Posts tagged ‘games’

February 26, 2014

#73) The best baseball game you’ve never heard of

We already know that Game 6 of the 2011 World Series was the greatest game of baseball ever played, but in this post – with a fresh new season of America’s Pastime about to get underway – we’ll look at a game played more than 50 years ago that, despite the winning team’s dramatic comeback, has been surprisingly overlooked in Greatest Game Ever Played discussions.

I speak of the second playoff game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Braves to decide the 1959 National League Pennant.  Until recently I wasn’t aware that there had even been a best-of-three playoff to decide the ’59 NL race, much less that the Dodgers won the second game and the pennant with a three-run ninth inning rally and another run in the twelfth.   I’m not the only baseball fan who’s been unaware of or has overlooked this game: in Bert Randolph Sugar’s “Baseball’s 50 Greatest Games”, the book to which I attribute more than any other my baseball history geekery, he passes this one over.  The game is also not mentioned on the Baseball Moments page of Major League Baseball’s official website.

Why has this game languished in obscurity?

The biggest reason may be that it wasn’t a decisive game, unlike the playoff games the Dodgers lost to the Giants in 1951 and 1962, or the famous American League East one-game playoff in 1978.  The Dodgers had beaten the Braves in Milwaukee and were not in a must-win situation when they faced Lew Burdette in the L.A. Coliseum for the second game.  The Dodgers’ comeback in the bottom of the 9th lacked a dramatic home run; they scored three runs on four singles and a sacrifice fly, and their winning tally in the 12th was the result of a throwing error.

Another factor may have been timing.  The 1959 Dodgers were a team in transition, posting a rather forgettable 86-68 record.  They still had a few mainstays from their glory years in Brooklyn – Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo to name a few – but PeeWee Reese, Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson were gone and it would be a few years before Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax would reach their primes, leading the team to two championships in the ’60s.

It’s possible too that the baseball world didn’t yet take the Los Angeles Dodgers fully seriously; perhaps the team was still dealing with the backlash from having moved to L.A. the year before.  While the franchise would go on to win a total of five titles in L.A. with Koufax, Drysdale, Steve Garvey, Kirk Gibson and Tommy Lasorda all becoming household names along the way, in 1959, baseball in So Cal might have felt like the proverbial round peg in a square hole.  The L.A. Memorial Coliseum, where the team played through the 1961 season, wasn’t meant for baseball, as evidenced by the awkward playing field dimensions.

Still, one would think that a game that so perfectly illustrates what everyone loves about baseball – the unpredictability, the lack of a clock – would be better known.  If anything, the Braves, then two-time defending NL champs and boasting the bats of Hank Aaron and Eddie Matthews and the arms of Warren Spahn (who won more games than any other lefty in baseball history) and 20-game winner Lew Burdette, should have given this game some cache.

Baseball fans can be guilty of selective memory.  Why did the Red Sox lose the 1986 World Series?  Because they blew two leads in Game 6, allowing the Mets to force extra innings, then after scoring two more gave up three runs in the bottom of the 10th.  They also blew a three run lead in Game 7. Bill Buckner.  When you Google search for George Brett, what comes up in the search bar?  Why, his .390 average in 1980 and his championship with the Royals in 1985, of course.  Just kidding; pine tar.  It’s ironic that in a sport that cherishes history perhaps more than any other, great moments remain overlooked.  Perhaps comparing this game to legendary contests such as the ’51 Giants/Dodgers playoff or Game 6 of the 1975 (or 1986 or 2011) World Series is a stretch, but there have been plenty of less dramatic games that have gotten more attention.

The Dodgers would go on to beat the “Go Go” White Sox in a six-game World Series.  The playoff proved to be the end of an era for the Braves, who would move to Atlanta in 1966.

Advertisements
October 18, 2013

#60) Apps I’ve paid for #1: “Prince of Persia Classic”

Q. Why would I buy an app based on a video game that caused me to waste hours upon hours in high school?

A. I really don’t know.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in a world with hundreds of thousands of free mobile applications, the app that costs $1 or $2 might as well cost a hundred dollars.  This is the first D-theory post in which I’ll describe my personal spending habits and motivations when it comes to applications.  The quality of the actual product itself is secondary, in the context of this post, to why I decided to buy it in the first place.

Prince of Persia” was originally released in 1989, when Jake Gyllenhaal was still in grade school.  The game was quite advanced for its time; it was hailed for its realistic animation and complex structure that enabled good replay value.  The player guides his protagonist through a series of dungeons, requiring a mix of skill, strategy and trial-and-error to complete.  While other kids in my high school were getting laid, I was doing this.

The original game begat a successful franchise that included several sequels, a movie and now a mobile app.  Perhaps because I was recently visiting with my brother (who turned me onto the game) or maybe because I knew my return trip included a 3-plus hour layover, I decided to buy the Prince of Persia game for $2 for my iPhone.

The mobile version of the game is nearly identical to the original, with updated graphics.  There may be a few small differences in the layout; I’m not sure if this is the case or of it’s been so long that I just don’t remember, but whatever changes if any that have been made are small.  My main complaint is that the touch-screen controls aren’t very responsive, although anyone who played the original game on the MS-DOS platform as I did may remember that the controls weren’t particularly user friendly, at least until one got the hang of them.

All that aside, did I get my money’s worth?  Yes; while there are certainly more productive ways I could be spending my time, I cannot hold this game responsible for my own decision making and it made my long layover pass more quickly.  It will undoubtedly come into play in the future at times when I am waiting around with limited options for entertainment.  The app delivers what it promises: as authentic a version of the original game as can be expected.  The application’s price is right; the true cost will be measured only in how much time is spent playing it.

April 9, 2012

#41) Learning from Geniuses (geeks): Game 16, Move 37

I came across an interesting chess story the other day.  Yes, I realize, for most people, using the words “interesting” and “chess” in the same sentence is contradictory, but this one contains some good teachable moments – even for those outside the chess world.  (And anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love teachable moments).

In 1984, 21-year old Garry Kasparov, the future world champion, was challenging incumbent Anatoly Karpov for the title.  Karpov had been the reigning champ since 1975, when Bobby Fischer refused to defend his title against him.  The rules of the match stated that the first player to win six games took the prize.  Karpov was crushing his young challenger, leading four games to none (with 11 ties).  In the sixteenth game, after 37 moves, Karpov offered Kasparov a draw, which was accepted.  At the time, no one had any idea that this unspectacular activity would be discussed (and blogged about) in the decades to come.

Many experts who have since analyzed the position at the point where Karpov offered a draw have said that he could have easily won the game, taking a commanding 5-0 lead.  It’s easy to assume that, after falling behind so early, Kasparov might have become discouraged and lost the match soon afterward. As it turned out, following the draw, Kasparov started mounting a comeback.  After losing a fifth game, he won three, but following many more ties–40 total–the match was called off.  The two players battled again in 1985 under different rules, and Kasparov won.

Garry Kasparov would go on to make waves both in and out of the chess world.  He defended his title against Karpov in 1987 and 1990, but all the while, he was feuding with FIDE (Federacion Inernationale des Eschecs, or World Chess Federation; pronounced “fee-day”), the governing body of professional chess.  Kasparov formed his own organization, the Professional Chess Association.  In 1993, when he defended his title against Englishman Nigel Short, he did so under the jurisdiction of the P.C.A., not FIDE.  FIDE organized a championship match between Karpov and challenger Jan Timman, which Karpov won.  In 1997, Kasparov was defeated by a computer called Deep Blue, after which he speculated that the machine was being “fed” moves by its inventors.

While Kasparov would retire from chess in 2005, he would remain an active political figure, outspokenly opposed to Gorbachev, Putin and other Soviet leaders.  At one point, Kasparov considered running for the presidency, but withdrew.

As polarizing a figure as Kasparov became, one could make the case that had Karpov not offered him a draw in a game he should have won, none of it would have happened.  The story of Game 16 illustrates some interesting points:

  • You never know when you might be on the threshold of victory.
  • You never know when, or how, an event – as unspectacular as it may seem – might impact the future.
  • Sometimes, geniuses can miss simple details, which are obvious to mere mortals.

To be sure, most peoples’ lives haven’t been deeply affected by whether Karpov or Kasparov was the champion, or whether chess is governed by FIDE or the P.C.A.  But it’s interesting to consider the impact that a seemingly inconspicuous move might have had on the game.  Like the removal of Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp (replaced by Lou Gehrig) or the chance meeting on Church Road in Liverpool between young John Lennon and even younger Paul McCartney, Karpov’s draw offer became part of history in a way that no one who witnessed it could have predicted.