Great SL Games

Summary of Belle Leads Rhythm to Divison Tie on Final Day of '97

Keith and Ken, the managers of the Mystic and South Syrinx, have had an APBA rivalry dating back to when they competed in Dar Komissar Steve Swinea's 1979 APBA Football league. Their competitive rivalry dates back to when 2-year Keith wrestled oldest brot her Matt and was allowed to win, while Ken watched and licks his wounds from another sound defeat at the hands of Matt.

By the beginning of the Summer League, after 15 years cast in his shadow, Keith had finally equalled Ken in APBA knowledge. When they were paired in the same division in the league's first year, their longtime rivalry reached a climax as Ken and Keith fought to the wire for the division crown. With a famous shirt-tearing incident as the highlight, Keith came back to tie Ken on the last day of the season. In the playoff, Keith finally bettered his older brother.

That season was a crowning achievement in the rivalry for Keith, but it turned out not be the climax, just the first of many exciting plot twists and turns. Like a John Woo film where the combatants end up pointing their guns at each other, Keith and K en have since faced off on many occasions where it was kill or be killed. One of the most prominent of these occasions occured in the '97 Taterka division playoff chase.

Belle's Rhythm vs. Syrinx Sluggers

Keith's Mystic Rhythm took an early lead in the race, but Ken was never far behind. In the last month of the season, Ken took the lead. He held a two-game lead after 156 complete, with all 6 remaining games against the Rhythm. The Rhythm needed to win 5 games to win the division, either outright or in a one-game playoff.

The Rhythm won 3 of the first 4, then were manhandled by Cy Young winner Kevin Brown in Game 161. Game 162 featured a pitching match-up of 3rd round pick Juan Guzman for the Syrinx vs. Keith's 6th starter, Mike Grace, with the Rhythm having the home-fi eld disadvantage. The Rhythm were also without clean-up hitter Bobby Higginson, who was out with an injury. Ken and Keith both knew the odds were in the Syrinx's favor.

Albert Belle may spend his off-seasons gambling his millions, but he doesn't know anything about odds. He proved that when he hit a solo homer off Guzman with two out in the bottom of the first, then followed that with an RBI-triple in the third. When it looked as though he might be stranded on third, Belle pulled off the rare and heroic feat of stealing home, staking the Rhythm to a 3-run lead. The Syrinx were a team constructed of power-hitting, yet plodding, DH-types, the likes of whom included Edga r Martinez, Jim Thome, Jose Canseco and Mike Piazza. In this all-important game, it was the Rhythm and their multi-talented DH who were leading 3-0 enterring the top of the seventh.

In the top of the seventh, Ken got an RBI double from SL favorite Mark Whiten off reliever John Franco to get on the board. The lead shrunk to a single run when Andres Galarraga doubled in Jim Thome in the top of the eighth. Keith needed an insurance r un, and Belle again delivered in the bottom of the inning. Allowed to hit off Syrinx reliever Ed Vosberg after earlier being walked by Guzman, Belle slammed a towering home run into the crazed left field Rhythm Section.

When Tim Crabtree got three straight outs in the ninth, Belle's dramatic performance, where he accounted for all 4 of the Rhythm's runs, had won the Rhythm the opportunity to play in a game 163. Keith went on to beat Ken in that game, finishing another page in the storied SL history, and another chapter in the rivalry between Ken and Keith. But as Ken proved with his 4 games to 2 win in that season's divisional playoffs, the book between those two is a neverending story, with more climaxes to come.

Keith Klein, 2/16/99