Love, Life, and APBA’s Kenneth Heard heard a buzzing as a billion biting mosquitoes made a meal of his body the other night. Heard’s 1950 APBA Baseball replay had to be put on hold while he battled them, Wile E. Coyote style.
In September, 2004 I read an article in the Honolulu Advertiser about the Oahu Adult Baseball League, that featured a team called the Oahu Ravens. At the time, I’d been living on Oahu for almost a year and hadn’t made any real friends and didn’t feel particularly connected to a community yet.
Though I hadn’t played on an organized baseball team since I was 14, on Monday, September 21, 2004 (my 29th birthday), I called the league, signed up, and was placed on the roster of the Oahu Ravens – the same team profiled in the above-linked article.
One of the first guys I met was Norm Marsh. Stormin’ Norman, as we called him, was a 51-year-old surfer dude. He stood about 6’1″ maybe 6’2″, with long limbs, sun-bleached hair, and a tan that seemed to go down to his bones. He had light blue – almost grey – eyes and an easy, genuine smile. He had a dog, a teenaged German Shepard named Mako, that was his ever-present sidekick.
Norm was athletic and handsome, ego-less but cool. He walked with a smooth, confident gait, like a champion racehorse, and his confidence was contagious. When you were hanging with Norm, you felt cool and athletic and handsome.
As a vocation, Norm shaped surfboards. As a lifestyle, he rode waves and played baseball. Norm lived on the North Shore of the island and didn’t spend much time indoors. He didn’t have an email address, certainly didn’t have Facebook account and didn’t own a cellphone. If you wanted to contact Norm, you called his shop. If he didn’t answer, you called back later. He was a throwback to an earlier era in Hawaii. It wouldn’t have surprised me at all if we found out someday that Norm was a time-traveler from the 1950′s.
Norm didn’t play baseball in high school. As a Freshman in the late 1960′s Norm was a talented athlete, but when the school’s coach instituted a rule banning long hair on the team, Norm decided that he’d rather maintain his independence than conform. He didn’t play ball again until his 40′s. With the Oahu Ravens, he usually played second and third base. He had good patience at the plate and when he got ahold of one, he had decent power to the gaps.
Norm had an easy, natural charisma that made me feel welcome to the Ravens at a time when I was still trying to feel comfortable in my new community. That same easy, friendly manner that made me feel welcome was what made Norm universally liked and respected in the Oahu Adult Baseball League and on the North Shore. Norm was a local fixture charging big waves up there, so much so that the Hawaii Surf News Network called him “an underground legend.”
In June of this year Norm was diagnosed with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer. Stormin’ Norman passed away on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at age 61. He will be missed by everyone he ever shared a lineup with, be it on the baseball diamond or out on the waves.
Wherever you are today, Norm, they’re lucky to have you.
Contrary to popular opinion, the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis is not about how Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s prefer to take walks rather than put the ball in play.
The book is about market inefficiency, and how small-market teams must compete by getting the most production out of their ballplayers for the least amount of money. In 2002, the Oakland A’s found that batters who scored low in many traditional scouting measures but were still able to post a high on-base percentage were being under-valued by most MLB teams. General Manager Billy Beane was able to use that knowledge to build a winning team on the cheap.
One of the central themes of the book was that traditional scouting at that time relied too heavily on subjective, unquantifiable opinions of prospects rather than hard data. This is best illustrated in the following passage from the book. Recounting the scouting opinion of young Billy Beane, who in 1980 was a first-round draft pick by the New York Mets, Lewis writes:
[Beane]encouraged strong feelings in the older men who were paid to imagine what kind of pro ballplayer a young man might become. The boy had a body you could dream on. Ramrod-straight and lean but not so lean you couldn’t imagine him filling out. And that face! Beneath an unruly mop of dark brown hair the boy had the sharp features the scouts loved. Some of the scouts still believed they could tell by the structure of a young man’s face not only his character but his future in pro ball. They had a phrase they used: “the Good Face.” Billy had the Good Face.
The best example of this “good face” scouting assessment that I’ve ever seen has to be Branch Rickey’s 1954 scouting report of an 18-year-old pitcher from southern California, Don Drysdale. Drysdale, of course, would go on to be a Hall of Famer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also made appearances on The Rifleman, The Flying Nun, and The Brady Bunch before a long and distinguished career as a baseball broadcaster, so that “good face” did turn out to serve him well.
Thanks to Major League Baseball’s Official Historian, John Thorn, who posted to his Facebook feed this scan of Rickey’s report on Drysdale.
The table as of 4/2/2012:
The Seattle Sounders are 3-0-0 after defeating the San Jose Earthquakes by a score of 2-1. Fredy Montero had the game-deciding goal when he slotted home a PK in the 42nd minute.
Here are the parameters of this replay:
* It’s a full replay of all 34 weeks of the 2012 MLS Season, using the real life schedule.
* All Seattle Sounders games will be played with Classic Soccer
* Each week at least 1 game will be played with each of the following games: Classic Soccer, Net Results Soccer, Simple & Sound Soccer, The Beautiful Game, Final Score, and now APBA Soccer, too. I want to add Soccer Blast to the replay, too, but I have no idea when I’ll have the time to rate the league and create those cards for the game. Someday, hopefully. I’m in no hurry with this replay.
* Any games on the schedule that I don’t play, I’ll use the results of the actual real life fixture to compile stats.
* Speaking of stats, since not all game engines track all stats, the only “official” statistic will be goals scored. I’ll be awarding a Golden Boot at the end of the season for the league’s top goalscorer.
July was a month of frenetic movement for me and my family, and my make-believe sporting universe was left mostly vacant and neglected. I’ve had next-to-no time to play any games. I was able to pull out my old copy of Title Bout the other night, and that was awesome.
— Paul Dylan (@heyblue) July 29, 2014
August is shaping up to be that way, too, as my grandmother, my sister, brother-in-law and their SEVEN kids are visiting and staying with us this week. The Dylan family moved into our home back in September, but this is the first time it’s really felt like home. Life is good.
Speaking of life being good – Keith Avallone of Plaay Games is living the good life this weekend. He’s at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, PA. Keith graciously offered to bring a stack of 4-page sample versions of the OneForFive.com Print Edition along with him. Stop by the Plaay.com booth and say hi for me!
This next week may not see any published posts here on the blog, but I have high hopes for the rest of August. Work on Print Edition Issue 2 (the Football Issue) is coming along nicely. Issue 1 is essentially sold out, as there are only a handful of copies left. The reception of and the enthusiasm for the magazine has been greater than I’d have ever imagined it could be. I’m looking forward to building on this foundation.
More coming soon!