Happy 50th birthday, Strat-o-Matic

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For reasons that I still can’t explain, I was never exposed to Strat-o-Matic baseball until I twas way too old and involved in boring grownup things to have a lot of time to obsess on it.  Almost everyone else I know who thinks deeply or writes intelligently about baseball played it, however, and I totally understand why.  What the cards and dice lack in high-tech, they make up for in realism, and the game is (reportedly) as addicting today as it always has been.

And it’s now 50 years old, reports the New York Times:

Strat-O-Matic, in which rolls of the dice correspond to results on cards that mirror players’ real-life statistics, has survived in an age of high-tech video games.

“Like Othello or chess, you can learn the game swiftly, but you’ll never tire of the strategies,” said Glenn Guzzo, a former newspaper editor and the author of “Strat-O-Matic Fanatics,” who has been playing since he asked his mother for a set for his 12th birthday in 1963.

He said the game’s combination of playability (it can be completed in a half-hour) and realism were essential to its longevity. “There are also an infinite number of ways to keep your imagination fertile,” he added.

If you have trouble understanding the kind of hold this game — or a fictional one that is very much like it — can have on people, check out a great old novel called “The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.” Old Gator sent it to me last year and it’s awesome.  It explains, in somewhat satirical fashion, how one can be consumed by baseball even if one never played it.  The stats. Or the sims. Or playing fantasy. Or writing about it.

Happy birthday, Strat-o-Matic!

Video: Javier Báez jukes David Freese to avoid tag at first base

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Cubs shortstop Javier Báez pulled off one of the best jukes you’ll see, avoiding the tag from David Freese on a play at first base in the second inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers. Báez barely made contact with a Kenta Maeda pitch well outside the strike zone, tapping it towards Freese. Báez halted his momentum, juking Freese while he attempted to apply the tag, then dove into first base.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts attempted to argue that Báez went out of the baseline, but the umpires’ no-call stood and Báez had himself a single. He would end up stranded on base, unfortunately for him and the Cubs.