Ed Stroud (DGE)

The first week in the season was capped off by a Sunday double-header between Dubuque and Waterloo.  Not particularly remarkable for 1968, but definitely a rarity now.  Also emblematic of the different era is the 1-0 score of the second game, with Camilo Pascual tossing a shutout.

Funny how my thoughts drift toward the Golden Eagles at the end of this week.  It’s composed of a couple of expansion teams, after all.  But in the history of my affection for what has been tagged “the year of the pitcher,” for me these two teams have a heightened importance.

Back in 1992, when we were living in Dayton, I played through the 1968 season using Replay Baseball.  This was an old-fashioned dice, cards, and paper experience, but with a twist: I put the four expansion teams (Angels, Senators, Mets, and Astros) into a draft pool and did a little fantasy draft to shake things up (and as a side-benefit, reducing the teams also cut the number of games I would have to play).  This caused me to focus quite a bit on the draft pool, and as such players like Rick Reichardt (21 HRs that year!) became etched in my memory.  But in an odd way it is a guy named Ed Stroud who stands out, and he’s a great example of how a baseball simulation can sometimes create an attachment to a player.

In 1968, Ed Stroud was 28 years old and would bat 327 times, hitting .239 with 10 doubles, 10 triples, and 4 homers.  I suspect it was the triples that made me notice him in the first place, but he became (for me) as big a part of this season as Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA and Denny McLain’s 31 wins.  A Fred Lasher fastball to the head effectively ended his career a few years later, so I’m going to savor every day he gets penciled into the lineup -- even if he wears an 0-4 collar, like he did in that Sunday double-dip against Waterloo.  

For whatever reason, the Golden Eagles have to platoon a lot, and the parts don’t often mesh in the usual right-left fashion.  Complementing Ed out in right is 22-yo Norm Miller, also a lefty swinger whose slash line of .237/6/28 is about par for this team.  At first is another pair of lefties.  ‘Super Jew’ Mike Epstein (.234/13/33) is the primary guy, but with just 385 ABs he needs to be spelled now and then by Rusty Staub (.291/6/72).  Rusty drew 73 walks and is an on-base machine, and on days he isn’t at 1B will be patrolling the outfield.  This will allow Frank Howard, the team’s slugger with 44 HRs, to DH (and hide Hondo’s dreadful +3 arm).  The team has two other notable outfielders.  Jimmy Wynn is a minor star (who can forget ‘The Toy Cannon’?) with a slash line of .269/26/67 and 90 BBs.  The other, 23-yo rookie Del Unser, is such a poor hitter (just 1 HR in 635 ABs) that he’s just a spare part even with his nice 2e5 (-2) defense in CF.  Deep outfield reserves are Dick Simpson (.197/6/19) and Brant Alyea (.267/6/23).  With eight ballpark diamonds vL, we can look forward to some timely pinch-hits from Alyea! 

Catcher, short, and third are all shared by righties.  John Bateman is the big stick behind the dish -- I know .249 doesn’t sound like much, but that’s great compared with Paul Casanova and his horrible .210 on-base % (both guys hit just four HRs, so Paul’s -2 arm makes him seem ok).  The anchor at SS is 22-yo rookie Hector Torres, whose .223 average is yet another drag on the offense.  Hector is pretty good against LHP though (balance is 4L), so he fits well with Tim Cullen (.230 and 2R) who will get the call a few times a week. A bright spot is the hot corner, where Ken McMullen’s power (20 HRs) and 23-yo Doug Rader’s average (.267) are at least decent.

The keystone position is also solid, and this is where two of my favorite players will share time creating the team’s only ‘normal’ platoon.  The righty is Denis Menke (.249/6/56), who will also play some SS; the lefty Bernie Allen (.241/6/40).  Fans of the era will remember a notable player has gone MIA, Joe Morgan, but after a quick google search I see he missed pretty much the whole year due to a knee injury.  (Frankly, my first guess was military service in Vietnam, which did cause some players to miss time in this era.) 

Note that Denis Menke is from Iowa, and we don’t have so many reach the majors that we don’t cherish each and every one.  Some of my friends may remember Bill Zuber’s restaurant in the Amana Colonies, which was adorned with baseball memorabilia.  Zuber’s playing days were before my time, but I found a nice bio on the web: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/3fea586f.  My family would eat at Zuber’s a couple of times a year when I was a kid, and to me it was like going to Cooperstown.  I don’t have one anymore, but I remember these cool pens that you could buy as a souvenir (especially useful to have handy if you needed an autograph!).  Anyway, I have sort of a “kevin bacon” connection to Menke -- one of his cousins and I worked together as substitute teachers for a few years when he was coaching the girl’s softball team at Dowling.


Overall, my first impression of this offense is definitely unfavorable.  Yes, this is a pair of expansion teams, but you’d think they’d be better after 7+ years!  Looking a bit deeper, I notice both teams were playing in pitcher’s parks.  In Houston the power was cut sharply (1’s for ballpark HRs across the board) and in Washington it was lefty hitters in general who were really hurt (1’s for both ballpark singles and homers).  One of the reasons I have put all the teams in a neutral park is to test the truth of my perception that this is a light-hitting franchise.

Just one hitter with the sorting requirement of 360+ ABs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ didn’t make Dubuque’s 30-man roster: 3B Bob Aspromonte (.225/1/46).  No hard cuts here!

Note that I am trying to check ages, and will mention whether a player is under 25 or over 32.  Dubuque’s roster seems pretty young overall, with no old guys at all.  Currently 3-3, they are off to a pretty good start, evoking the old adage that hope springs eternal!

The pitchers on this team will be discussed next time; that’s enough for one day! My intension is to shine a focus on one club during each of my Sunday game-breaks, and these intro posts are going to be long ones.

Here is a link to the Strat-O-Matic league file after 1 week of play, and the current standings:

1968IB-1-9-2019.lzp 

4/14/68 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Council Bluff Falcons (A’s-Giants)        4      1    .800      -
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)       3      1    .750     .5
Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)        2      2    .500    1.5
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)       2      2    .500    1.5
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)          2      2    .500    1.5
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)    2      2    .500    1.5
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators-Astros)   3      3    .500    1.5
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)       2      3    .400    2.0
West Metro Maroons (Angels-Mets)          2      3    .400    2.0
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)       1      4    .200    3.0


© John Kisner 2019