For a number of reasons – not least of which is the whole “Gotta find stuff to do in the house because there’s no place to go” situation we all find ourselves in – I recently pulled my Statis Pro tabletop baseball game out of the closet.
Before long it was like I was 12-year-old me again.
…and that’s a key phrase right there… Not a general “like being a 12-year-old”, but a specific 12-year-old *me*… because I was kind of a weird kid (who grew up to be kind of a weird adult).
As a kid, I had hours of fun playing Statis Pro, which is a game similar to Strat-O-Matic and APBA, but did not survive as long as those two did. I was never much of a “replay the season” kind of kid, though. I’ve always been one to think on “what if”, so I would spend a lot of time creating different ways to set up teams… Merging two bad teams to see what happens, playing interleague games (which wasn’t a thing in the late 1970’s), even doing things like creating teams alphabetically: Players whose names begin with “S” (Tom Seaver, Ted Simmons, Reggie Smith) vs. players whose name begins with “M” (Doc Medich, Felix Millan, Bake McBride).
So back to the present day… After playing a couple of games, I got a set of cards for the 1973 season and replayed the 1973 World Series (spoiler alert: The A’s still beat the Mets, who had great pitching but were an average team otherwise). I then had the idea of redoing the 1973 ALCS and NLCS…
…but that’s when, as I look back, I started regressing to that weird 12-year-old who enjoyed playing with the rosters as much as playing the actual game.
As much coping mechanism as entertainment, I started brainstorming on different ways I could play my game and the four different seasons I have cards for. I thought I’d share a number of them as a source of amusement and, if you’re as weird as I am, maybe a source of inspiration.
So my first impulse was to take either the 24-team 1973 season or the 26-team 1978 season and contract the Majors into the setup that existed during the 1960’s – two 10 team leagues. My mind wandered beyond that concept, though, and I started thinking up backstories to eliminate cities and not just teams. At first it was that California falls into the ocean after a massive earthquake and the five California teams need to find new homes and/or be contracted. The earthquake soon got replaced by an extraterrestrial invasion where the invading aliens would take over the entire western half of North America (thus eliminating Seattle and Denver as potential “new” cities for these 1970s teams).
As this apocalyptic scenario would’ve started a few years before the intended season, there would have been no Blue Jays or Mariners to begin with. I also did quick work of eliminating the Padres and Rangers, as they were both on shaky financial and attendance ground to begin with. I decided that since none of the other owners like Charles O. Finley they would just buy him out and contract the A’s… and the Braves were struggling in the 1970’s as well, so I made them the fourth team.
With that taken care of, we still had the Dodgers, Giants and Angels looking for a new home, as Los Angeles and San Francisco were under the control of the beasties from another galaxy. I decided the Dodgers would take the Dallas/Ft. Worth Market, the Giants would move to Toronto (as they almost did in real life in 1976) and the Angels would take over Atlanta.
It was around this time that I remembered that the host city really meant nothing, as Statis Pro doesn’t factor in a ballpark, and when I started thinking about the logistics involved in a “dispersal draft” I realized that this worked better as a mental experiment than it did as a prelude to playing a game, so I abandoned that idea.
As a long-time Mets fan who has seen his fair share of bad trades, I had another thought of taking the 96-loss 1978 Mets and reversing some of the trades I liked least. Just to show I’m not a megalomaniac, I wouldn’t undo the 1971 trade which sent Nolan Ryan to California, because I don’t know if he becomes a HOF pitcher without a change of scenery. I certainly don’t want to undo the trade that brought Rusty Staub to Queens, even if it did send Ken Singleton to Montreal… but I *do* want to undo the trade that later sent Rusty to Detroit for Mickey Lolich.
But do I undo the Tug McGraw trade, seeing as it brought four-time All-Star John Stearns to the Mets? I’d have to think about that. But I’m sure as hell going to undo the “Midnight Massacre” trades that sent Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman away.
Another goofy idea: While thumbing through the card sets I have from 1978 and 1989 and seeing players duplicated in both – Dave Winfield, Bert Blyleven, Gary Carter – I hit on the idea of forming two teams with identical rosters but for the two different seasons, so each team might have Eddie Murray at first base and George Brett at third. Even more fun, since I always play without a DH, Bert Blyleven and Rick Reuschel would have to face themselves.
Even goofier: Two of the sets I have are in PDF format rather than physical cards, and I had the goofy idea of creating “new” teams by digitally renaming the players and then printing the new cards. For example, I created a “Springfield Isotopes” team where the entire roster was made up of cartoon characters.
JINKIES! That Velma is deceptively fast and runs the bases well. The thing is, all the time I was playing with this team I knew that the Isotopes was really the 1959 AL Champion White Sox, and that Velma was really HOFer Luis Aparicio, so the pretense didn’t go past a single game.
The most recent idea I had, and the idea which is closest to actual game play, involves an Olympic-style tournament of 12 teams, four each from the 1959, 1978 and 1989 seasons. The teams are broken into two groups of 6 and would play a round-robin tournament, one game against each other team in the same group. At the end of round robin, the top two teams from Groups A & B go into the playoffs to determine the champion.
In this idea, nine of the twelve teams would be three teams from each season that I would most want to play. There would also be a team from each season made up of the players I would most want to play… But this most definitely would not be a dream team, because it’s more about who I’d want to “see” play than it is about who is the best. For example, the 1959 team might have a battery of Camilo Pascual and Gus Triandos instead of Don Newcombe and Yogi Berra.
So that’s about all of the ridiculous brainstorms I have for now. I can share more later if there’s an overwhelming response to this post, but I rather doubt that. :-)
By the way, if you’re curious about Statis Pro I wrote an overview of the game back in 2015.