Before the personal computer became wide-spread, people played fantasy baseball using specially printed cards. I participated in such a League for at least ten years, starting around the mid-1970’s, using cards and dice to determine the result of each at-bat in a game.

The cards we used were produced by a company named the “Strat-O-Matic Game Company”. Each year, SOM brought-out new cards which were mathematically-designed to approximate the previous year’s Major League Baseball players’ individual statistics. On the date the new cards were issued we usually had several “dyed-in-the-wool” baseball fans from our League who would make a pilgrimage to the Company to purchase card-sets for everyone wanting them: many people thought it would prove advantageous to see the cards as soon as possible! (If you’re interested in the details of how-to-play Strat-O-Matic Baseball here is a link to the rule set from 1999 thru 2003: rsbl.org/somrules.htm )

The first year, our League was loosely constructed and not very complex. As I recall, we had ten teams and we played according to the basic rules found in the box with the Strat-O-Matic Baseball game. An in-person draft was held, to determine which players would be on our personal team of twenty-five players. Then, sometime after the draft, the League assembled a season-long schedule showing which teams had to play each other during a particular week: we were expected to contact the opposing manager to arrange a mutually-convenient day, time and location to play our three to five game series, as required by the schedule. Our season paralleled closely with Major League Baseball; except that we had a slightly shorter season and held our “World Series” in advance of MLB.

When the competing managers came together to play, each was required to have: cards for each of their twenty-five players (pitchers/hitters), score-sheets (enough to record what occurred during each game), and a dice set (a minimum of 3 six-sided die, with 1 being a color different than the other 2).

We played nine-inning games, unless a tie required extra innings. And, the game felt somewhat like a real-life game might feel while listening to a radio broadcast. Some of the managers even began to take-on the role of announcer, speaking an embellished, blow-by-blow account of the game – “Reggie Jackson comes to the plate; Nolan Ryan winds-up, there’s the pitch….. oh, it’s a hit…. single to left-field and the runners advance”. Since some of the guys I played baseball with were the same ones I played Dungeons & Dragons with “getting into character” was second-nature! Some of the managers were more subdued and their announcement was plain and succinct: “result is a double and 1 run scores”. And, as you might expect, many of the managers wore a T-shirt &/or baseball cap from their favorite MLB Team while playing the game.

Other individual characteristics were soon evident among the managers: some would have brightly-colored dice or dice of various sizes; some built stadium-replicas into which they rolled their dice; and, some would curse and shout wildly when things went against them (especially if they had determined that the probability of a particular outcome was extremely unlikely); occasionally, you had to duck as the dice were hurled upon the table/floor or bounced off the walls!

During the first couple of years, our individual team players changed, dependent on the annual draft. However, the League was eventually expanded to include 20 teams and we began using the more realistic, and complex, advanced rules. A Rules Committee was also formed to recommend additions which they felt were specifically needed by our league, and not covered by the MLB Rules of Baseball or SOM. And, we became a “keeper” league: we could choose ten players (or whatever the prevailing rule allowed) to “protect” and the rest of our team went into the pool for the draft. This provided a way of creating a team of enduring talent/strength from year to year; to the extent that the player continued to have good years in real-life. Trading of players also became a thing to do. But, trades must be approved by the Commissioner: a rule to prevent a manager from giving away a team’s best players and then leaving the League!

Managers submitted selective statistics to the League, as required by the then active rule, and the stats were assembled for various purposes: in the early-years, just for annual awards; in later years, the League would publish periodic reports on Team/Top Player performance as well as issue annual awards.

I may have been the only manager who was not a huge fan of baseball. I did enjoy baseball and I knew many of the big-name players. It was fun to have future members of the Baseball Hall of Fame like Fred Lynn, Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson (all of whom I owned during several seasons) on my team. And, I did enjoy receiving certificates or trophies for player/team performance. But, some of the managers were so into baseball that they could recite details about specific games from years back. Or, they could give you player stats for multiple years. That just wasn’t me.

Eventually, the added rules and the manager outbursts became more than I was willing to endure. But, it had been fun while it lasted! 😎

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