For many baby boomers coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, nothing captivated their leisure attention more than Strat-O-Matic, Hal Richman's sports dice creation.
Young boys played the game and lived vicariously through their heroes - guys like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Joe Namath and Bart Starr.
Strat players made lineups. They rolled dice. They laughed. They cheered. They despaired. All over a board game. And they loved the realistic results.
These boys grew into men, then older men, all the while sharing their passion for Strat-O-Matic with friends, neighbors, sons, daughters, wives and grandchildren.
Along the way, something interesting happened: Strat-O-Matic became more than just a game - It became a highly sought-after collectible.
Glenn Guzzo, author of Strat-O-Matic Fanatics and one of the hobby's foremost Strat aficionados, sees a strong correlation between the game and the collectors who pursue its pieces.
"Strat-O-Matic is collected by people from all walks of life," he said. "These are folks who play, live and dream about sports - and they enjoy having some control over players who made it (as pro athletes). Some Strat-O-Matic collectors just want everything to do with sports that has something to do with their youth."
Strat-O-Matic's conduit to a collector's past is typically rooted in two things: gaming memories and analyzing statistics of favorite players.
"Strat people are people who care about detailed records," Guzzo said.
Each Strat-O-Matic player card is a personal scouting report - the baseball cards, for example, evaluate all things hitting, pitching, fielding, running and stealing. The unofficial Strat collector's mantra is "show me the player ratings." These ratings offer an insider's perspective and are every bit as crucial to the appeal of the cards as the official statistics and dice result columns.
One of the biggest differences between traditional sports card collectors and Strat-O-Matic collectors is that a player's "rookie year" has little relevance to Strat people. Rather, a player's greatest statistical season means everything. Players/collectors, therefore, place the 1981 Mike Schmidt Strat card in the pantheon and his '73 version in mere mortal terrain (though both are desirable to a Schmidt or Phillies collector).
"You're not a collector if you don't want all of something," Guzzo said. "It's all about the hunt, and Strat-O-Matic people have this mentality."
Armed with a mouse and user ID, collectors typically turn to eBay to satisfy their Strat cravings.
EBay is a solid source for locating random Strat-O-Matic needs, but when collectors have more pressing wants, they need to see a specialist. Enter Chris Rosen, whom Guzzo refers to simply as "The Broker."
Rosen has thousands of Strat-O-Matic complete sets and team sets, and, at last count, more than 71,000 loose singles, all organized and compiled on a computer database for easy reference. Want a '66 Bob Uecker? He has four of them. How about a '70 Clemente? Yep. Desperate for an '86 Barry Bonds? No need to panic - Rosen has 52 inventoried.
"I used to worry about eBay," Rosen said, "but now I embrace it."
To date, Rosen does not list on the site. He doesn't need to, as collectors frustrated by the bidding pitfalls and the waiting game often come calling. Collectors with Strat-O-Matic wish lists should visit Rosen's web page at cards.somworld.com.