I haven't watched a professional baseball game at any level since the late 1990s. For the last twenty years or so I've followed only the amateur game. In April and May I've got my local high school team games. Then for June and July, the 42-game season of my town's NECBL entry, the Sanford Mainers. But not this year (although there is still a slim chance for the NECBL).
My early introduction to tabletop baseball was with abstract games such as Baseball Strategy (Avalon Hill, 1960) and Championship Baseball (Tod Lansing, 1966). These games gave you generic players with a defined set of qualities that affected the outcome of each play.
To me the fascination of baseball is in the process of the game - how the three primary skills of the game - hitting, pitching, defense - effect the outcome. Baseball is one of the few complex human activities where just about everything that happens is statistically analysed. This is called sabermetrics, pioneered by analysts such as Bill James (I was an avid reader of Jame's Baseball Abstract books).
The major tabletop baseball games based strictly on statistical performance are of little interest to me beyond the mathematical modeling perspective. And since the abstract games (with generic players) don't hold much appeal without a live opponent, I neglected tabletop baseball for many years.
Then I came across History Maker Baseball (PLAAY Games, 2013) that occupies the middle ground between the purely stat-based games, and the purely abstract. In HMB there are individual named players, but instead of being designed to produce a particular set of statistics, they are given performance qualities to reflect on-field performance. In addition, there are abstract influences: hot and cold streaks, clubhouse mood, umpires, and of course ballpark effects. This is the game that brought me back to tabletop baseball. It is solitaire-friendly and offers an engaging narrative if you are playing a season.
A blast from the past
HMB gives you the guidelines for creating players of your own, translating traditional baseball stats to HMB player qualities. Consequently, there is a long list of free-to-download fan-created seasons. The one that especially interests me is the 1970 International League. As a teenager I followed this league avidly (my team was the Columbus Jets, the AAA team of the Pirates). When I looked over the player cards created for this HMB set I was amazed at how many player names came back to me from 50 years ago.
1970 IL had eight teams: Buffalo, Toledo, Columbus, Richmond, Syracuse, Norfolk, Louisville, and Rochester. It was the final year of the Columbus Jets (who moved to Charleston). It was also the year that the Buffalo Bisons finally abandoned War Memorial Statium and moved to Winnipeg in mid-season (think of those bus trips).
Coincidentally, I just happened to search "Columbus Jets" on ebay during this discovery process and found a 1970 media guide for the Jets. It has the schedule, player profiles, team records, and tidbits about the other teams in the league.
So now that I have the game engine, the player cards, and the historic schedule, I'm starting a replay of the the 1970 Columbus Jets season in HMB as a substitute for real baseball in 2020. But rather than print and play all those cards, I scanned them as images and created a VASSAL module for ease of play.
The vmod file contains a Main Map showing the playing area: the opposing pitchers, the two batting orders, the ballpark card and the umpires. Image shows the module using the Variant-66 lineups.
There are two other Map windows, one for each team's dugout and bullpen.
The only other component in the vmod is the graphical dice roller: black, red, blue, and decider die.
The module is used only as virtual stand-ins for the cards and dice. You will still use the HMB Game Action Booklet to look up results. Consequently there are no graphics in the module because they are not needed.
All of the actual card images (players, umpires and ballparks for the entire league) are in a vmdx extension file. So if I ever want to play another league, I can just create another extension for it without effecting the base module.
Scoring and Stats
There is no provision in the module for keeping score of the game. For this I will simply use a paper score sheet, as I would at the ballpark or watching on TV. These will be compiled in the free scoring programs Ballstat and Ballscore, which automatically compile the stats as you go along.