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  • Part five of a series - Intro/Part I here.

    Page - across L, down 3

    I have always been a sports fan, and when I was a kid I was a super sports fan. But of all sports, baseball is my first and final love. Nowadays, it is the only sport I really follow closely. This is Newhart Park, in the city of Morgenstern. This stadium was named after Bob Newhart, the city after Rhoda Morgenstern (I watched a lot of NBC sitcoms in the 70s). This was a stadium that could be used for baseball or football, which is why it has the square offshoot in left field. The idea was that the seats along the first base line could be moved onto the diamond, and the left field bleachers would disappear somehow, creating a rectangle stadium for football.

    My youngest brother shared many of the same interests as me, especially history, and relevant to this story, sports. We spent a large chunk of our childhood collecting baseball cards, pouring over the statistics, saving every cent we could get for another pack of Topps. Once I had created my own baseball league, the Vandalia Baseball League, with teams (I can’t remember the names of all of them) and stadiums, it was only a matter of time before the teams had individual players and actual games, we just had to figure out how to do that.

    The first thing we did was create the team rosters. For each of the ten teams, we created 25 players with names and positions (but no DH!). We had quite a bit of fun creating the names for some 250 players, though I can only remember two – Ernesto Arredondo and Frank Taco. We created a season schedule and playoff structure. Once all that was done, we had to actually play some games, but how could we do that? We grabbed a piece of paper and divided it up into dozens of different sections of varying sizes, all squiggly lines with no order at all. Then we put plays into the sections, single, double, triple, home run, K, BB, out, SB, sac, etc. We made sure most of the space on our play paper were outs, in an attempt to replicate the real game. Then we would close our eyes and hold a pencil in one hand, with the other hand moving the play paper on a table, and then just put the point of the pencil wherever it fell. That would be the play. Both hands had to move around, whether guiding the pencil or the paper, in order to ensure fairness, though there always seemed a way we could influence outcomes if we wanted, for the sake of the story. Now of course we could not cover every kind of play that can happen in a baseball game, but it was good enough for us. We recorded every play on our homemade score sheets.

    After the end of each game we would collect the information and update each player’s statistics for the season. Although almost totally random, there soon emerged the sluggers, the single’s hitters, the error prone, the power pitchers. This really surprised us, that some random player through the luck of the pencil hit a lot of home runs or couldn’t get a hit to save his life, or a pitcher would strike out a lot of people while another issued a lot of walks. As these trends became evident however, we would at times manipulate the games to ensure that a hitting streak would continue or something like that.

    I don’t remember if we ever finished an actual season all the way through to the championships, and I do not have all the sheets of paper that comprised the Vandalia Baseball League. But I do still have the stadiums. And my brother. And baseball.
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