listening is a qualifier for talking.  If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it…blah, blah, blah.   There are so many sports talk radio shows and so few interesting topics that the hosts of those shows try to turn the color of shoe laces into a riveting conversation.  I cried, “Uncle!”  I stopped listening to talk radio, playing Fantasy Football and in general turned my back on football.  With the Super Bowl being played in the early part of February, there are usually plenty of teams still in the hunt for college basketball conference championships plus even more teams on the proverbial Bracket Bubble.  I won’t even broach the topic of the Hot Stove, my personal favorite.  Football used to be nice distraction between the end of the World Series and Pitchers and Catchers reporting around Valentine’s Day.  When I coached middle school basketball the season fit nicely in the void.

Now in all sports, I generally avoid discussions about the qualifications for Halls of Fame.  The key word to me is Fame.  It falls in the same category as Most Valuable Player with Valuable being the key word.  Classifying the various categories for qualifications is ludicrous and inane.  That said, while listening to this football audiobook there was a name mentioned that aroused my curiosity, Ken Anderson.  I got to looking and he isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I looked at his numbers on pro-football-reference.com and I guess he is just below the threshold but I liked him and thought that might be an oversight, but I guess not.

I looking at the HOF Inductee list by schools and only two schools’ inductees took up two lines – Notre Dame (13) and Southern Cal (12).  None of the schools I attended have any inductees but that might change if Terrell Owens gets elected.  Interestingly, the Jimmy Johnson in the Pro Football Hall of Fame went to UCLA and not Arkansas.

I have recently played a few APBA Football Games and it is a lot of fun, even playing solitaire.  I have a friend I used to play various football games with either on the computer or video games.  I am hoping to get together with him when my work schedule returns to normal because I am certain he will enjoy the game.  He was an All-City QB in his town, but that just meant he started on his high school team, the only school in his town.  I take credit for a teammate on my high school soccer team being All-South because he was making up for my mistakes.  Wouldn’t that sort of make me 2nd team All-South?

Life is good and this particular blog has been written over a span of about four calendar days.  I have been working nights for the past eight nights and will return to work for one day after I leave work this morning.  For all the talk about safety in my workplace, fatigue is probably the silent assassin.  I do try to get my sleep and rest but sometimes it is a struggle.  That said, I have been fortunate to have the support and assistance of my wife.  Several nights I was happy to have her bring some supper by work so we could have a little time together.  When I leave work this morning we are planning on going out for a breakfast date.  Nothing fancy, but being with her always make it seem special.  Plus, I am sure my dad would be happy to know I watched him my whole life and I had a great role model for how to treat my wife!

sunset-090816

Sunset September 8, 2016

 

August 22, 2016

Fantasy Football Time again!

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 1:33 pm

…And I won’t play.  I used to play fantasy baseball and it helped me in my understanding of baseball.  Fantasy Football caused me to dislike football.  This year I might try to watch some football games other than the Super Bowl.  I might not.

The last time I played Fantasy Football, my team was named the Harrison Redskins.  I created an offensive logo for my helmet and I believe I let the online league website draft my team.

Redskins

Harrison Redskins

 

 

My biggest problem with Fantasy Football is the injury process.  Some teams, like the New England Patriots, seem to respect the players’ privacy in the aspect of the HIPAA Law of 1996.  My wife has worked in the healthcare field and understands the HIPAA Law much better than I do.  My understanding is that personal healthcare information is a private matter and the injured worker controls the release of that information.  This also applies to work related injuries which are what most Fantasy Football Injuries appear to be.  My dad had a bad wreck last December 16th, 2015 and it is a Worker’s Comp situation.  I hope Football Players don’t have to deal with Liberty Mutual for their claims.  The nicest way to say it is Liberty Mutual’s Worker’s Comp division sucks.

My other problem with an injury situation, as it relates to Fantasy Football, is the waiver player pickup process.  Most pickups are the first-come-first-serve variety for people actually watching games and trolling the waiver wire looking for available players.  This is particularly advantageous when a starting QB or RB experiences a season-ending injury and an obvious replacement is waiting in the wings.

That is just another reason I love APBA Games.  Last week, I played a football game.  I rolled play results that would have been injuries for key players but I chose to ignore those results.

Den-Car Scoresheet 081516

 I do the same when I play APBA Baseball using cards and dice.  When I play Baseball for Windows, I let injuries stand since ignoring them isn’t an option.

White Sox Baseball

This morning I rolled a game between the 1965 Twins and the 1965 Cardinals.  Jim Kaat won the game for the Twins beating Bob Gibson’s Cardinals 4-2.  No players were injured in the rolling of this game and an angel got their wings.

65 SLN @ 65 MIN 082216v

65 SLN @ 65 MIN 082216h

65MIN @ 65 SLN 082216

I am still playing my 1965 Tournament and am halfway through Group C with the 1965 Cincinnati Reds and the 1965 Milwaukee Braves advancing to the Knockout Round from Groups A & B respectively.  It has been a fun tournament and I am sure I won’t be done until all of the available Fantasy Football Leagues have drafted and teams are claimed.

August 9, 2016

The Bronx was Burning

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 10:50 pm

In the Summer of 1977, I was 12 years old and between sixth and seventh grades.  I remember following Spiderman in the comics.  And every day I checked the standings for the National League West.  My Reds seemed to be facing an uphill battle as they tried to win their third World Series in a row.  The Reds had the best player in the game in my opinion as George Foster slugged 52 homers.  Cincinnati was in 2nd place, 6 1/2 games back of the Dodgers on June 18th.  The Dodgers would end up winning the division by 10 games but lose the World Series to the Yankees.

On June 18, 1977 the Yankees were in Fenway Park playing the Red Sox.  In the bottom of six, Jim Rice hit a check-swing blooper to right field that Reggie Jackson played into a double.  Yankees manager Billy Martin visited the mound to change pitchers and sent Paul Blair to right field for what he perceived as lollygagging on Jackson’s part.  That is basically the opening scene in the ESPN presentation of The Bronx is Burning.

This is a well-made show chronicling the Summer of ’77 as the Yankees pursued the AL Pennant and World Series along with the serial killer Son of Sam.  New York was in the midst of electing a new mayor and enduring a heatwave that precipitated blackouts due to the demands of air conditioning on the city power grid.

The ESPN story uses what appear to be actual clips from network broadcasts in their telling of the story.  My family didn’t have cable in 1977 so the Game of the Week was a weekly event and my best chance to watch baseball.  I believe that was the summer we got central heat and air.  Even in mid-June, the afternoons were especially hot and we wanted to stay in the air conditioning.  I recall watching the game when Blair was sent to right for Jackson.  I remember the ensuing blowup in the dugout.  It was definitely a zoo in the Bronx.

I didn’t discover APBA until the Spring of 1980.  Ads populated the pages of Baseball Digest and The Sporting News.  I ordered the game after writing several companies for brochures or information about their games.  The brochure I received from the APBA Game Company was pure literature (plus a sample card).  Any person studying Marketing should read the APBA brochures to get an idea how to sell a product.  I ordered the APBA Baseball game with some money I received for my birthday.  When I got home from school I checked the mailbox and front porch every day until the game arrived.  My game came with the 1979 Season card set.  The first two past seasons I ordered were the 1976 and 1977 sets. 

I love the 1976 set because my Reds were awesome.  I love the 1977 set because of the possibilities.  I swapped Dan Driessen with Rod Carew because the Reds needed a better first-baseman.  The Reds let Tony Perez go to the Expos in a trade with Will McEnaney for Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray.  Driessen was better than the aging Tony Perez but Carew was the MVP of the American League after hitting .388 with a .449 OBP and .570 SLG for an OPS of 1.019 to lead the Major Leagues.

When I used my 1977 Reds, I didn’t play a set schedule.  I pitted the Reds against most of the other teams.  I enjoyed learning about other teams and players and usually I followed the suggested lineups on the APBA Roster sheet.  The Reds won a lot of games and I seem to recall playing some tournaments and they won their fair share.

I played APBA in the mid-afternoon.  The mornings were spent playing tennis because it was cooler in the morning and I could be outside.  Later in the afternoon was cooler when the sun was behind the taller trees to the west of the basketball court across the street.  Tennis, APBA & basketball.  What a Summer!

I played Dizzy Dean Baseball but had broken my toe at school after the third game and limped through the rest of the season.  The season ended about the same time the cast came off, a week or so after summer break began.  My team didn’t make the playoffs and I was by no stretch an all-star.  In Dizzy Dean, all-stars were picked to play on league teams that qualified for district then state playoffs.  The previous year, my team had won our district, finished second in the state and gone to the Southern Region Tournament but I skipped all of that to go to camp with my cousin.  I didn’t have a good experience with that team.  It is a testament to my love for baseball that my passion for the game survived.  

I never played for a better team but I had more fun and played for better coaches in other seasons.  But once I discovered APBA I entered my own world where I was the coach.  My players’ cards were treated fairly and without bias. The cards are still treated fairly.

I am currently playing a World Cup style tournament with the 1965 MLB teams.  I have four groups with five teams.  Each group plays ten round robin games, four games per team.  Each team plays the other teams in their division once.  I have completed two groups with the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Braves advancing.  I could play twenty tournaments and probably get ten different winners.  I love playing the games though and it is very relaxing.

APBA has been a constant for the last 35+ years.  I score the games using Ballscore instead of by hand.  I have all of the teams from 1901 to the latest set.  Mostly I play eight-team, single elimination tournaments but I play other types of tournaments as well.  I have played the APBA Golf, Saddle Racing, Basketball, and Football.  Through the years, I always come back to baseball.  APBA Baseball pleases me.

 

July 17, 2016

The things you learn…

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 8:24 pm

I jumped off the pop culture train in the late 1980s.  Ask me a question about music or most popular TV shows (Seinfeld, Friends…etc) and I draw a blank.  I have always followed baseball, but I lost track of the NBA, most of the NFL and I never really kept up with the NHL.

The Internet has helped some.  I was working today and looking at a variety of blogs.  One was referring to a game company’s Negro League card set for use with their game.  The blog was several years old and said the set was still available.  Being the curious type, I clicked on the link and discovered the set was available either with a full game or as an individual purchase.

I clicked around on the site and saw something else very intriguing.  The company has a basketball game card set available for the 2001-02  NBA Season.  One of the points of interest was the fact that the Nets made the NBA Finals.  Somehow I had totally missed that.  I love Sports-reference.com and the related sites.  I looked on basketball-reference.com and sure enough, the Nets were swept by the Lakers.  Who knew?

Friday I was surfing the internet at work and was reading about the many satellite APBA tournaments popping up mainly in the upper-Midwest.  Several of the tournaments feature divisional round-robin play followed by a single-elimination playoff round.  Baseball is not a game that is good at determining a champion in a single elimination format.  I prefer at least a best-of-three playoff format.

TCABT6

 

There is a tournament in central Minnesota the first weekend in October with the best-of-three playoff format.  Friday when I returned home from work I asked my wife if she would like to make a quick trip to Minnesota.  She said that would be fun.  Last night we found a hotel with a vacancy on those dates and we made a reservation.  There must be something going on that weekend because there weren’t many vacancies at the hotel chains we were familiar with at reasonable prices.

So I will get to play in my first non-APBA Convention tournament and I am excited.  It will be well worth the 30-hour round trip drive.  The team selection is a bit less restrictive than the APBA Convention so I will still use the 1998 Atlanta Braves Great Teams of the Past edition.  The hitting numbers are rearranged but for the most part, they are the same.  There is a small bump for better strikeout ratings and one reliever is an A* up from a B*.  Other teams get the same advantage I am sure so it will all even out.

98 Braves

Yes, I have three versions of the same team.

 

With a new guy being hired at work the overtime should be reduced significantly.  Hopefully, we should be back to working around 48 hours a week with no more than six 12-hour shifts in a row.  The new hire is younger by 20+ years than the guy he is replacing so there shouldn’t be as many sick call-outs and the newbie probably won’t have as many vacation days.  Work should be a less stressful atmosphere.

That is probably why my wife agreed to the quick trip.  Last month I had some vacation days but other than that, I was only off work for two days.  This month I may have four total off days.  I am in the midst of 11 straight days at work.    I tend to lose track of days.

So the APBA Tournament will be great.  Win or lose I will have a blast.  I will know a few people there from the APBA Convention in Alpharetta but I will also meet new friends.  Plus, I will get to be with lots of people playing my favorite game.  I am excited!

 

July 3, 2016

Happy Birthday America!

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 10:54 pm

Almost nine years from turning 250 and I hope we make it.  We won’t find our hope in either Hilary or Trump but there is hope.

I was able to play another game in my tourney using the teams from the 1965 Season.  I captured it with time-lapse photography and figured out how to turn it into a stop motion video on youtube.  Enjoy!

I dragged 200+ photos into the slideshow maker on youtube and then added some public domain music.  My method needs work, but it is a start.

June 27, 2016

Let’s Roll!

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 7:49 am

Todd Beamer lived in Stoneycreek Township in Pennsylvania.  It appears to me that he was obviously an APBA Player.  This past weekend was the 2016 APBA Convention in Alpharetta, GA.

TC-1

Roy even has my cards memorized and waits patiently for me to read my card result

Roy Langhans, an APBA Hall of Famer, won the Tournament with the 1985 St Louis Cardinals.  Roy Langhans has tried to win the tournament since the maiden convention in 1973.

2016 Trophy

2016 APBA Convention Tourney Runner-Up Trophy

There were 50 players participating in the tournament.  The tournament consists of seven divisions with six teams and one division with eight teams.  The Division winners won with records ranging from 8-2 to 6-4.  There was also a team that lost a tie-breaker with an 8-2 record.  After the first round of the playoffs the only survivors were players who had never won the tournament.

HRD-1

2016 Home Run Derby

The competitions began Thursday evening with the first Football Tournament Semi-final between APBA HOFer Greg Wells and Ray Dunlap.  Friday morning saw the second Football Semi-final between Greg Barath and Mike Harlow.  The Hockey Tournament also continued with a best-of-three Final between APBA HOFer Steve Skoff and Chuck Sorce.  Friday was busy with the Home Run Derby in the afternoon before dinner.

HRD-Champ-3

Roy even has my cards memorized and waits patiently for me to read my card result

Personally, I feel the Home Run Derby Trophy is the best trophy.  This year the Derby victor was a first-time attendee.  Steve Skoff dominated the Hockey Tournament winning the Finals two games to one.  Wells and Barath advanced to the Football Finals.  Greg Wells won with the 2015 New England Patriots over Barath’s 2015 Carolina Panthers.

HOF-1

Greg Wells introducing the 2016 Hall of Fame Inductees

After dinner the Hall of Fame Inductions were held.  Greg Wells introduced the new inductees.  Last year Greg’s son, Brian Wells – also a HOFer, introduced the inductees.

HOF-2

Ray Dunlap

Ray Dunlap was the first inductee and he has contributed many innovations and ideas for the football game.  Ray lives in the Atlanta area and his wife was able to join him for the ceremony.

HOF-3

Greg Barath

The second inductee was Greg Barath.  Greg is legendary for his solo replays using the Football Game.  He has several videos on youtube.com and on his blog site (oguard62.com) has even more helpful Excel and Powerpoint files.  Greg assured us all that rolling dice was a masculine pursuit.

HOF-4

John Herson (right)

John Herson was the third inductee of the evening.  John is the current owner of the Game company.  He has seen all the baseball seasons carded since the 1901 season and introduced the popular Soccer game.

CT-3

2016 Baseball Tournament Games

Games began at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and the sound of APBA Players rolling dice is music to our ears!

CT-4

The 1962 Mets saw action at the Tourney

The ’62 Mets won two games and beat one of the Semi-Finalist in the division part of the tournament.  One of the teams the Mets beat tied for their division lead but swept two head-to-head games against the other division leader to decide the tie-breaker.

CT-2

Action continues…

There youngest player was ten years old and the oldest player was an octogenarian.  There were men as well as women.  Fun is had by all!

CT-1

Former APBA Journal Editor Eric Naftaly (left)

APBA convention attendees come from as far west as California and as far north as upstate New York and as far south as Florida as well as up and down the East Coast.  There is some talk about naming Tournament Divisions for APBA Players who no longer attend the Convention, such as Jim Sce.

The APBA Convention is the highlight of my year.  I plan my vacation around the Convention and while the Tournament is fun, seeing friends and sharing stories is what the Convention is all about.

APBA trip

Roy even has my cards memorized and waits patiently for me to read my card result

The other highlight of the convention is the trip to the store and an opportunity to save shipping costs, usually $10-20.

$300+ for a hotel

$50 on gas

$120 fee for the Convention itself

APBA Convention weekend – Priceless!

Seems like a wise investment.  Just ask any APBA Player!

June 18, 2016

Picking a team for a tournament

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 4:42 am
Me (Braves Cap), Randy Coryer (Expos Cap) & Skeet Carr at the 2015 APBA Convention

Me (Braves Cap), Randy Coryer (Expos Cap) & Skeet Carr at the 2015 APBA Convention

I enjoy playing APBA Baseball and the highlight of my year for the past few years has been the APBA Convention in Alpharetta Georgia.  The rules are fairly simple and have changed slightly over the years but the goal for most of the players is to have fun while meeting old and new friends.  The game company posts the rules (here are the 2016 rules) well before the tournament so no surprises.  The only two changes I can think of are player limits (50AB or more for position players & 20IP or more for pitchers) and team pool (select from the 1950 season to the current past completed season, 2015 for this year) but those rules seem a bit redundant to me.  As Major League Baseball has grown more players play.  The length and value of contracts dictate the player’s health be considered in the long-term instead of the short-term.  So teams from the modern era don’t have a problem filling the 20 card roster used in the tournament.  Teams and players used in previous tournaments are eligible as long as they meet the minimum requirements unless they won a championship.  The company provides dice.  Many players bring lucky dice shakers or dice towers.  Some even wear lucky clothing as long as it smells fresh.

Me (Braves Cap) talking to the Great George Hines!

Two-time Champion and APBA Hall-of-Famer Brian Wells has written a very detailed article (available here) as well as an Excel Spreadsheet (also available here) detailing his proven process.  Who can argue with a two-time champion and Hall-of-Famer?  The purpose of this article is to describe how I like to pick my team because it works for me and I thought others might be interested.

Two-time Champion and APBA Hall of Famer Brian Wells

Two-time Champion and APBA Hall of Famer Brian Wells

My first point will be explaining why and how I like to play.  I have been a baseball fan since I watched my first baseball game or played in my first T-ball league when I was six or seven years old.  My first memories are of the 1972 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds.  I liked the Reds since then because they won that particular game and they were clean-cut like my dad.  Oakland had long hair and mustaches and gaudy green and gold uniforms with white shoes.  My first T-ball team was the Beetles and we had orange shirts with black letters and I had black cleats just like the Reds.  I have been a Reds fan ever since.  I grew up reading all the baseball history & biography books I could get my hands on and eventually ‘graduated’ to books that took a more analytical approach.  I learned the strategies that increased the chances of scoring and the strategies that reduced scoring opportunities.  So when I pick a team, I try to pick a team that suits my playing style.  For example, I don’t care much for stealing bases or the Hit & Run play so the 1985 Cardinals don’t really work for me but they are a very good team.

Steve Skoff and John Duke being inducted into the APBA Hall of Fame

Steve Skoff and John Duke being inducted into the APBA Hall of Fame

Next I look at how I construct my roster.  Tournament teams consists of 20 cards.  That means I have a ten player lineup (starting pitcher and eight positions plus designated hitter) and a ten player bench.  Most tournaments seem to prefer a three-man starting rotation so that leaves eight bench players.  Rules also dictate that injuries aren’t used and under no circumstances should a pitcher come to bat.  Therefore if a pinch-hitter enters the game then a defensive substitute becomes necessary.  I like to have a long reliever who would normally be the fourth starter for when a starters gets reduced and needs replacing.  Short relievers can only pitch one inning per game so I try to have at least three.  After the tenth inning all pitchers become a Grade C pitcher with no control letters and a fielding rating of one.  Since short relievers get a grade bump against their first batter (in the middle of an inning – if the batter hits from the same side from which the pitcher throws) one left-handed reliever helps but isn’t necessary.  I prefer to have at least two (one right-handed and one left-handed) pinch-hitters for my weakest hitters with defensive replacements.  I tend to use the strongest hitting lineup so defensive replacements are important for late innings.

Understand that APBA is not real baseball but a tabletop game using cards and dice.  Dice usage means there is chance or luck but the best strategy is to increase probabilities for success.  There are real baseball strategies that work.  Scoring runs increases the chances for winning and purposefully making outs decreases the chances for victory.  That said, if you play for one run or small ball then be satisfied to score one run or less.  I prefer the philosophy of Joe Sheehan (of the Joe Sheehan Newsletter) as he preaches, “Ball go far…team go far!”  A single roll of 66 with a Printed Result Number (PRN) of One – A Home Run – is a lot easier than stringing together a bunch of singles and doubles.  According to the Tango on Baseball website (Run Expectancy Matrix) sacrificing – if successful – reduces the chances for scoring as well as the expected runs so I abhor sacrificing.  I also trust the Game to produce realistic results so I make decisions based on real-life stats more than reading the cards.  While I haven’t won any tournaments, I have fun and my method works for me.

Games being played!

Games being played!

The same goes for stealing bases.  Since APBA Baseball Basic game handles stolen bases in the game engine I don’t worry about having a few speedsters over sluggers.  I try to remember to ‘Play it Safe” with my slow runners.  I prefer fast runners to slow but don’t change my roster to accommodate speed.  I do feel unless players steal bases at a rate of 85% or higher it is counter-productive to success.

I base my rosters and lineups on On-base Plus Slugging Pct (OPS).  Several years ago I took a WebEx course called Sabermetrics 101 through Boston University.  One of our assignments determined the correlation between various stats and winning baseball teams.  There were a few exceptions. but OPS was the most closely related stat to winning for successful teams.  As a result of that, I tend to order my lineups from top-to-bottom (for the most part) in order of OPS from highest to lowest.  I have gotten comments in the past about having power hitters at the top of my lineups but every time through the lineup will get that hitter up one more time and increase my chances of rolling a 66!

Defending 2014 Champion Paul Trinkle (Twins Jersey).  He secretly enjoyed when I genuflected in his presence.

Defending 2014 Champion Paul Trinkle (Twins Jersey). He secretly enjoyed when I genuflected in his presence.

When selecting teams strong pitching is a must.  In APBA stronger pitchers mainly cut the number of singles and walks.  Also baserunners don’t advance when a batter strikes out so I am not afraid of favorable strikeout ratings (KXY).  I try to select starters with good control (Z or ZZ) but I will choose an A over a BZ every time.  Choosing a B over a CZZ is a tougher choice because a ZZ reduces the bases empty walk.  So I choose the higher Pitching Grade, from A to D, and more favorable strikeout and control ratings (KXY, Z & ZZ over R & W) for my starters.  For my bullpen I also use the same priorities but if I have a W rated pitcher I focus on not using him with the bases loaded if at all.

I try to pick teams with decent rated fielders so the Team Fielding totals a One or close.  The APBA Convention Tournament uses the Advanced Fielding Option which rewards higher rated fielders.  Since all teams have a weakness I want a team strong in two-out-of three areas, Pitching and Hitting.  I don’t ignore defense but it isn’t a high priority.  Defense is between 5-15% of the action so I hope I don’t have a lot of bad luck on defense with error numbers.  As I said earlier, where available, I try to keep defensive substitutes available for weaker fielders late in the game.

The 2014 Finals with Sub-Manager Brian Wells v Skeet Carr

So once I choose my team, pick the players for my roster and set my lineup, I am ready to play.  I will pinch-hit toward the end of a close game or in a key spot if a big hit can blow a game open since I have defensive subs available.  I don’t Hit & Run or use the sacrifice strategy at all.  I just roll the dice and wait for good results.

In close games or if my pitcher’s Grade drops then I have to use my bullpen.  Usually I hope for complete games from my starting pitchers.  I will use my higher rated relievers against the better hitters which is usually toward the top of the order.  If I relieve toward the bottom of the order and the weaker hitters, then I will save my higher rated relievers for what I consider higher leverage spots.  If I have a starter get to the 25th out or later and he hits the showers then I will go straight to my best reliever.  I tend to view the opposite lineups in thirds and try to put my relievers in place to succeed.  I will try to relieve in spots where I can get favorable lefty-righty matchups.  But my main pitching strategy is to hope for a complete game from my starter.

1975 APBA Baseball Brochure

1989 APBA Baseball Brochure

I have a couple of tools I use to select my team.  My biggest tool is Excel.  I keep my Season Card Inventory on a spreadsheet.  When I use a team, instead of just having an ‘x’ marking a team I have, I will put the Grades and ratings of the top three starters for that team.  Also, in the Sabr101 class I learned a bit about MySQL.  I was able to set up a spreadsheet with all the players with 50 or more ABs and 20 or more IPed.  I have sorted this according to the last team a player played for because that is how APBA puts players on teams.  I have received some help the past couple of years updating my spreadsheet when Sean Lahman releases his DB.  I have forgotten some of the skills I had learned.  Once you display a skill, it isn’t necessarily yours to keep – Use it or lose it!

So that is how I pick my team for the APBA Convention.  Another key point – my wife is a Braves fan so I have used the 1998 Braves for the last three years.  I am a Reds Fan(!) but the Braves are one of my top four or five favorite teams so this isn’t a struggle.  I will be using the 1998 Braves again.  The Tournament is in Alpharetta (a suburb of north Atlanta) so maybe I can get a bit of a home-field advantage!

bball-box

My Favorite Game

June 11, 2016

My APBA Area

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 12:05 pm

I  don’t remember the last time I posted my APBA playing area.  I have also included a picture of one of my storage cabinets.  If my latest tourney post has been read, the second picture my dice tower will be fully understood.

I could rotate the pic, but the area can be seen clearly.

I could rotate the pic, but the area can be seen clearly.

Storage cabinet with mostly baseball sets.

Storage cabinet with mostly baseball sets.

To keep dice from wondering onto the floor, under the table and into hidden crevices, I taped an index card to the side.

To keep dice from wondering onto the floor, under the table and into hidden crevices, I taped an index card to the side.

I painted the tower to a nice shade of green.  Hopefully it is a shade with will welcome the dice, especially the little tiny white die.

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