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Stuck in the ‘60s

By Glenn Guzzo

 
            Strat-O-Matic’s forthcoming Superstar Sixties online baseball game got the heart pumping because, like Strat-O-Matic Baseball itself, I am a child of the 1960s and the memories won’t escape.
 
            Interest in any Strat-O-Matic past season can be adequately explained if it occurred when the gamer was in his/her formative years of being a sports fan, complete with first trips to the ballpark and first picture-card collections.
 
            Since that happened for me in 1959 (first game at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, first Topps baseball and football cards), the ‘60s were prime time. Most of my Strat-O-Matic replays and other projects are rooted in that era. I still sing along with the Beatles and Motown, still can recite the jersey numbers of most of the baseball and NHL players of the day.
 
            If you like building great teams through the draft, then managing them to victory, you’ll find ‘60s superstars galore and more fun than you can stand playing them with Strat-O-Matic Online Baseball. If you want to replay great pennant races and World Series, there’s no place like the ‘60s and nothing better than Strat-O-Matic’s array of card sets and computer rosters to bring those great moments to life.
 
            So, even if you’re rolling your eyes at yet another round of reminisces from someone stuck in the ‘60s, hang with me for a bit. I’m writing this to suggest that, from a baseball-simulation-game standpoint, there are many reasons why the children of other eras ought to experience the ‘60s.
   
            Try these on and see if they fit:
 
  • The most common lament of gamers wanting to complete full-season replays is not being able to finish what they start. The ‘60s, 8-team and 10-team leagues, and even the 6-team divisions of 1969, offer manageable replays. I have completed replays with the 1961 AL and NL, the 1962 NL, the 1964 AL and NL and 1965 AL. 
  • The great pennant races. Other decades had ‘em, but races don’t come any closer than the 1962 NL (the three-game playoff between the Giants and Dodgers), the 1967 AL (four teams with a chance to win in the final week) and 1964 in both leagues (three teams within two games in the AL, five teams within five games in the NL). If you’re going to start a replay that can hold your interest, start here. I have played 1964 in one fashion or another five times. It never gets old. 
  • The seven-game World Series. No decade has had more than the six seven-game finales from the ‘60s. I haven’t had the chance to replay 1960 or the 1965 NL yet, but I have replayed those World Series. The ’60 Yankees came from being down 3 games to 1 in my replay to win in seven. My replay ’65 Dodgers won in six against the Twins.
  • The GREAT teams. Again, every decade has had them. But the ’61 Yankees (110 wins, record-setting home-runs), the ’66 Orioles (Frank Robinson’s Triple Crown and a World Series sweep over the Koufax/Drysdale Dodgers) and the ’68 Tigers (Denny McLain’s 31 wins and a team that could hit in the Year of the Pitcher) are special. As runners-up go, the ’61 Tigers’ 101 wins are worthy of your attention.
  • The GREAT performances. Until Miggy Cabrera last year, the last two Triple Crowns were achieved by ’66 Robinson and 1967 Carl Yastrzemski. McLain is still the last pitcher to win 30. And 1968 Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA is still the best since the early 1900s. Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961 broke Babe Ruth’s storied, 34-year record and stood till Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa played PED-ball in 1998. Sandy Koufax set records for strikeouts and no-hitters. Can’t handle a full-season replay? Try replaying one of these guy’s great seasons.
  • The last “pure” baseball. 1960 and the NL of 1961 were the last seasons before expansion.      Pitchers still threw complete games. The ‘70s introduced widespread artificial turf, the designated hitter and seasons shortened by labor problems. Those plagues were all still with us when record-distorting drug users led the leagues in the ‘90s and the turn of the current Century. 
  • The new teams. MLB played with the same 16 franchises for 60 years. Then we got the Angels and Senators in 1961, the Colt .45s and Mets in ’62 and four more teams in ’69. Contemporary fans of these franchises may enjoy the root years. Otherwise, each expansion brought record-setting performances and personal bests from the established stars feasting on expansion players.
  • Balance of power. The Yankees-Dodgers dominance from the ‘50s continued through the early ‘60s. But starting in 1965, the AL pennant winners were Minnesota, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit and Baltimore again. Chicago came so close in ’64 and ’67. The NL had a fun merry-go-round of pennant winners starting in 1960, with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Francisco, LA and St. Louis. By 1969 the Miracle Mets won it all and even the Cubs had made a run at it. The Braves were frequent contenders and the long-awful Phillies had a pennant in hand in ’64 before throwing it away. That’s nine NL champs or contenders.
  • Batting and pitching. Most decades are known for one or the other. The ‘60s had both in abundance. The expansion ’61 and ’62 seasons were boom times for batters. Pitching dominated in ’68 (the Year of the Pitcher) and ’69. In between, a period generally more beneficial to pitchers was still rich in superstar hitters. Robby and Yaz had their Triple Crowns, Willie Mays blasted 52 HR in ’65 (after belting 47 in ’64), and Hank Aaron twice hit 44 HR. Harmon Killebrew clobbered 203 HR in these five years (even though limited to 401 AB in ’65) and never slugged less than .501. Tony Oliva won batting titles in his first two seasons (’64 and ’65, with 84 extra-base-hits in ’64). Roberto Clemente won three batting titles, hit .357 in ’67 and when he hit his “worst” .317 in that five-year period, he had career highs of 29 HR and 119 RBIs.  Many other greats had huge seasons.
  • Strat-O-Matic’s heritage includes its first card set based on 1960 and its first representation of all teams, 1962. Not only are these seasons memorable to those who bought the first one-sided, basic-only versions new, but I was eager to play them again as an adult, when I had become a better manager, and to re-experience the period with updated seasons featuring Advanced/Super-Advanced options.
  • If a full-season replay is not in your future, the ‘60s are still ripe for special projects. The Dodgers-Giants arch-rivalry may have its roots in New York, but the California version blossomed in the ‘60s. When the Giants won the pennant in ’62, they had to win a three-game playoff with LA. When the Dodgers won pennants in ’63, ’65 and ’66 in Koufax’ greatest seasons, the second best pitcher was San Francisco’s Juan Marichal. The Giants were second in both ’65 (by 2 games) and ’66 (by 1.5 games). If you like comparing dynasties, the ‘60s had the Yankees (pennants each year 1960-64), Dodgers (1962-66) and Cardinals (1963-68). The Giants, Reds, Braves, Tigers, Twins and White Sox were consistently strong.
            Not all of the projects above are for Strat-O-Matic Baseball Online, but the draft-and-manage options online hits the sweet spot to appreciate the stars of this decade.
 
            The Strat-O-Matic title, “Superstar Sixties” describes the decade perfectly – mega-stars in their primes. Mays, Aaron, Frank Robinson, Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Yogi Berra and Bill Mazeroski carried over – or exceeded – the excellence they began displaying in the ‘50s. So did pitchers Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Don Drysdale, Jim Bunning and Hoyt Wilhelm, among others. Koufax and Gibson became great in the ‘60s.
 
            The decade also introduced such immediate-star rookies as Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Willie Stargell, Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, Oliva, Dick Allen, Marichal, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Catfish Hunter, Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, McLain, Mickey Lolich, Luis Tiant, Mel Stottlemyre, Sam McDowell and many more.
 
            There’s enough talent to go around for your Strat-O-Matic Online baseball drafts. Imagine getting the ’66 Koufax, the ’68 Gibson and McLain, the ’65 Mays, the ’61 Maris and Mantle, the ‘66 Frank Robinson, the ’67 Yaz, and the ’69 Seaver, Stargell, McCovey, Killebrew and Rose.
 
            The Strat-O-Matic Superstar Sixties online game is expected to be available for purchase by the end of the summer. Stay tuned at www.strat-o-matic.com for more updates.
 
UPDATE (8/1/13): The Superstar Sixties online game is now available for purchase. Click here to start your team now!