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Happy 50th birthday, Strat-o-Matic

Feb 14, 2011, 9:36 AM EDT


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!

  1. Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Feb 14, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    When I was 5 years old my father bought me Strat-o-Matic. Since I didn’t live in America at the time (Nigeria) it was hard to find kids to play the game with since Nigeria isn’t exactly known for being a baseball crazy country. This game is what helped me fall in love with baseball.

  2. sdelmonte - Feb 14, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Here’s to my favorite Strat card, Rob Deer circa 1987. He either struck out, homered or walked. It was always fun to see him come up to the plate.

  3. BC - Feb 14, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    I played Strato baseball and hockey in the 80’s into the early 90’s. I can’t imagine what Barry Bonds’s cards looked like when he was walking 200 times a year. All I remember is Wade Boggs being a total machine and getting on base like 60 percent of the time – they way overdid it on his card.

  4. aronmantoo - Feb 14, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    I played a game called Big League Manager which was way more accurate than Strat-O-matic which to me had way to much offense

  5. Old Gator - Feb 14, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    My brother and I were total Strat freaks when we were kids. I remember watching Soupy Sales with the sound turned off so we could concentrate on the game. We could play ten games a day if it was snowing or raining. And we lived for that winter morning when the postman brought our new set of updated cards every year.

    Batter lines out into doubleplay, runner on second is out….

  6. spudchukar - Feb 14, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    Nothing like getting your star player hurt with the roll of the dice, the generic pitcher’s hitting cards, and AAA base stealers who almost never could be thrown out. The defensive grading was pretty cool. Gotta love those “1”‘s.

  7. sharkbb - Feb 20, 2011 at 4:54 AM

    I never played Strat O Matic, but I do Get it. I have played the APBA Baseball game since 1985. Happy Birthday Strat O Matic…… What a Great Accomplishment!!

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