I belong to a fantasy baseball league that replays baseball seasons of the past. We are about to get underway for the 1970 baseball season. Kevin Graham, who writes a fine baseball blog, is our league President. As part of our managerial requirements, we are asked to submit an annual team write-up, a kind of team preview for the consumption of the other league owners. I thought I’d share mine with you. My team, by the way, is called the Reservoir Dogs.
The Reservoir Dogs are looking forward with great optimism to the 1970 season in their new home, Riverfront Stadium. Old Crosley Field was condemned after a sinkhole swallowed up last season’s reserve left-fielder, Tommie Reynolds.
After three consecutive years of increases in the win column, including last season’s new high of 84 victories, General Manger Bill Miller and the boys believe that the Dogs are now primed for a serious run at a playoff spot. When Miller first inherited what had been a flatulent, feckless franchise prior to the ’67 season, the Dogs were the worst team in the league. Now, however, with manager Jimmy Piersall back on his meds, and Bonds, Bench and Bando just entering their prime years, the Dogs have a chance to finally make it to the top of the standings for the first time since the Vietnam War was just a twinkle in General William Westmoreland’s gimlet eye.
Here’s a position-by-position overview of this year’s roster:
Catcher: Johnny Bench – No finer receiver exists in the league. Bench, now 22-years old, is primed for what could be an MVP-caliber season as he learns how to handle a pitching staff, and to shave.
Backup Catcher: Gene Tenace – His parents call him Gino, he makes a mean chicken primavera, and he will be Bench’s backup this season. He is capable of starting for most other teams, as well as cooking their dinner.
First Base: Wes Parker is the switch-hitting, slick-fielding, underrated first-sacker who will play against right-handed pitching, and is probably on his way to earning another Gold Glove this season. He spent the off-season preparing for the 1970 season playing billiards and drinking lots of herbal tea.
Other First-Baseman: Bob “Rippin’” Robertson offers his power-stroke against left-handed pitchers, and does a stunning impersonation of Richard Nixon bombing Cambodia.
Second Basemen: With Dick Green exiting the club due to maternity leave, Ted Sizemore and Wayne Garrett, both obtained in off-season trades, are the Nureyev and Baryshnikov of second-sackers. Or is that Laurel and Hardy? Either way, Sizemore will swing away vs. Lefties, and Garrett will be penciled in vs. Righties.
Shortstop: Mark Belanger has never met a bat he could easily lift, but for every futile at-bat he throws away, he’ll save an equal number of runs in the field. “The Glove,” as his teammates call him, likes to distract opposing pitchers using duck calls and mime.
Third Base: Will once again be in the able hands of Salvatore Bando, Gino Tenace’s younger cousin. When not stabbing low-line drives at the hot-corner, or slugging three-run bombs off of harried hurlers, Bando spends his time in the kitchen with Gino, mincing garlic until it melts over low heat in a nice, buttery garlic sauce. It’s to die for.
Right-Field: 24-year old Bobby Bonds has a chance to be the first player in baseball history to have a 30-30-30 season: that’s 30 homers, 30 steals, and 30 speeding tickets. Bonds doesn’t like to play by the rules, and will frustrate his manager from time-to-time, but we’d rather have him with us than against us. And when he hits the ball, it stays hit.
Center-Field: Taking over in Center this season will be young Cito Gaston. Cito doesn’t say much, and it’s possible that he and Bonds won’t say a word to each other all season. But they could lead the league in outfield assists and in looks-that-kill. Gaston adds a power-bat to a lineup that should be extra-lethal vs. left-handed pitchers.
Left-Field: Another platoon here will feature the left-handed bat of rookie “Barnstorming” Bernie Carbo and righty-batting, returning sophomore Merv “The Reckoning” Rettenmund. Merv and Bernie will also be competing for the National Sunflower Seed Spitting contest this Fall in Cranky Corner, Louisiana (there really is such a place.)
Primary Pinch-hitters: Mack Jones and Vic Davalillo enjoy long walks on the beach, while Leroy Stanton and Tom Grieve will bide their time in the minors developing their interest in pine-tar and batting donuts. Leron Lee adds ballast.
Pitchers: We have lots of them. Some of them, like returning staff ace Steve Carlton, Danny Coombs, Jim Rooker, Tom Burgmeier and Joe Hoerner, are lefties, while rookie Bert Blyleven, Don Wilson, Joe Coleman, Barry Lersch and Danny Frisella are right-handed. One of manager Piersall’s biggest challenges this season (aside from bailing Bobby Bonds out of jail) will be to mold this diverse group of talented young arms into a pitching staff where everyone’s role is defined, and no one leaves the toilet seat up when the lady journalists are around.
Other Pitchers: Joe Grzenda and Bill Gogolowski sound like a couple of unionized, Polish Pennsylvania miners, and, in fact, they were up until this spring. They will attempt to blow the coal-dust out of their lungs through wind-sprints and long-toss in the outfield while they await the call to the bullpen, probably in 1971.
Still Other Pitchers: Wayne “Twitchie” Twitchell is young and has a live arm, but is so new to the game that he can’t find the pitcher’s mound without a Sherpa. It could be two or three years until he’s useful, but here in Cincinnati, we’ve got nothing but time.
That’s the latest from here in Cinci, where the wheat flows right behind the grain, or the wind blows right behind the rain, or the Miller High Life is poured right down the drain, or the Cubs finish right behind the Phillies, or some damned thing.