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Murray Journal

Simulate your own baseball season with a tabletop game

Dec 10, 2020 10:03AM ● By Greg James

Strat-o-Matic produces simulation games for baseball, basketball, football and hockey. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

During game six of this year’s World Series Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash stepped onto the field with one out in the sixth inning to remove Blake Snell, the Rays’ starting pitcher. The game unraveled from that point, and the Dodgers won the championship. Cash’s managerial move sparked a firestorm of second-guessing.

Tabletop games allow you to make the decision to leave the pitcher in or take him out. Strat-o-Matic is an industry leader in these types of games.

Strat-o-Matic is based in Glen Head, New York, and produces sports simulation games. Tabletop baseball, American football, basketball and hockey simulations, along with personal computer adaptations of each, are its primary product but baseball is its most popular.

“I first ran into the game at a friend’s house when I lived in New Jersey,” Salt Lake resident Mike Bowes said. “I bought my first full Strat set in 1981. I am currently replaying the 1980 season, but I enjoy the old nostalgia players and teams like Mike Schmidt or the Garvey Dodgers teams.”

Strat baseball began in 1961 when developer Hal Richman sold the game from his basement. In the game, each athlete is represented by a player card with results tables based on dice rolls. Face-to-face and computer-based leagues have formed all around the country. 

Adam Richman, the current company president, calls the pandemic a “horrendous time for our country,” but the resurgence of the game has caused a 75% increase in sales in 2020 (according to Baseball America).

“I produce content every day for my YouTube channel (Sports Time Machine),” Bowes said. “I like to play the game solo, but playing against someone is always fun.” 

The game’s playing cards are based on statistical information gathered from each season. The Major League teams then produce for game players. Using dice rolls and statistics, the game results should become accurate to actual games played. Game players can adjust lineups and matchups. 

“I am a math teacher in high school,” Massachusetts resident Steve Mitchell said. “We ran a league after school and kept the stats on the chalkboard for all of the games.”

Bowes currently plays in three leagues.

“I like to play the game all by myself,” Bowes said. “It flows really well, and I can play in under an hour.”

The new season cards are generally released around the beginning of spring training. Many game players trek to New York to commemorate the beginning of a strat season. Player ratings are analyzed and discussed. Some real-life major leaguers have lobbied the company to improve their card ratings. Former Phillies player Doug Glanville sent pages of documentation to the company one year to try to influence his card to no avail.

Bob Costas, Keith Hernandez and Curt Schilling have proclaimed their love for the games. After homering in a playoff game, Lenny Dykstra said the last time he had done such a thing was in his Strat-o-Matic game.

The game allows you to manage the teams you love in the way you want to: set the lineups, pitching rotations and bench the players you despise. The best part is your managerial moves will not be scrutinized by the entire world like Kevin Cash’s were in the World Series.