Chet LemonApril 19, 2010
A couple months ago I posted some thoughts in conjunction with a 1977 Chet Lemon card about the all-1970s roster I was pitting against the all-era squads of my esteemed competitors in a “media league” in the online Rob Neyer Baseball game. The season, which had been a lot of fun, came to a wrenching end this past weekend: my East Randolph Kerouacs, after maintaining a slim division lead for the majority of the season, tanked down the stretch, losing five of their last six games, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Carson Cistulli‘s cellar dwellers (who had already amassed 99 losses going into the series). Still, we had a chance going into game 162, just one game out of first. If we beat Norm Wamer‘s squad (which had contended all season long and had only just been eliminated), and Jonah Keri’s Montreal McGaffigans lost, the Kerouacs would have moved into a tie for first.
According to the Complete Game Log in the box score for that final game, rain began to fall at the end of the eighth inning with the Kerouacs down 1-0. In the top of the ninth a reliever named Jim Roland came in and retired the first Kerouacs easily, and then, as suggested by the Complete Game Log, sunshine peeked through the October clouds—a last shred of hope, all of it resting on a damp but sun-dappled afro. But hope and light, like life, is brief:
- Stopped raining
– Gamble struck out
I felt physical pain when I discovered my team’s fate in that terse report. Oh, Oscar Gamble, why hath you forsaken me? (It turns out that a win wouldn’t have helped anyway, as Jonah Keri’s demonstrably superior team won its last game, too, to finish two games in front, but I didn’t know that at the time I discovered my own team’s wilted last effort.) Now that the pain has subsided, I can say that my guys performed decently enough, posting an 85-77 record. Team captain Chet Lemon led the way, the only player to appear in all 162 games. He topped the team in runs scored with 100 and doubles with 37 and tied for second on the team in both RBI and homers. Don Buford would be the only other player who could have a case for team MVP, but Lemon contributed more with his good glove in center field than Buford did while doing a serviceable job at third. (Here are the complete hitting and pitching stats for all my failed gods. Oddly enough, even though my team would seem to be offensively challenged, we led the league in homers and were one of the better all-around run-scoring clubs in a league that played like the 1968 “Year of the Pitcher”; check out the league stats for team batting and team pitching.)
I made a few in-season moves. The two major ones: Bobby Bonds got injured in the second half of the season and was going to be out for 22 games, so I dumped him for Dwight Evans; Terry Forster was a gas can as a reliever so I released him and picked up Bruce Sutter. The first move was at least a push, considering all the games Bonds would have missed had I held onto him, and the second was a marked improvement, but neither move was able to help stop my team’s gradual but relentless decline over the course of the season. I guess it’s fitting. A team of guys from the 1970s would be destined to start out in an Aquarian sunburst of hope and gutter eventually to a Three-Mile Island/Skylab/Hostages-in-Iran sense of rainy, disintegrating defeat. When the season began Oscar Gamble’s afro was in full bloom; when he took my team’s final feckless swing, he surely was sporting no more than a faint echo of his earlier magnificence.
(Note: Though this Chet Lemon card is part of the Topps series being used on this site, by virtue of the 1978 set’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” game, for a greulingly long match pitting Love versus Hate, Lemon’s was one of the cards in that series that had on its back a recap of the “Play Ball” rules instead of a “Play Ball” result, so no update has been made to the ongoing contest.)