Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blast from Baseball Past

The Wall Street Journal had a story on Monday about a group of self-described nerds who cling to a baseball board game that seems to transport them (at least in their minds) into the role of all-powerful baseball lord.

I enjoyed the article, which calls the game a "nerd magnet," mainly because I loved the game in question, All-Star Baseball, when I was much (and I do mean much) younger. It turns out ASB, as the nerds now call it, is older than its more sophisticated rivals like Strat-O-Matic and APBA.

ASB dates to 1941 when a former New York Giants outfielder and Yale baseball coach was inspired to create a game based on the statistics of major leaguers. The result, at least when I was younger, was addictive. The original set of player cards was based on all-time greats. Of course there were Ruth and Cobb, and Spahn, and Walter Johnson. But where else would I have heard of Eppa Rixey? Later, there were cards for modern players.

I remember receiving the game for birthday one July in about 1970 or '71. I remember it so well, I think, because my birthday is in February, so a summertime present was unusual, if not unique. Uncle David and Aunt Barbara stopped by out of the blue to drop it off. They had it all along, but forgot to give it to me. That didn't matter much to me. (Although, the fact they lived several blocks on the same street as we did, makes the explanation kind of mysterious.)

I was instantly enthralled with the game. I spent hours playing with friends or alone filling spiral notebooks with scorecards. But then like a light switch turning off, I stopped playing. There was no thought put into it. I just moved on to other pursuits.

Maybe if just once I felt as all-powerful over the players represented in the game as one of the nerds quoted in The Journal I would have stuck with it. But then again maybe that just means I am not that much of a nerd.

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