Camilo Pascual

Camilo Pascual was a Cuban who came north to play baseball in 1954, the same year Batista dissolved parliament and set in motion events that would nudge Cuban politics toward Ché, Communism, and Castro.  By the summer of my birth, 1957, he was 23 and a solid cog in Washington’s rotation, and during my terrible-two’s was a bona-fide ace, leading the league in complete games while going 17-10.  It was a fine career, but 1968 would be his last good year.


I have loaded a set of player images into my Strat-O-Matic game, and the pictures of the current pitcher and hitter sometimes catch my eye.  My overwhelming impression is that the face of baseball has changed, triggering memories of how exotic it seemed as a kid to hear broken English and the kind of Spanish accents that are now so common.  

Among the thirty Golden Eagles rostered is a quartet of these rare birds, Mike Cuellar and catcher Paul Casanova being other Cuban ex-pats playing for this team, and SS Hector Torres coming from Mexico.  I only know the right-handed Pascual from my various baseball games, but Cuellar, who pitched well into the 1970s and won 20 games four times with the Orioles (1969-71 and 1974), was someone who I saw pitch several times in various post-seasons.

Cuellar was known for his screwball.  As a fellow soft-tossing lefty trying to make the leap from Babe Ruth ball to high school, in the early 1970s I was starting to develop a sense of how mastery of movement, location, and changeups could let a guy like me find success.  Dave Giusti, another workhorse on this fantasy Dubuque squad, was also pitching when I was in high school, and also had a trick pitch: the palmball.  

My high school coach was Marty Lantz.  He had pitched back in his day and strongly believed in the traditional fastball/curveball arsenal.  He tried his best to sharpen my curve, but in general I didn’t take to his instruction much.  Working on my own, I could never get a feel for a screwball or slider, but had a great time experimenting with Giusti’s out-pitch during my senior year.  It began as a bit of a joke -- I would signal Billy D out in LF to be on his toes when I dialed up the palmball -- but really think mastery of an off-speed pitch would have added a few inches to my pathetic fastball.  Alas, it is a shame I hadn’t started throwing it early in my career, or had for a coach an early believer in the change-up’s power.  Ah well, it seemed we could all have been major leaguers back then, given a different twist of fate!

Back to the Golden Eagles.  Their rotation only features one guy who had a winning record, 34-yo Pascual (13-12, 2.69, 201 IP), so he’s the obvious ace.  Two lefties come next, Denny Lemaster (10-15, 2.81, 224 IP) and Cuellar (8-11, 2.74, 171 IP), giving the club a trio of starters with ERAs under 3.00, what I grew up thinking of as the benchmark of quality.  But keep in mind that 1968 was a freakish season, and that some IBC teams have sub-3.00 rotations from top to bottom.  If I was this team’s pitching coach, I would also worry about the shift to a neutral park -- what might heal the hitting won’t help the hurlers -- but hopefully Guisti (11-14, 3.19, 252 IP) and 21-yo Joe Coleman (12-16, 3.27, 223 IP) will hold their own.  If they don’t work out, the team has another 21-yo kid, Larry Dierker (12-15, 3.31, 234 IP), waiting in the wings.  If this was a draft league, I’d be excited to have two quality starters barely old enough to drink!

Although the ‘save’ would not become an official stat until 1969, Strat-O-Matic applies the concept somewhat anachronistically to all of its recreated seasons.  For the Golden Eagles, it looks like Cal Koonce (2.42, 97 IP, and 11 saves) will anchor the back of the pen, and the team should also get some quality relief from 23-yo lefty Darold Knowles (2.18 and 41 IP) and 23-yo righty Jim Ray (2.67 and 81 IP).  Also worth mentioning is Dennis Higgins (3.25, 100 IP, 13 saves), who triggers fond memories á la Ed Stroud.  I don’t remember his baseball card nor recall ever seeing him pitch, but that Replay Baseball season once again conjures a sort of false-favorable memory.  At the back of the bullpen is Barry Moore (3.37 and 118 IP), John Buzhardt (3.12 and 84 IP), and Dave Baldwin (4.07 and 42 IP).

A few pitchers with the sorting requirement of 120+ IPs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ didn’t make Dubuque’s final 30-man roster:  23-yo Don Wilson (13-16, 3.28, 209 IP), Jim Hannan (10-6, 3.01, 140 IP), Dick Bosman (2-9, 3.69, 139 IP), and Frank Bertaina (7-13, 4.66, 127 IP).  Bosman won the ERA title in 1969, so we’ll see him soon enough.

Here are the historical ballpark ratings for Washington and Houston (note all IBC parks are 9’s across the board):

Ballpark Effect     Washington   Houston
Lefty Singles          1            9  
Righty Singles         7            9
Lefty Homers           1            1
Righty Homers          4            1

© John Kisner 2019