Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Must-Have for Strat-O-Matic Fanatics; Book Details This Classic Sports Game

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Must-Have for Strat-O-Matic Fanatics; Book Details This Classic Sports Game

Article excerpt

Title: Strat-O-Matic Fanatics

Author: Glenn Guzzo

Data: ACTA Sports, 320 pages, $14.95.

Review by ED GEFEN

The Times-Union

When you think of classic board games, Monopoly, Scrabble, chess and checkers come to mind. For thousands of baseball fans, so does Strat-O-Matic Baseball, which has been around since the early 1960s.

How "Strat" has become a sports fan's classic -- and how the game went from a teenager's brain to its industry's standard -- is the subject of a great new book, Strat-O-Matic Fanatics: The Unlikely Success Story of a Game That Became an American Passion, by local author Glenn Guzzo.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is about how Hal Richman created the game while growing up in Great Neck, N.Y. Most of this section is about the boy's relationship with his intimidating and verbally abusive father, Irving. This is the most difficult part of the book to read.

For the book, Guzzo, who has known Richman for almost 30 years, spent about a week interviewing him at his summer home in the Berkshires.

"I would have expected him to be candid with anyone," Guzzo, who was editor-publisher of the magazine Strat Fan from 1991 to 1999, wrote in an e-mail. "But he and I started with rapport and mutual trust and respect. So I could ask discomfiting questions (ones that invoked difficult memories or challenged his assertions). At one point several days into the interviews, Richman volunteered that having to articulate answers on difficult subjects was cathartic."

As a boy, Richman enjoyed playing the game All-Star Baseball (it used a spinner) but was frustrated by its inaccuracies, so he made up his own game, "dice baseball." A good math student, at age 11 Richman used the probability associated with dice rolls to make cards for players. His friends loved it. He refined Dice Baseball constantly during his teen and college years. Strat-O-Matic debuted in 1961, though there were a lot of bumps on the way.

The second part is about how the game, and the company, grew, faced constant competition and entered the computer age. …

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