Thirty-two years ago, I was playing my first season of non-T-ball. I was reading about baseball. And I wanted to buy a table-top board game that replicated the baseball experience. I almost tried APBA, but my father said I should try Strat-o-Matic.
I had seen ads for Strat-o-Matic in baseball magazines (including the one I was engrossed in that spring), but it never struck me as something that absolutely looked cool. My father's suggestion came from a personal place: He played Strat-o-Matic in his youth. Dad had access to the then current game through some of his friends, and one night, he brought it home. It wasn't the whole set -- just a few times, a red binder that scoresheets, and two charts the game uses. Three dice were easy to find, and for split cards (Strat sometimes needs to generate a random number between 1 and 20; back then, the game used little pink cards with the numbers on them, but today, it uses a 20-sided die), he used a deck of cards, taking out the face cards and declaring one color as the numbers from 11-20. In retrospect, the instant split deck was a good indication that Dad knew the game well.
We sat down on the floor of our living room, by the love seat near a hanging lamp (our living room was so dark because of black paneling on one wall and no overhead lights; this spot was the brightest area and where games were often played and books often read at night). One game was all it took, and I was hooked. All the players' stats were right on the cards! With my attraction to statistics, this was a big deal. The game was easy to learn, too, but still complex when it needed to be.
We kept the game for a couple weeks, over which time I taught my friends how to play, and they were hooked. When we returned the game to Dad's friends (softball teammates, many of whom he'd known since he was a kid), one who hadn't played in years played again and remembered how much fun it was.
Of course, I wanted the updated game, with the 1979 player cards. I asked my father how I could buy it, and he said he would buy it for me, as a present for getting such a good final report card (6 As and a B). I remember the rainy June day, stuck inside the house, when the UPS truck pulled up to deliver the game. I remember opening the package and seeing the red box, then opening the box to find every team and these little pink cards with numbers on them. My friends and I played that game all summer. I played solitaire as well. My grandmother would Xerox scoresheets for me at her work, bringing them home in a big binder.
I probably went about six years playing a lot of Strat every summer. I enjoyed a little renaissance with the game in college (with a roommate from New Jersey who also grew up with the game), then rediscovered it with a vengeance in 2001. I bought the computer game a couple years ago and play that, and I have even introduced my sons to the game. And though there's a little part of me that wants to try one game of APBA to see what I passed up, I'm forever grateful my father steered me in the right direction toward Strat.
My baseball bonanza of 1980 wasn't just reading, batting and rolling dice, however. My other passion this summer came with a stick of gum.
Continued with Part 4.