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The Ultimate Strat-O-Matic Fanatic

     Strat-O-Matic recently celebrated it's 50th Anniversary with a unique opening day celebration. The usual opening day sees a group of middle-aged men standing in line in Glenhead New York in frigid Jan/Feb weather to pick up the latest card set for Strat-O-Matic Baseball. Hal Richman, the founder and inventor of the superb cards and dice baseball game will sometimes hand out donuts and chit chat with Strat enthusiasts that come from all across the country to be one of the first ones to look at those beloved Strat cards.
                                   Typical Opening Day:
       Typical Opening Day

     This year was special, not only would you be able to pick up your order, but Strat rented space at a local Church and brought in a star-studded panel to talk about how the game has affected their lives. There was also a question and answer session with the team charged with making decisions on the ratings and card value of MLB players. The panel members included, Hal Richman, John Dewan, former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, Doug Glanville, Steve Barkan, head researcher for their brilliant past season sets, and Glenn Guzzo, author of the book Strat-O-Matic Fanatics. While New York radio man Bill Daughtry emceed the event. On top of that there was a contest held to see who was the Ultimate Strat-O-Matic Fanatic with a prize of free strat for life for the winner!

The winner of the contest was Brett Carow from River Falls, Wisconsin. I know Brett from the Strat Fan Forum and was able to get the inside scoop on what was in his submission that earned him the title of the Ultimate Strat Fanatic. Below is a portion of what he submitted to Strat that earned him the bragging rights (and free Strat cards for life!) that were coveted by many of us.

The Stats:
3 sports – all cards & dice.
More than 10,700 baseball games played, 200 football games and even 20 basketball games
20 years of playing at least 22-game seasons with ALL stock teams in each year from 1990-2009 then doing full postseasons & World Series with qualifying teams.
Participated in three separate baseball leagues in three states.
Took inherited team to World Series (82-game season) in 2nd season before losing under interim-manager.
Have started 4 other solitaire leagues including the following card sets: 1941 (full season), 2000 HOF Set (82-games per 12 teams), Negro Leagues (6 teams, 30 games) and 1905-1946 stock teams, basic rules – 40 teams, 74 game season – that I've called the Old Timers League.
Non-solo league currently going: uses cards, best players from 1920, 24 & 34 seasons in two eight team divisions with 3 other owners each one running 4 teams.
Have personally introduced strat-o-matic to more than 50 people from high school to college and beyond.

The Intangibles:
Purchased Strat Fan magazine from the 6th issue until it quit printing.
Personal checkbook always holds my previous season's World Series MVP.
Skipped college classes on Opening Day when cards came each year.
Created audio-tapes of football league drafts from mid-1990s with all league members who also went to high school with me.
The six of us made the league official (RFMBL – River Falls Men's Baseball League complete with a jug trophy) and assigned titles. I'm the President of the league.
Played Strat during honeymoon with first wife.
2nd wife bought me 1941 Yankees team photo for our 1st Christmas.
She scanned Ted Williams 41 card onto a cake (along with a SOM 10,000 games played shirt). |STAR| See Below For The Cake
Used MVPs (and 98 McGwire & 93 Mickey Tettleton because I can't get him to stop rolling that 3-9 HR) from 1990-08 in two teams by league in best of 7 series to commemorate that event
In addition to more than 500 games per year for last two decades, I've done stats for virtually every one of them. Most stats in the last two years have been done during down time at my work.
Once slept through prom so I could have an overnight strat-o-fest with the league.

The beginning:
I was 9 years old and bored on a Sunday afternoon. My Dad and I decided to hit the road and see what we could find. I'm not sure we knew we were destined for something great, but I was fully enamored with collecting baseball cards as well as gluing, painting and creating replica models of transportation vehicles. Whenever I saw statistics on a baseball card I could almost "picture" what 30 doubles, 7 homers and a .286 batting average looked like but that didn't mean anything to me at the time.

When I arrived at Games By James with my Dad I started wandering aimlessly and before long my father brought me over to his side of the store where he was holding a Strat-O-Matic baseball game. He said his brother had played something similar in the 60's (APBA) and thought that this game might be good for me. Three hours later we are lumbering through a 1989 A's vs. Brewers (my favorite team) and of course the Brewers lose 4-1 just like they do for real on that day. The contest goes about three hours – all basic of course – and it's about a year later that I start playing Super Advanced and never look back.

The Presidency:
In 1991, also known as 6th grade, I was playing SOM in my basement and a friend came over. Still being shy and a bit embarrassed about my enjoyment for this new game I tried to cover it up as he came to greet me but I was unsuccessful. Sam sat down and played a 1990 Royals vs. Indians match up (part of my newfangled season where each team plays every team once at home and once on the road). Brook Jacoby had a good game is about all I remember, but my friend was instantly wanting to play more. Sam is a great salesman (then & now) and soon we had a third member by the end of 1991. Sam would ask friends and soon I would sit down and had the patience to explain the game and let people determine their level of interest for themselves. KJ, the third member, has an obsessive personality like the rest of us and bought the 1991 season. Strat Fan opened my eyes to the other facets of the game company and soon I had an interest in the football game. Upon purchasing the 1990 football season, we ended up with the fourth guy, Matt I liked playing football; Matt thrived at it and was soon outmaneuvering us up and down the field. Until the 1997 Barry Sanders and the rest of my draft team came along. Okay, I only ended up with one league Super Bowl, but still. To this day, Matt still buys every complete football set. The four of us formed the RFMBL and we added three other guys and one, Perry, is still extremely active in our league.

Library Field Advantage:
During high school lunch hour, I would often head to the library to play pick-up games with friends. We were in the 3rd inning of a game and must have gotten a little loud. When the librarian came over, we were surprised because he didn't ask what we were doing; he simply said "put the Strat-O-Matic away." It dawned on me then that this game was WAY bigger than I thought. The next day, the librarian recanted and said we could play as long as we kept the "dice noise" down. Awesome!

Homeland Security:
Whenever I've been stuck in an airport for more than 30 minutes I will play on my lap. I've had dice roll under the seats and have humiliated my brother and friends just to get another game in. I've even had the TSA take my cards out of my carry on and spread them out because they didn't know what they were. It was fun to try to explain it to them before they told me to put them away and move along – pre 9/11.

Bits and Pieces:
I had to give a "how-to" speech on anything I wanted in college. I chose how to play Strat-O-Matic baseball. I created larger charts and it was supposed to be a 3-5 minute speech. They stopped me when I hit 10 minutes and I was still on a roll!
I took a baseball tour on the east coast in 2008. I played on the bus with friends and of course got some other people on the bus to play with us as well.
I purchased about 20 "create your own" players for my 1941 replay to help complete my set.
In middle school, high school and college I "created my own" card as well each year.
I've taken Strat-O to every family vacation since I was 10. We go for a week each year and I typically get about 3-5 games per day played!
The groomsmen gift for the gentlemen – every single one of whom is in my Strat-O league – in my first wedding all received autographed copies of Glenn Guzzo's Strat-O-Matic Fanatics book. (I had no groomsmen in my second wedding…)
I was the victim of theft in January 1996 by my fellow league members. I lived two blocks from the high school and the Treasurer of my league opted to "keep" my new set of cards for a full week before finally revealing that they had them. I was not happy but the guys had a great time with it. Jerks.
I once left a college girlfriend stranded at my parent's house so that I could finish a football game that had gone to overtime. I ended up losing the game to our Secretary and my girlfriend's night only got worse.
I lived in southern Minnesota and would regularly drive 90 miles each way for a four game series with guys in the JEM Minneapolis League I was a part of in 2002-03.
I also commuted from Grand Rapids to Battle Creek every Monday night for half a year when I filled in for someone who quit a Michigan league before I moved and had to resign.

Why am I the ulimate strat-o-matic fan?
There are certainly guys who've played longer than me. I'm as pure as it gets in terms of fan-dom. I have never played the computer game (but considered it when I set up my 78-game 1993 season – where Tettleton hit 30 homers), but my obsession with SOM has become the stuff of legend. There are people from my high school class who remember me playing SOM on the grass during lunch break. In 20 years, I've amassed an average of more than 500 games per year every year. There are guys who play in leagues with 80-90 game seasons. I do that in July and August alone.

This award is a "self" award but I tell my story including my friends because without them it's no fun and without them I don't do this for 20 years and "keep the band together."

Brett's 10,000 game cake purchased for him by his understanding wife!

Strat-O-Matic Founder Hal Richman and The Ultimate Strat-O-Matic Fanatic, Brett Carrow: