When I was little, there was a lot of time to kill between the final school bell and the time my parents would get off work and come home. Like any kid growing up in a mid-’90s suburban neighborhood, I wasn’t depended on to take care of the farm or anything. Unlike most of my classmates, I didn’t have any sort of video games to fry my brain with after the lawn was mowed and my room was picked up — not that I ever did my homework — so I had to be a little more creative in my fight against boredom.
One day, I don’t remember exactly when, I found an old, beat-up box in my family’s game closet that read “All-Star Baseball” on the cover.
What a magical discovery that was.
I’ve never seen another copy of the game since or spoken with anyone else who knew what I was talking about, but this game took a major leaguer’s stats and made a probability contest out of it. Each pro ball player in the game had a cardboard disc with numbered areas around the edge that differed by how many walks, strikeouts, doubles home runs, etc. the guy had the year before. To play, you would take this disc and insert it into a plastic spinner, and simulate a ball game by taking whatever number was spun through a key that told you if you had a hit or out or whatever for each at bat.
The game was old enough — and I was young enough — that I’d never heard of a lot of the names written on those cardboard discs. But I had enough time on my hands, that I easily figured out which hitters were more likely to score my fantastical team more runs.
Like the blogger who wrote a 2011 piece on the game on ballcapsblog.com that helped inspire this column, I too mostly played these games by myself, but I was never organized enough to carry out drafts and seasons in the few hours before my mom came home to make me redo my chores, and I certainly wasn’t creative enough to make my own realistic cards for the sluggers I watched on TV at the time.
Looking back at my childhood and the time I spent playing Ethan Allen’s 1941-2004 legacy, it’s no wonder I’ve developed such a fascination with making digital pseudo realities with its descendants in the fantasy sports and sports video game worlds.
But I would jump at the chance to play with one of those ancient cardboard-and-peg games again, even though it will still definitely be by myself before my wife comes home from work.
Tavin Stucki is a sports writer from Midvale, Utah, who is recently in the market for vintage sports board games. For any tips on where to purchase copies of such childhood memorabilia, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.