Up north in the state of Minnesota, Jim Fraasch is a moving force in the APBA community. He’s helped organized the Neil Ess Memorial Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournaments which is going on its fifth one next April. Jim is also author of a new APBA-related blog called Jim’s APBA Barn.
And as I found out during the process of interviewing him, Jim Fraasch is an all right guy. As is common with the APBA Fan Profiles I do, Jim and I connected and found common bonds in APBA and baseball.
Enough with the intro, here is what you should know about Jim Fraasch.
The APBA Blog: Tell the APBA fans out there about Jim Fraasch when he isn’t playing APBA.
Jim Fraasch: I was born in 1966, and grew up in Minnetonka, MN. My father worked for Honeywell as an Aeronautical Engineer, and my mother was busy raising 5 kids, I was the 4th out of 5. 1 brother and 3 sisters. I was the "primary" sports fan in the family. I started following the Twins, Vikings and North Stars as a 7 yr old. 1973 is the first season I can recall for my 3 favorite teams. I was consumed with sports, and I think everyone in my family thought I was going to end up with a career having something to do with sports (not as an athlete). I graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1984. I attended the University of Minnesota, starting in the fall of 1984. My degree was mathematics/statistics. My first job out of college was working for a small research company called Questar Data Systems, starting in 1990. Somehow, I wound up getting into computer programming, and went to work for United HealthCare in 1994 and finally my current company, HealthPartners, in 1997. I still work at HealthPartners, in the IS&T department. The HealthPartners corporate office is located in Bloomington, MN, just a mile east of the Mall of America, the former site of Metropolitan Stadium. The office building used to be Control Data Corporation, as the building went up in 1972. It is seen in many Metropolitan Stadium photos and videos, from years gone by. I often wonder what it was like back in the day, if you worked at the Control Data Corp building, and the Twins had an afternoon game. Could you have seen any of the action from the top floors at Control Data, as it is a 14-story building. You would have been looking into Metropolitan Stadium from over the LF bleacher seats. (see old Met photo, the office building is the glass building just off of the upper left corner of the LF bleachers).
My family consists of my wife and 3 children. My wife and I married in 1992. My 2 oldest children are in college, with the oldest son in his Junior year at his university, and my daughter a sophomore at her university. My youngest is my 2nd son, and he is in the 7th grade.
I’ve coached several years of youth baseball, for each of my 2 sons. My daughter plays soccer, and I was of no help, except for support for her sport ;) She is still playing D1 college soccer today. My oldest son still plays summer townball in Minnesota, for the local Prior Lake Jays team. And my younger son is in the middle of his travel-ball career.
As my kids are getting older, I am finding I have much more time to devote to my hobby, which of course, happens to be baseball. Somehow, my wife puts up with my baseball hobby. In several ways, she actually supports my choice of hobby as she knows I am passionate about the sport.
The APBA Blog: What is your “APBA story”? How did you find out about the game and what kept you involved in playing it?
Jim Fraasch: During the summer of ’78, I was already a die-hard baseball fan as a 12 yr old. I was collecting Topps Baseball cards, watching the NBC Game of the Week on Saturday’s and ABC’s Monday Night Baseball. When the games were not on TV, I was reading any MLB publication I could get my hands on. So as the summer wore on, I was busy responding to the APBA Baseball and Strat-O-Matic Baseball ads found in those baseball publications. You needed to cut out the ad, and send in your name and address for a free "no-obligation" game brochure. The full color brochures were a thing of beauty. The Strat brochure was full of details, on what the game was an how to play it. The APBA brochure was even more colorful, and again, all of the game details were included along with 2 sample cards. My APBA brochure included the 1977 Rod Carew and Mike Schmidt cards. The brochure featured the 1977 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers. I read the testimonials over and over. I believe at the time, both APBA and SOM Baseball games sold for $14.95. For whatever reason, I decided on APBA and finally convinced my dad to send in a check for $14.95 (I think I paid him my lawn mowing money). About 10 days later the game arrived. It was the middle of August, and I was hooked on APBA Baseball.
The game came with the 1977 season set, featuring my Minnesota Twins and all their hitting. Rod Carew hit .388 in 1977, so one impulse was to replay the Twins season to see how close Rod Carew could get to .400. I never did finish that project … perhaps in the years to come. I recall the first game I rolled was the Dodgers vs the Reds. I do not recall the outcome. I sure wish I still had that scoresheet, or any of the scoresheets from my APBA playing as a youth. My APBA life was typical where I stuck with it until I graduated from High School. When I left for college (I attended the University of Minnesota) I gave up playing the game. And other than picking up a few sets while still in college (like after the ’87 Twins won the World Series and the 1961R set when it was released in 1988) I really was not playing much APBA.
I met my wife to be in 1990 and we married in 1992. In 1993, after purchasing my first home PC at a Best Buy store, I stumbled upon "APBA Baseball for Windows" located in a computer game bin at Best Buy. I think I paid $9.95 for it. It was BBW 1.0. I became hooked, and this is really what started me back on the APBA gaming hobby. I re-subscribed to the APBA Journal in 1995, and devoured it cover-to-cover as I had back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Fast-forward to the year 2000, I was starting to get the itch for the APBA cards again. I went through a box I had kept during 2 moves from the home I grew up in, in 1990. The box contained my original APBA Baseball game from 1978, my 1977 season set, the 1973 set, the OFAS set and my GTOP collection. I decided I needed to start purchasing old APBA sets again, and soon discovered Ebay. I also discovered the APBA BTL Delphi forum. Roy Langhans was one of the first people that reached out to me, when I was looking for old sets and a few old GTOP. Roy was not really a stranger to me, as I recalled his few appearances in the APBA Journal from the 1970’s.
My finished basement today, has a separate "office" which I use as my "baseball room". Roy Langhans stopped over for a visit back in 2004, when he was "vacationing" in Minneapolis. We rolled one of his Game of the Day’s. I was the ’65 Twins, he had the ’67 Cardinals. This GoD game vs Roy Langhans is one of the highlights of my APBA career ;)
I’ve also had the pleasure of having Kevin Cluff over to my home. We live about 20 minutes from each other.
My passion for baseball has kept me going with APBA. Not to mention all of the great people who are involved with APBA sports games. I made my first visit out to Cooperstown this past summer (top photo). What an amazing place. APBA just provides another avenue to expand on the history of baseball. I am a self-proclaimed Baseball Historian. However, I think I can only really justify that if I take the time to become involved with SABR someday.
The APBA Blog: I’ve found that everybody plays APBA a little differently. When you get set to play a game of APBA baseball, what kind of setup are we actually looking at? Any superstitions when it comes to APBA?
Jim Fraasch: My setup is pretty basic, although I appreciate visuals so I do add a few items to bring some "color" to the games. The required items are: Current Basic Game booklet, and Master Game booklet, for the Rare Play Boards. The APBA Journal "Error Distribution Card" and "Unusual Play Card" for rerolls. Scoresheet (custom scoresheet, modeled after old AJ scoresheets, with actual lineups pre-printed). Pen. Dice.
For the extras, as an example, I am currently replaying the 1965 MLB season. 20 teams. For each team I have printed custom envelopes, with their 1965 logo on each envelope. I use the basic envelope from APBA Game Co to hold each team’s XC players or other players that are not currently on the 25-man roster at the time, or if a player has already been used in his total number of games for the replay, he goes into this basic envelope. The players who are "active" for the game, are in the custom printed envelope. Also, I have printed out each team’s 1965 uniform, which are available here.
After printing each team, I cut them out, and place the home version back-to-back with the away version, and then place these into a protective baseball card sleeve (the thicker plastic ones). For each team, I just flip the card holder to whatever version of the uniform the team would be wearing that day. So, when the Dodgers are playing at the Cubs, I have the away uniform for the Dodgers showing vs the home uniform for the Cubs.
Besides the envelopes and the uniform being displayed during my games, everything else is pretty basic. Because I am following actual lineups for my 1965 replay, I do have each team’s substitution tendencies from Ron Bernier’s Replay Guides, printed out for each team. Although I do not follow the subs from game to game, it does allow me to use the subs in a manner that they were actually used during the 1965 season. Same with the relief pitchers.
I roll the majority of my games in my baseball room. However, I have rolled a few games outside on my backyard deck during the summer. My goal is to roll a complete APBA Saddle Racing game race outside on my deck. Next summer I guess, on a day that is not too windy ;)
I really do not have any superstitions about doing something a certain way for my APBA games. I do like my dice to be shaken thoroughly. I use a foam beer coozie, as my "cup". These are large enough to allow the dice to roll around for some good "mixing". I use a dice tower, and I have since purchased one of George Adams beautiful ballparks. He created Metropolitan Stadium, circa 1965 for me. But I only use the park when the ’65 Twins are at home. For all of my other 1965 games, I am still rolling the dice into my dice tower. (Attached picture of dice tower, and Met Stadium).
Rapid Fire Questions with Jim!!
Hockey fan or no?
Yes! Minnesota Wild, and I really miss the Minnesota North Stars.
Being a Twins fan, did you root for the AL team or against the hated Royals?
I rooted big-time for the Royals … love their formula for success!
All-time favorite Twins player?
Might be the obvious choice, but I cannot place anyone above Harmon Killebrew. The sad thing for me is, I was only 9 when he retired (as a Royal which broke my young heart). I managed to get his autograph on his 1965 APBA card at the Mall of America in 2000. He signed the card and an 8×10 which hangs in my baseball room, and he asked me how he was hitting. Killer is one of the former Major Leaguers who played APBA Baseball.
You get to go back in time and attend a game at a stadium no longer in existence. Which do you choose?
Too difficult to say one park, so I will say 3 parks ;) …. #1 Ebbets Field, #2 League Park in Cleveland, #3 Municipal Park in KC to watch the Monarchs.
Which baseball broadcaster do you turn the volume down for?
In the late 80’s early 90’s I would have said Hawk Harrelson, but today, I sort of appreciate him.
The APBA Blog: Congratulations on organizing a fourth successful Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournament. What rewards do you reap from doing that?
Jim Fraasch: The TCABT came to be because Bruce Tyler organized a lunch in the Twin Cities, and 6 of us attended. Those 6 are: Bruce Tyler, Leroy Arnoldi, Neil Ess, Darrell Skogen, Kevin Cluff and myself. The other motivating factor to start a Twin Cities tournament was The Chicagoland Tourney, thanks to Doug Schuyler and Jim Saska, who got that tourney off the ground. The 6 of us original TCABT guys realized that we could probably get 8-10 guys to come out for a tournament, so why not give it a try. We laid out our initial tourney ground rules at one of our O’Gara’s lunches. We wanted to keep it basic, but add some of our own rules too.
TCABT-IV group photo
We had 13 guys for that first tourney, held in April of 2014. The best thing about having the group photo from TCABT-I is that Neil Ess is in the group photo. As I have written about before, he tragically passed away during a fishing trip in Canada, during the summer of 2014, in between our TCABT-I and TCABT-II. We named our tournament after Neil, heading into the October 2014 tourney. For some reason, that Saturday in October caught many of the guys who had planned to make it, with too many plans of their own, so we only had 8 for the 2nd TCABT.
The 3rd TCABT was held in April of 2015. This is where our numbers started to grow. We ended up with 15 participating in TCABT-III. Curt and Andy Bartel from Wisconsin were a big hit, as son Andy won our tourney with the 1902 Pirates. One of the best things about TCABT is the number of out-of-state guys who make the drive to roll in our tourney.
The long distance travelers to our tournament include:
- Jeff Boeding from Platte City, MO (4 of the 4)
- Craig Christian from Eau Claire, WI (3 of the 4)
- Curt and Andy Bartell from Oconomowoc, WI (1 of the 4)
- Eric Berg from Jacksonville, IL (2 of the 4)
- Ron Emch from Toledo, OH (1 of the 4)
- George Adams from Kansas City, MO (1 of the 4)
- Bill Lilley from Akron, OH (1 of the 4)
Also traveling great distances from within the state of Minnesota, we have had brothers Beau and Ben Lofgren from Hawley, MN (at least a 3-hour drive). Paul Van Beek from Winona, MN (I think a 3 hour drive). And Roger Parsons from Two Harbors, MN (near Duluth, another 3+ hour drive).
Most or all of these folks plan to make it back next April for TCABT-V. Our ultimate goal would be to get to 32 entrants. We ended up with 23 entrants this past October, which was our highest turn-out, but we also had 5 guys who had to drop out, so we were at 28 at one point.
The tournaments have been the best way to get to meet other APBA enthusiasts, and I really appreciate each of those friendships. I plan to make some of the other “regional” tournaments, at least around the Midwest. My schedule is busier in the summer months when my now 7th grader is playing baseball, so it does make it difficult to plan a trip during the spring/summer. I plan to make the official APBA Tournament down in Georgia as well one of these years, but the June weekend for me is always problematic.
My advice to anyone who has not taken in one of the regional APBA tournaments…find one you can commit to, and try it out. You will have a great time, guaranteed.
The APBA Blog: If you were owner of the APBA Game Company and you could change one aspect of APBA or the APBA Baseball Game, what would it be?
Jim Fraasch: Well, Mr. John Herson has kept APBA Game Co, alive and hopefully thriving, based on making every APBA Baseball set available again, and by introducing new non-baseball product, such as APBA Soccer and "redesigning" each of the games. He really has done a terrific job. I think John has done what most of us would have asked for.
Beyond what John has already done, that is a tough one. But here is one item I would like to see produced. Re-release the original APBA Baseball game in its original format, as a collector’s edition game. Since the game would be a "Collector’s Edition", it would not take any value away from the actual original APBA Baseball game or original 1950 Season cards sets. The player cards would have today’s copyright year on them. But you could make the cards, with the same data and play result numbers, same font, same 20-man rosters, for all 16 teams. The game boards could be made as they existed in 1951, which I believe was 2 larger base situation boards, where 2 base situations were covered on each side of the boards, thus only 2 boards with all 8 situations covered. I know Strat-O-Matic issued a collector’s edition game based on its 1961 season, maybe in 2011 for their 50th year?
I would also like to see the APBA Saddle Racing game re-introduced. Re-design it like you have the other APBA games. Based on what prices are for APBA Saddle Racing product on Ebay right now, I think you would have enough sales of a new game to make it worth producing again. Re-issue the old seasons covering 1969 to 1987. Re-issue the All-Time Great horses. And begin issuing current horse racing seasons starting with 2015, featuring Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. I’m sure this sounds a lot easier than it is.
Herson seems to have APBA on the right track. I get the feeling it is more popular today that it has been compared to the last 20 years.
I want to thank Jim Fraasch for answering these questions in such detail. Jim told me he hated to write as a kid. I think he’s making up for it as an adult. Nicely done, Jim!!