My Game, My League

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I can’t imagine that any of the regular readers here haven’t heard of or read The APBA Blog at some point or another, but it is worth a daily stop, even for those who don’t play APBA games.  Although the blog is focused on the APBA products, you’ll quickly find that many of the issues tabletop-sports gamers face tend to be universal, and that Tom does a fantastic job of sending up new and interesting posts almost daily.

It occurred to me tonight that although I’ve told my “origin story” as a tabletop-sports gamer many times in my life, I have shared with relatively few others the actual childhood game that started all this for me.

I first started playing this game when I was 10.  I called it “My Game” and the league I started was called, simply, “My League.”  I played thousands of games, countless hours.  I kept meticulous records.

Though for most of my pre-teen years the world of My League was the world I preferred to all others, I shared it with no one outside my household. It was My Game, My League, my escape.

The game used two decks of standard playing cards, and before each game I would split them into a “Pitcher’s deck” and a “Hitter’s deck”. The pitcher’s deck was stacked with mostly outs, the hitter’s deck had most of the hits, but because I split them before each game I never knew exactly what to expect from either deck. (I should say that when I was very young, I played with just one deck and all pitchers and hitters were alike. I would just fudge the results for my favorite players!)

Here is how the deck was read:

Ace: K
K, Q, J: Flyout (rf, cf,lf)
10, 8, 7: strike (3 of these in a row was a K)
9: walk
6 black: HR
6 red: 2B
5 clubs, diamonds, spades: 3 strikeouts in a row (that is, the pitcher would strikeout the next 3 batters he faced – even if one or two of them happened to be in the next inning)
5 hearts: sometimes a triple, sometimes 3 strikeouts in a row
4 black: 2B
4 red: single (runners move two bases)
3: single
2: groundout (double play if runner on first)

In the early years I played the game with just a straight 50/50 rule (I’d pull the top card from either deck and if it was black, check the hitter’s deck, if red, pull from the pitcher’s) but the pitcher’s deck would be stacked for better or worse depending on my opinion of the starters.

Then, as a teenager I had what I thought to be my most brilliant innovation:

Each pitcher was given a rating between 10-19 (19 being the best). Each hitter was given a rating between 0-9 (9 being the best). You’d take the pitcher’s rating and subtract the hitter’s rating from that, then roll a 20-sided die. If the roll falls within the range of the calculated number, use the pitcher’s deck.  Outside the range, use the hitter’s deck.

So, for instance, let’s say you have Dwight Gooden (rated 19) vs. Pedro Guerrero (rated 7). 19-7=12. Now roll the 20-sided die. Any roll 13 or greater means pull a card from the hitter’s deck. Any roll of 12 or lower means pull a card from the pitcher’s deck.

Another example: Bob Stanley vs. Keith Hernandez. Stanley is a 12, Hernandez is a 5. 12-5 = 7. That means that any roll of 8 or higher pull from the hitter’s deck. Any roll of 7 or lower pull from the pitcher’s deck.

I’ve always liked this method of (as I called it) “Advantage,” because better pitchers had a better chance of gaining advantage over bad hitters and vice versa. When the best pitchers (say Sandy Koufax, rated 19) pitched against the best hitters (Babe Ruth, rated 9) it was a 50/50 shot as to who would gain advantage. But if Koufax went against Mario Mendoza (rated 0), Koufax gained the advantage 95% of the time. Conversely, if a terrible pitcher (I don’t remember why, but I hated Alejandro Pena and always rated him an 11) went against a good hitter (let’s say Tony Gwynn – rated 8 ) the hitter would have in this case an 85% chance of getting the advantage.

I experimented with rating guys as sluggers or contact hitters and I even experimented with different pitcher types, too (strikeout, wild, groundball, etc), but I didn’t like getting bogged down with too much to remember or look up. I just liked to play.

Of course, this game lacked many of the fundamentals of the games I play now:  all players had the same steal & bunt chances, for instance (though I’d always fudge the numbers for Rickey Henderson).  Fielding wasn’t considered at all, and errors weren’t included in the game.

I fantasize about one day sitting down and turning this into a full-fledged game, but with so many great tabletop baseball games taking up closet space in the hallways and basements of middle-aged men (and the women who tolerate them) already – do we really need another one?

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