If you didn’t play Fantasy Baseball before the Internet, the historical concept of 1980’s Rotisserie Baseball might be slightly hazy. For the Old Duck, it is an era filled with the best memories one could imagine
In March of 1981, I read an article in Inside Sports magazine titled “The Year George Foster Wasn’t Worth $36”. It was written by Dan Okrent and was one of the first references to “Rotisserie” (Fantasy) Baseball. By 1984, the originators of the game (including Okrent and Glen Waggoner) published the first edition of “Rotisserie League Baseball”. Upon seeing the book, the ’81 article came to mind and I couldn’t wait to consume the details of this fascinating hobby. After reading the entire book in one sitting, I got on the phone and called numerous baseball-loving friends with the following challenge – “Go buy this book and tell me if you’re in”. Within 48 hours, the “Bowling League of Rotisserie Baseball” was born. Why bowling? Well, almost everyone in the group (including me) worked in the bowling industry…owners, executives, managers, sales reps and the like. We used a coin flip to decide which league we’d utilize and the NL won out.
So there we sat in the Spring of ’84, ten guys who were baseball fans but didn’t have a clue about this new game other than the minimal strategies talked about in the book. No Internet, no Fantasy magazines, no Sabrmetrics and no Rotisserie Gurus. Our main resource was the Sporting News and its Baseball Register publication. I chose Donald’s Ducks for my team name and we went boldly where no fan had gone before.
As we prepare for the 37th annual auction Draft on March 28th (I’m still the Commissioner), it might be fun to look back at that 1984 Draft and critique my team. Yes, our squads were comprised of 14 offensive players and 9 pitchers with a budget of $260. Here are the members of the Ducks in the order they were chosen…
#1 – Lonnie Smith, OF, $28 – In 1983, he provided an outstanding season with a .321 BA and 43 SB’s and even though he dropped to .250 in ’84, his 50 SB’s helped the team finish 2nd in that category.
#2 – Dale Berra, SS, $17 – The first of many bad decisions, he hit .222 with 9 HR’s.
#3 – Gary Carter, C, $40 – We all seemed to figure out the scarcity of this position and paid through the nose for backstops. Carter had 106 RBI’s and won the Silver Slugger award. Other notable Catchers on Draft day included Jody Davis ($37), Terry Kennedy ($33) & Tony Pena ($32).
#4 – Leon Durham, 1B, $16 – 23 HR’s, 96 RBI’s & 16 SB’s…not bad.
#5 – Ken Oberkfell, 2B, $11 – Traded by the Cardinals to the Braves, he played just 100 games and hit only 1 HR.
#6 – Mike Madden, P, $7 – Started 7 games for the Astros with a 5.53 ERA.
#7 – Steve Carlton, P, $13 – The Hall-of-Famer was past his prime at age 39, but posted 13 Wins with a 3.58 ERA…and pitched 229 innings.
#8 – Mike Marshall, 1B, $15 – We were based in Southern California, so this was somewhat of a “home town” Dodger pick. He did hit 21 HR’s and made the All-Star team. He also dated Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s, but there wasn’t a stat category for that.
#9 – Tim Wallach, 3B, $12 – Became the Expos All-Star representative with a productive season that included 18 HR’s & 72 RBI’s.
#10 – David Green, OF, $15 – Seemed like a good sleeper pick, as he swiped 34 bases in ’83 as a 22 year-old. Dipped to 17 SB’s in ’84 and was out of the majors by 1986.
#11 – Dave Concepcion, SS, $5 – Didn’t have much left at age 36….245 BA with 4 HR’s.
#12 – Alan Ashby, C, $9 – The back-up Catcher for the Astros, his 4 HR’s & 27 RBI’s didn’t help much.
#13 – Doug Frobel, OF, $4 – ’84 was his best season, but that isn’t saying much….203 BA, 12 HR’s & 28 RBI’s for the Pirates.
# 14 – Lee Smith, P, $21 – We figured out that Closers were essential in a 4×4 format, he gave the Ducks 9 Wins & 33 Saves.
#15 -Jerry Mumphrey, OF, $4 – His best season, as he represented the Astros at the All-Star Game. .290, 9 HR’s, 83 RBI’s & 15 SB’s
#16 – Terry Francona, 1B, $3 – The future skipper was on the DL more times than seemed humanly possible…had 214 AB’s for the Expos with a .346 BA.
#17 – Tony Gwynn, OF, $5 – Very seldom do you have the good fortune to get a future Hall of Famer in the end-game of the Draft. He played 86 games for the Padres in ’83 and hit .309, but no one expected him to lead the league in ’84 with a .351 BA. Finished 3rd in the MVP voting.
#18 – Mike Krukow, P, $7 – The lanky RH won 11 Games for the Giants, but had an ERA of 4.78 and led the NL in hits allowed.
#19 – Cecilio Guante, P, $2 – 2 Wins & 2 Saves with a 2.61 ERA, but only pitched 41 innings.
#20 – Charles Hudson, P, $3 – Had 9 Wins and a 4.04 ERA in 30 starts for the Phillies.
#21 – Bill Scherrer, P, $3 – Traded during the season, he only pitched 71 innings and had 2 Wins.
#22 – Lee Tunnell, P, $2 – Was 11-6 in ’83 for the Bucs…went 1-7 with a 5.27 ERA for the Ducks.
#23 – Bryn Smith, P, $2 – Maybe the best of this hodge-podge group of end-game hurlers, he started 28 games, won 11 and contributed a 3.32 ERA.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why this wasn’t a championship squad. The most glaring mistake (and one that all Fantasy players have made), was leaving $16 on the table. In other words, the Ducks had the most money toward the end, but no decent players to spend it on. To a large extent, this was due to waiting so long to roster pitching. The last six picks were Pitchers and the good ones were long gone.
In addition to the wasted $16, the Ducks did a lousy job of money management. Only 25% of the expenditures went for pitching and that led to finishing last in both ERA & RATIO. Amazingly, the team finished in 3rd place overall, but is was 1987 before the franchise actually captured a championship.
For you long-timers, other recognizable names who filtered in and out of the Ducks roster (via trades, waiver claims & FAAB) included John Candelaria, Jeff Reardon, Ed Whitson, Von Hayes, Jerry Royster & Steve Sax.
Memories are made of this.