Time to go down another path today. This story has been rooting itself around in my brain for awhile and it is time to let it out. This one will be kind of sad, maybe? I don’t know yet. Let’s see where it goes, 1000 words or so at a time.
It was really the simplest thing. A couple of dice, some paper, a pencil, and hours of entertainment. He was eight years old and loved baseball. No, love is probably not the right word. Lived baseball is more appropriate.
The boy looked at the Roy Smalley baseball card in his hand. He wasn’t a fan of the Twins, really, but there was something about Smalley he liked. The visiting team needed a shortstop, and the card was handy, so Smalley would be in the lineup that day. This lineup was going to be pretty decent, he thought.
Dan Driessen at first base, Smalley at short, Frank White at second base, Ken Reitz at third, Gene Tenace behind the plate, and an outfield of Fred Lynn, Dave Parker, and George Foster in center, right, and left respectively. Pitching today would be Tom Seaver, so the Dodgers would have their work cut out for them. He still had to pick a bench, too.
The boy didn’t have the complete teams for anybody other than the Dodgers, so at this stage of “the game,” the Dodgers would play teams he built randomly from his baseball card collection. It was kind of fun to build the new teams and the Dodgers rarely lost. This was primarily because they were his favorite team and he made up the rules of the game.
The dice played an integral role. A few months earlier, inspiration had struck, and the boy assigned a baseball value to each number that could be rolled with two, standard six-sided dice. Here is a list of the rolls:
Snake eyes (double ones) was a triple.
Two + one (a three) was an out (later a ground out to first base).
Three + one (a four) was an out (later a ground out to second base).
Double twos, though, was an error (batter goes to first).
One + four or two + three was as strike out.
One + Five or two + four was a ground out or pop out to shortstop.
Double threes were a walk.
One + six, two + five, or three + four was a flyout.
Two + six, three + five, or double fours was a single. (Double fours could also be a single with a runner on base taking two bases later)
Three + six or four + five was a flyout.
Four + six was a strike out.
Double fives was a double if no home runs had been hit off that pitcher or a home run if double sixes had been rolled already.
Five + six was a double.
Double sixes were a home run.
After weeks of playing with his dice, the boy realized these made for a fairly realistic baseball game. Sure, there were pretty high scores sometimes, and the double fives rule became something that the Dodgers seemed to get more than other teams, but most games played like a real baseball game. Not too shabby for an eight-year-old.
The best part of the game was that it was hours of entertainment that cost very little. It could be played anywhere, too, and when there was no one to play with, it was always there and ready. This was a lot of the time, too, as the boy was an only child. It wasn’t as if he was neglected or anything, but he was left to his own devices a lot and he was good at entertaining himself.
He created basketball and football games, too, using dice, but the baseball game was his true love. He even tried to figure out ways to make a realistic soccer and hockey version over the years, but it always came back to the baseball game. There was something about rolling the dice, keeping the box score, and keeping track of the statistics that he loved. Eventually, he had notebooks upon notebooks of dice baseball score pads. Thousands upon thousands of games played.
Eventually, it occurred to him that he could buy a baseball almanac and have access to actual season schedules, rosters, and play an entire season based on the real schedules and players. Little did he know that video games were right around the corner that could do the same thing and much easier.
When he was eleven, he spent the better part of a year creating his own baseball season. It was an interesting experiment, and he was the only one that knew he was doing this. There were 26 teams in major league baseball then, so that meant he played 2,106 regular season games of dice baseball and rolled the dice well over 100, 000 times. He lost track of how many notebooks and pencils he went through.
He went all the way through to the world series, and yes, the Dodgers won, but they won the real-world series that year, too, so there was some vindication. Of course, in real life, his favorite player didn’t hit over .380 for the season with 53 home runs, but who is quibbling here? He kept stats for every team and became an early advocate for the designated hitter rule in the National League because of how much it messed things up in those games. There was no substitution in the American League games. In dice baseball, the only one who got tired was the boy.
As he got older and ended up working and finding a social life and such, he played dice baseball less and less. He also never told anyone about it. It was his thing and he liked that it belonged to him in all its variations. Every once in a while, he would dust the game off and play a bit or do his variation of recording a single player’s batting statistics for a season or a career.
But then, one day, he got a new idea.
See you tomorrow.