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thekline

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06/05/16 11:31 PM

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On the 40th anniversary of our nation's Bicentennial, what better year to do? What a year 1976 was. Parades, celebrations, wagon trains across the country, fireworks, blue jean and corduroy  bibs, transcendental meditation, plaid suits...........wow.........plaid suits! It was also quite the year in baseball. Free agency was ushered in. Greed and jerks came out of the wood work. Revolutions took place (how appropriate). The players were locked out at the start of Spring training. The baseball world also lost a number members. Deaths included, Max Carey, Mark Christman, Earle Combs, Blix Donnelly, Jimmy Dykes, George Earnshaw, Red Faber, Wes Farrell, Dan Frisella, Jim Konstanty, Duke Maas, Firpo Marberry, Mike Miley, Danny Murtaugh, Danny Thompson, Lon Warneke and Tom Yawkey. 

Yes, it's baseball, apple pie and mom, all rolled into one! Don't be a commie, follow along and root for the old Red, White and Blue, not to mention, the Old English D!

Games will also be broadcast on WKRP in Cincinnati, right after the Les Nesman hog reports. 

I forgot to add Bob Moose to the list of those who passed away. Moose, like several other current players, was killed in an auto accident after the season ended.

Last Edited By: thekline 06/06/16 03:36 AM. Edited 2 times

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thekline

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#1 [url]

06/05/16 11:39 PM

I'll have some team reports posted before too long, with some pretty interesting stuff I found while searching "The Guide", from the Sporting News.

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67Mantle

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#3 [url]

06/06/16 02:17 PM

Some of us may have enlisted in 1976. Just saying.

"You're either on the bus or off the bus," Ken Kesey

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thekline

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#4 [url]

06/17/16 11:29 PM

A little run down on the teams, starting with the East Division. 


New York:
Led by Billy Martin, the Yankees made their way to the World Series, before getting thwacked by the Reds. Still, the mini dynasty had started. Led by Munson, Chambliss, White and Nettles, along with a young Willie Randolph and Mickey Rivers, this is a solid club. The pitching staff, led by Hunter, Figueroa and Doc Ellis, with Lyle and Tidrow in the bullpen is also strong. All in all, this was a pretty calm year for the Yankees.

Baltimore:
Turmoil marked the Orioles in 1976. Charlie Finley, looking to shed his unsigned players before free agency, swung a trade with the Orioles before the season started. Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman were sent to Baltimore for Don Baylor and Mike Torrez. Jackson wanted a huge pay increase and refused to report to the club, holding out for over a month. Well into May, the Orioles caved and gave Jackson his raise, at the expense of the other players, cutting their pay by 20%, which was allowed back then. Already less than thrilled by Jackson's arrival, the rest of the Orioles players were really ticked off that they had their pay cut. The most vocal was Holtzman, who thought he had really gotten screwed over when his pay was cut as well. The Orioles soon had to ship Holtzman off to New York in a trade, but the damage was done. To his credit, Jim Palmer authored a Cy Young award winning season, despite his run ins with Management and his disdain for Jackson. Now I'm no Earl Weaver fan, but I have to hand it to him. He did a heck of a job getting a team full of pissed off players, with a terrible clubhouse, to finish in second place. Through out all of the deals they had to swing during the season, the Orioles picked up the players who would make them a serious contender in the late 70's and early 80's.

Boston:
The Red Sox returned their team from 1975, for the most part, although falling into third place. The Boston writers placed the blame on Fred Lynn and Jim Rice not repeating their monster rookie seasons, which is pretty harsh, IMO. While the team could hit, as usual, the blame seems to be in the place where Boston normally has problems, it's pitching. The starters, Tiant, Wise, Jenkins and Lee, all had down years, although Tiant did win 21 games, so maybe not him so much. Without much of a bullpen though, there was little help. Don Zimmer takes over for Darrell Johnson in mid-season. Not a team you want to get into a slug fest with, the Red Sox will still be a real challenge.

Cleveland:
Led by player-manager Frank Robinson, the Indians stayed in the race for the first half of the season, finishing in fourth place. With Ray Fosse rebounding and Buddy Bell, Rico Carty and George Hendrick hitting well, the Indians could score runs. The downer was Boog Powell, showing signs he was nearing the end, having a miserable season (.215 with just 9 Hrs). Dave LaRoche and Jim Kern gave Cleveland perhaps the best, lefty-righty relief combo in baseball.

Milwaukee: 
New manager Alex Grammas managed to do several things in Milwaukee. He got the Brewers players to be clean shaven. He managed to drive away their best player, George Scott. He managed to guide the Brewers into last place and he managed to make everyone who wanted last years manager, Del Crandell, fired, eat their words. Grammas even managed to upset Hank Aaron, pulling the legend out of his final game early, when Aaron wanted a couple of final at bats. Not a whole lot went right for the Brewers in 76, which sure helped out Detroit.   

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nwfanatic

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#5 [url]

06/18/16 12:02 AM

Jim - This is fantastic. I look forward to your preview of the Tigers. I have the 1976 cards and will be referencing the waxed cards as I follow the Tigers. 

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zzephyr

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#6 [url]

06/18/16 06:28 AM

Wow. I did not know that about Reggie Jackson. Such a move would certainly not do wonders for team chemistry. I mean, that's just a BOLD move on his part... You have to be around your teammates almost every day for five months, hanging out in the same clubhouse... Wow.

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thekline

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#7 [url]

06/18/16 09:22 PM

And now the West Division.


Kansas City:
Warning**Jerk alert AND Steve Brye alert ahead! The Royals finally knocked the A's out of first place in the West. Brett, McRae, Cowens, Otis, Mayberry... a fine lineup indeed, with a decent bench. Many Royals fans consider this the best Royals team of all, but I like the pitching on the 80's models better. However, the Royals do have a nice bullpen in Littell, Pattin, Gura and Mingori to back up Leonard, Splittorff, Fitzmorris and Bird. Now the juicy stuff. Headed into the final game of the regular season, both George Brett and Hal McRae were tied for the batting title. Playing at home against the Twins, Rod Carew was in third place, but he fell out of the running during the game. In the 9th inning, Brett and McRae were still tied for the lead. Brett led off with what was described as a "routine fly ball" to left. The Twins leftfielder, Steve Brye, charged in for the ball, then pulled up. The ball struck the artificial surface and bounced over Brye's head for an inside the park home run. McRae followed Brett by grounding out to short, thus giving the batting title to Brett. Once McRae was out, he began to make a series of obscene gestures at the Twins players and nearly fought with Manager Gene Mauch. After the game, McRae charged that the Twins and Brye were racists, allowing Brett to get a hit and win the title, while stopping the black McRae from winning it. An investigation by MLB concluded that Brye was only guilty of playing too deep and then losing sight of the ball hit by Brett, while Kansas City's own fake turf was responsible for the huge bounce that turned the hit into a home run. It also noted that McRae could have just as easily gotten a similar hit as well, but he didn't. I barely remember this incident, but reading about it again really lowered my opinion of McRae.

Oakland:
What a fun time to be an A's fan in 1976. Charlie Finley started to blow up the team, beginning with the Reggie Jackson trade. Then there was the "sale" of Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue before the trade deadline. A's fans were enraged and Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn put the sale on hold, placing the three players in a state of limbo for about a week. Kuhn then voided the sales "in the best interest of baseball" and ordered the three players back to the A's. Finley however, refused to take the players back and sued MLB and Kuhn. The A's players, short handed, threatened to go on strike unless Finley allowed the players to return to the team. Rudi, Fingers and Blue did finally return, but many feel that their extended absence cost the team first place. Manager Chuck Tanner knew he had to do things differently to win with this team, so they ran......and ran. The A's stole a record 341 bases in 1976. When Sal Bando is rated as an "A" stealer, you know they ran..alot! After the season, Tanner was so fed up with Finley that he begged to be fired or sent somewhere else. Tanner was traded to the Pirates, where he just had to wait for Sister Sledge to turn out the right song to get the Pirates a Championship.

Minnesota:
The Twins were expected to be contenders, but fell by the wayside, stumbling into third place. The Twins could hit, with Carew, Hisle, Ford and Lyman Bostock leading the way. The problem was with the subpar pitching, although reliever Bill Campbell milked his nice year into the honor of being the first Millionaire free agent. Some owners were smarter than Charlie Finley, as the Twins Cal Griffith traded the unsigned Bert Blyleven to Texas, in what Rangers fans thought was a terrible trade.

California:
Revolt! Manager Dick Williams was none too popular with his players, which led to a fight on the team bus between Williams and Bill Melton, who was having a terrible year. Several other players joined in on the mele', with Williams getting fired and Melton suspended. Williams right hand man, Norm Sherry took over the helm and the players loved him, but didn't play much better, limping into fourth place. A poor hitting team with no power, the Angels were saved by the pitching of Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana.

Texas:
Revolt! The Rangers players revolted against Manager Frank Lucchesi because...................he was too nice! Strange, considering that Billy Martin was their previous Manager, a guy not linked with the word, nice, too often. Blyleven joined Gaylord Perry in the pitching rotation, but there wasn't enough offense to help either have a decent record. Most Texas folks thought that the loss of Roy Smalley and Mike Cubbage in the trade with the Twins doomed their offense. One of the other players involved in the trade, Danny Thompson, played the entire season, then died of cancer shortly after the season ended. I don't know how he played through it.

Chicago:
Bill Veeck tried everything, but even wearing shorts and a funky cross breed of an early 1900's baseball and disco dance shirt as a uniform could keep the White Sox from having the worst record in the league. With Wilbur Wood injured most of the year and the rest of the pitching staff over worked in the past and a lack of power, this team just won't compete much. Jim Spencer and Jorge Orta led the team with 14 homers. No one else hit more than 7.          

Last Edited By: thekline 06/18/16 09:25 PM. Edited 1 time.

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delsea2

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#8 [url]

06/19/16 11:22 AM

Hi kline,
You picked a good year to replay 1976 I was in Italy finishing up my 2 year tour in the Air Force. Looking forward to following along with this one. Good luck.
J.Q.

J.Q. GO 2017 RED SOX !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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thekline

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#9 [url]

06/19/16 06:12 PM

Before I get to the Tigers, I don't want anyone to think that all of the player revolts took place in the American League. The N.L. had their own problems. Take Philadelphia for example. The Phillies refused to take the field for the second game of a double header, just after clinching first place, to protest Tony Taylor not being placed on the post season roster. The revolt was led by........Dick Allen, of course. Allen was joined by most of the Phillies players though, including Mike Schmidt. While the game took place with some of the subs, Allen was not done yet though. During the next road trip, he left the team and flew back on his own, still pouting. Allen would pay the price though. Unsigned, MLB had to hold a special, free agent draft, just for Allen. Only Oakland drafted the rights to negotiate with Allen and his playing days were pretty much done. Way too toxic for any owner to take a chance on.     

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thekline

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#10 [url]

06/19/16 07:10 PM

Detroit:

After last place finishes in 1974 and 1975, there was some hope in Detroit, at least in the outfield. Ron LeFlore started the season with a 30 game hitting streak and was an All Star. He also showed more speed than anyone in a Detroit uniform since Ty Cobb. Rusty Staub came over in the trade for Mickey Lolich (which I hated at the time) and played in every game. Just missing the .300 mark (.299), Staub added some power as well. Alex Johnson, in his final season, did alright, when he felt like playing, of course. I've never found out why Ralph Houk disliked Ben Oglivie so much. Even back then, I could see that the guy could flat out hit and Benji added some power as well. He'll work his way into a platoon with Johnson in left. While none of these players were noted for their range or defense, there is super sub, Mickey Stanley, on the bench. Stanley did everything but pitch and catch and his 1's and 2's for his fielding ratings sure make me wish there were a couple more players just like him on the team. Stanley also chipped in with the bat, as well.
Aurelio Rodriguez brings his prized 3b-1 to the team, a real blessing for the infield. However, he won't hit much. Jason Thompson was called up after two weeks, when it became apparent that Dan Meyer wasn't going to be able to produce any power. Thompson was force fed first base and showed he was over matched, hitting under .220, but he did show signs of his power, slamming 17 homeruns and drawing the second most walks on the team. Thompson would break out next season. At shortstop, Tom Veryzer declined again, a wasted #1 pick. The real black hole is at second base. Gary Sutherland, Jerry Manuel and Pedro Garcia couldn't hit or field. There is always infield backup Chuck Scrivener, who had a career year, hitting .224. Yeah, I know, but it's a whole lot better than 1977's .083.
Bill Freehan was supposed to back up young Milt May. When May crashed into a wall and injured his knee, needing season ending surgery after just six games, Freehan was the man again. He ended his career trying to teach young Bruce Kim and John Wockenfuss how to catch, while having a decent year at the plate.
When healthy, Willie Horton is solid at the DH spot. 

The pitching is another story. Joe Coleman was supposed to be the new ace, but far too many innings that past several years had taken it's toll on his arm and he was sold to the Cubs in June. Lefty Dave Roberts should be pretty decent and ended up pitching the most innings for the team. Vern Ruhle and Ray Bare will be so-so as starters. John Hiller IS the bullpen and I'll overuse him, just like in real life. There really is no choice, I've found that out already in the games I've played. Steve Grilli, Jim Crawford, Bill Laxton and Dave Lemanczyk are the kind of guys you just close your eyes and roll the dice, hoping for the best, but afraid to watch.

Then, there is the Bird. Not even on the 40 man roster, Mark Fidrych somehow made the team out of spring training. Left on the bench to rot for the first two months, he was pressed into service as a starter in late May. The rest is history. The goofy farm kid, he was part Yogi Berra, "A hit is as good as a walk" and part naive little kid (After Mickey Stanley had just been thrown out at third, Fidrych tried to fire the team up by yelling out, "alright now, let's take advantage of that!"). And it was no act, the sheltered farm kid was just like most of us, in awe that he was playing baseball with all of his heroes, in front of huge crowds and getting paid for it. Besides his pitching ability, that was the real effect he had on this team. His child like belief that they could win every game and that his heroes could do all kinds of amazing things rubbed off on the players. It made playing the game fun again and gave them hope that the team was on the upswing. Willie Horton told a story of how he came to the ballpark, on crutches due to an injured ankle, unable to walk. Fidrych kept coming into the trainers room, telling Horton to get ready for the game, because they would need him in the 9th inning. Horton went from telling Fidrych he was crazy to suiting up and.....going out to pinch hit in the bottom of the 9th. Horton legged out a walk off double. While standing on second base, Horton said that he then realized he couldn't walk and had to be carried back to the dugout. Horton said that Fidrych had instilled this belief in him that he could do something that he knew he really couldn't do. That was what Fidrych really brought to the team.

Sadly, the naive Fidrych was no match for greed. While he made the ML minimum salary, the Tigers, the other A.L. teams and television made a fortune off of him, with the crowds and ratings he drew. When Fidrych injured his knee in spring training in 1977, the Tigers didn't see an injured, overworked kid. They just saw the money they were losing with him not pitching. So, just like with Frank Lary back in 1962, Fidrych was rushed back onto the mound way before his knee had healed. And, just like Lary, to try to protect his knee, Fidrych had to change his pitching motion and ended up blowing out his rotater cuff. While the Tigers kept running Fidrych out to the mound, year after year, instead of getting him the proper treatment, the results and the pain, got worse and worse until the Tigers let him go after the 1981 season. Fidrych was never bitter about his treatment though and never complained about all of the money that he missed out on. He always figured that he'd be a farmer and couldn't believe that he got paid to play baseball. Flaky, yes, but also classy. He left the earth far too soon and there will never, sadly, ever, be another player like the Bird.       

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thekline

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#11 [url]

06/19/16 09:00 PM

April 10, 1976

Detroit at Cleveland
Attendance: 58,478

Detroit took the lead in the top of the 6th when Willie Horton singled home Ron LeFlore. The Indians came right back in the bottom of the inning though, with RBI singles by Powell, Hendrick and Charlie Spikes. Spikes drove in another run in the 8th, as Cleveland won their opener.

Detroit: 1-5-1
Cleveland: 4-10-0

Detroit: Coleman and May

Cleveland: Eckersley and Ashby

WP-Eckersley
LP-Coleman  0-1

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thekline

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#12 [url]

06/19/16 09:04 PM

April 13, 1976

Milwaukee at Detroit
Attendance: 49,612

Opening day in Detroit. Alex Johnson gets the home crowd fired up with a three run homer in the 6th inning. The Brewers spoil Ray Bare's shutout attempt in the 7th with a lead off homer by George Scott.

Milwaukee: 1-4-0
Detroit: 3-8-0

Milwaukee: Slaton and Porter

Detroit: Bare, Hiller (7) and May

WP-Bare  1-0
Save-Hiller  1
LP-Slaton

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thekline

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#13 [url]

06/19/16 09:11 PM

April 16, 1976

Detroit at California
Attendance: 9,873

Foul weather has held the Tigers to just two games, but that shouldn't be a problem in California. Each team scores in the 1st inning, as Alex Johnson and Bill Melton single in runs. Melton homers in the 4th and Rusty Torres doubles in a run, as the Angels take the lead. Dan Meyer singles home a run for Detroit in the 8th, but Bruce Bochte counters that with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning, as the Angels take game one.

Detroit: 2-6-0
California: 4-8-0

Detroit: Coleman, Crawford (8) and May

California: Kirkwood, Monge (8), Drago (9) and Herrmann

WP-Kirkwood
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thekline

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#14 [url]

06/19/16 09:18 PM

April 17, 1976

Detroit at California
Attendance: 18,464

Dave Roberts gets his first start for Detroit and it's not a good one. Torres singles in two runs in the 2nd and Bochte plates another in the 3rd before Tom Veryzer can get Detroit on the board with an RBI double in the 4th. Gary Sutherland singles in a run in the 6th, but that's as close as the Tigers will get. The Angels pick up a pair of runs in the 7th and add three more in the 8th to win, 8-3. Detroit missed chance after chance to score runs in the game.

Detroit: 3-14-0
California: 8-13-0

Detroit: Roberts, Grilli (8) and May

California: Ross, Monge (7), Drago (8) and Etchebarren

WP-Ross
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thekline

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#15 [url]

06/19/16 09:27 PM

April 18, 1976

Detroit at California
Attendance: 8,938

The Angels start a blow out in the 1st inning, as Vern Ruhle allows six runs and retires just two batters. Detroit scores tow runs in the 2nd, but the Angels counter with one in the bottom of the inning. The pattern repeats in the 4th, and the Angels add on a run in the 7th for a 9-4 lead. Then, all hell breaks loose. The Tigers score seven runs in the top of the 9th to take an 11-9 lead. Hiller sets the stunned Angels down in order in the bottom of the 9th and the Tigers have won the most improbable of all victories, most likely, this year.

Detroit: 11-15-2
California: 9-12-3

Detroit: Ruhle, Laxton (1), Crawford (4), Hiller (9) and Freehan

California: Hassler, Hartsell (6), Monge (9), Drago (9) and Herrmann

WP-Crawford  1-0
Save-Hiller  2
LP-Monge 

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nwfanatic

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#16 [url]

06/20/16 02:39 AM

Jim - You are off and running! Before I comment on the Tigers preview, I must add this to the Steve Brye/Hal McRae story:


Brye was told later, at the airport, that McRae had inferred that the play was racially motivated.

“Whew,” he said, exhaling slowly and sadly. “No way . . . If any error was involved it was mine. Gene Mauch had nothing to do with it. Gene told me to play in shallow. The last couple of innings I played deep not to allow a ball to get over my head and keep alive the possibility of a double play if a man got on base. I was indecisive. I didn’t get a good jump on the ball. All during the series balls I thought would fall in front of me were going over my head. Cookie Rojas was jammed and hit one over my head once. It’s tough to pick up the ball here because there’s a gray background, plus you don’t hear the ball off the bat that well. It’s a very dead sound. When I play center field, which I usually do, I follow the pitch and the sound of the bat has a lot to do with the way I react. Then after I ran in I stopped because I didn’t think I could get to the ball.”

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nwfanatic

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#17 [url]

06/20/16 02:51 AM

Jim - Excellent write-up on The Bird. I had never heard that Horton story...you capture the essence of Mark Fidryich in one paragraph. He really did take his teammates to a higher level on the field. For a pitcher who relied on his defense to win 19 games with nothing but 3s and 4s (except Aurelio and Stanley) is incredible. Imagine what he could have done with Trammell and Whitaker behind him. 

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gwloar

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#18 [url]

06/21/16 07:09 AM

Great write-ups and an okay start to the season (from a Detroit point of view). At least the Indians won a game. My 1976 story is that Fydrich was pitching in Cleveland one sunny afternoon. I was at Kent State at the time. It was about 80 degrees. At the last minute I decided to go up to Cleveland to watch the game and see the Bird. Now if you know the old Municipal Stadium, it was right on Lake Erie. When the winds blew off the lake, you froze your butt off. Dressed for summer, I had a seat in the shade and just froze. I eventually headed to the cheap bleacher seats to try to get some sun and warm up but never did. I can't remember anything about the game or the Bird. Just too cold. I remember Cleveland losing and that's about it. But the Bird was special that year. I wonder how much attendance increased at games in which he pitched. I would not have gone if he did not pitch. (now, truth be told, I am pulling this out of my memory from 40 years ago. It could actually have been 1977 but I doubt it).

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67Mantle

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#19 [url]

06/21/16 09:31 PM

I saw five baseball games in 1976. One was the nationally televised game with Detroit facing New York where the Bird just dominated NY. The other four were the World Series losses.....I was in Germany, laying blacktop in an Army Heavy Construction Battalion and chasing lots of women, among other sundry activities.

"You're either on the bus or off the bus," Ken Kesey

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nwfanatic

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#20 [url]

06/22/16 02:33 AM

Here is that Monday Night game against the Yankees:

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