Tuesday night at Derks Field, where the Salt Lake Trappers started another winning streak, the subject of what happened last July inevitably came up again.
"What streak?" mused player personnel director Van Schley."We don't think about that," said outfielder Pat Waid.
"Forgot all about it," said manager Barry Moss.
Actually, they know better. But exactly one year after the Trappers extended their all-time pro baseball record streak for the last time with win No. 29, everybody was doing his best to brush aside The Streak and go about the business of winning another Pioneer League championship. By the look of things, they're succeeding. Tuesday's 6-1 defeat of Helena was their 16th in 19 games and kept the Trappers in the Southern Division lead.
Oh, the Derks Field atmosphere is a little different these days. There's plenty of elbow room in the modest press box, once packed by the arrival of writers from the likes of Sports Illustrated and the Los Angeles Times. Public relations director Glenn Seninger not only can handle all the incoming calls, he has time to make some of his own, figuring the big boys would be interested in updates from Streak City. The usual response? "We'll see if we can get to it."
Attendance is slightly up over last season, but that's as much a function of favorable scheduling that allowed for home games - read: Fireworks Nights - during both July holiday weekends as anything else. The latest homestand was the unofficial anniversary observance, covering three dates: the nights when the Trappers tied and broke the record and the day when they added No. 29. Today's road trip to Idaho Falls corresponds to the night that the streak ended in Montana and ABC's Al Michaels and Tim McCarver laughed about reporting a Salt Lake-Billings partial score on Monday Night Baseball.
Anyway, now that all that is over - and even before, for that matter - if nobody mentions The Streak again in Derks' home clubhouse, well, that's fine.
"It was a whole different team," reminds Moss, then the batting coach. "The only guy back is me."
The curious thing about all this is, the '88 Trappers could end up being a better team.
The Trappers are 25-11 at the moment, barely past halfway through the season. Complex calculations reveal that if they keep up this pace, they'll finish right around 49-21, which happens to be last summer's Salt Lake record, and the Pioneer League is now tougher, by all accounts. And the Trappers would stand even better if the relief pitching had come around sooner.
Early in the season, they lost seven games when leading by two or more runs in the last two innings. "Play with the numbers however you want," says Moss. "This team is not that far away from that kind of record."
Says Waid, "Like any record in baseball, I think luck plays a big part in it. They did it, and they deserve to take all the glory for that. Whether that team is a better team than this one, I don't think so." Schley, the designer of both teams, agrees completely.
While Moss and Schley downplay last July's Cooperstown material to keep the heat off the current team, The Streak obviously means plenty to everybody involved, especially the former Trapper players scattered around the country and Japan, in and out of baseball. When pressed, even Moss confesses, "That's something I'll always think about, as long as I live. I don't know what could ever happen that I would feel that same feeling."
As August, the minor leagues' version of September, approaches, the one thing the '88 Trappers definitely have over their predeccessors is a little competition in their division. They have only a two-game lead in the new-and-improved Pioneer South over Butte, which comes to town for four games next week.
"What's nice about this year is we've got a chance to be in a pennant race in August," says general manager Steve Pearson, who's leaving for Weber State and a new job just in time to miss all the fun.
Maybe the Trappers' being in a pennant race won't sell as many tickets as a record winning streak or attract any attention beyond Idaho and Montana, but next month could be interesting at Derks Field. These Trappers may not have done anything historical, but at least they've managed not to take the fun out of August.