Wednesday, November 17, 2004

YOU are the manager, YOU call the shots

Screw a funny intro. The subjects of today/s post are Play Book! Baseball vols. 1-2, written by Michael Teitelbaum.


Unless your name happens to be Andrew Fanoe, I would imagine you have never heard of the 2 wondrous books Play Book! Baseball and Play Book! Baseball 2. The books are like a combination of baseball and Choose Your Own Adventure. At a specific juncture you are left with a managerial decision, ie do you have your runner steal or hold, do you have your hitter bunt or swing away, etc. and with each decision you turn to a different page and a different decision, and so on until you win or lose the game. I'll run through a sample game as an example.
The first decision you have to make is which pitcher to start, Bombo Torres or Mark McAndrews. Torres is a fastballer and the team hits fastballers well. McAndrews is a finesse pitcher but he is going on short rest. I choose to start Bombo, because he has a funnier name. That means go to page 10.

I'm the away team, so they are up first. Oh snap, their leadoff hitter Steve Malley got an infield single, and their second hitter is an excellent bunter. Question: Should I have both my first and third basemen charge for the bunt, or have the first basemen hold the runner and risk the bunt single. I choose to hold the runner because Steve Malley is pretty fast...Page 14.

Hey, I got the lead runner on the sacrifice, excellent. They don't get any more runs, so it's my turn. Yo, my leadoff man gets on too! He's pretty fast, so I have to decide if I want to have him steal, or to just do the sacrifice bunt. According to the book "My rookie rightfielder, Guy Diego, is up next. Should I try a steal or a sacrifice? Diego's not a great bunter...but the bunt might catch them by surprise." I'm going for the surprise factor baby, it's sac bunt all the way...Page 24.

Damnit, they got the lead runner. I should have learned from their mistake. Stupid mistake. By the way, the people in this game suck at bunting, sac bunts are not that hard. Double play to end the inning. I think our team got screwed on the call, personally. Wow, this game goes fast, skip all the way to the top of the 6th inning and it's still a scoreless game. Bombo Torres walks the bases loaded with one out and now I have to decide if I want to take him out, or leave him in. In real baseball, you would definitely take him out, but one thing you learn if you read this book is ALWAYS stick with the starter, you almost always lose if you take him out. I trust Bombo on this one...Page 52.

Bombo comes through baby. Soft popup and then he strikes out the pitcher and I'm in, baby. Then, in the bottom of the eighth inning, none other than Bombo Torres comes to bat. According to the book "He is only hitting .138 this year, but he has several clutch RBI's". Looking at the stat page in the book he only has 10 RBI's so obviously he can't be very clutch. BUT WAIT, he hits a solo home run (the first of his career) and we go on to win 1-0. What a hell of a game.

The best rule of thumb in this game is to do the opposite of whatever is the logical strategic move.
Anyways, you can see how this game provides near-endless permutations of fun.
The real story behind these books though, are the characters. All the players on both teams, your team, and the opposition team, have names, and brief descriptions. I'll run through some of the more interesting ones in book 1 and then provide a more in depth analysis of book 2 which is a more interesting book.

Long time readers may recall my post about how I hate Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Longer time readers may recall my post about how I hate bobbing for apples (other people's saliva, dude)...I am here to tell you now, I hate John Neff more than bobbing for apples with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. John Neff is a player on the opposing team who according to the front of the book "has been on a hot streak for 15 games." The sample game was a bad example because Neff was not a factor but in probably about 75% of the games Neff hits a homer to tie up the game or put his team ahead, or makes a clutch play, or gets some clutch hit. In most losses, you can trace that loss right back to John Neff. Screw you Neff.
The most fun player on your team is John Minor, whose description is "just up from the Minors". I know that can't be unintentional, but I don't know why you would do something that damn stupid.
Also there are two pitchers in the book described as having a "blazing fastball"...come up with better adjectives, Michael Teitelbaum.
Before I go on to the second book, I should mention one funny scenario in book one. You are arguing with the umpire, and he pretty much says that he is about to throw you out and your decision is, keep arguing or sit down. Guh? what a stupid scenario...anyways, just so you know you lose the game if you get thrown out...the team is nothing without your brilliant managerial mind.

OKAY, now, the real point of this post was to talk about Play Book! Baseball 2. Unfortunately, I can't find the book, but I will post from what I and especially my little brother remember. Andrew must have played these books a million times b/c he remembers pretty much everything about them. Anyways, the best addition to book 2 is that all the players have nicknames, which makes everything more fun. I'll go down the lineup for your team, pointing out stupidities...

1. The leadoff hitter is LF Aaron "Flash" Parker. Nothing funny about him except he has a lot of steals and is named after a goofy superhero.
2. Second hitter, 1B "Smilin' " Lee Balzano. Smilin' is a funny nickname in my opinion. You would have to smile a lot to get that nickname. From now on, I propose we call Steve Saul "Smilin' Steve" (fun fact about Steve Saul...Scrabble playable words containing all the letters in Steve Saul: Lucrativeness, superlatives, unassertively, universalities, vesicularities, vesiculates).
3. Third Hitter, RF "Sky King" Cunningham. Why would you nickname a person "Sky King"? According to the book, it's because he hits the ball so high and hard. Okay that still makes no sense to me. Anyways, in one of the scenarios I remember, Sky King saves the game by robbing a homer, so maybe I should complain. Sky King is the best player on the team...not quite Barry Bonds maybe, but perhaps the equivalent of Vlad Guerrero or Manny Ramirez. In one scenario though, he comes up with runners on base, and you have to make him drop a surprise bunt or you lose the game. If you swing away he hits into a double play and you lose. The bunt results in a single and the win. Never mind you would NEVER have a star player bunt with runners on base...who cares because these books are absolutely insane when it comes to strategy.
4. Fourth Hitter, SS Graham "Shakespeare" Hatcher. Another bizarre nickname. What possible line of nickname reasoning, you may ask, could have the end result of you calling a professional baseball player "Shakespeare"? Was he a Shakespeare major in college? Is he a playwright? Nope, according to the book, it's because when he fields a grounder, it's like Shakespeare. I don't think I need to add to that.
5. Fifth Hitter, 2B Bo "The Bopper" Brooks. The Bopper (not to be confused with The Big Bopper) rocks. My favorite The Bopper scenario is where he is being intentionally walked and you have to choose whether to have him reach out and swing at one of the pitches or take the walk. Again, if you have him swing he hits a homer and you win. If he takes the walk you lose.
6. Sixth Hitter, 3B Pete "Mac" McKenzie. One of the few sensible nicknames in this game. This guy is an aging veteran but still a fan favorite.
7. Seventh Hitter, CF Web "Spiderman" Lawrence. Yup, his real first name is Web. I guess you could say he is yclept Web. Also there are two people in this game nicknamed after superheroes. Spiderman is pretty cool, he's a good defensive outfielder. He does have a funny name though. Yo, what's going on Web, you wanna hang out.
8. Eighth Hitter, C (?) Neither my brother or I remember this guys name or anything about him.
9. Pitcher slot. The two pitchers are just like before one finesse artist, one fireballer. The fireballer is named "Wildcat" Berry.
Also, as the manager, you are nicknamed "Mr. Wizard".

We don't remember nearly as much about the other team, but there is an equivalent of Neff in this book, the opposing team's star player "Hollywood" Horka. I don't hate him as much as Neff though because he has a hilarious name.

The tagline of this book is "YOU are the manager, YOU call the shots", which is a funny tagline in my opinion. According to the back of the book they make a book called "Play Book! Football: YOU are the quarterback, YOU call the shots".

There's one other funny thing in this book I would be remiss to not mention, and that is the lineup cards. The beginning of the book is the lineup cards, that's where it has all the information about the players that I've been spouting.
There are 3 blanks at the top of the card though, I thought I should quote:
"YOUR TEAM (You choose the name!): _______________" not quite sure that merits the italics or the exclamation point, it's just the name of a team.
"MANAGER (Fill in your name or the name of your favorite manager): ________" You know, my brother and I never did fill out these blanks. This next one is long winded so buckle up.
"THE ANNOUNCER (Pick the name of your favorite announcer--from TV, radio, or even your own neighborhood. Whenever you read the annoucer's words in Play Book! Baseball imagine the announcer you picked saying them): ______" Actually that sounds like a stupid idea to me. OOOH BURNED. Take that Teitelbaum!

Okay fellows, that's all for now, Play Book! Baseball, OUT


Anonymous Jonathan said...

I would like to point out that, contrary to your belief that no one else has likely ever heard of this book, I did in fact own it and play it... a lot. I pretty much always went with the left-handed finesse pitcher. That book sucked. I lost a lot.

10:25 AM  

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