Craig Pillow: Replay simulation baseball 10.31.2007

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

With the World Series over, America’s baseball season is defunct.

At least that’s the case for most people, but not for Craig Pillow. He just might replay that series someday and see how it plays out the second time around.

The Clayton resident is one of the diehard  baseball fans who enjoys taking a second look at seasons past with the simulation baseball game called Replay.

Three dice, a pack of player cards and a fold-out chart. That’s the only equipment needed for the basic game, along with a pencil to mark down the progress off the contest.

“It’s kind of a niche hobby,” Craig said. “But there are a lot of dedicated players.”

Craig never played organized ball, except for that one Little League game. Not one season; just one game.

“Some guys invited me to join their team, but after the first game, the other team found out that I was the only one eligible. Everyone else was too old.”

craig.pillow.replay He had a short career in uniform, but he played dozens of games of neighborhood ball, and he closely followed the major leagues.

“I was always a baseball fan,” he said. “I can’t remember ever not being one.”

When he was 12 years old in the early 1960s, he remembers playing APBA—the leading simulation baseball board game of the time, and still one of the top choices today.

He played games with a couple of friends that first year, then never again. After that, when he got the game out, he played alone.

“I stopped after high school, then played some in the 1970s, then stopped. It seems that about every 10 years I’ll pick it up again.”

He doesn’t recall how he found out about Replay, but the discovery came in 2000.

“I purchased it, I tried it out and I was hooked,” he said. “I started playing cooperatively in 2002 and that’s what really hooked me.”

No longer did he feel like an oddball with a set of dice.

“I discovered this community.”

Realism

What’s the appeal of Replay? It’s the realism, fans will tell you. It’s about entering into every facet of real baseball. A particular batter’s skills against a lefty. The changing winds of Wrigley Field. A catcher’s passed ball rating. The tendency of a pitcher to tire through the innings.

Replay came into being in 1973 when a couple of players were looking for a better baseball game. They produced a set of cards for each player in the majors from the 1972 season.

The chief difference between Replay and other games was a unique interplay between the skills of the batter and those of the pitcher.

As the seasons progressed, the system was fine-tuned and additional factors were added, such as fielders’ ratings for range, arm and error percentage; pitchers’ ratings for holding batters on base and for throwing wild pitches.

Each players’ card was based on his actual statistics from a particular season of the past.

A roll of the dice determines the outcome of the play which is found on a chart—a fly-out to center field, for example, or a single to right. The dice also determine what happens to any runners on base.

There are several optional rules that can be used, such as a stolen base system or characteristics of major league ball parks in relation to foul territory or home run frequency.

Craig throws six dice at once rather than re-throw just three if needed for the options that he uses.

Anything to speed the game along. Some players claim they finish up a contest in 15 to 20 minutes. For Craig, 30 to 40 minutes is more the norm.replay.cards

Before his wife, Lorraine, retired from teaching, he often got a game in while she showered in the morning. He didn’t want his play to disrupt family life. Now, when she heads to the computer for e-mail, he’ll often get out the dice and cards.

The basic Replay game comes with only two teams, but fans of the game buy season packages. A new set will be available in January to cover the 2007 season. One older season will also be released.

“I think the vast majority of their business is done with recent seasons,” Craig said. “It’s fresh in people’s minds.”

He owns several of the older sets from his favorite era—the 1960s to the 1980s.

Many Replay fans are involved in leagues. In larger cities with several players, they often get together to play face-to-face. For Craig, it’s a matter of playing a game alone and reporting the outcome.

Cooperative leagues are formed to play a mini-schedule with as few as 16 games per team. Craig is currently involved in a league using players from the 1971 season. The person in charge—the commissioner—assigns pitchers and each participant chooses a lineup for the game.

Who plays this game?

Craig met a few players over the summer when he attended a Replay convention in Pittsburgh.

One of the most interesting parts of the convention was simply watching how other people played the game, Craig said. Everyone had a slightly different twist after playing alone at home.

“It’s as varied as the individual.”

He found a wide range of careers and backgrounds among the players, and learned they’re mostly male and age 35 and older.

The common thread running through everyone is a fanatical devotion to major league baseball.

“Many of us thought we were lone wolves and no one else was involved,” he said.

That changed with the growing popularity of the internet. That’s when communities began to form.

Few players come from the younger generation and that concerns many Replay aficionados in regard to the game’s future.

“We all started as kids,” Craig said. “As a youth, there were few televised games. We listened mostly on the radio and you visualized the game in your mind. And that’s what you do with Replay.”

Not to worry, says his son, Vance. He sees a lot of similarities with fantasy baseball.

”I have no interest in fantasy baseball,” Craig says, “and Vance has no interest in simulation baseball.”

They can talk baseball, but they can’t play it together.

Vance would like to see an electronic version, perhaps one where a player punches in the numbers from the dice rather than looking up the results on a chart.

Work has begun on a computer software version, and that would offer a feature that appeals to Craig—let the computer tabulate statistics.

What kind of person would spend time replaying baseball games?

Craig is a little concerned about people asking that question.

“I’m reluctant to tell people about it because they might think I’m a little weird,” he said.

But it’s just a game and lots of people play games of one sort or another.

For Craig it’s occasional entertainment. It’s nothing like the guy from the United Kingdom who got hooked on Replay and adopted the Minnesota Twins—and plays an entire season of Twins games.

It’s just a great way for a baseball fanatic to spend a few minutes with his favorite pastime.

“It’s a hobby that’s not for everybody, but I find it relaxing,” Craig said. “It allows you to tune out from the world for a few minutes.”

Mickey Lolich’s wild pitch led to Chicago’s Tommy McGraw taking second base and drawing a throw from Tiger catcher Bill Freehan.

It’s all there in the throw of the dice.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016