Strat-O-Matic faithful begin 40th season
By HAL BOCK
AP Sports Writer
¶ GLEN HEAD, N.Y. (AP) _ Just days before
pitchers and catchers report, Strat-O-Matic baseball loyalists lined up
in a railroad station parking lot on Friday for Opening Day of the
popular game's 40th season.
¶ This is a ritual, followed annually by players who travel
from as far away as Ohio and Florida, Canada and Kentucky, addicts to a
game Hal Richman invented 40 years ago.
¶ ``We had 75 people in a blizzard one year,'' he said.
Friday's climate was kinder and the crowd much larger than that.
¶ Opening Day is no small matter in the Strat-O-Matic world
and this one was extra special because of the anniversary.
¶ Bill Sindelar, one of Richman's first customers, made a
nine-hour drive from Cleveland for the occasion. ``It's my first Opening
Day,'' he said, sounding solemn, almost emotional about the occasion.
¶ Over the years, the game has attracted a loyal following.
Some of the customers are celebrities. Moviemaker Spike Lee and actor
Tim Robbins are players. So are sportscasters Bob Costas and Jon Miller.
Ex-major leaguers Jim Kaat, Dale Murphy and Cal Ripken, Jr., too.
¶ An hour before the faithful were allowed in the small
building to pick up their games, Richman unveiled a 3-foot mock-up of
the new Barry Bonds card _ the most prolific offensive card in the
¶ Richman is in awe of Bonds' 73-home run season. ``Bonds
hit a home run every 6.5 at-bats,'' he said. ``Babe Ruth was one every
nine at-bats. The average is one every 30.5. Barry Bonds is Roy Hobbs.''
¶ And so Bonds' 2001 card is weighted accordingly. The fans
in the parking lot recognized that immediately. There were appreciative
oohs and aahs from the crowd.
¶ Kenny Marino would have been hooting and hollering. He
played Strat-O-Matic religiously, enrolled in a number of leagues. He
kept meticulous statistics and even built a model ballpark. Each year,
he made the 90-minute drive from Monroe, N.Y. for Opening Day.
¶ On Friday, Katrina Marino made that drive for her
husband, a New York City fireman who was killed in the World Trade
Center attacks on Sept. 11. Richman presented her with the game her
husband would have been picking up.
¶ One of the Strat-O-Matic loyalists is Philadelphia
Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville. ``He complained one year about his
defensive rating,'' Richman said. ``I gave him a two and he wanted a
¶ The lowest defensive rating in Planet Strat-O-Matic is a
five. That was the number assigned to Gregg Jefferies when he was
unfortunate enough to try playing left field in Philadelphia.
¶ In a town where they have booing down to a science, this
was unbelievable ammunition.
¶ ``The fans kept yelling at him, `You're a five! You're a
five!' '' Richman said.
¶ Poor Jefferies stood there with a quizzical look on his
face, wondering what that was all about. Glanville knew, though.
¶ ``He was over there in center field,'' Richman said,
``doubled over laughing.''