Dan Warren - The league champion was the awesome Winnebago Indians, winning 136 games. Scott Brown’s Horseshoe Bay Polos replaced the Connecticut Cheetahs, winning a division title along with Long Island, Mimosa, and Winnebago. Bob Wood’s Bradenton Buckeyes won 96 games yet finished 40 games out!
Meadowlands and Bradenton joined the division winners in the playoffs, with Winnebago topping Jim Lafargue’s Meadowlands Spartans for the league title en route to the TCBA championship.
George Brett’s record .442 led the league in hitting.
Steve Carlton and Steve Rogers each won 28 for Winnebago, while Larry Gura (22), Joe Niekro (20), and Dick Ruthven (21) were the other top winners.
TCBA Report of 8/29/81 - Hyde Park’s John Curtis retired 30 consecutive batters in a marathon 23-inning contest between the Vita-Men and Magic Mountain. Curtis, the starter for Bob Braun’s team, hurled no less than 17 2/3 innings before giving way to Joe Sambito in the 18th. “His fatigue rating ended up -123, and he can’t start again for 31 games.”
The Metro Division was born this season, destined to become one of the most intensely competitive divisions in the league.
The Postman Always Rings Twice - Dick Gorney trades Ellis Valentine to Jim Lafargue for Pedro Guerrero and $15,000.
Jim McEneaney - The '81 strike had just begun when Jim Lafargue, Marty Fiehl, Bob Braun, and I gathered for what was arguably the first Braunfest....
Marty Fiehl - This was the first year we ever had what was to be known as a “Braunfest”. Mac, Jim Lafargue, and I all traveled to Beacon for a weekend of baseball, food, and conversation. This was the first time I had met either of the Jim’s, and most likely the first time they had met me, too! If I could point to one particular instance in our twenty year history, that weekend was the time the TCBA stopped being a “Play by Mail” league. There were actually people behind those stamped envelopes, and I got to meet them.
I truly believe it was events like these that made our league into what it is today. It gave a personal touch to every future correspondence. Then, in times of turmoil, (and we’ve had our share) these relationships allowed us to work out our problems in a mature, civilized sort of way. They also meant you wouldn’t try to take advantage of another manager if you knew you were going to see him later that summer, or in future years, at Lancaster. (It would be much more fun to take advantage of him in person.....just kidding). (Ed. note: We doubt it.)
Marty Fiehl - (As reported in the 9/25/91 TCBA Report) - When Bob Braun called me to come down to Beacon for some face-to-face league play, my reply was, “Bob, I can spend 18 cents, send you some instructions in the mail, and in two weeks I’ll get a letter back saying how bad my Boston Bozos got their butts kicked. Isn’t that better than driving 150 miles to participate in person and actually witness them getting their butts kicked?”
After all, my team has struck out more times than Jerry III on his first date. Looey Tiant has been scored upon more than Lucy Nicebottom. My guys thought a triple play was when you can get three outs before the other team scores five runs.
Then Bob said that Jim McEneaney and Jim Lafargue would also be gathering there. This was the same Jim Lafargue who four weeks earlier had talked to me on the phone and said, “Hi Marty, great to have you back in the league! Have I got a team for you. The Boston Athletics, or Africans, or Americans, or Aardvarks, I forget what their last name is. The last three managers complained that they had trouble keeping their statistics because the team scored so many runs. They kept mentioning all those home runs. Yessiree, you’re just going to love this team. Oh, by the way, if you’d be interested, I’m selling some land in Florida. You can’t see it now, but in the fall we’ll fly down and take a look at it when the water goes back down.”
Once I heard Lafargue was going to be there I knew I had to go. After all, somebody was going to have to pay for all my team’s stranded runners on secondbase and my pitchers’ arms falling off because the other teams tear into them like batting practice. The only decision left was whether to poison his drink or have a fake telegram delivered to Braun’s saying Willie Randolph just died trying to fly Thurman Munson’s plane. Either plan would cause equal pain.
As for McEneaney, I’d travel any distance to see a person with three non-consecutive “E’s” in their last name, and who also promised to arrive with dozens of fresh Long Island clams...
The weekend turned out to be a real pleasure. Both Jim’s were great people, neither of them had a red die for a head as previously rumored, and Bob Braun, well, Bob is Bob. Of course, we all know that he’s slightly deranged and always has been after that ill-fated deal that sent Carlton Fisk to the Beachcombers for Bob Montgomery. Rumor has it he was trying to start a team where every player had a first name of Bob...the attendants at the Hyde Park Happy Home for the Deranged all told me that for two years Bob would just walk the halls moaning, “Pudge, what have I done? Can you ever forgive me? Oh Pudge, I’m so sorry.” Of course, making a deal for Mike Miley, who died two days later in a car accident didn’t help his mental state any either. Bob’s motto was, “Trade me your crippled, your comatose, your dead.” How do you think he got Stanhouse?” (editor’s note: Since Hyde Park moved to Beacon, the deadman’s home has been located in Scranton.)
Bob Braun - I moved to the Beacon house in May of 1980, as I began to fulfill the role of provider and father for Sarah, who was 4 at the time. David was born in July of 1981, so the first Braunfest was sort of a celebration of his arrival. I don’t remember why we all got together; it just sort of happened. But for the next 10 years, we all met in Beacon sometime during each summer to renew our friendships. Once or twice Stu would stop by for a few minutes. Anthony Orlando was a regular visitor, when he could find his way through the Bronx. Bob Wood and his clan even visited one year. Don and Julianna visited in 1984 and taught us how to pronounce M-a-h-l-e-y. I have this image of Don and Julianna standing off to one side, trying desperately to maintain their best diplomatic posture, while Marty, Mac, Jim and I shoved and pushed our way around the picnic table with the clams and spiedies on it. No manners for us. Oh no, just grab with your hands and stuff it in your mouth! This was in the years before I remodeled the old house, so our behavior certainly fit the rough-around-the edges atmosphere. Kids were everywhere! Poor Cathy McEneaney had to hold her own against David, Matty, Josh, Sarah, a dog, a couple of cats, and lord knows what else! I can only imagine the conversation in the silver Saab as Don and Julianna wound their way back to West Point!
We kept up the tradition through the summer of 1991, until separation and divorce became my preoccupation. The gathering has continued to some degree in Endwell, where Mac and I meet with Marty for some wings, baseball, and beer. It’s certainly a much more mellow atmosphere, one in which you are far more likely to find us with elbows on a table as we hoist a Killian’s in a toast to each other. I wish we could do it more often.
Marty Fiehl - This was also the year the league members kicked in $50 per to go towards the purchase of an Apple computer. We were finally going to go high tech in our efforts at keeping stats. The plan was certainly thought out with the best of intentions, but somehow just never seemed to accomplish everything it set out to do. The technology was improving so fast that our Apple II with 48k of memory was close to obsolete before we got a chance to use it. The fact that the APBA Computer version came out strictly for the IBM meant the final nail was being driven in the coffin of our little orphan.
Our 1981 Rules Change Ballot had 41 proposals. This means after 6 or 7 years of operation, we still had at least 41 things we thought needed changing. We all must have been young with a lot of extra energy in those days. We currently get one or two things a year now. Either we’ve got a perfect Constitution, or we just don’t care anymore.
One sentence blurb in newsletter has Marty Fiehl willing to take offers on Bill Robinson or “anyone else on his team with a pulse.” In later years Manager Fiehl would not be quite so picky when looking to acquire talent, as witnessed by Steve Olin in ‘93.
Minor trade notice at the end of the year: Hyde Park sends 13K to Bradenton for a relief pitcher named Lamaar Hoyt.
18-year old Scott Brown joins TCBA as the new manager of the Connecticut Cheetahs, replacing the AWOL John Flood.
TCBA Report of 8/29/81 - Interest seems to be growing for a NY Convention next summer (1982). Larry Smith from Texas, Steve Klein from California, (the Browns) from Texas and the entire Chicago “gang” have all indicated high interest in making the trek......Let’s do it!!
David Brown - ....had the pleasure of lunching with Bob Braun in Houston. Bob, who had traveled from New York to Chicago to play Bob Wood face-to-face was still ‘smarting’ from a 6-1 drubbing from his rude host at Bradenton. Seems Wood arranged for New York Bob to enjoy some liquid refreshments as the game wore on. We won’t report on the lineups used by Braun in the last couple games! Bob (Braun, that is) and I got excited discussing the potential reunion in New York next summer. Seems like most of you are planning to attend....
TCBA Report of 8/29/81 - Congratulations and lots of luck to Bob Braun on the birth of David George last month. It’s a whole new generation of TCBAers!! But Josh Lafargue has dibs on the first team available in 1995...”
Marty Fiehl - The Dick Gilbert Years: Seems this was the year people had more than enough of Dick’s winning ways. (Scranton take note!) In a classic interview in the May newsletter, Braun does a Q and A with Sir Dick after congratulating him for winning Manager of the Year. Highlights include:
Dick giving a lot of the credit to Al Zarse for allowing himself to be raped in their trades. (Well, he didn’t really say it in those words. That was just my translation.)
Dick’s strategy of what type of players he prefers. “I like good, young players.” This proved an educational experience for me, as at the time, I was trying to corner the market on ‘lousy, old players’. Since reading Dick's secret strategy, I turned my franchise around, and you can too!
Dick was in full agreement that a monster team and competitive imbalance was very bad for the league. Since it was a phone interview, Bob was unable to rap Mr. Gilbert upside the head to get him to make the connection between what he said and what life was like in the Central Division in those days. I guess Dick didn’t think an .840 winning percentage qualified for ‘monster’ status.
Bob Braun - I was pretty attached to my players at the time. I didn’t do a lot of trading in those days, except when Fiehl would trick me into giving away future stars for garbage. So when I wrote in that open letter that I would throw in my team if The Dick would threw in his, that was not an easy decision for me. The Dick’s response was fairly typical for him at the time. “Well,” he said, “your team sucks, so of course you’d throw in your team. I won’t do it. No way, no how.”
Some of us begged Jim Lafargue to kick The Dick out. Being the conservative that he is (har, har!), Jim wouldn’t do it. I even remember Lori telling me that SHE told Jim he should do it. That was the surest way to get him NOT to do anything!
It wasn’t until we almost crashed and burned in 1984 that Jim finally relented. Although by that point, The Dick and his butt-boy just kind of vanished anyway, taking many of our statistics from that era with them. I don’t care what Wood says. The Dick and Al came closest to destroying what we all have come to treasure. I can forgive them, but I will never forget it.
Winnebago a/k/a Rockford –
(ed. note: in 1978 Rockford wins 113.
in 1979 Rockford wins 101, Winnebago loses 84;
in 1980 Winnebago wins 119, Rockford loses 99;
in 1981 Winnebago wins 136, Rockford loses 118;
in 1982 Winnebago wins 113, Rockford loses 98;
in 1983 Winnebago wins 121, Rockford loses 91.)
Gerry Hobbs in May of 1982 - “An all-star team made up of the entire rest of the league probably wouldn’t win half of the time versus the Winnebago Monsters.”
Bob Wood - In face-to-face play with Bill Stamper, Don Sutton had a 1-0 lead, having retired the first 26 men he had faced. Bill brought up Dave Henderson to pinch hit and rolled a “31”, which I was certain would be a “9” converted to a “K” against an “A”. Hendo checked his swing with a “14” to break up the perfect game. The game was still on the line, as Allen Trammell came to bat. The decision to steal, hit & run, or swing away was one that Bill struggled with. In the end he hit away; Trammell flied to the outfield, and Sutton completed the no-hitter, earning the 1-0 victory.