Saturday, July 28, 2012

Spinner baseball and a mis-spent youth

It's no secret that I've whiled away about a zillion hours in my life playing baseball board and computer games. The lede of my biography on our business website reads, "Greg Scheiderer began telling stories as the eight-year-old play-by-play announcer for the contests played on his Cadaco All-Star spinner baseball game." My mom's oft-expressed lament was that if I would put as much effort into my schoolwork as I did into those silly games I might make something of myself! Maybe so, but I can still figure batting averages in my head, for what it's worth. Besides, it's all mom's fault; getting sent to my room as "punishment" meant quiet and uninterrupted time to spin a few games!

Weisenheimer spent a zillion hours (roughly) between
the ages of eight and 16 playing "spinner baseball"--Ethan
Allen's All-Star Baseball by Cadaco. As a Cardinal fan it
was a little galling to have to look at Wrigley Field for
all of those games!
I've been thinking about the Cadaco game of late, in part because I came across my beat-up copy of it last summer as we moved back into the house after our remodeling project. I completely wore out my first game and the second has seen extensive play; the box is held together with first-aid tape and I've stuck wood blocks in under the playing field to support the sagging cardboard diamond.

As evidence that most everything is on the Internet these days, I've found a couple of websites, a Wikipedia page, and a Facebook page devoted to the Cadaco game (where it's referred to as "ASB") as well as a Yahoo! group devoted to the ASB game and another for baseball board games in general. For those unfamiliar with the game, ASB is a simple baseball simulation. Each major league player included is represented by a disc based on actual statistics, with possible outcomes represented by wedges on the edge of the disc. The wider the wedge, the more likely a player is to achieve the result. Thus, Babe Ruth has a bigger home run wedge than does Mark Belanger. The disc is inserted in the spinner, you give it a flick, and the result is determined by where the arrow points. It's fully batter driven; it doesn't matter who is pitching.

This week there's been a lengthy discussion on the Yahoo! site about what to do when a spin lands "on the line" of the disc. Many players have developed elaborate answers to this question based on the pitcher, lefty/righty matchups, or which way the wind is likely to be blowing. (The correct answer, of course, is that a "line" is a foul ball.)

The player disc for the great Lou Brock! In ASB Lou is
no better or worse base stealer than Harmon Killebrew.
My first response to my renewed interest in ASB was to load my "Communist League" (as opposed to American and National; I was something of a Weisenheimer already when I created this thing as a little kid!) into APBA Baseball for Windows and see how it came out. One thing is certain: the offense is way down since pitchers matter and mostly elite hurlers are involved. As we near the halfway point of the 36-game season the Armpit (Idaho) Sprays have the best record in the league at 13–5. The Sprays are led by Ted Williams, who is second in the league in batting at an even .400 and leads the loop in slugging (.900), on-base percentage (.583), RBI (24) and has six home runs. Camp Freeman's Lefty Gomez is the loop's top pitcher at 7-3 with a stingy ERA of 0.85.

My baseball-gaming friends and I discovered the dice game of APBA about the time we started in high school. Pitchers, speed, and defense mattered, and the game was more sophisticated, so we switched over and ASB didn't see much playing time. Eventually APBA came out with the computer version, which wasn't necessarily as much fun, but it made the task of keeping statistics a lot easier! Three pals and I went back to the dice in the early '90s when we formed the League For All Seasons, starting out with the 1970 season, which was about about the first year we played APBA. Intending to play a season every three months, we so far have done 29 tournaments of 15 games per team, but haven't played an LFAS for about six years. We still get together and play other board games, but none of us is paying much attention to baseball.

I played a few Communist League games on the computer the other night. In one, Steve Carlton of the Texas Turkies took a no-hitter and a 4-0 lead into the ninth inning against the Jutland Jellicoes. Pinky Higgins broke up the no-no with a 0-out double, Jutland ended up scoring four in the ninth to tie it, then won 5-4 with a run in the 12th.

This little project is my first foray into computer baseball in a while. I dropped out of Puget Sound Computer Baseball about three years ago, no longer willing to put in the study time necessary to be competitive. (Besides, founding team members Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux retired, and it just wouldn't have been the same without them.) I played two seasons of The Century League determining modern baseball's best era, and that project ended 4 1/2 years ago. (It's funny to me that both the Century League and LFAS websites live on, despite the fact that they're connected to a Seanet account we dropped at least four or five years ago.)

I'm about ready for another computer baseball project, and have three concepts in mind. One is a league in which each team is made up of players whose last name starts with the same letter. The X's will have trouble fielding a team. The second is a tournament with the top 64 teams seeded in brackets and playing best-of-seven. The last is a reverse reality in which the damn Yankees are everyone else's farm club. We'd hold a draft at the start of each season and each other club, in reverse order of the previous year's record, gets to swap any of their players for any Yankee. It will be fun to drub them every year.

But first to finish out the Communist League slate. We've been waiting close to 40 years to see how it comes out.


Anonymous said...

during our repaint and attic cleanout, I came across an envelope that cdontained a bunch of Cadaco All Star Spinner cards...the envelope only contained about 15% of the cards that I had when I was a kid.....

but the memories are priceless....

Most of the cards are from the last years of the set, but a few are hard cardboard (really old) and some of 'em have my 5th grade handwriting assigning the player to a team (1, 2, 3, 4,)

In the interest of time I will only share about 20 memories at random.....

Here they are: Blasts from the Past !

Frank Lary...Black/White (Yankee first hero)
Ron Hansen....B/W (played on The Beavers when I was nine,with his cousin, who was named Ron Hansen)
Frankie Hayes...Red/Black (if it wasn't for this game, who would know he played ball?)
Sam Taylor...B/W (one of the first black catchers)
Sherm Lollar...B/W (Sam's crosstown rival...One of the first Sherm's)
Joe Dimaggio....Red/White
Lou Gehrig.....Cardboard
Ron Fairly....Grey/Red (a Nancy fav)
Eppa Rixey....Red/White (couldn't hit worth a damn)
Babe Ruth...Cardboard
Jerry Lumpe....Black/White (do KC players get put on the Yankee Roster in your new league)
Jerry Koosman...Grey/Red (No Center Hole)
Yodi Berra...Cardboard (taped)
Johnny Sain...Red/White...(great hitter)
Ferris Fain...Red/Grey/Black (No Center Hole)...(good eye/no power)
Ernie Banks...B/W (always wanted to ply two)
Larry Sherry...B/W..(good hitter...'59 was shpeshial)
Rick Monday...Grey/Black/Red (no center hole) (flag waver and ass kicker)
Dizzy Dean ...Red/White (he slud into 3rd)
Ty Cobb ... (Cardboard)...mean, nasty, but very rich)

The beauty of this game as opposed to todays game is that you could play it while lying on your side in bed. This was great on days you played sick and your Mom told you stay in bed as she left for work. I had no problem obeying the letter of that law!!!

Happy Trails,

Da Coach

Fireblossom said...

I was just messing around on Facebook searching ASB and found your post! I was a baseball nut growing up--still am--and my parents (read:dad) gave me ASB for my 12th birthday. That year we rented a cottage on a lake and I never enjoyed a summer so much, doing the usual lake stuff, but reading somebody's cheesy sci-fi novels that had been left around, and playing umpty zillion games of ASB.

When i had gotten the game, in the spring, I told my neighbor friend, whose older brother gave me his old discs from the 50s. So I had those, I had the late 60s discs that came with my game, and later I bought a new game with early 70s discs. During a move, they all got lost. Gah!

Fast forward to when i was 25 and i saw an ad for APBA in a baseball pre-season magazine. I got it and loved it and played for years. Then it got put aside and i only rediscovered it this past January after 15 years of not playing. Now I am as hooked as I ever was. Girl manager rides again. But i still wish had my old ASB game.