MLB Playoffs and Me

The year was 1980. Long before the current system where the wild card teams meet in a one-game winner take all game, I want to tell you about the MLB playoffs and me experience. Pressure? Yes, Fun? Only for the winning team. Also, I had my G.O.A.T. plays in one of the games leading up to it – greatest of all time. If I don’t make the play, take out the periods after each letter, and that is what I would be to this day, at least to Dodger fans.

As I have mentioned before, the MLB playoffs and World Series are my favorite times of the year. Having been there before, kind of, I know how gratifying it is to be one of the last teams standing. When I say kind of, let me tell you the story behind that.

1980 Baseball Playoffs – The thrills of a lifetime 

With three games to play in the season, the team we trailed by three in the standings came rolling into Dodger Stadium. It’s not hard to figure out the math; we had to sweep the series from the first-place Houston Astros to move into a one game playoff. Low and behold, we did. Each of the games was a playoff atmosphere, which had me shaking in my cleats. I had the opportunity to play in two of them before having a dubious distinction in the one game playoff.

Game one

A tremendous pitcher’s duel between Dodger Don Sutton and Astro Ken Forsch ensued. With two outs in the 9th inning, we tied the game at 2 with a clutch Ron Cey single. The somewhat unknown, up until the following year and future superstar, Fernando Valenzuela pitched the last two innings of the ten inning game for the win. Forsch threw a complete game, but unfortunate for the Astros, the game ended with a Dodger catcher, Joe Ferguson, walk-off home run. The scene was electric as evidenced by the fact that all the Dodger fans were still at the game at the end, an unusual occurrence for many Dodgers’ games. That game was a huge momentum builder for us and was a great omen for what was to follow.

Game two

The Saturday game of the week, with all baseball fans watching on TV, was equally thrilling and the last play made the rest of my life much easier. We had to beat the future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to keep our hopes alive. Lucky for us, we had the unflappable Jerry Reuss on the hill for us. Steve Garvey hit a home run in the fourth to give us a two to one lead, and that was the last of the runs scored. But, that didn’t mean there wasn’t drama at the end. With two outs in the ninth, the Astros mounted a rally with two hits to put runners on the corners. Standing out at the second base position, I am mentally fighting the idea if I wanted the ball coming to me. Wouldn’t you know it, here it came? Thank the Lord, even though it was a pretty routinely hit groundball, I had the greatest play of my life to end it. Not a dive or any acrobatic actions, but under the conditions, it felt great to me. I could sleep comfortably that night and all my days to come knowing I had not let the team and myself down.

 

MLB Playoffs and Me

Former Dodger Great Maury Wills and Jack

Game Three

Game three turned out to be another one-run affair and just as thrilling. Again clutch Dodger 3rd baseman Ron Cey hit a two-run homer in the eighth to give us the lead, 4 – 3 and we held on to win. Three nail-biting, one-run games that go down as a major highlight in my baseball career.

Winner takes all Playoff Game

It was on to the one game playoff. It proved to be too much to take four straight games from the solid Houston Astros ball club. The one game playoff did not have the same close scores and thrilling finish or the Dodger Blue outcome as the three previous games. By the fourth inning, we were down 7 – 0 and couldn’t figure out the knuckleball from Astros pitcher Joe Niekro. It seems no one else could either that year as it was his twentieth win of the season.  I had the unwanted distinction of being an answer to a trivia question that only the die hardest of Los Angeles Dodgers fans may know. Who made the last out of the one game 1980 playoff game and the thus the final out of the 1980 Dodgers season? Yes, yours truly, but at least I can say I experienced a little taste of the MLB playoffs. The Houston Astros went on to lose the National League pennant to the Philadelphia Phillies, who went on to win the World Series.

All of the above brings me to some thoughts about the MLB Playoffs 2016.

2016 MLB Playoffs

I realize I can only be half right with my previous MLB playoff predictions. I had picked the Cubs to play the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, thinking it would be a Theo Epstein world series with his new team versus his old one. I had the right thought process but was slightly wrong with the implementation. It was the Boston Red Sox connection of former manager and now the leader of the Cleveland Indians, Terry Francona that was the Theo Epstein connection. Oh well. Congrats to the Cleveland Indians.

I still believe the Chicago Cubs will go on to win it all as they will beat two of my former teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Indians for their first World Series title in a few years – few million, I mean.

Other 2016 MLB Playoffs Observations

Times and Time of Game

As it does every year, it bothers me that the games are played so late in the night. Kids have no chance of staying up and watching them, so how does MLB baseball hook kids on the game with that plan. Even hard working adults, except for the most diehard of fans, have trouble staying up for some of the endings. This scheduling makes no sense to me. Hopefully, the powers that be will figure out a better plan for the future MLB playoffs schedule.

Along the same line, it still blows my mind that a 9-inning Cub/Dodger game that ended with a 1 – 0 score took two hours and forty-five minutes to play. OH, for the days of former White Sox ace Mark Buehrle. The pitcher should have to pitch the ball within eleven seconds of receiving it back from the catcher. Period.

Sliding Practice

It still blows my mind to see player after player slide into a base and almost always come off of it for a fraction of a second. I know it is best to slide in fast and as late as possible to be safe, but players of that caliber should be able to do it without coming off the base. I did it with a hard, late feet first slide and cannot remember ever coming off the bag. Takes concentration but should be accomplished. It seems like most replay reviews occur on this play, another thing that slows the games down. The MLB players of today need to practice and focus more on their sliding techniques, I guess.

World Series – Things to watch

Defense

It will be exciting to watch the Cubs and Indians play defense, as they both seem to do it well and take pride in it.

Managers

Also, it will be fun to watch the moves of Joe Maddon and Terry Francona, two real masters at their craft. The both seem to have a firm grasp at putting players in positions to succeed, the key to a great manager.

Please share if so inclined.

#MLBPlayoffs

Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” now $5 and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte on YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos. 

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