Congratulations to the 2066 Weaver League Champions, the Entebbe Zealots!
Baseball, more than any other sport, is a marathon, not a sprint. With the rhythm of the 162 game season lasting from spring to fall, a team’s fortunes can climb and dive as players get hot, run into cold streaks, and battle the fatigue associated with topline performance coupled with grueling everyday travel.
The 2066 Entebbe Zealots were not afforded the luxury of time to figure out the narrative of their regular season. Cairo, winners of 3 of the last 5 Weaver Cups, were looking to rebound and improve the Scorpions’ claim for “Best Dynasty in Weaver.. Ever.” Coupled with a rapidly improving Stockholm Swedes squad, Zealots management realized that their contending window might not remain open that much longer. The time to strike was now: to win the Weaver Cup, Entebbe would have to be at the top of their game right away. Any small slip-up, even in the early part of the season, could put the Zealots in a hole that was too deep to climb out of.
What followed over the next 6 months was one of the most back-and-forth Weaver pennant races ever seen. The top of the Barnes Division changed hands 13 times, with the final 7 weeks featuring consecutive flip-flops between Entebbe and Cairo, Cairo and Entebbe. Entering the final week in a dead heat, the Scorpions and Zealots closed out with a combined 11-1 record. Hong Kong ended up playing kingmaker, plating home 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th vs Cairo to record a 6-4 win. The Dragons’ win pushed the Zealots into 1st with a 112-50 record, finishing 1 game ahead of the Scorpions.
Entebbe’s potent offensive attack featured 4 fearsome hitters at the heart of the order: 3B Jud Wilson (.290/36/94), 1B Bobby Muich (.300/34/96), RF Art Harris (.301/33/104), and LF Frank Barlow (.283/30/78). The spine of the defense, anchored by SS Paul Blaisdell, CF Carey Blais, and C Fred Luebbers, may have had a down year offensively but the trio always seemed to deliver during high leverage at-bats and on defense. Meanwhile, on the mound, RHP Francisco Matthei recorded a season for the ages, winning the Blizzard League Cy Young Award with a Pitching Triple Crown season: 24-4, 1.33 ERA, 248 SO. Entebbe’s pitching staff was so strong that during the playoffs, they were able to occasionally reassign former Negro Leagues legend Andy Cooper from the rotation to the closer slot!
After struggling all season to finally claim the Barnes Division, the BLCS was almost anticlimactic for the Zealots. Entebbe swept Jamaica 4-0 in the BLCS, winning Games 3 and 4 on the road in extra innings. In the Weaver Series, however, Entebbe ran into an equally determined Oakland Lumberjacks squad looking to defend their 2065 title and win back-to-back. Entebbe and Oakland split the first 4 games, with each squad winning once on the road.
In most series, Game 5 is typically the decisive matchup, and Oakland looked set to celebrate after RHP Mike Scott outdueled RHP Al Link for a 4-0 win. However, with Entebbe recording the most wins in Weaver this season, this meant that Oakland’s closeout win would have to come on the road. Could Entebbe come back from 3-2, winning 2 games at home?
The Zealots jumped out quickly to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game 6, but a late run by Oakland in the top of the 7th silenced the Zealots faithful into a nervous buzz. Then, in the bottom of the 10th inning, LF Frank Barlow hammered a deep drive to left for a 2-run HR to set up a winner-take-all matchup in Game 7. Despite Barlow’s heroics, LHP Andy Cooper was universally cited as Player of the Game for pitching all 10 innings of the contest, allowing only 3 hits and striking out 6. Postgame interviews featured a demoralized Oakland squad talking about lost opportunities, and that mental hangover continued into Game 7. RHP Francisco Matthei capped off his spectacular season with another dominant pitching performance, and both 1B Julian Jeffords and SS Paul Blaisdell each hit homers to lead Entebbe to a 5-1 win.
At long last, after 25 seasons, the Entebbe faithful had a title of their own to celebrate. Having reached the top of the mountain, can the Zealots stay hungry and claim a few more titles to establish their own dynasty? Or will this Weaver Cup be a one-shot deal, a dream season to remember for all the Entebbe faithful who remember the tough rebuild years immediately after relocation? The Zealots look strong for next season, but with a bevy of contenders all excited to stake their claim, 2067 should be a fun season to watch. Let’s hope for another compelling pennant race and playoffs! Congrats again Entebbe!