How to Wait for the Brown Truck (Replay Zone – February 2014)

By Jeff Polman
February ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out “Ball Nuts”, my new “fictionalized” replay book on the 1977 season.
Just a few more days, and I’ll have 1973 and 2013 cards in hand. I can stay calm, I know it. You might think living out in California with zero snow and ice would make the days go faster leading up to the magic UPS truck Strat shipment. Not the case at all. Once the shipping notice has been emailed, once friends in whatever league you’re in are receiving their cards and you’re still without them, the final 72 hours can still be maddening.
Luckily, I have a huge, mostly disorganized archive of old Strat seasons to stay preoccupied with. As I mentioned last month, I began a 1997 16-team replay using a 1947 schedule, and that’s been a barrel of fun with plenty o’ grand slams. Yesterday I made the mistake of leaving my ’97 binder at work, so I yanked out 1948, which has been stuck in early July for the better part of three years, and rolled a great game early this morning in which Stan Musial homered early and late off Johnny Vander Meer as the Cards beat the Reds 5-3.
You’ll notice I said early this morning. That’s right, nothing gets a day going for a replay addict like me than a 15-minute game with my cup of java. It’s also another fine distraction while I’m waiting for that truck. Not that I’m thinking about that or anything. Actually, what I have been thinking about, because I can’t help myself, are my favorite brown truck deliveries of all time…

1.) 1963. The Strat game box arrives at my house in Massachusetts when my brother is off at summer camp. He’s the one who ordered it but I take the liberty of opening the package and poring over the 1962 cards within, like an archaeologist discovering cave writings in Peru.
2.) 1979. Living up in northern Vermont, still recovering from Bucky Dent’s playoff homer the previous autumn, I’ve been dying to replay ’78 and see a different outcome for my Red Sox. (They would beat the Yanks by one game, then get swept by Texas in the LCS.) Needless to say, I’m anxious for the cards, snow is up to the windowsills, and I’m home from work that day and am basically pacing around. I put some reggae music on the turntable to relax and suddenly hear a strange thud against the front door. “Rivers of Babylon” from the Jimmy Cliff album kicks in as I simultaneously open the door and the giant brown Strat package drops in on the welcome mat. Needless to say, I dance around the living room with the package for about a minute. (Sorry, no video available.)
3.) 2002. Cards are coming to my new high-rise office building out in Los Angeles, but I forgot to include a suite number when I ordered and they’ve already been sent back to the company. Things have been hectic there because this is the first card set after 9/11 and many of us have needed our goods promptly for emotional healing reasons. I call to try and straighten out the problem and Hal Richman himself picks up the phone. He’s helping process the orders, and we have a nice little talk before he copies down my office suite number and re-confirms the address. Days layer, BOOM. Mailroom guy walks the giant package to my cube, toting it on his shoulder like a sack of fresh, harvested potatoes. Thanks, Hal!
Hold on, let me check the clock here. Okay, it’s 9:36, so I’m about 50 hours away from the Brown Truck.
While you wait for Strat Christmas to reach your home or place of business, there are a handful of handy tips to keep you from driving yourself and your work- and home-mates crazy:

1.) Make use of your Strat card archive. If you’re fortunate to have a backlog of seasons, dipping into them for daily exhibition games is a great way to ward off BTW (brown truck withdrawal), because assuming you haven’t played with many of these teams in a while, the newness of breaking them out again satisfies the part of your brain that craves UDC (unfamiliar dice chances). Sadly, these old seasons have likely lost their glorious new card smell, but at this point better to take what you can get.
2.) Watching old game broadcasts. The ClassicMLB11 channel on YouTube has recently added numerous games from the 1980s, and while they can provide a worthy BTW diversion, you may find yourself remembering what Andre Dawson’s card against lefties looks like at an odd game moment and become frantic all over again.
3.) Sitting on your porch with binoculars. Not recommended, particularly if you live northeast of Arizona.
4.) Call UPS and bug them. See #3. They do a great tracking job, blizzards are not their fault, and there’s a chance you can ruin the delicate good karma you have with your local UPS driver. You definitely do not want that.
5.) Call your friends who already have their cards and get them to describe one or two of them over the phone. I’m guilty of trying this, but the relief is temporary. It’s kind of like being stranded on a raft in the South Pacific with only your cell phone and a damp packet of Saltines and having your friend back home describe a juicy pork loin and roasted potatoes.
6.) Follow your local UPS truck around town. See #4.
7.) Pay a few extra bucks for super-fast blue label air shipping. Oh right. Forgot about that. I imagine doing this would make #1-6 on this list irrelevant. But now that I think of it, lying in wait for the brown truck does make that eventual delivery all the more sweeter.
49 hours and counting…