Firstman: Appreciating the original fantasy game, Strat-O-Matic

From SABR member Diane Firstman at on April 8, 2014:

As the season kicks off, millions of fans are busily participating in online fantasy baseball or placing their orders for the latest incarnation of “MLB 14 The Show.” But there are also thousands of folks performing their own rite of spring: They’re busy opening large manila envelopes, separating out perforated player cards and carefully rubber-banding teams from their annual Strat-O-Matic baseball card shipment.

First produced in 1961 by Hal Richman, “Strat” was most likely the first mass-marketed fantasy baseball game. It featured extremely realistic game play with players performing based on probabilities generated by their real-life statistics. Games could be completed in 30 minutes or less, thanks to a minimal need to consult anything other than the player cards for the result of an at-bat. It is a simulation that taught millions about the intricacies of baseball managing and player evaluation, while also bringing families, friends and otherwise total strangers together. Over 50 years later, the game is still going strong, with 600 people attending the 50th anniversary celebration back in 2011.

My own Strat story begins with my parents divorcing when I was 2. My dad’s subsequent weekly visits to the house consisted mostly of him plopping himself on the couch and watching the Yankees. I quickly learned that if I wanted to connect with him, it was going to be through baseball.

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Originally published: April 8, 2014. Last Updated: April 8, 2014.