Wilt and Joe Willie Headline Classic Seasons This Summer
The Great One, The Big O and Super Mario Join Them
By Glenn Guzzo
Some of the uniquely great moments and players in the history of the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League will come to life in the latest classic-season offerings from Strat-O-Matic, due this summer.
Here’s the lineup:
PRO FOOTBALL: 1968 (cards only, Windows game rosters are currently available) and 1982 seasons
BASKETBALL: 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons (Windows game only)
HOCKEY: 1949-50 and 1988-89 seasons
Astute fans of sports history will recognize at a glance that these seasons include Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game and 50.4-point scoring average in 1961-62 and Joe Namath’s guaranteed victory in advance of the New York Jets’ convincing win over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts to give the American Football League its first Super Bowl title following the 1968 season.
There is so much more.
The timing for the 1961-62 NBA could not be better. That’s the year Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double (30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg) – a feat not equaled until 2016-2017, when Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook dominated the league.
The 1988-89 NHL ended emotionally. Calgary’s only Stanley Cup championship to date was ultra-popular future Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald’s only Cup – in his final season. Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman and Bernie Nicholls all had at least 150 points, as Lemieux topped the league with 199 points, 85 goals and 114 assists. Lemieux, Nicholls (70) and Yzerman (65) all had at least 65 goals.
In order of appearance this summer:
The 1968 season has been available for the Windows game for years. Now board gamers can enjoy this historic season in updated card format. The usual “six-pack” of carded teams is a power-packed group: The 11-3 Jets, the 13-1 Colts, the 12-2 Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, the 12-2 Dallas Cowboys and the 10-4 Cleveland Browns.
Former Colts title-winning coach Weeb Ewbank now masterminded the Jets, becoming the only coach to win championships in both leagues.
This season will be forever immortal, not only for the flamboyant Namath starting the trend of guaranteeing victories, but for the notorious “Heidi Game” – when NBC infamously cut away from the 50 seconds of the Raiders-Jets regular season game to show the regularly schedule movie. Fans who missed Oakland’s two-TDs-in-nine-seconds comeback for a 43-32 win inundated the network with angry calls are responsible for networks staying to end of games today.
On your tabletop, you’ll have Cleveland HB Leroy Kelly, who led the league in rushing yards (1239), touchdowns (20), and points scored (120), and a Browns defense that set an NFL record with 32 interceptions.
Kansas City had the AFL’s top passer (Len Dawson), the league’s stingiest defense (170 points) and the top placekicker (Jan Stenerud), but lone of the great Strat-O-Matic teams ever lost a tie-breaker to Oakland in the AFL West and didn’t make the playoffs.
As always, the Windows game will have every team, where you’ll find top NFL passer John Brodie and receiver Clifton McNeil (both San Francisco) and NFL rookies of the year Earl McCullough (Detroit) and Claude Humphrey (Atlanta).
The 1982 NFL was shortened to nine games by a player strike, but the six-pack is a thrilling group just the same: Super Bowl winner Washington (8-1) topped Miami (7-2). The Los Angeles Raiders (8-1) had a big season from RB Marcus Allen, were second in the NFL in scoring and had a +60 point differential. San Diego (6-3) had the league’s most explosive offense (288 points) with QB Dan Fouts, WR Wes Chandler (1,032 yards, 21 ypc, 9 TDs) and potent runners Chuck Muncie and James Brooks. Dallas and the New York Jets (both 6-3 and the two teams with the best point differentials) complete this group.
Learn some hockey history with 1949-50. In the NHL’s first 70-game season, Detroit won the second of its seven straight regular seasons, but needed double-overtime in the Stanley Cup Final’s seventh game to vanquish pesky New York. The Rangers had been the surprise of the league by finishing fourth for the final playoff spot, then knocked out second-place Montreal in only five games. They had goalie Chuck Rayner, the league MVP, to thank.
Detroit’s famed Production Line of Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe finished 1-2-3 in league scoring, with Howe’s 35 goals second only to Montreal’s Rocket Richard (43) in young Howe’s breakout season. Montreal’s Bill Durnan won the Vezina Trophy for the sixth time in seven seasons, leading the NHL with a 2.20 goals-against average.
For 1988-89, these are the six-pack of carded teams:
Calgary: 51-goal scorers Joe Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk joined future Hall of Famers Doug Gilmour, Al MacInnis and McDonald in a star-studded cast that included HakanLoob, Gary Sutter, Gary Roberts, Theoren Fleury and Mike Vernon.
Montreal: The Stanley Cup finalist had Vezina Trophy winner Patrick Roy in goal (2.47 goals-against average and .908 save percentage, both league-bests) and Norris Trophy winner Chris Chelios on defense, Selke Trophy winner Guy Carbonneau at center and future Hall of Famers Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey. The Habs weren’t all defense – 13 men were double-figure goal scorers, led by Mats Naslund (33) and Bobby Smith (32).
Detroit: Steve Yzerman (65-90-155),Gerard Gallant (39-54-93) and Adam Oates (16-62-78) led the Red Wings to the Norris Division title.
Los Angeles: The highest-scoring team in the league (376 goals) had Gretzky (54-114-168), Nicholls (70-80-150), Luc Robitaille (46-52-98) and four others who had at least 25 goals each.
Pittsburgh: Lemieux (85-114-199), Rob Brown (49-66-115), defenseman Paul Coffey (30-83-113) and Dan Quinn (34-60-94) didn’t beat out Washington for the Patrick Division title, but sure had fun trying.
Washington: The Patrick Division winners had Geoff Courtnall (42 goals), Mike Ridley (41 goals) and future Hall of Famers Scott Stevens, Rod Langway, Larry Murphy, Mike Gartner and Dino Ciccarelli.
As usual, the classic basketball seasons will be available only for the Windows game.
In 1961-62, the Boston Celtics won a record 60 games, but had to battle ferociously in the playoffs to claim its fourth straight NBA title, with Bill Russell leading a team that did not have a top-10 scorer.
Boston was down three games to two to Chamberlain and his 49-win Philadelphia Warriors before winning in seven games. The Finals against the 54-win Los Angeles went to overtime in a seventh game when the Lakers’ Frank Selvy missed an eight-foot shot at the buzzer of regulation.
The nine-team NBA of the early 1960s was a high-scoring league with a racehorse pace. Chamberlain averaged almost 40 shots per game and grabbed 25.7 rebounds per game. The expansion Chicago Packers won only 18 games while scoring the least, but that was 110.9 per game and their Rookie of the Year Walt Bellamy averaged 31.6 points and 19 rebounds. His scoring average was second only to Chamberlain among qualifiers and Bellamy led the NBA with a .519 shooting percentage.
Elgin Baylor (38.3 ppg, 18.6 rpg in only 44 games), Bob Pettit (31.1 ppg, 18.7 rpg), Jerry West (30.8 ppg) and Oscar Robertson (30.8 ppg) also were big-time scorers. All these shooting stars played more than 42 minutes per game. Expect monster cards for these guys and such stars in their prime as Richie Guerin, Bailey Howell, Reg Kerr, Hal Greer and many more.
In 1962-63, the Celtics won a league-best 58 games and their fifth straight crown in Hall of Fame point guard Bob Cousy’s final season. But this was the first season for a sizzling rookie class that included Boston’s John Havlicek, Detroit’s Dave DeBusschere and St. Louis’ Zelmo Beatty.
His Warriors had moved to San Francisco, but the change of scenery didn’t faze Chamberlain, who again topped the league in scoring (44.8 ppg) and rebounding (24.3 rpg), even while his team plummeted to fourth place with only 31 wins.
This time it was 42-38 Cincinnati that took Boston to seven games in the division finals of the playoffs. The 53-win Lakers awaited Boston in the finals, but the Celtics conquered Baylor (34 ppg, 14.3 rpg) and West (27.1 ppg) in six games.
Russell (23.6 rpg), Pettit (28.4 ppg, 15.1 rpg), Robertson (28.3 ppg) and Bellamy (27.9 ppg, 16.4 rpg) added to their Hall of Fame credentials, as did top playmakers Guy Rodgers, Cousy and Lenny Wilkens.