Baseball also lost Board Games to Lawsuits

Baseball also lost Board Games to Lawsuits

The flow of baseball that is being disrupted by instant replay and lawsuits has destroyed the flow that lent itself to Ronald Reagan making up foul balls to a radio audience and fans playing board games that pitted the 1927 New York Yankees against the 1975 Cincinnati Reds and many of the other 34 all-time great teams listed below.

Baseball lent itself perfectly to both radio and board games, because a simple roll of the dice or flip of a card or wire feed back to the visiting radio station could relay a play at a time. The Baseball Almanac recounts how Ronald Reagan was caught once when the feed went dead for seven minutes in the ninth inning of a scoreless game between the Cubs and Cardinals in a 1934 game he was broadcasting based on a wire feed. Reagan is quoted by the Intellectual Conservative as saying:

“There were several other stations broadcasting that game and I knew I’d lose my audience if I told them we’d lost our telegraph connections so I took a chance. I had (Billy) Jurges hit another foul. Then I had him foul one that only missed being a home run by a foot. I had him foul one back in the stands and took up some time describing the two lads that got in a fight over the ball. I kept on having him foul balls until I was setting a record for a ballplayer hitting successive foul balls and I was getting more than a little scared. Just then my operator started typing. When he passed me the paper I started to giggle – it said: ‘Jurges popped out on the first ball pitched.'” 

In years before video games, millions of fans were drawn to radio telecasts as well as to board games such as Strat-o-matic, APBA, Statis-Pro and a new one I launched in 1999 called Accurate Baseball made Simple (ABS) that gave me a taste of the new fight by teams and players to reap revenue on any usage of the names of teams and players.

In 1998, after investing more than 600 hours and a purchase for an English firm to create, develop and produce thousands of dice with either 10-sides or 12-sides including a baseball, I was able to create a game that featured 36 teams – the best one for each city and nickname. So the only New York Yankees team in the game was the 1927 Yankees, while the Braves were nice enough to win exactly one title in three different cities to give me a Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves and Atlanta Braves. The only team with a losing record in the game was the Kansas City A’s – whose best squad went 73-81 in 1958 in Kansas City between their days in Philadelphia and Oakland.

I was thrilled when the 36 teams broke up perfectly into four divisions – one for teams from before 1950, and then another for teams in the East, Central and West:

Central Division

Cincinnati Reds 1975
Detroit Tigers 1984
Houston Astros 1981
Kansas City A’s 1958
Kansas City Royals 1985
Milwaukee Braves 1957
Milwaukee Brewers 1982
Minnesota Twins 1991
St. Louis Cardinals 1998
Eastern Division
Baltimore Orioles 1970
Boston Red Sox 1986
Brooklyn Dodgers 1955
Florida Marlins 1997
Montreal Expos 1981
New York Giants 1954
New York Mets 1986
Philadelphia Phillies 1980
Toronto Blue Jays 1993
Oldies (pre-1950)
Boston Braves 1914
Chicago Cubs 1907
Chicago White Sox 1919
Cleveland Indians 1948
New York Yankees 1927
Philadelphia A’s 1929
Pittsburgh Pirates 1909
St. Louis Browns 1922
Washington Senators 1924
Western Division
Atlanta Braves 1995
California Angels 1986
Colorado Rockies 1995
Los Angeles Dodgers 1963
Oakland A’s 1974
San Diego Padres 1984
San Francisco Giants 1962
Seattle Mariners 1997
Texas Rangers 1977

As we prepared to launch, a lawyer informed us of one last hurdle – both Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association were getting very aggressive about having team names and players’ names on cards for board games. I dutifully sent off samples to both, and when I called to follow-up I had one nice comment from the Major League Baseball office.

“Yeah, I remember that game, it had the really neat big brown and green dice that looked like a baseball infield didn’t it?”

Encouraged, I assumed it would not be long before the fruits of my labors had people all over American past-time realizing i had developed the first game ever that perfectly balanced players from different eras (Honus Wagner could come to modern parks to hit live pitching, while Greg Maddux could go back to the dead ball era). My naivete was quickly replaced when I never heard back and instead watched all of the other board games start to leave the shelves. Even the mighty Sports Illustrated could not navigate the new world of lawsuits and gave up on Statis-Pro, which is still secretly printed in various locations each year for die-hard fans.

Here are the 36 teams who went into various eras to play each other. The Yankees of 1927 finally did emerge as the all-time champion, but with a surprising challenge within their “Oldies” division from the 1948 Cleveland Indians.