To be honest, I have a hard time remembering when I was not, to one degree or another, a baseball fan. I am talking here about my first exposure to the game probably taking in place in 1962, when Post printed sets of baseball cards on the backs of their cereal boxes (along with similar cards appearing one at a time on the backs of Jello boxes as well). Yeah…me and the Great National Pastime, we go back a long way. And, over the years, my love for the game manifested itself in any number of different ways. There were the countless baseball cards, there was two years in Little League (which worked out about as one might imagine for a kid with about as much meat on his arms as a Ticonderoga #2, and whose head, arms, and legs seemed to move in random directions simultaneously). And then there was the APBA baseball game.
Before the advent of computerized simulations with their realistic graphics…before the advent of fantasy baseball…there was APBA (along with several competitors), relying on a combination of play boards, dice, and cards based on individual player performance that all meshed to produce realistic results. I was first exposed to APBA when a friend of mine by the name of Jeff Ash (whose family had moved to town not long before) revealed that he actually did own the game – and that it was as good as the ads had promised. We spent the next several summers along with four other friends drafting teams every year, setting up leagues, and doing everything within our power to prove our baseball expertise – some of us more successfully than others – but all having a good time, nevertheless.
Eventually, though, real life intervened. We would get together over Christmas break when those who were off to college came home and knock off a quick tournament – but even those eventually dried up as we all dispersed to find whatever path our lives would lead us down. I had purchased my own copy of the game with my first real paycheck, and kept up with the cards year after year…but as the years went by and the opportunities for face-to-face play grew less and less, I eventually put the boards away. A few years later, a computerized version of the game came out – first in an MS-DOS format, followed not long afterward by a Windows version. It was much easier to play, and afforded a chance to play against a computerized opponent even when there was nobody else around. The results were much more realistic (even if there were no graphic representations of a human form anywhere within the game). For all that, though, there was something missing; it was the tactile sense that one felt by holding the cards, rolling the dice, and reading the boards. The computer game had its charms…it was just, well, different. And eventually, family and work commitments brought my APBA pursuits to a complete halt. No complaints, mind you…it was more evolution than anything else.
But, then, a few weeks ago the old game box caught my eye – and there was something that called out to me. There was now somebody else who might be open to the charms of the game contained therein…my son Tim. Of my three kids, Tim was the only one who seemed to have inherited his father’s love for baseball. So, today, the box came upstairs. Tim took the 1976 Reds; I took the 1982 Brewers. The Brewskis won on an eighth-inning home run by Gorman Thomas; the sound from Tim when the pair of sixes came up on the dice was as loud and distressed as anything uttered back in the mid-1970s by his old man. But, over the course of the game, I noticed something interesting. Some of the smack talk uttered by my son matched – exactly – some of the terminology thrown around by a half-dozen guys over a table forty years ago. And when the game was over, Tim told me that had this been a live game rather than a cards-and-dice simulation, it would have been a very memorable game indeed.
Sometime this week, I will be purchasing an updated version of the board game. And, on Tim’s recommendation, I will be buying the 2008 card set as well. Because, you see, he is looking forward to seeing what CC Sabathia will do to anybody I might bring up against his Brewers. However it plays out, I will guarantee that the smack will be flying.