Category Archives: SP78 Flashback

My Friend Bob

It was forty years ago today that my friend Bob passed away, struck down by leukemia at age sixteen, when he was just a junior in high school and had plenty of years still ahead of him. Besides being my friend, and being someone I could share a love of baseball and football with, and ride bikes and watch movies and simply hang out with, he was also the one who introduced me to Statis Pro Baseball, back in October of 1979, and it was his excitement and enthusiasm for the game that convinced me to buy one for myself.

Nowadays, it’s hard for me to fathom how long he’s actually been gone, and it sobers me to realize that I’ve lived more than two of his lifetimes since 1980. And then, it saddens me to think about all he’s missed—and all I’ve done without him—over those four decades. And how he’d visited me in Washington during that final summer, and how I eventually moved back to San Diego not long after he’d returned to the hospital for good, when my Dad and brother and I stayed with his family until we could find a place of our own. And how I got off the school bus that February afternoon with our friends Brent and Reid, and saw my Dad parked nearby, waiting to drive us home and tell us Bob had passed away earlier that day.

After we’d both purchased the games, Bob and I decided that we would each manage a league—he was a Red Sox fan, so he’d take the AL, while I was a Reds fan and would manage the NL—and replay the entire 1978 season, game by game, and mail each other the results of our daily or weekly match-ups. We’d keep track of stats and scores, and at some point down the line, when the regular season and league playoffs ended, we’d somehow find a way to get together and face each other in a four-to-seven game World Series. Sadly, it wasn’t too be, but a few months after his passing, I decided that I would honor that commitment and play the entire season—both NL and AL—on my own, no matter how long it took me. And here I am, forty years and 1,631 games later, still replaying that season, and getting ever closer to the World Series that would’ve finally allowed us to square off against one another.

If you’re a frequent visitor to this blog, you may have seen him in some of the posts or page headers on the site, in various photos of the game board; a small picture of him sitting on his bed, smiling happily, and wearing a red Hawaii t-shirt that for me now defines his look. Every now and then, and most often for Red Sox games, I’ll prop his photo up somewhere beyond the board’s outfield, so he can be a part of the game (and I’d like to think watch that game as well, but photo or not, I’m sure he’s there for every game I play anyway). I know that may sound silly, but for me, it makes me feel good knowing he can still take part in the fun.

A few years after he’d died, I had a very vivid dream where he was somehow alive again, magically returned in a way I didn’t bother to question, and I remember how elated I was when I saw him, convinced that he was really, truly back. As my dreams tend to do, the scene shifted without reason to an indoor shopping center in a neighboring town, and as he and I walked through the mall from store to store, I remember telling him about everything he’d missed the years he’d been gone, and all the things I’d done during that time. I distinctly remember telling him how the Moody Blues had released an album during his absence, but more importantly, I also told him about our replay season that I’d finally started, and how he could now take over managerial duties for the American League, just as we’d planned.

Of course, I still think about him all these years later, especially when playing a an SP78 game, or when his birthday arrives in August, or when I find old videos of the Red Sox or Steelers on-line. And sometimes I wonder if his parents and sister think about him as often as I do, and if they remember him on his birthday and at Christmas, and then I tell myself you idiot, of course they do, and more so and more deeply than you. And I’m sure Brent and Reid think about him as well, as do all the other friends and relatives who knew him throughout his sixteen years. So I decided today, on one of the many days I’m always reminded of him, that I’d take a moment and share this story of Bob with you. And when I play a Statis Pro game later this evening, I’ll place his photo in center field and think about him again, and wish he was there to manage the other team.

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. Continue reading

The First SP78 Photograph

As surprising as this may sound, I played nearly 12 years of my SP78 Replay baseball season before finally deciding to take a photograph of the game itself. The very first in-game photo was taken on June 23rd, 1992, during a trip my friend Steve P and I took to San Luis Obispo, a small college town located on the central coast of California; the self-portrait below took place that night in the room of the Motel 6 where we were staying.


It was the only SP78 game played during our trip, and this was the only photo taken of the game. What’s strange is, Steve didn’t take part in the festivities, either as an opposing manager or as a spectator; you can’t tell from the photo, but he’s fast asleep in the other bed, to the right of the camera frame, where he’s missing out on a May 26, 1978 match-up between the Reds and Padres, won by the Reds 5-3 in 11 innings.

And if you’re wondering what that large, white something is that’s blocking a good portion of the photo, it’s the top edge of the television where my camera was perched, high up on the adjacent wall. In the days before digital cameras and their small viewscreens, I had to trust what I saw through the viewfinder; thus, I ended up with a photo that wasn’t quite as unobstructed as I’d hoped. And since I was shooting with film, I didn’t have the option to take thousands of photos on a media card, so I only took this one shot, and hoped the image would come out okay.

Now, I have a digital camera and a cell phone for my SP78 picture-taking needs, and within the coming months I’ll be adding the dozens upon dozens of game-related photos I’ve taken over the years to the site, which you’ll be able to find by clicking the Photo Gallery dropdown at the top of the main page. Until then, enjoy this shot of me in my 29-year-old prime, leading my favorite team to victory while wearing a Cubs cap and enjoying an ice-cold can of vending machine Pepsi.

Trammell’s Last Hurrah

DET - Alan TrammellI received an e-mail newsletter from the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum today, and glancing through it I saw that there was a section spotlighting the fifteen new names on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, a group which included Ken Griffey Jr, Trevor Hoffman, and Jim Edmonds…three players on the outer fringe of my baseball-loving past. Further down the page I found a list of the seventeen returning nominees; players who’d remained eligible after receiving at least five percent of votes the previous year. Included on that second list was former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell, who’d retired after the 1996 season, and who’s currently playing for Detroit in my SP78 Replay season.

Added to the list of nominees was a short notation, stating that Trammell was appearing on the HOF ballot for the 15th and final time. After double-checking the names of the remaining players on the list, I realized that Trammell was indeed going to be the last player from my SP78 season to ever appear on the ballot. And that to me was a sad thing: I remembered back in 1998, when Dennis Martinez of the Orioles was the last of my ‘real game card’ players to retire, while Mike Morgan—a minor leaguer with the A’s in 1978—was the last of my ‘created card’ players to call it quits, finally, in 2002. And now, I was losing another Statis Pro player, albeit in a different way, but melancholy for me nonetheless.

I may be a bit biased, having stopped following baseball after the 1994 strike, but if I could induct just one player from that list of 32 candidates, it would definitely be Trammell. His career stats aren’t bad at all: 20 seasons as a Tiger, with seven seasons hitting above .300, four AL Gold Gloves, six times an All-Star, and a World Series MVP award in 1984. As for his current SP78 stats, well, those aren’t so hot: a .238 average in 103 games, with 97 hits, 14 doubles, and 38 RBI. With numbers like that, a Rookie of the Year award does not appear to be on his SP78 horizon, but with his solid play at short helping to keep the Tigers in the AL East race, a post-season appearance just might be.

Two days from now, on January 6th, the Class of 2016 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced. Of course I’d like to see Trammell make it, but according to all I’ve read, the chances of that happening are slim. And with that, another ‘last hurrah’ will take place, and Trammell will quietly disappear from the ballot, one of the last of a dying breed of SP78 players who still have ties to today’s game.