If I Had An SP78 DeLorean

Throughout the nearly four decades that I’ve been playing my Statis Pro 1978 Replay season, I’ve often wondered what I would do differently if I could go back in time and start my season over again…to somehow return to 1980 and implement ideas, and correct mistakes, and make changes to aspects of the board game that have plagued me for years. And by doing so, make my replay season a bit more realistic, and in the long run, easier to deal with stat-wise.

So with that in mind, I think I’ll pull a Marty McFly, hop into a 1982 stainless steel DeLorean, and travel back to the dawn of the 1980s, when I was a junior in high school, living in Rancho Bernardo, California, and ready to start my replay season. Listed below are the ten changes, modifications, and general wish-list items I would have incorporated from the start, if given this opportunity.

Prep Time

When I sat down on the floor of my bedroom to play the very first SP78 Replay game, I just wrote out the lineups and started playing, with zero preparation made for the coming months of the season: I had no blank stat sheets printed, I had no lineups set, I did no double-checking of 1978 rosters, and I had no process in place of how I was going to keep track of information throughout the season. In other words, I was ill-prepared, and looking back, I wish I’d taken more time to get these things in place, so I wouldn’t create so many headaches for myself later on.

I also wish that, from the start, I would’ve kept track of game sites and times, and taken more photos of games and the locations where they were played, and overall been a tad more organized with my stat-keeping.

Opening Day

I have no idea why I chose August 22nd to begin my season, except for maybe I had nothing going on that late-summer Friday afternoon, and figured it was as good a time as any. Not that it makes a difference to my season, but now I wish I’d picked a more memorable date to start with: perhaps a day when I’d gone to see a Padres game, or the final day of the real 1980 season, or while watching the 1980 World Series, or even on the one-year anniversary of when I’d purchased the game, on November 15, 1979.

But in hindsight, I’d probably go with August 3rd, the birthdate of my friend Bob, who’d introduced me to the game, and would’ve joined me in replaying the season if he hadn’t passed away earlier that year. However, there is one aspect of August 22, 1980 that might make it a more notable opening date to my season: if written out numerically (08-22-80), it becomes a palindrome.

Don’t Trust Avalon Hill!

Yes, I trusted—or maybe assumed—that the makers of Statis Pro Baseball would print every 1978 card with its player’s Opening Day team…nooooope! As I found out years later, dozens of players were assigned to teams they’d been traded to during the season, with some even assigned to teams they’d been sent to as late as September, for chrissake! Also, players who’d started the season in the minors were given ‘real’ player cards, as if they’d started the year on the parent club, while A’s pitcher Rick Langford, who appeared in 37 games and spent no time in AAA, wasn’t even given a card or a spot on the minor league ‘fringe player’ sheet! And in a now-infamous move, Avalon Hill printed two cards apiece for Tommy Hutton and Dan Spillner, with Hutton playing for the Expos and Blue Jays, and Spillner playing for the Indians and Padres!

What I should’ve done, and is my biggest regret from this list, was buy myself an issue of Street & Smith’s Official 1978 Yearbook (it was only $1.50!) and double-checked every team’s roster, and made sure every player was on their Opening Day team, since it was my intent from the very start to see how each team would’ve done if there had been no trades or free agent signings during the ’78 season.

No DH

And I don’t mean no doubleheaders! Day after day, month after month, I always see all those zeros in the American League pitchers’ batting stat pages, and for many years I’ve thought how fun—and subversive—it would’ve been to cancel the designated hitter for the SP78 season, and have all AL pitchers bat in every game.

Of course, that would mean players like Detroit’s Rusty Staub (162 games as a DH), Baltimore’s Lee May (140 games), and others who spent most of ’78 as designated hitters would have to return to their fielding roots and play a defensive position or two. I’m guessing I would’ve ported over their positions and games-played numbers from 1977, and thus kept these players active for my SP78 season.

The Blue Deal

On December 9, 1977, Oakland A’s pitcher Vida Blue was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Dave Revering and cash, and being a Reds fan I was ecstatic about the deal: Vida Blue and Tom Seaver on the same pitching staff! Then one month later, baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed the trade, saying it wasn’t in the best interests of baseball, and would create an unfair advantage for the Reds. Dumb! Blue was shipped to San Francisco instead, where he won 18 games for the Giants in ’78.

If I had the chance to start my season over again, I’d veto Kuhn’s decision and allow the trade to be made, giving the Reds another PB 2-7 starter—along with Seaver—and no doubt putting them in a better position in the NL West than they are now: fourth place and 15½ games out of first. And oddly enough, Blue was still listed as a member of the Reds in their team media guide for 1978, and apparently would’ve worn uniform #40 if the trade had gone through.

Follow the Schedule!

Traditionally, the Reds—baseball’s first professional team—opened the major league season every year, but in 1978 the Twins and Mariners were scheduled to take part in the season’s first game, on April 5th; no other team played that day, and the Reds would hold their home opener the following afternoon against the Astros. I was appalled by this indiscretion, so in one of the few changes I did make to start my SP78 campaign, I led off my schedule with the Reds-Astros game instead.

And then, stupidly, I skipped over the remaining three AL games on the April 6th slate and moved forward to the 7th, where I played all six NL games (and no AL games), then skipped ahead one more day to the 8th and played yet another NL game before finally jumping back to April 5th and playing that long-delayed Twins-Mariners match-up! Then I continued skipping back and forth for another eight schedule dates before finally getting on track…good lord! What I should’ve done, obviously, was simply follow the schedule as written (or moved the Twins-M’s game to the 6th), and played every game chronologically from the start. Not a season-killer by any means, but it sure looks dumb in the Game # column on the printed page.

Pitcher Injuries

One thing about the board game itself that puzzled me from the start was that the game rules allowed for player injuries, but not pitcher injuries. Which was just flat-out ridiculous; pitchers are injured all the time, whether it just be for a day or two, or a longer stint on the disabled list. The game’s reasoning for this, shown on the Z-play injury chart, was cockeyed as well: Pitchers are not included as the guideline for them is to follow actual innings pitched and no pitcher, on a team, can surpass his actual innings pitched until all others on team have reached their limit also. Say WHAT?

So what I did, many years into my season, was create my own injury chart for pitchers, based on the number of games they’d played in 1978 (see above…click on it for a better view). I took those numbers and compared them to every pitcher injury I could find (from the 1977 season) in the 1978 team media guides I owned, and created eight levels of days missed—or length of stay on the DL—that a pitcher could miss; the type of injury would then be determined by a dice roll. My first victim? Relief pitcher Al Hrabosky of the Royals, who on July 13th went on the 30-day DL with an entrapped nerve in his shoulder.

Suspended Games

I mentioned earlier about creating headaches for myself during the season…well, this definitely was one of them. When a game becomes official after 4½ innings, and is called due to rain with the score tied, it becomes a suspended game…and as I found out, all kinds of statistical hell breaks loose. This scenario has happened to me twice, and I’ve regretted suspending these two games ever since. If I’ve read the MLB rule book correctly, player stats count except for ‘game played’, pitcher stats count except for won-lost, and the game is replayed from the start at a later date. I think.

I used to play my season with an iron fist: whatever the cards or charts said was etched in stone. But after too many situations popped up that problematically affected game situations (Johnny Bench injured for the All-Star Game? I don’t think so!), I become more lenient with certain card draws and results, and being commissioner, would take matters into my own hands. So, after the May 26th game between the Dodgers and Giants at Candlestick was suspended due to rain with the score deadlocked at 0-0, once again wreaking havoc on my stat pages, I promised myself that if this ever happened again, I’d ignore the rainout and continue playing the game.

Pre-Game Festivities

Two other non-realistic facets of the game that I eventually noticed were a) it was not possible to have a game postponed due to rain before it had started, and b) there was no way for a player to be injured during pre-game warm-ups and batting practice.

I wish I’d thought of this back in 1980, but better late than never, I created my own Z-play charts for such occurrences several years ago: if a Z card is turned on the first Fast-Action Card draw of the game, a six-sided dice roll will tell me if the game has been delayed, postponed, or if there’s been a ‘this-game-only’ injury…all before the first pitch has been thrown. And surprisingly, I’ve had more of these results than I would’ve expected.

A Well-Stocked SP78 Library

My SP78 season began with just ONE bit of reference material at my disposal: a 1978 Kessler baseball fans guide I’d picked up for free at a local liquor shop two years earlier. It had rosters, it had schedules, and it had team information….but as I soon discovered, it had quite a few inaccuracies as well, and once again, why I didn’t purchase a more-reliable ’78 Street & Smith guide for a mere $1.50 is beyond me. What I also should’ve done was pick up more reference materials before my season started: programs, media guides, Sporting News guides, a Baseball Encyclopedia, and any number of magazines pertaining to the 1978 season.

However, I did get there eventually, thanks to baseball card shows, the Sporting News offices in St Louis, and eBay. I now own a 1978 media guide for every team, as well as programs for all but two (the Expos and Cardinals…I’m working on that). I also own a Green Book (NL) and Red Book (AL) for ’78, a Petersen’s 1978 Pro Baseball magazine, a baseball rule book, every 1978 issue of Baseball Digest, five different Sporting News guides for ’78, and finally, a Baseball Encyclopedia.

Now, if only I’d obtained these items in 1980, when they really would’ve done me some good—and when they were cheap—I may not have needed to borrow a time-traveling DeLorean. Unless I wanted to use it for other adventures, of course.

14 responses to “If I Had An SP78 DeLorean

  1. As I recall, one of the most ridiculous results on the original charts is the “63” result on the stolen base chart, resulting in a runner on first scoring on a bad throw by the catcher. And that result comes up, on average, every 64 times.

    • Ha, yes, that result is part of my game, too…I’m guessing two outfielders chased the errant throw into the gap, collided, and were knocked unconscious. My favorite is a particular Z-play where 1/3 of the defense gets ejected all at once for arguing with the ump. Always devastating.

  2. Great Post! So interesting to see the changes you’ll undoubtedly make before starting the ’79 season. And also, you’ll have the Internet for the ’79 season from the start, and maybe some enhanced stat keeping software. Seriously, it’s amazing the level of detail that you’ve achieved, and the little bumps and bruises you mention haven’t really affected much. I would have loved for you to let the Blue trade go through, though!

    • Thanks, Steve! Yeah, when I’m 85 and start the 1979 season, I’ll be all kinds of prepped and ready! And one of the things I’d do is keep Pete Rose on the Reds…and maybe even Vida Blue as well (although his ’79 stats weren’t anywhere near as stellar as they were in ’78).

      And yeah, I guess the bumps and bruises have been minimal…but dang, I do wish I would’ve put players on their opening day rosters. It’s interesting to think of Tom Paciorek as a Brave, or Bobby Bonds on the White Sox, or George Hendrick on the Padres. Or the fact that Bob Horner should’ve missed the first two months of the season, because he wasn’t even drafted by the Braves until June 6th!

  3. Sitting here home from work with a stomach virus reading the post. 15 days to recover on the Pitcher’s Injuries chart! I’m almost recovered after 3 days, rev 01 of the chart is required. Lots of interesting stuff. I’m sure I have some of those Kessler Fan Guides in case yours has some sort of snack grease on it.

    • Yes, but you don’t have a 1970s stomach virus, which was a LOT worse! All the injury time frames were taken from actual player/pitcher injuries from 1977 and 1978 (though three of the injuries were contributions from SP78 fans), so maybe that particular player who had the stomach flu was just a wimp.

      And no snack grease on the guide…YET.

  4. I’m doing the Brewers 1982 season for this game. This is pretty much my only hobby. I’m 16 and I am excited to follow your progress. Keep it up.

    • Hi Joel! That’s cool you’re replaying the Brewers in 1982; I picked up the ’82 game many years ago, but realized I’d never get to it (having to play 2,100 game of my ’78 season), so I sold it on-line. And trust me, this game is my only hobby, too…I wouldn’t have time for any others! How far into the season are you right now?

      • Joel Gordon

        I’m 40 games into the season, and still going strong. One difference is that I’m actually using transactions, which makes it slightly less accurate to real life but even more entertaining to me. I’m hoping to continue through the eighties, though, adding rookies via custom cards as necessary and doing the draft and free agency to best be able to fill each team’s needs.

      • That’s cool that you’re making your own trades and such during the season; I’d once considered it, eons ago, and thought it would be fun as well. The Tigers could use a third catcher, and the Reds could definitely use some pitching, although the Mariners went on a 16-game winning streak with no pitchers higher than a PB-6, so who are the Reds to complain? And that would be great if you could continue playing each season through the ’80s; I’m guessing you’ll finish those well before I finish my ONE season!

  5. I wonder how many Statis Pro players are out there playing an entire season? I checked on Wikipedia for SP but there wasn’t any mention. You should add your link to the Wiki article to get more followers. And too bad we never hear from an actual player from the 78 season.

    • I know for sure there are a few ‘season players’ out there, since they’ve mentioned doing so in comments, and one guy who’s replaying the 1984 season has a blog site similar to mine. And I keep waiting for that real player from 1978 to visit and comment…but I’m sure he’ll use a code name. I’ve met and discussed my season with former Rangers pitcher Jim Umbarger, and Fred Lynn and Merv Rettenmund filled out SP78 All-Star ballots, so maybe they’ll stop by someday.

  6. I remember your meeting with Jim Umbarger at the hospital but how did you get Fred Lynn to fill out a ballot?

    • We were cellmates in prison, and I threatened him with a shiv. Actually, back when I worked at Pomerado Hospital, one of our radiologists golfed with him, and told me he’d pass along a ballot for me. Which he did…but of course, Fred didn’t sign the ballot, so I have no FACTUAL proof that he really did fill it out. I just had to trust that the radiologist didn’t lie to me.

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