Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2007
For most baseball fans, Dick Seitz isn’t a household name; however, he embarked on a journey that changed the lives of many baseball fans.
Seitz created a baseball board game that inaugurated the era of sports board games. His game emphasized realism based upon a statistical foundation and influenced the genre’s development. Among those influenced by Seitz’s efforts were Hal Richman, developer of the Strat-O-Matic baseball game.
Seitz began marketing his game in 1951. That game contained 320 player cards, which amounted to 20 players for each of the 16 teams in the major leagues in 1950. It sold for 10 dollars.
To play the board game a player would roll two dice, a large red one and a small white one and then combine, not add, the numbers on the dice. For example, if the red die showed a six and the white die a four, the result would be 64. The player would then refer to the batter’s card.
Each card contains three columns of black numbers, starting at 11 and ending at 66, that covers all 36 possible dice combinatons. Each black number is followed by one, or in some cases two, red numbers. When the player looks up the 64 on the batter’s card, the matching red number is 13. He would then (in most cases) look up the 13 on an on-base board, of which there are eight.
The on-base boards’ contents represent these eight on-base possibilities:
- Base Empty/Runner on First Base
- Runner on Second Base/Runner on Third Base
- Runners on First and Second Bases/Runners on First and Third Bases
- Runners on Second and Third Bases/Bases Full
If the bases were empty, he’d look up the 13 on the Bases Empty board under one of three fielding columns, which reflect the fielding ability of the players on the field. Under all three fielding columns the number 13 happens to give the same result: The batter struck out. The game’s more sophisticated than my description. It includes pitching grades, the ability to hit-and-run and sacrifice runners, and more. However, even when you played it at a higher level of complexity, it was still easy to play.
In the 1990s the game evolved from a board game to a computer-based one, called Baseball for Windows; however, the board game was — and still is — available for sale. It’s changed somewhat, as Veryl Lincoln, one of APBA’s product managers, notes below, but if I bought the latest baseball player card set I could still play with them on my 1970s game boards.
In 1992 Richard Seitz passed away at age 77, a year after Marc Rinaldi joined the company. Now its president, both Rinaldi and Veryl Lincoln graciously answered my questions about the game that jump-started the baseball game era.
Question: When did APBA make its first baseball game available to the public? How many sets were sold that first year?
Lincoln: The APBA Game Company was launched in April, 1951 with the sale of the baseball game containing player cards based on the 1950 Major League Season. One hundred forty-seven games were sold the first year.
Question: On your Web site it’s mentioned that “By the late ’60s, APBA games were being played by close to a million people.” That was about 40 years ago. Since its introduction, how many people would you estimate have played APBA Baseball? Is the baseball game your most popular one?
Lincoln: It’s hard to put a figure on how many people actually or have actually played the baseball game … the million plus figure is probably accurate, for while we kept records of all customers and their purchases, there were still untold thousands of fans playing in leagues who never actually ordered anything from us. One guy would order a set of player cards and result boards for his league, and there could be nine or eleven more guys that made up the league who never placed an order with us.
Question: Baseball is an international sport. How international is ABPA Baseball? From about how many countries outside the United States have you received orders for it?
Lincoln: Over the years, orders from foreign countries have been received … mostly from Canada, but also from Australia, Japan, England, France, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico, Israel, New Zealand, West Germany and Venezuela, and I’m probably forgetting a few like Sweden and Scotland. Most of the orders were from the actual residents, but we also received over the years many orders from U. S. servicemen stationed in some of these countries, where all we had was their APO or FPO military address. And, yes, baseball is our most popular game.
Question: How has the baseball game changed compared with both the one that was available when you joined APBA in 1991 and the first publicly available version that APBA released years ago?
Lincoln: Changes to the game have been significant over the years, but primarily in appearance only. The original 1951 game contained just two play-result boards, printed both sides with the eight men-on-base situations on them, and later, around 1954, the result boards were reduced to four separate two-sided boards containing the eight men-on-base situations.
The game remained in this form (with refinements to the results themselves added over the years) until 1995, when the boards were colorized and the play results were transformed into a broadcast-style reading. In recent years, the game-result boards have evolved into a spiral-bound booklet form, which is how it is currently offered. At no time, though, throughout the game’s history, were there ever changes made or features added to the boards that would render previous years’ card sets obsolete.
Question: What is the baseball game’s “biggest selling point”?
Lincoln: That’s certainly a selling point, but probably the game’s biggest selling point is its ease of play and the time it takes to play a game. There are very few cross-references to make during a game, so even someone playing for the first time will be completing a game in 30 minutes or less after just a few games. (Time is going to vary, of course, depending upon the kind of game … a low-scoring pitcher’s duel or a slugfest … unfolds.)
Question: Your Web site states that “APBA Pro Baseball is as realistic as pro-ball and statistically accurate?” If I played the New York Mets’ full 2006 season using your game and kept a box score for every game, how close would my stats be to the real ones?
Question: On February 9, 2007 ABPA announced its acquisition of Baseball for Windows. Why did you acquire it?
Rinaldi: APBA never owned nor controlled Baseball for Windows. This was a product of Miller Associates who licensed the APBA name and engine for the game. The game has been stagnant for almost 10 years and us acquiring allows us to keep servicing our large base of customers who support and play it. This also allows us to control the the electronic version of our game and to morph into eventual on-line play. We want to be very aggressive in taking APBA to the next level of the gaming experience.
Question: Is there anything else you’d like baseball fans to know about your baseball games?
Rinaldi: Our baseball game has been around since 1951 and has been continuously sold and supported with new and updated season card sets. Our time-tested engine and accuracy enables baseball fans of all ages to enjoy a quick, fun and accurate gaming experience. What separates APBA from our competition is your ability to achieve the results with such a simple game engine, while still having a hands-on affect on the game due to your use of managerial options. APBA is simple, fun and accurate. Also, for those who crave more, we do make a Master version of the game to allow you even more managerial options.
Question: What new features will the 2008 release of Baseball for Windows Version 6.0 contain?
Rinaldi mentioned that the new version of Baseball for Windows will be Windows Vista and 64-bit compatible, have a new broadcasting voice, Pete Van Wieren, show the dice roll on the screen, and will “incorporate dual batting characteristics.”
Though the 2007 baseball season is nearing its end, you can still play baseball using one of APBA’s games. The 2007-season player disk for owners of the current computer game will be available in November, and the 2007-season player cards will be available in December.
In another article I will review the current version of Baseball for Windows and provide more information on what it’s like to play their baseball board game.
– APBA games are available directly from the company by calling toll-free 1-800-334-2722 on Monday through Friday from 8:30 A.M. – 5:30 P.M. EST.
– Info on the APBA baseball board game is available online.
– Info on the APBA baseball computer game is available online.