Strat-O-Celebrity Q & A with Bob Costas
S-O-M is excited to announce the second guest of our Strat-O-Matic Celebrity Q & A series: Bob Costas! Bob has won 25 Emmy awards – more than any sports broadcaster. His versatility has been recognized with awards and nominations in the categories of hosting, play-by-play, writing, journalism, news and entertainment. He is the only person to have won Emmy’s in news, sports, and entertainment. Bob’s peers have named him the “National Sportscaster of the Year” a record eight times, and in 2012, he was elected to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. Also in 2012, Bob was selected for the Walter Cronkite Award for distinction in journalism. He and Al Michaels are the only sports broadcasters to be so honored. At present, Bob hosts “Football Night in America” on NBC, continues to be the prime-time host of NBC’s Olympic coverage (The 2014 Sochi Russia Winter Olympics will be his 11th for NBC), while also contributing to NBC News programs such as “Nightly News”, “Rock Center”, and the “Today Show.” With the advent of the new NBC Sports Network, Bob’s program “Costas Tonight” reprises the issue oriented town hall format that was such a successful part of his run at HBO. At MLB Network, Bob has been able to return to his first love, baseball – contributing interviews, commentaries, and play-by-play to the new network.
Question: When did you first start playing Strat-O-Matic? Who introduced you to the game?
Bob Costas: 1964 and I was 12 years old. Introduced to the game by my 14 year old cousin.
Q: How often did you play the game growing up as a kid?
Bob Costas: Hundreds of times each summer, and then later, we briefly got into Strat-O-Matic football as well, but played that less frequently.
Q: Do you still play Strat-O-Matic today? When was the last time you played?
Bob Costas: Don’t play Strat-O-Matic any longer, but remember the game very fondly. The last time I played was about 5 years ago, when for old time sake my cousin and I pulled the game down from the shelf and played several baseball and football match-ups.
Q: All-time favorite card to play with? Favorite season to replay?
Bob Costas: My all-time favorite card was a 1966 Gary Geiger. He hit under 200 that year for the Atlanta Braves, but he did have a half dozen or so home runs in only about 100 at bats. So, he had a fairly prominent home run possibility on his card. In fact, 3-6 was a homer free and clear. I sent him up as my last resort pinch hitter in the bottom of the 12th of a game I was losing to my cousin’s Cincinnati Reds 6 to 3 with 2 outs and the bases loaded. Lo and behold, up popped 3 – 6. Gone! A pinch hit game ending, grand slam home run. Ever since that day, Gary Geiger has been God as far as I’m concerned.
Favorite season to replay? 1961 Yankees, a team I was just old enough to recall and always enjoyed managing.
Q: There is a great clip online of you documenting the famous “Gary Geiger game” against your cousin. Are there any other memorable Strat-O games you’ve played that have stood out over the years?
Bob Costas: Another memorable Strat-O-Matic game pitted the ’64 Yankees of Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford against the ’64 Giants of Willie Mays and Juan Marichal. Since this was before the game incorporated fatigue factor, we each let our ace starters pitch indefinitely. It was unrealistic, but epic. The game was scoreless for 16 innings and my cousin, John Miller, won in the bottom of the 17th on a walk, an error, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly. A one – nothing heart breaker.
Q: Has playing Strat-O-Matic helped you in your broadcasting career at all? If so, how?
Bob Costas: Actually yes. Because it familiarized me at a young age with the rosters of teams like: The ’22 Giants, the ’24 Senators, the Gas House Gang Cardinals, the ’48 Indians, ‘54 Giants, etc. I retained a lot of that and it sometimes came in handy on the air.
Q: Do you know anyone else in the field of broadcasting or in the sports industry in general who either grew up playing Strat-O-Matic or who still plays it now?
Bob Costas: Not sure about other broadcasters who have played Strat-O-Matic. I know it’s come up from time to time, but I just can’t say with certainty who has been a player.
Q: In what ways can Strat-O-Matic Baseball teach children about the sport?
Bob Costas: In addition to learning the strength and weaknesses of players, (including base running and fielding proficiency) it can familiarize kids with basic baseball strategy.
Q: Whose card from the 2013 baseball season would you most want to see (one hitter, one pitcher)?
Bob Costas: Miguel Cabrera and Clayton Kershaw.
Q: DH or no DH? No DH
Bob Costas: No DH. It makes the game more strategically interesting and gives it more texture.
And a few questions from the Strat community…
Question submitted by Stephen Shilling (Pittsburgh, PA): If you had to win one Strat-O-Matic playoff game, which pitcher (and from what season) would you want on the mound? What would your ideal Strat-O-Matic lineup look like from 1-8?
Bob Costas: Stephen – Some of the great pitchers of the dead ball era had ridiculous numbers. In that context, they’d be hard to beat. On the other hand, think of Lefty Grove, or Pedro Martinez, and the numbers they put up in hitter happy eras. Steve, I’ll take the 1962 Mets, and if you want to give me overwhelming odds, we may have an interesting bet, as I send Charlie Neal, Rod Kanehl, Marv Throneberry, and the rest of that murderers’ row against whoever you want to throw out there. Baseball being baseball, I’ll bet Casey’s collection of ne’er-do-wells and castoffs might actually win a game or two. That is if we played about a dozen.
Question submitted by Chris Wiseman (Lake Wale, FL): What are your thoughts on the new Wild Card Playoff system in baseball? Are you for or against it?
Bob Costas: Chris – I like the new Wild Card system better than the old one, because at least it places greater meaning on finishing first and further disadvantages Wild Card teams. But . . . I’d go a step further. I’d make the Wild Card play-in round best two out of three, with all three games on the home field of the team with the better record. That would further deplete their pitching, while the team with the best record in the league got its rotation in order. I would then play the first three games of the best of five division series on the home field of the better team, doing away with the dopey 2 – 2 – 1 format. The whole idea is to make it very difficult, though not impossible, for the Wild Card team to advance, while giving the best team in the league every reasonable advantage.
Question submitted by Paul Dylan (Poulsbo, WA): What is it about Strat-O-Matic that you believe has distinguished it from some of its competitors over the years?
Bob Costas: Paul – Can’t say for sure what has distinguished Strat-O-Matic. It’s just the one that I found most interesting, most sophisticated, most nuanced, most realistic, and most enjoyable.
Question submitted by Brett Carow (Farmington, MN): If you could play anyone in a game of Strat (current big leaguer, former manager, etc.) who would you choose and why?
Bob Costas: Brett – If I could play anyone, I would play my cousin, John Miller, because it’s all about reliving the childhood experience.
Question submitted by Michael Jaffe (Mesa, AZ): We all “broadcast” the game in our heads as we play. Many of us pretend to hear our favorite announcer’s voices call the action. When you play Strat, whose voice is in your head doing the play by play?
Bob Costas: Michael – I hear the baseball voices of my youth: Mel Allen, Red Barber, Lindsey Nelson, and of course, Vin Scully . . . still going strong.
Published: November 12, 2013
Published: November 12, 2013