Big League Manager -- Bill Lanke, May 2004 messages 109-112
As a follow up to my discussions of a few weeks ago, I have posted some photos
from the Big League Manager Baseball games that I acquired in the past. They
are in the folder "Big League Manager." [ ed. note -- this refers to file folders at
the forum's old location. Photos mentioned in this post are now embedded within
the posts in this thread. ] I will follow this post with some more detailed descriptions.
There are three photos labeled BLM Box. These are the three versions of boxes
that I have. The first is the one I bought in 1960 and is probably their original box.
The second is copyright 1963. Both are large boxes, about 16 by 20 inches.
The third was the last version I purchased in the 80's, and measures about 7 by 13 inches.
There are three photos labeled BLM parts. The first shows some early game parts;
the field with spinner having numbers from 1 to 100, the rule book copyright 1958, and
three infield position cards. The second shows a large results game board (there were two
in the game, one for results 1-50 and the other 51-100). These boards were large, about
16 by 20, and had fold out backs to assist them standing upright. They were copyright 1963.
The third shows the later, smaller version of the game parts. The field and spinner were built
into the bottom of the box and the smaller results charts folded out.
The key to the game were the cards, as shown in the photo BLM cards.
Three cards are shown, Mickey Mantle, Pedro Ramos, and the back of Bill Skowron.
The card underwent some changes over the years. These are from 1960. Also shown
is a photo called BLM Book. This is how the cards were sold in later years (more on this later).
Finally there are three photos that depict how I ultimately played the game, based on
their quick play suggestions. These are; BLM My Parts which were hand compiled summaries
of their charts, BLM My Chart which is the key chart equivalent to the two big ones, and
the very key random number book.
The basic game play revolved around the hitter and pitcher cards, and the results charts.
A rating for each possible outcome would be computed by adding the pitcher's rating
(his second column) to the hitter's rating for that event. A number was spun.
The results would be given by the intersection on the big results chart of the spun number
and computed rating.
In the photo, two cards are visible; Mickey Mantle and Pedro Ramos. With Mantle batting
against Ramos, one would start by determining if a walk occurred. Ramos' W rating of minus 3 (M3)
would be subtracted from Mantle's BB rating of 14, resulting in a combined rating of 11 (essentially
Mantle had an 11% chance of walking against Ramos). The spun number would be cross referenced
in the 11 column on a results board and if a red spot was there, he walked (anything else was ignored).
If Mantle did not walk, then a determination was made if he got a hit. Here Mantle's BA of 28
was adjusted by Ramos' minus 4 or plus 4. The PC rating was used if the bases were empty
and the MOB rating if there were men on. (The two ratings were designed to replicate the
opponent's batting average versus a pitcher and his earned run average.)
Assuming no one was on base, the combined BA would be 24, indicating Mantle had a 24% chance
of hitting Ramos with the bases empty (versus 32% with men on). If the square were red,
Mantle would get a hit. Another number would then be spun and if between 31 and 45 then
Mantle got a double. If it were between 51 and 53, a triple. For home runs, the pitchers
did have a PHR rating that would be added or subtracted to the batter's HR rating. Here
Mantle would hit a home run for numbers from 61 to 82. Any other number resulted in a single.
If Mantle did not hit, then a determination for a strike out was made. Combining Mantle's K rating
of 32 with Ramos' SO rating of M6 would mean Mantle struck out 26% of the times he made outs
against Ramos. This would occur if a red box were in the spun number and 26 column. If not,
the contents of the box indicated the type of out actually made. For instance, a 5A would indicate
a ground out to third with runners advancing.
Notice on Mantle's card additional ratings of SBA 58 (running speed very good compared to Ramos' 36 SBA),
an OF error rating of 1 (about a .990 fielder), and a throwing arm of M7 (also very good). Ramos had a
WP rating that drove wild pitches, balks, and hit batters. He also had a fielding rating of 0 and two ratings
called SPC and RPC. These were counted down as offensive events occurred against him (as either a starter
or reliever). When they reach zero, then the count started to be added to the resulting BA. Once he got tired,
better replace him before the shelling began.
The overall result is a relatively simple and elegant approach to baseball. Unfortunately, lots of spins
and chart references for even a single batter. Hence the inclusion in the rules of a 30 minute variant
BLM introduced a 30 minute variation to the normal game in their rule book.
It used the fact that each event was based on a percentage probability from 1 to 100.
Rather than constantly look for red boxes on the results chart, one simply spun a number.
If it was less than or equal to the combined rating, the event occurred, otherwise it did not.
In the Mantle versus Ramos example, one would spin a number to see if a walk occurred.
If it were 11 or less, it did. More than 11, another spin determined if Mantle hit (24 or less
with bases empty). If he did, another spin determined the hit type, and if not the next spin
determined if he struck out. If none of these, then one more spin would determine the
out location by using only the first two columns on the results chart.
This played much faster, but even more improvement was available. One photo is of the cover
of a random number book. Yep, a book with pages of rows and columns of random numbers
between 1 and 100. No more spinning, just pick a starting spot and go down each column
as you needed another "spin." At the end of the column go to the next one. Unbelievable speed
could be achieved.
I took the process one step farther and produced my own copies of the first two columns of
their results charts and had a compact and fast version of their game. I only really needed
the player's cards. The results were a very playable, fairly accurate game (particularly
for those who were numbers oriented).
The BLM baseball player cards that I have show the typical evolution from game companies.
There were some enhancements (two running ratings), and a general decline in quality (thinner
card stock). But somewhere, I believe in the 70's, a fundamental change occurred. The MLBPA
decided that game companies should pay royalties to the players for the use of their names and
statistics (similar to the Topps like companies paid). I remember most game companies complaining,
then complying, finally raising the price of the cards.
BLM decided to fight, and lost in court. Rather then pay, they opted for another approach.
They produced at least one set of cards without names. For instance, you would have a card
that indicated it was for a New York outfielder, complete with all the ratings. In place of the name
there were dashes. In this case six in each row. Also on the card would be a little number like 7.
These hints and the ratings given would indicate the card was for Mickey Mantle and one could fill in
the spaces provided. Yep, it got around the BLM's use of the players names. Nope, I never bought
another set like this (bad idea).
A few years later when I decided to buy some more BLM stuff, I noticed the players came in a book
(as shown in the photo). The book included articles, rules, player statistics, random number charts,
and some fairly heavy pages with player cards that could be punched out. I always felt this was a
clever way around the royalty issue by publishing a book, instead of producing player cards.
Although I don't know for sure if this was the reason. Still not an approach that I liked, but by then
I was pretty much out of the game playing business.
One particularly great aspect of the book was the discussion on computing the player ratings.
A member of SABR would love the equations. All the formulas are there for anyone to use.
Once again, thanks to the recently departed Donald Henricksen. You brought happiness to
a young fellow with your games many decades ago. Even now there is a little joy along with
melancholy for an old man looking at the stuff again.
[ed. note -- the image directly above is our typeset version of Bill's "BLM - My Chart"
shown in the first section of this post. It's also available upon request in .rtf format.
-- B, K, & W ]
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