How I spent my summer (1984)

April 23, 2010

ESPN is lousy with Cardboard Gods stuff today. In addition to an excerpt from my book and a conversation between me and Rob Neyer, there’s a story by Buster Olney that reminded me of the summer of 1984, when Damaso Garcia somehow helped me briefly interrupt Buster’s previously impenetrable dynasty of Strat-O-Matic dominance. I’ll add only a couple things to his story of the day an ungodly string of luck on my part made him storm off in a rage. First, he is not embroidering the truth at all when he notes that the Strat-O-Matic teams he put together routinely crushed all the competition. He was way ahead of the rest of us in terms of valuing on-base percentage, for one thing, and cackled away at our slavish attraction to .300 hitters as he loaded up his roster with Gene Tenace bases-glutting types. He also wasn’t above gamesmanship. I remember one time when we were throwing bales at his family’s farm. He spent the entire exhausting day trying to sell me on some trade with him that, as soon as I finally relented and agreed to it, made me feel as if I’d been pick-pocketed. Second, as I’ve already suggested, I’ve always suspected that my big championship season versus Buster was purely a pronounced twist of good fortune, or, as Buster kept putting it throughout the marathon session of games that decided things between us, a “chunk of shit.” (This was his favorite dismissive term at the time, and he said it with a vehement sense of authority; as a farmboy who did all the grueling work involved in taking care of cows, he certainly knew a chunk of shit when he saw one.) I have these doubts about my team being inherently superior because one of the few players I remember from that championship season, besides my MVP, Eddie Murray, was Damaso Garcia, shown here in his 1983 Strat-O-Matic likeness. I batted Garcia leadoff, despite the fact that he wasn’t really that great at getting on base. Somehow it worked. I can’t explain why. I guess the gods just felt like smiling on me that day.


  1. Oddly, for all the Strat I played growing up, I never had a league or drafted teams. We always just played tournaments or best of 7 series or occasionally helped each other out replaying a season. Now I’m jonesing to play Strat.
    Computer games are great, but they don’t provide the same satisfaction as sitting at a table with a buddy rolling the dice.

  2. We had an APBA league, and drafted teams. We got to keep anyone we wanted and had another 10-round draft every year (but had a cut list deadline).

    One of our friends had Garcia, “Stickin’ Damaso” he called him. Kept him all 4 years he had the league.

    I used to have a lot of players that crashed and burned – though I kept Jessie Barfield, Keith Hernandez, Tommie Herr and Ozzie Smith every season. My favorite card was Mickey Brantley. That one year, that ONE year, he was APBA gold!

  3. That article Mr. Olney wrote was great. I actually had no idea that your families were close. Have you seen the latest “30 for 30” installment of “Silly Little Game” yet? That may be a stupid question, but I saw it the other night for the first time. It answered a lot of questions I had, including “What’s the difference between Rotisserie and Fantasy?”.

  4. Nice card, Josh. Can you trade him to your ’77 Red Sox now for Denny Doyle?

  5. Ah, Strat.

    I play Replay now (replaybb.com), but I played one long season with the 1985 Strat season, followed by an ungainly Frankenstein of a multiple layer playoff system. All I can remember is the Mets winning it, which enraged me, and Rick Schu, who caught fire for the Phillies down the stretch.

  6. Am I the only one who went with APBA over Strat?? In 1980 my older cousin tried to get us into Strat-o-matic, but switched to APBA because it was easier to play, and I stuck with it.

  7. sb1902,

    The only game I knew about when I was a kid was Strat, I never heard about APBA until I was an adult.

    I had the STRAT game in 1982 and it came with the ’79 Astros & ’79 Expos. I sent away for the entire 1981 season and I remember Tim Raines was unbelievable in it. He basically could steal second base every time he was on first.

  8. Josh,
    Did Garcia hit a key HR against Buster on a 2-7 roll? I can almost imagine him going ballistic in one of those situations.

  9. My friends were strato tournament players. We even went to the chammpionships held in Chicago in the late 80’s. But it was the Boston tournament that I will always remember. I was the Charlie Haj to my friend Ian’s Elvis. I was there to help with their draft and keep feeding them a constant diet of Bud Light and little debbies. Well my friend Ian was playing a former world champ in Bill Meinhart. Ian had to take a bathroom break so I slipped in for him. Meinhart had been destroying everybody he was playing, so I figured I had no chance against him, but I didn’t want to screw up my friend’s chances of moving on. So with that, I am in a close game, I think it was 2 to 1 at the time in the eighth inning and Meinhart has Rick Honeycutt pitching. This is when Honeycutt was a dominant situational lefty for the A’s. I had two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd. I have Mike Pagliarulo coming up. Pags can’t hit leftys and Honeycutt eats up leftys. But I go against logic, I should bring the right handed batter off the bench, but I don’t. I do a Joe Morgan hunch and let Pags swing. Pags finds the only hit in the column for a double and I take the lead. Ian comes back in the room to find Meinhart’s head spinning from what I had just done. It was my greatest Strato moment ever.

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