Strat-O-Matic

As much as playing baseball, I grew up playing a lot of Strat-O-Matic baseball. My brother and I were handed down our father’s 1971 National League set, and we played with the NL West champion Giants until my brother got his own 1989 set (Pennant-winning SF Giants). Always following in his footsteps, I got my own 1990 set, and a series of sets followed – 1993, 1997, 2002, 2009, 2015.

The Giants are my National League team. Sometime around the 2008-2009 seasons I adopted the Kansas City Royals as my American League team. Obviously, the 2014 and 2015 years were good for me, with the Royals in the World Series both years, and both teams winning a title.

2015 was also a great year for me because I was lucky enough to reconnect with my now wife, and it was with her that I watched game 5 of the World Series when Matt Harvey inexplicably SPRINTED to the mound in the 9th inning up 2-0 in an elimination game. I immediately shouted, “Why is he SPRINTING to the mound? What the f*ck is he doing? You don’t SPRINT to the mound in the 9th inning of the WORLD SERIES!”

To this day I can turn to my wife and say, “remember that guy who SPRINTED to the mound in the 9th inning of the World Series?” And she always answers, “Ohhh, you HATE that guy.”

Look at this knucklehead SPRINT to the mound. How many times in his career did he sprint to the mound before that night? None. Zero. Because pitchers don’t EVER sprint to the mound from the dugout, let alone in the 9th inning of the World Series! I mean, seriously, what the f*ck was he thinking?

When the Covid-19 quarantine began, I cleaned up one of the rooms in the house, made it my baseball office, and decided to play some Strat-O-Matic. I considered buying the 2019 season; I considered going back to 1972; I considered buying a season from the past that had some meaning and excitement for me. But the more I contemplated which season that would be, the more I kept coming back to 2014, when both my teams hit a wave of momentum and luck that carried them all the way to the 7th game of the World Series.

At some point when I was messing around with that 2014 set, I played a game in which Jose Fernandez threw a no-hitter (the first ever in my hundreds, maybe thousands, of games played). I tallied up the stats on the scoresheet while announcing as if recapping the game: “Incredible performance by Jose Fernandez, 14 strikeouts, no hits, only one walk. This young man is a talent you need to catch now before it’s too late.”

Gone too soon, Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident late in the 2016 season. If you’re looking for an emotional moment, search “Dee Gordon home run Jose Fernandez.”

I had the idea that I could share some game recaps as if they were written in 2014/15 but with the hindsight available now in 2020. For example, if I was playing with the Astros in late 2017, I could write a recap about a Carlos Correa walk-off homerun that included, “losing pitcher Yu Darvish said through his translator, ‘he teed off on that slider like he knew it was coming.'”

Joe Posnanski’s Strat-O-Matic card – or, perhaps more accurately, George Brett’s 1980 card if it had been a full season.

I plan on playing out the 2015 season with the 2014 set to see if both my teams end up at the top again. I’ll recap the more interesting games with the benefit of hindsight available today. I also have a Negro Leagues set that I will explore. Perhaps some best of 7 series between different Giants teams or different World Series winners.

Who knows, maybe the 2015 season will pave the way for the end of a 108 year World Series drought.

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