All-State Tournament: No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 14 Louisiana
Previously on The All-State Tournament …
OK, so everybody probably knows the deal by now. We are matching up the best baseball players from 16 states in a March Madness-style tournament. The original plan was to have people simply vote on the better team … but then the amazing folks at Strat-O-Matic stepped in and offered to simulate all the games.
That took this crazy idea to a whole other level.
In fact, based on reader response, we’re expanding the whole thing. The first round of the tournament will remain the same — a one-game, all-or-nothing playoff to advance into the Final Eight.
Then, in the Final Eight and Final Four, we’re going to make them a best-of-three series.
And the championship series will be best-of-seven, with a new recap every day until we have a winner.
So depth will become a major advantage for some states and a major issue for others.
Yes, this does seem to be how things go here at JoeBlogs. We start off with an already exhaustive idea, and it just gets larger from there until it takes over my life. And yes, I’m already plotting the next big tournament (in conjunction with Mike Schur? Check out next week’s PosCast to find out).
We do have fun, right?
On with the show. In this post, we preview today’s game — Maryland vs. Louisiana! — and then we’ll give you the recap of the wild Pennsylvania-North Carolina game (PLUS a new bracket that we will update each day).
Oh, and since this series is for paid subscribers, I’m bringing back the special, seven-day free trial offer. Sign up now, and if after seven days you don’t like it, you can simply cancel your subscription and you won’t be charged. And since we’ve added so many fun new wrinkles to this project, today’s post is free so everyone can have one more look at the whole thing.
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No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 14 Louisiana
Seed: No. 3
Population: About 6.2 million
Hall of Famers: 9
There’s a specific reason that Maryland is seeded so high — and believe it or not, it’s NOT because Babe Ruth is on this team. Obviously, Ruth being from Baltimore — along with Baseball 100 stars Cal Ripken Jr., Jimmie Foxx and Al Kaline — makes this a formidable lineup. But depth is not a strong suit of this team; there are pretty significant holes at catcher and second base. Other teams seeded lower probably have more well-rounded lineups.
No, here’s the big thing: Lefty Grove is from Maryland. And Lefty Grove has a strong argument as the best pitcher ever. He did pitch in pre-integration, which makes it hard to compare him with later pitchers. But Grove dominated his time as much as any pitcher has. Nine ERA titles? He didn’t even know what FIP was and he still led the league in it eight times. He won the pitchers’ triple crown three out of four years between 1928 and 1931. He was pretty darned dominant in the World Series.
If not for Grove, this team is a lot less interesting to me … other pitchers like Vic Willis or Bobby Mathews do not inspire fear. I suppose, if not for Grove, I would have had Ruth do the Shohei thing as a pitcher and hitter. In fact, that’s a fun idea … but Grove, to me, makes this team a true threat for the title.
Also, notice that the great Judy Johnson from the Negro leagues plays third and leads off. Not many people know about Johnson, but he was a great one. His Hall of Fame plaque says he was a fantastic defensive player and a clutch hitter. He also got on base a lot and had some speed.
No. 3 seed: Maryland
Judy Johnson, 3B*
Al Kaline, CF*
Babe Ruth, RF*
Jimmie Foxx, 1B*
Cal Ripken Jr., SS*
Harold Baines, LF*
Home Run Baker, DH*
Cupid Childs, 2B
Babe Phelps, C
Starting pitcher: Lefty Grove*
*Hall of Famer
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Seed: No. 14
Population: 4.6 million
Hall of Famers: 5
We’re getting to the point where you might start to suspect that your state did not make the tournament … and you will think: “Wait, my state has a better team than Louisiana or North Carolina or Nebraska!”
This is the pain of being on the bubble.
What struck me about Louisiana, in particular, is that Bill Dickey was born there. There are obviously some fantastic hitters in this lineup — Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Willard Brown, plus several others who played at a Hall of Fame level for a good while, like Will Clark, Reggie Smith, Rusty Staub and Albert Belle. But what I noticed when putting the teams together is how many states, even big ones, lack a solid catcher. Dickey was one of the best ever, a fantastic fielder, hitter and leader. He played in eight World Series and his teams won seven of them.
To me, he put Louisiana over the top.
I also like that Ott, one of the nicest people in baseball history, will be hitting in front of Belle, who was, well, not one of the nicest people in baseball history.
This lineup is definitely dangerous, even if it tapers off considerably at the bottom.
Starting pitching might be an issue. I went with Ron Guidry over Ted Lyons and Andy Pettitte because I think that, at his best, Louisiana Lightning was the best pitcher of the three. He’s the guy I trust most to face Ruth. But he will need to be at the top of his game.
No. 14 seed: Louisiana
Reggie Smith, RF
Will Clark, 1B
Mel Ott, 3B*
Albert Belle, DH
Bill Dickey, C*
Willard Brown, CF*
Rusty Staub, LF
Wayne Causey, SS
Connie Ryan, 2B
Starting pitcher: Ron Guidry (over Ted Lyons* and Andy Pettitte)
*Hall of Famer
Recap: No. 2 Pennsylvania vs. No. 15 North Carolina
Before getting into the Pennsylvania-North Carolina game, several of you have asked how Strat-O-Matic is simulating these games.
The first thing you should know is that the player cards they are using are called “Hero Cards,” and they take the players’ seven best seasons and average them out. I love this process. This way players who have had one or two fluky years — say Norm Cash in 1961 — will not end up having better stats than all-time greats. Also, this way you get players like Mickey Mantle at their best without the late-career decline (in Mantle’s case, the decline famously dropped his batting average below .300).
Several of you have asked how Strat-O-Matic figures out stuff like attendance and time of game. It’s either a super-secret and intensive process that I can’t discuss or we all kind of make it up. I’ll let you decide which one to believe.
2. Pennsylvania vs. 15. North Carolina.
As many of you observed, North Carolina made a controversial decision in starting Madison Bumgarner over Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry, Catfish Hunter or Hoyt Wilhelm. Their thought was that as massive underdogs (93 percent of you picked Pennsylvania, making this a no-line game in Vegas), The Tar Heel State decided they needed to go for broke and hope that Lenoir’s Madbum could recapture his World Series magic and shut down Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Jr. and the rest.
And for a good while, he did. North Carolina scored two in the top of the second on a two-run single by High Point, N.C., native Luke Appling. Bumgarner gave one back in the bottom of the inning when he walked Pittsburgh’s Buddy Bell with the bases loaded. But he got out of the inning by striking out Nellie Fox* and forcing Honus Wagner to pop out.
*Madbum striking out Nellie Fox was no mean feat. Are you ready for the crazy stat of the day? In his career, Nellie Fox had 10,351 plate appearances. Last season, Joey Gallo had 615 plate appearances.
Fox (career): 216 strikeouts
Gallo (2021): 213 strikeouts
And then, even though the North Carolina lineup couldn’t do anything more against Christy Mathewson, North Carolina held on to the lead until the seventh.
But that’s when the walls caved in. Honus Wagner homered to tie the game. Stan Musial then cracked a triple — one of his specialties. Here are the most triples for players since the start of World War II:
Stan Musial, 177
Roberto Clemente, 166
Willie Wilson, 147
Lou Brock and Willie Mays, 141
Bumgarner then struck out Ken Griffey Jr. In all he would whiff Griffey FOUR times, something no big-league pitcher ever did in reality (Griffey struck out four times in three games through the years, but it was never against just one pitcher).
But then Bumgarner made the fatal mistake, trying to throw a first-pitch fastball by Reggie Jackson, who made it to the Hall of Fame in part by smashing first-pitch fastballs. Jackson mashed a titanic and majestic home run deep into the rightfield stands to give Pennsylvania the 4-2 lead.
Mathewson took it from there, getting out of a little jam in the ninth inning when he got No. 9 hitter Rick Ferrell to pop out to end the game. There will be a lot of second-guessing in North Carolina — for starting Bumgarner and also for selecting Ferrell (from Durham) as starting catcher over the superior hitter Smoky Burgess (from Asheville).
With that, Pennsylvania joins California in the Final 8.
BOXSCORE: North Carolina At Pennsylvania 7/7/2022 North Carolina AB R H RBI Pennsylvania AB R H RBI L.Appling SS 4 0 1 2 H.Wagner SS 4 1 1 1 E.Slaughter RF 3 0 0 0 S.Musial LF 4 1 2 0 B.Leonard 1B 3 0 0 0 K.Griffey Jr CF 4 0 0 0 J.Hamilton CF 4 0 0 0 R.Jackson RF 4 2 2 2 R.Zimmerman 3B 4 1 1 0 M.Piazza DH 4 0 1 0 C.Seager DH 4 0 0 0 D.Allen 1B 3 0 3 0 J.Hart LF 4 0 1 0 R.Campanella C 3 0 0 0 R.Durham 2B 3 1 1 0 B.Bell 3B 3 0 0 1 R.Ferrell C 3 0 1 0 N.Fox 2B 3 0 0 0 -- -- -- --- -- -- -- --- Totals 32 2 5 2 Totals 32 4 9 4 North Carolina.. 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 2 5 1 Pennsylvania.... 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 0 x - 4 9 1 North Carolina (0-1) IP H R ER BB SO HR PC ERA M.Bumgarner LOSS(0-1) 8 9 4 4 3 7 2 125 4.50 Pennsylvania (1-0) IP H R ER BB SO HR PC ERA C.Mathewson WIN(1-0) 9 5 2 2 4 4 0 134 2.00 ATTENDANCE- 38,362 DATE- Thursday July 7, 2022 TIME- Night T- 2:31 LEFT ON BASE- North Carolina: 7 Pennsylvania: 7 DOUBLE PLAYS- North Carolina: 2 Pennsylvania: 0 ERRORS- L.Appling, H.Wagner DOUBLES- R.Zimmerman(1st), R.Durham(1st) TRIPLES- S.Musial(1st) HOME RUNS- H.Wagner(1st), R.Jackson(1st) RBIs- L.Appling-2(2nd), H.Wagner(1st), R.Jackson-2(2nd), B.Bell(1st) WALKS- E.Slaughter, B.Leonard, R.Durham, R.Ferrell, D.Allen, R.Campanella, B.Bell STRIKEOUTS- L.Appling-2, C.Seager, J.Hart, K.Griffey Jr-4, R.Jackson, N.Fox-2 GIDP- R.Campanella, B.Bell WILD PITCHES- C.Mathewson 2-out RBI- L.Appling-2, R.Jackson-2 RLISP 2-out- H.Wagner-2, E.Slaughter, K.Griffey Jr, B.Bell-2, R.Ferrell-2 TEAM RISP- North Carolina: 1 for 5 Pennsylvania: 1 for 7
And, finally, here’s our latest addition to The All-State Tournament — a constantly updated bracket!