The date was August 22, 1980, a warm Friday afternoon at the tail end of summer vacation, when I finally sat down on the floor of my bedroom in Rancho Bernardo, California, and began playing the first of 2,106 scheduled games of the baseball season I’d decided to replay, using the board game I’d purchased nearly a year earlier called Statis Pro Baseball. I’d already played 24 practice games during that time, and was ready to commit to what would turn out to be, thus far, 1,244 games played over 32 long but entertaining years, with another thousand games left to play.
To say I was unprepared when I dove head-first into this self-proclaimed hobby would be a supreme understatement: I’d assumed the game creators had put players on the teams they were on when the 1978 season opened (they hadn’t), I’d assumed the opening game of the season was being played, as it always had been, in Cincinnati (it wasn’t), and I figured I’d be done playing the entire season well before the decade was out (ha!). I also possessed no baseball books, team-issued materials, or magazines to reference, save for a simple booklet with information on the ’78 season I’d picked up for free at a local liquor store, which at least gave me team-by-team schedules and basic rosters…but those rosters had last been updated in January, which meant I still didn’t know for sure which players were actually playing for which teams.
Nevertheless, I opened the season with the Astros visiting the Reds at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on April 6, 1978, with J.R. Richard squaring off against Tom Seaver. Unfortunately, the Astros jumped out to an early 4-0 lead against my favorite team, thanks to three homers and a run-scoring double, but my favorite player, catcher Johnny Bench, cranked a solo HR in the seventh to snap Richard’s shutout bid, and George Foster ripped an RBI double one inning later to cut their deficit to two. Neither team would score again, however, and the first game of my SP78 Replay season was in the books, a 4-2 Houston win.
I played three more game that afternoon and evening, all National League contests, and by the time my senior year of high school started in September, I was already more than twenty games into April, was working on self-designed stat sheets in my typing class, and had acquired some 1978 game programs in the mail from several NL and AL teams. Over time I’d gather a veritable library on the 1978 season: every media guide for every team from that year, the official 1978 Green and Red books for both leagues, The Baseball Encylopedia, every issue of Baseball Digest released in 1978, and a slew of Sporting News annuals and guides.
But on that day in August, when I began this board game juggernaut, it was just me, the game, and a pencil to scorekeep with. And afterwards, just 2,105 games left on the schedule.