Edson: My Baseball Delivery for 55 Straight Years

It started in late February, 1963.

A month earlier I had been reading a baseball magazine and came across a full page ad that screamed: “Manage Your Own Big League Team.”

The ad promised that if I ordered Strat-O-Matic baseball I would receive all the major league baseball teams with individual player cards. And by rolling dice and writing down the lineups, I would be playing baseball inside when it was too cold or rainy to play outside.

I grew up in Mancelona during the 1960s and my folks were both teachers. We didn’t have a lot of extra money but my mom always seemed to have money for me to buy baseball cards or a new baseball glove.

So when I showed her the ad for this new game – and the cost of almost $9 – I wasn’t sure what she would say.

She studied the ad and noticed the game used math and spelling. (To this day, I can spell Carl Yastrzemski’s name without using a baseball digest).

So she wrote the check in late January and we sent it off to Strat-O-Matic Game Co. in New York.

The game came in late February. My older brother and I opened the box and marveled over how easy to play it was.

Strat-O-Matic baseball changed my life and the life of countless other kids. It was created by an Ivy League graduate named Hal Richman, who came up with a mathematical formula to roll the dice, use individual player cards and produce a game that was amazingly realistic.

The game caught on like wildfire. To this day, guys like Bob Costas, Billy Crystal and Spike Lee still talk about their childhoods and playing Strato. In fact, Spike Lee has used Strato for a prop in two of his movies.

But back in February, 1963 this was a big deal at the Edson house. My brother played the game with me for a while. When he tired of it, my sisters reluctantly played. After that, my friends would play.

The best part about Strat-O-Matic is that you can play either a solitaire version of against someone. During the winter nights, I would play the game myself. It was great fun.

When I went off to college, I took my Strat-O-Matic game along and we had our own leagues in the dorms. When I got married, it was part of my “stuff.”

Luckily, my wife is very understanding about my passion for baseball. In our nearly 42 years of marriage, I’ll bet she’s played Strat-O-Matic a good 20 times… give or take a couple.

But every year, since 1963, I look for my Strat-O-Matic delivery from New York in late February. Sure enough, it came last week.

Strato did some great marketing a few years ago. You can always order the game based on the previous season or you can order old-time teams. The latest marketing ploy is to order past seasons with all the teams included.

So since this is the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Tigers winning the World Series, I ordered the complete 1968 season this year. I unwrapped the cards this weekend.

You’ve never seen a 64-year-old guy so excited to receive a package in the mail. But then, I’ve been getting that same delivery at the same time in February for 55 years.

So between my latest Strat-O-Matic baseball delivery and the start of spring training, I’m pretty much in baseball heaven right now.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.