Great Moments in Strat – April, 2012

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            My son and I have enjoyed the Negro Leagues set, not for setting up four teams and playing against one another but for integrating pre-1947 seasons. We’re about 25-30 games away from finishing the 1927 season, and it’s been pretty cool. 
            We had about 40 Negro Leaguers who qualified to play in ’27, and the natural way to divide them up was a draft. We started with the usual way anyone would do a draft – the worst teams pick first. But then we realized that there’s no point in the lousy ’27 Red Sox getting Mule Suttles; Mule makes them more interesting, sure, but the Sox, even with Suttles and a few more additions, aren’t going to make a run for the pennant.
            So we omitted the Yankees, who don’t need anything (or much), and took the over-.500 teams from both leagues and drew them randomly for the draft. Our rationale was that the better teams would get better players and therefore tighten up pennant races. Then the under-.500 teams drafted, with the best of those drafting first. Here, we figured the really bad teams – like the Red Sox – would still get good players who’d make them more fun to play. That completed the first round.
            The second round was entirely random draw, again omitting the Yanks. The third round was worst to best, giving the bottom feeders a chance to pick from the players left – still very good even after two draft rounds. Somewhere in there, the Yanks were allowed one pick, getting Newt Joseph to replace Joe Dugan at third. 
            So what’s happened? The A’s, with Suttles, Big Bill Foster and Frog Redus, are up two games on the Yanks. Nobody else is close in the AL. In the National League, the Giants have Webster McDonald (but he’s out for 30 games), Turkey Stearnes, Chaney White and Spoony Palm, and they’re four games up on the Pirates, who have Biz Mackey, Newt Allen, Bernardo Baro and Andy Cooper. Fading a bit but still in it, the Cards are six back with Willie Wells, Ghost Marcelle, Charles Blackwell and Cockrell.
            We plan to play other pre-integration years using this method. We made some mistakes; "hidden" weaknesses on teams didn’t become apparent till after we played a while, so those teams might have drafted differently. Next time we’ll play a few spring training games with white players only to see what teams really need. My son and I really like this method. The teams keep their flavor and personality (and some of their weaknesses) but add players who make them better, or in the case of lousy teams, at least bearable to play often.
            We’re shooting to play 1948 next. There aren’t as many players available in the Negro League set, but we can add black players from the 1950 and ’55 sets that were active in the ’48 Negro Leagues – Sam Jethroe, Luke Easter, George Crowe, Don Newcombe, Hank Thompson, Connie Johnson, Monte Irvin and quite a few others.
            As an aside, we do something else differently. My son lives 8 hours away, so we rarely play face to face. So I started playing the AL and he started with the NL and then we switched after 30 or 40 games. After another 30 or 40, we switched again, and so on. We enjoyed this, because after a few months, it’s like playing a new game again. If I were playing solo, I’d do this, too. This has been a lot of fun, and I’m grateful to Strat for the Negro League set for allowing us to integrate long before it was thought proper.
Jim Poole, Cobleskill, NY
            I was playing the Hall of Fame 2000 league and Ruth went 5 for 5 with 5 homeruns. The third HR was a 1 chance on 1-20 roll. Hit it on 1. Awesome.