Waterloo May Become Baseball’s First Wild-Card Playoff Qualifier (1978)

The Midwest League has a history of experimenting with playoff formats. This is one experiment I hadn’t previously discovered….

From TSN, 9/9/1978; page 56:

Organized Baseball’s first wild-card playoffs could become a reality early in September, provided one of the Midwest League’s two first-half divisional champions–Appleton or Quad Cities–finishes on top again in the final second-half standings.

The wild-card arrangements, which will be used only if there is a repeat champion in one division and the other division title is divided between two clubs, were announced August 24 by league President Bill Walters.

If first and second-half divisional championships are split in both the North and South, best-of-three semifinal series will begin in Appleton and Quad Cities on September 1, to be followed by a best-of-three series between the winners for the overall championship.

Should the Foxes and Angels repeat as second-half titlists, there would be no semifinals; the two clubs would begin a best-of-five series September 1 in Appleton.

The wild-card entry–should things work out so that one is required–most likely would be Waterloo. The berth would go to the club not qualifying for the playoffs with the best overall season record, and the Indians are certainly that. They were 41-25 in the first half, but still finished nine games behind North Division winner Appleton (51-17). The two clubs have been involved in a see-saw battle for first place during most of the second-half schedule, both playing nearly .700 baseball.

It’s been a different story in the South, where Clinton, Burlington and Quad Cities are involved in a three-way scrap for the second-half championship–despite being unable to play much better than .500 ball.

The Angels took the first-half crown, although they finished only one game above .500.

As things worked out, Waterloo qualified by beating out the Foxes. I’m going to need to revise my Playoffs page, though.

On the same page, though unrelated:

In the process of issuing an intentional pass to Burlington’s Ivan Rodriguez August 20, Appleton (Midwest) pitcher Mark Esser made an eighth-inning pitch a little too good. Opportunist Rodriguez jumped on the offering, which was in the strike zone, and doubled home the final two runs in an 8-2 Bees’ victory. Rodriguez rubbed salt in the wound by stealing third base while Esser was going into his stretch position.

Not Pudge….

Courtesy of Paper of Record. I was looking for something about Esser, whose short career was a little odd. Learned he threw hard, got lots of strikeouts, was pretty erratic, and little else.

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