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Self-Indulgent Walk-Off Story Number 2

Traffic on this blog tends to be weakest during weekends. So, rather than do a writeup of a Mets walk-off win, I once again treat you to the second part in a series of ramblings on how walk-offs have affected my life. Regular blog programming should resume Monday...

One of the key moments in my life as a baseball fan came for my 13th birthday, when, as a bar mitzvah gift, my cousins, John and Deanna bought me a Laser 128 computer. A Laser 128, in case you didn't know, was a cheap Apple clone (affordably priced at $399) that was perfectly sufficient at the time for someone who didn't know any better. In other words, it was great for game playing.

To that point, I had grown up on Strat-O-Matic Baseball, an excellent baseball simulation, that taught me about the likes of big-eared Tigers pitcher Don Mossi (whom I had to know more about...Mossi came within 2 outs of a Strat perfect game before 1983-84 Mariners catcher Orlando Mercado broke it up with a triple) and more importantly about strategy and in-game management.

In that winter of 1988, one of the first games I purchased for my Laser 128 was Micro League Baseball, basically the Strat equivalent. One of the best things about Micro League was that I no longer needed someone to play against- the computer could serve as my opposing manager (on the box, I believe the computer manager was known as "Sparky" or "Casey."

I think it's fair to say that I became a Micro League junkie. I'd estimate that over a span of six years, I probably played out 5,000+ games, and let the computer play itself in another 5,000. It was an easy game to play- punch a key, watch the result, punch another key, watch another result. The game was stat-based and realistic, and for the most part, the computer manager was a formidable foe.

A typical Micro League game took about 15 minutes, which was terrific, because it made it easy to run full-season replays. I don't know why, but I never really felt comfortable playing as the Mets, so usually I would pick another team and try to see if I could do better with them than they did in real life.

Since I was working with the 1987 team disk, my team of choice that season was the Oakland Athletics. The 1987 A's were an average team in Tony La Russa's first season as manager. They finished 81-81, but only four games behind the champion Minnesota Twins. It seemed like a reasonable goal to try to win 86 games.

I don't know if the person who programmed Micro League did something screwy, but 1987 was the most bizarre season I ever played of Micro League. Home runs were up significantly that season, but there must have been something in Micro League's code that wrecked with batting averages. Mark McGwire, in his rookie season, hit 49 home runs in real life, and 40 or so for my A's, but his real-life batting average of .289 dipped to about .205 with me. The same was true for Jose Canseco. The good thing was that my opponents couldn't hit either. Dave Stewart and Gene Nelson pitched like Seaver and Koosman of 1969, with both posting sub-2.00 ERA's.

To fast forward a bit, I won the AL West, with something like 90 wins and moved on to the playoffs to face the Tigers. Here's what I remember about the first six games of that series: Dave Stewart pitched a no-hitter in Game 2, but that was overshadowed by a 20-inning contest in Game 6, in which the Tigers won on a Tom Brookens 2-run home run.

For Game 7, I decided to do something special. I figured it would be fun, not only to play the game, but to "broadcast" it as well, into a tape recorder. Those who know me well would not be surprised by that.

The game was one that was worthy of ESPN Classic. Nelson and ex-Mets pitcher Walt Terrell both pitched brilliantly and the tension grew with each pitch. Each team scored once and the game went into extra innings. By the ninth inning, I was practically bouncing off the walls. I had spent a good two months of my young life focused on this season, and now it was all coming down to one potential keystroke.

I remember the bottom of the 10th inning vividly, as if it were yesterday (yes, this is a computer game!!). My designated hitter, Mickey Tettleton (who batted .194 in 1987) led off against Terrell, who pitched a dandy of a game. I can see myself, punching the "0" key (swing away) and I can hear myself turning into Russ Hodges.

"The 2-1 pitch...DEEP TO LEFT....WAY BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The A's win it on Mickey Tettleton's home run!!!!!!!!The team pours onto the field. The A's are the American League champions. An amazing finish!!!!!!!Holy Moly!!!"

This was followed by a description of the celebration ("The fans are all over the field, folks...") and a trip to both locker rooms (in which I "pretended" to pour champagne on myself in the role of both interviewer and Mickey Tettleton, then consoled Sparky Anderson and Walt Terrell outside the Tigers locker room.) Oakland didn't win the World Series (matter of fact, I bailed on it after Game 2 also went 20 innings, figuring something was wrong with my software).

As someone who broadcasts sports on occasion, I can tell you that there is nothing better than calling a walk-off home run or a buzzer-beating, game-winning basket. It is as exhilerating as anything you will ever see in a sporting event. It took a few hours after that Tettleton homer for the euphoria to wear off, and even thinking about it now, it still makes me smile. It is a walk-off experience for me that was unlike any other (yes, it was a computer game!!!!).

On a rather sad note, the tape from that day is MIA. About 8 or 9 years ago, I was telling a former colleague of mine named James Brennan this story and he thought it was pretty funny. He wanted to hear the call. Rather than dub him a copy, I lent him the tape. That was a mistake. He left it in his mom's car one day, and then the next day it was gone. He never found it.

I'm going to guess, much like Tettleton's home run, that it is, as another broadcaster with a memorable home run call (Ernie Harwell) might say, "Long gone!"

True Metputers know...This isn't a walk-off note, but it's still good minutiae. The first Mets pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a Micro League Baseball game for me was Sid Fernandez.

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