Strat-O-Celebrity Q & A with Daniel Okrent
In this edition of the Strat-O-Matic Celebrity Q & A series, Strat-O-Matic interviewed Daniel Okrent, the inventor of Rotisserie Baseball and creator of the baseball statistic WHIP. Okrent is also an accomplished author who served as the first public editor of The New York Times.
Question: When did you first start playing Strat-O-Matic? Who introduced you to the game?
Daniel Okrent: My Strat-O-Matic career began around 1970, when I was 22 years old. A friend and business associate, the literary agent David Obst, got me started, and we played obsessively for six or seven years.
Q: How often did you play the game when you were younger?
Daniel Okrent: At least weekly; in the summer, when David and I rented a beach house together, it was close to daily.
Q: In 1976, you were quoted in a Newsweek article as saying that playing Strat-O-Matic “makes life worth living.” What is it about the game that you found so compelling?
Daniel Okrent: I guess it was the creation of an alternate universe, a fantasyland where I was a baseball manager and Tom Seaver worked for me.
Q: Take us through the process of how exactly Rotisserie Baseball came to be. Do you think playing so many games of Strat-O-Matic when you were younger helped you come up the idea?
Daniel Okrent: It really was a matter of missing baseball in the off-season, after David moved to the west coast. The idea came to me on a flight from Hartford to Austin, and I typed out the basic rules after I arrived.
Q: In the first Rotisserie League you ever participated in – were most of the other participants fellow Strat players?
Daniel Okrent: I wouldn’t say so – probably evenly divided between Strat, APBA, and neither.
Q: You are also known to have invented the statistic of WHIP. Did playing Strat-O-Matic help influence this at all?
Daniel Okrent: Absolutely. It was a direct result of the computations that led pitchers to tire and weaken after a certain number of hits and walks in an inning.
Q: What are your thoughts on all of the new advanced metrics used in baseball today? Are there any particular statistics you really like or dislike?
Daniel Okrent: I’m proud of my connection to Rotisserie baseball; I’m prouder still of the article I wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1981 about Bill James. It put him and his way of thinking on the map, which in turn changed the game forever. WAR, VORP, OPS+ and ERA+ are all vastly superior measuring sticks than their predecessors.
Q: You are an accomplished author and editor. Did you ever write recaps of your Strat-O-Matic games?
Daniel Okrent: Not really; just kept stats and standings.
Q: In all of your years of playing Strat, is there a memorable game or moment that stands out to you most?
Daniel Okrent: Carmen Fanzone, of all people, hit three home runs and had eight RBIs in one game.
Q: What is your all-time favorite Strat-O-Matic card?
Daniel Okrent: As a result of the above, Carmen Fanzone.
Q: Do you still play Strat-O-Matic at all today? When was the last time you played?
Daniel Okrent: Probably 25 years ago, with my then-nine-year-old son. He never got hooked on it, and my interest was eclipsed by the immediate joys of Rotisserie.
Q: If you could play anyone in a single game of Strat, who would it be and why?
Daniel Okrent: Earl Weaver. Best manager I ever knew or witnessed. I’d like to take him on.
Published: September 22, 2014