Archive for the ‘Chet Lemon’ Category

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Chet Lemon

April 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.)

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Chet Lemon

February 11, 2010

My wife, friends, family, cats, job, hopes, dreams: all these things should probably not expect too much from me over the next couple months, as I will be involved in not one but two imaginary baseball leagues that are already threatening to make a ghost out of me in this world. The second of the two leagues won’t be starting for a couple weeks, and it will heavily involve the 1977 Boston Red Sox and my first addiction (if you don’t count television), Strat-O-Matic, but I’ll talk more about that when it gets underway. Today I want, with your help, to address a pressing issue concerning the team I have in the first league, which has had its draft and which is days away from its first games.

This league is situated in the fevered minds of its players and on the web at Rob Neyer Baseball. Rob invited me to be a part of a “media league” along with the following fellow managers: Craig Calcaterra, Gordon Edes, Jonah Keri, Rany Jazayerli, Bob Keisser, Richard Lally, Norm Wamer, Carson Cistulli, the namesake of the site himself, and two of the site’s guru/owners, Barry Koren and Charles Wolfson. (The latter two handicapped themselves with a lower salary cap than the rest of us, which will make it so much more enjoyable when they beat our asses anyway.)

Speaking as a longtime addict of simulated baseball, I give the game itself high marks in its ability to destroy entire days, and I’m saying that even before the season starts. The player pool is vast and the amount of time that can be spent considering all the variables of team-building seems to be infinite. Partly to limit the variables so as to save my sanity, and partly because I live in the 1970s, and partly because I honestly (albeit unobjectively) believe the 1970s and maybe a little of the 1980s to be the historical peak of baseball, I decided to forego the joys of selecting deadball era guys named Three-Finger or Smokey or members of the Gas House Gang or steroidal juicers or Negro Leaguers or anyone at all who had the misfortune of playing outside the era when I cared the most about the game.

This drafting strategy (which was augmented by an attempt to gather hitters and pitchers who would seem to be fairly well-suited to a ballpark that is good for home runs but not so good for batting average; I went with US Cellular, which I can take public transportation to in case the imaginary scenarios ever spill into the real world, which is the kind of thing all madmen both hope for and dread) raises a couple questions. The first—can a team formed from players from the Cardboard Gods era compete with teams drawing on players from every corner of baseball history?—will be revisited throughout the season here on this site. The second can be answered right now, with input from visitors to this site, who would know:

Who should be the captain of my squad?

The card at the top of this page should let you know where I’m leaning, but I’m willing to put it to a vote. Before presenting the candidates (i.e., my entire roster), a couple words about Chet’s candidacy:

He is one of the better players on my team. I actually wasn’t planning to draft him, but Gordon Edes, damn him, swiped my top choice for my first pick, Jim Wynn, and I had to go back to the drawing board. Lemon offered a slightly cheaper version of the things Wynn would give me. Now that I have him I’m glad I do. From what I read, he played hard all the time, and he did everything well, definitely good things to have in a captain. Also, perhaps more importantly, a captain of my team has to have a sense of what the team is all about, and in this regard only Bill Lee and Oscar Gamble would be better qualified than Chet Lemon, who while not possessing the era-embracing quirks and iconoclasm and imagination of my top lefty starter or the epochal ecliptic Afro of my leftfielder can still definitely call himself a deep traveler in the lands of the 1970s. Chet Lemon wore the lapels of the White Sox, and wore the white hat with the giant “SOX” across the crown, and even for god’s sake wore those shorts the White Sox took the field with one day in 1976. My fellow Americans, let me conclude with this: he was the starting centerfielder on Disco Demolition Night.  

So my vote’s for Chet Lemon, but please don’t let that stop you from making the case for any of the following. (Note: I had to bend my 1975-1981 Cardboard Gods roster-inclusion rules slightly to include leadoff hitter Don Buford and bullpen catcher John Bateman, who both hung it up in 1972, and Carmelo Martinez, who didn’t make it to the majors until 1983.)

Catchers
Ellie Hendricks, Tim Laudner, and John Bateman

Infielders
Willie Aikens, Deron Johnson, Ron Oester, Julio Cruz, Dave Concepcion, Jerry Royster, Mike Cubbage, and Don Buford

Outfielders
Oscar Gamble, Chet Lemon, Bobby Bonds, Mike Jorgenson, Carmelo Martinez, and Rick Manning

Pitchers
Rick Reuschel, Bill Lee, Jim Beattie, Mike LaCoss, Luke Walker, Terry Forster, Kevin Saucier, Dale Murray, Warren Brusstar, Tim Stoddard, and, last but never ever least, Dick Pole 

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