The APBA Baseball Wars

It was probably inevitable, the day I was born, that I would grow to love baseball just like my dad.
And I did. I loved playing baseball, and I loved playing baseball games with dice and spinners. When I was in grade school, I devised my own statistically-inspired baseball games and kept box scores religiously, updating the pitching stats and batting averages after the last outs were made.
So it was inevitable, indeed, that as I grew older I discovered something called APBA baseball, which brought baseball gaming to a new level. You could buy individual cards for every major league baseball player. Each card contained scientific data designed to correspond to the actual pitching and batting records that players compiled in their most recent seasons. I found a like-minded friend and we played APBA baseball together summer after summer.
As I mentioned in a recent column of mine, I came across on the Internet, quite by accident recently, some APBA cards of former greats, and I discussed this miraculous find with some of my co-workers. I haven’t told you, however, what happened next. Well, to make a long story short, our esteemed Daily Globe managing editor, Ryan McGaughey, and two of my co-workers Zach Hacker and Alex Purdy, decided to play our own brief APBA season with some of these new cards and the old ones I had saved from so many years ago. We drafted our teams (by blind selection) and kept to a schedule that gave each one of us six games.
To make it more interesting, we agreed to a rule that the player with the worst record had to buy pizza for the other three at the end of the season.
I’m happy to report that the season was great fun for all of us. There’s a little kid in all of us, and the “kid” came out in all of us as we gathered together to set our lineups for each game and rolled the dice in hopeful anticipation. We established our pitching rotations, designated our closers, and as the games proceeded we became major league managers as we contemplated whether to hit and run, move our infields in with runners on third, and brought in our pinch hitters.
Ryan’s team was a little weak on pitching, but he had a strong lineup with Rickey Henderson leading off and George Brett, Kent Hrbek, Wade Boggs and Carlton Fisk holding down the middle of his order. Zach was better balanced. He had Roger Clemens at the top of his pitching staff and he pulled off the biggest “coup” of the draft when he somehow managed to get the incomparable Joe DiMaggio. Alex wasn’t far behind with Nolan Ryan as his ace pitcher along with hitters like Alan Trammell, Steve Garvey and Harmon Killebrew. Me, I had decent pitching, but my offense was sub-par. Darryl Strawberry wasn’t too bad, but I had to pair him with “average” players like Terry Puhl, Rich Gedman and Phil Gantner. I dubbed my team the “Misfit Toys” and expected to be springing for the pepperoni pizza at the end of the campaign.
Now, for those of you who have played APBA baseball, or Strat-o-Matic for that matter, you already know that the best cards you can hold in your hand are only as good as the dice rolls that they dance to. It’s all in the wrists, as they say.
My wrists were in rare form against Ryan, Zach and Alex. I won four of my first five games and finished 4-2. Ryan finished 3-3. Alex also finished 3-3, helped out by a dramatic two-out two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a game against Zach that turned a 3-2 loss into a 4-3 victory (I believe Mr. Hacker is still trying to recover from that one).
Hard-luck Zach finished 2-4 after an 0-4 start and much teasing from the rest of us. He bought the pizza. It was very tasty. And he was a good sport about it.
The biggest irony of all, I think, was that my Terry Puhl ended up the league MVP, getting 11 hits in 23 at bats with three home runs and a league-high eight RBIs. The “stars” didn’t always pan out so well. Henderson started strong but he went hitless in his last 12 at bats. Hrbek was just 4 for 17 with no home runs. Ryan’s most consistent hitter turned out to be Jerry Royster, of all people.
Zach got a fine year from his leadoff hitter, Steve Sax (10-for-24, five stolen bases) but Chili Davis was just 1-for-15 with no extra base hits. Joe DiMaggio — D’Mag — was a disappointing 5 for 22.
The next time the four of us get together to draft our teams, we agreed that “The Yankee Clipper” will not be made available. We sent him down to Toledo.