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Strat-O-Matic turns 50!

Did you know that Strat-O-Matic Baseball turns 50 this year?  The New York Times has the story of a Strat-O-Matic convention.

On July 15, 1990, Brett Carow, then 10 years old, and his father were killing time at a mall, looking at board games, when Brett’s father suggested he might enjoy Strat-O-Matic Baseball, the popular dice-and-cards game. That proved a serious understatement.

That day, Brett, using the Milwaukee Brewers (his favorite team), lost by 4-1 to his father, who had chosen the World Series champion Oakland Athletics. In an uncanny demonstration of Strat-O-Matic’s realism, the actual Brewers lost to the actual A’s by the same score that day. The youngster was hooked.

Carow, now a 31-year-old account representative with Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Wisconsin, has played nearly 11,000 games since, averaging 1.44 games a day, solo or with a friend.

Oh, and the domination of the state of Wisconsin continues!

The passion and dedication of players like Carow were the heart of a celebration of Strat-O-Matic’s 50th anniversary in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday. The company’s 75-year-old founder, Hal Richman, declared Carow the game’s Ultimate Fanatic.

Carow, who won a new set of Strat-O-Matic cards every year for life, beat out devotees like Jeff Fleischman of Colorado, who has played in the same league for 40 years, and the runner-up, Larry Fryer of Maryland, whose collection of Strat-O-Matic games is so extensive that the company had to borrow from it for the historical archives on its Web site.

On, Wisconsin!

“Definitely, after my second wedding, this is the most exciting day in my life,” Carow said. “This justifies, in my head, all those hours I spent playing over summer vacation, when my family would wonder what I was doing.”

I’d make fun of that, but there is something that is so earnest about it that I just can’t bring myself to type anything snarky. Especially when your read something like this later in the article:

The game’s hold on its followers was apparent after a panel called “How Strat-O Has Influenced Your Career,” which included Richman. When the floor was opened for questions, one man after another lined up, but few had anything to ask. Instead, they simply wanted to thank Richman for creating the game. One man said it “saved my life” when he was looking for escape from an abusive, alcoholic father.

Richman, who usually shuns publicity and who had a tempestuous relationship with his own father, was clearly moved.

“I was tearing up at some points,” he said. “Strat-O-Matic isn’t a religious experience for these people, but it does have tremendous meaning in their lives.”
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