Monday, May 18, 2009

Dharma Strat-o-Matic

Fun piece in the NY Times today. Apparently Jack Kerouac was a big fantasy baseball fan. So big and so mysterious about it that even his closest friends like Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs had no clue.

Kerouac created his own game with imaginary teams and players, collected their stats, analyzed their performance and even had contract disputes.

... Kerouac played an early version of the baseball game in his backyard in Lowell, Mass., hitting a marble with a nail, or possibly a toothpick, and noting where it landed. By 1946, when Kerouac was 24, he had devised a set of cards with precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes (“slow roller to ss,” for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, but Mr. Gewirtz thinks that more often Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions. Carefully preserved inside plastic folders at the library, they now look as mysterious as runes.
Very cool. I made up my own game when I was a kid using simple die throws, too. For example, two 3s thrown in succession would result in a home run. I don't remember many of the other combos, but I do recall keeping copious stats. Interestingly enough, home run hitters like Hank Aaron tended to hit more in my game. Other player performances would be similar to real life.

To this day, since I was absent a calculator, I can add and subtract numbers in my head rapidly -- all because of the dice game.

I'll bet Kerouac would have been a hell of a Strat-o-Matic player.