Thursday, April 12, 2012

Batting averages, part 2

In the spring of 1980, my mom bought me a baseball magazine that I thoroughly absorbed. The words and the stats weren't the only things in the magazine that captivated me. The advertisements did as well.

Some of the ads I ignored, like the Vitalis ad on the inside cover and the KOOL ad on the back cover (seriously, did every sports magazine once advertise cigarettes on the back?) But others were too good to ignore. The Renata Galasso Inc. ad for 1,000 mint baseball cards for $11.99. An ad for Sportcaster Sports Cards (I swear, we had some of these 30 years back in the day -- oh, no, guess what I'm going to look for on eBay tonight?). The Major League standings board with magnetic team logos. Giant baseball posters for $3 (plus $0.50 shipping) -- alas, Paul Molitor wasn't available in 1980. But what caught my eye the most were the ads for table-top baseball board games.

I already owned All-Star Baseball, which translated stats for real baseball players into a game that would re-create their performances. And my friends and I had toyed with a dice baseball game using our baseball cards, but it had no statistical accuracy whatsoever. I guess I was itching for something more substantial, and all these baseball magazine ads hawking board games were teasing me even more.

The first game that caught my eye was Baseball Manager. It touted "real-life accuracy." It was "great for solitaire or head-to-head." It could supposedly be played quickly: "a five-game playoff in less than an hour." You could rate players yourself. But what really jumped out at me was the number of teams it came with -- a gazillion! OK, not that many, but all the teams from 1979, as well as 1959 and 1967, 20 all-time great teams and six all-time terrible teams. It wasn't very expensive: only $9.95 with shipping and handling. I was so trying to figure out a way to order this. Ten dollars was a lot of 1980 dollars to a 9-year-old. In the meantime, I started devising schedules for all the teams I would be receiving.

Alas, Baseball Manager was not meant to be. A friend ended up buying this game, but I never played it, and I don't think he did much, either. Instead of individual player cards, which even All-Star Baseball had, the game was oodles of charts and ratings. You had to extract the players' ratings from the charts. Basically, you were looking in the booklet after every at-bat. Thankfully, I never figured out how to buy this game. But I also had another baseball game I was coveting from a magazine ad. One that would indirectly lead to hours of fun, even though I never actually played the game.

This is where the whole memory I'm drawing upon for these blog posts goes awry. I sent away for a free sample card and brochure for APBA baseball, one of the bigger-selling baseball board games. For years -- hell, decades -- I assumed I saw the ad in Baseball Stats Magazine and took APBA up on its offer from there. But looking through the magazine, repurchased off eBay, I can't find the APBA ad. The one here I scanned (badly) out of a Street & Smith's 1980 preview I also bought off eBay. So I'm not sure where I saw this ad first. Baseball Digest? Did I have another baseball magazine in 1980 that Baseball Stats Magazine pushed from my memory? I know my mom bought me a baseball magazine the summer before (of which my only memory was a story of predictions written by someone http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifcalling himself "Yitz the Prognosticator," and I didn't have any clue what a prognosticator was) -- did I still have that magazine in 1980 and ordered from there? Though I'm distressed I can't unearth that from my brain, the important part was that APBA sent me two free cards and a brochure.

I was impressed. The card stock wasn't flimsy, and the print was easy to read. The cards included players' vital statistics (height, weight, birthdate, nickname) just alike a baseball card would. The game used dice and seemed easy enough. I showed my dad, hoping maybe he would be excited as I was and let me buy the game. He said no because there was another baseball game I needed to try. A game he played and enjoyed when he was a kid. Dad was going to introduce me to Strat-o-Matic.

Click here for Part 3.

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