In January of 1997, I received a phone call from Chris Klein. Chris is a friend I met in 7th grade and I've known for close to 20 years now. In the late 1970's, I introduced Chris, his two brothers Ken and Keith and Keith Johnson to a tabletop baseball game called APBA which my Uncle Joe taught to me. The game allowed us to take real ballplayers, draft them onto our teams and replay a season based on their actual abilities.
The game accomplished this by using two six sided dice and game boards; one for every base running situation (bases empty, runners on first and third, etc.). APBA translated the ballplayer's actual statistics and abilities into their ratings and numerical interpretations. We spent many rainy days and nights playing out our leagues and shaking those two six sided dice in the yellow tumbler.
I hadn't played APBA probably in about 10 years when Chris called me that Winter day in 1997. He and his brothers were in an APBA league with others and he was asking me if I was interested in joining for what he called Summer League 1997. Taking the call as a sign of fate, kismet and destiny to reclaim something lost from my childhood days, I said yes. Only now, while the game was still called APBA, instead of shaking dice and looking up the results (Well, o.k., we played so much we didn't need the game boards. All of us had every outcome memorized. If only schoolwork was as enjoyable to us.), the game was now played on computer.
When we were kids and prepared to draft our teams, we use to pour over the APBA card stock and look at the numerical interpretations APBA assigned to any given ballplayer. A 1979 Al Oliver may have batted over .300 with more doubles than home runs, but to me his achievements were measured by the numbers APBA assigned to his card. In other words, we drafted more on the ballplayer's APBA representations than their actual statistics (Even though the representations were based on the statistics.). Al Oliver in my mental model was a 0-0-0-7-7-7 rather than a .300 hitter with a knack for hitting doubles and an occasional homer. After hanging up the phone with Chris and having very little knowledge of the APBA computer baseball game, I jumped to the conclusion that with a computer the game was no longer limited to 36 outcomes for any given situation based on a batter's APBA card. I thought that while the board game was limitted, that the computer game would be endless in it's processing and outcomes. I drafted my 1997 Cicero Bohemians based on the ballplayer's actual statistics versus their APBA card interpretations.
The Cicero Bohemians finished 72-90. It was a dissappointing initial campaign. But as I managed (played?), I listened to the Klein brothers and APBA Savant Greg Nims propose that the APBA computer game was basically an extension of the APBA advanced baseball board game (As kids, we played the basic game exclusively). Additionally, they seemed to know a ballplayer's APBA card representation even though no one had ordered the card stock for that season. How? With an additional APBA computer baseball utility called Wizard.
APBA Wizard allows a general manager to look at any given ballplayer's actual APBA card representation. It's as if you're holding their actual APBA card in your hands. So while I drafted for 1997 based on a ballplayer's statistics, others were drafting based on a ballplayer's card which is the basis for what the computer game uses to achieve it's results (And even that is up for debate. I do think it is the highest weighted input for any outcome of an at bat.). Needless to say, I wanted to get APBA Wizard installed so that I could get a better representation of a ballplayer for what I believe the computer game uses versus just pure statistics. How did the 1998 Pullman Porters do in the draft with this new found wisdom and competitve advantage?
All in all, I feel very good going into the 1998 Summer League campaign. All 9 GMs drafted very well in my opinion. Some GMs put together some exceptional rounds after the first 9 rounds were completed. Rookie GM Bob Taterka brilliantly picked three fourths of his infield with his 10th (Vizquel), 11th (R. Alomar) and 12th (Matt Williams) picks. GM Bryant also did well in the middle rounds, taking garde 19 reliever Osuna with his 13th selection and following it up with Rondell White in the 14th. GM Keith Klein put together a solid three round run taking Cameron, Frascatore and Sheffield with his 16th, 17th and 18th picks. This group made me constantly wish that I could have taken three ballplayers every time with my two picks. My opposition really did a great job identifying and taking the best available talent with their picks. Still, I feel the 1998 Pullman Porters, with their strong starting pitching and love for the long ball will compete successfully against the other organizations.
The Porters have left the 0 and 0 Station and are headed to where the tracks meet in the distant 162nd game horizon. We pulled out of the station smoothly and after 20 games are 12-8. I feel that with last seasons losing campaign behind us and learning from it, the 1998 Porters will benefit from the 1997 Bohunk's miscues. I truly believe that a successful 1998 Summer League season is in the cards for the Pullman Porters. ALL ABOARD!