I met John Kalous for the first time at the Prairieland APBA Tournament in April. He and I talked a bit about the upcoming APBA National Convention so I knew he was planning to attend. We touched base again last week and he agreed to provide APBA Blog readers a wrap-up of the convention which took place last weekend.
Without further ado, here’s John Kalous’ recap of his experience at this year’s convention. -Tom
2016 marked my 13th straight National APBA Convention, and every year the Convention keeps getting better. Back in 2004, my first Convention, I arrived on Friday evening, just in time to check in, enjoy the Friday night dinner and the tournament rules discussion. These days, I come in on Thursday afternoon to have a chance to reunite with all my friends….Friday is now packed with lots of things to do (APBA GO, Trip to APBA HQ, Home Run Derby, Q&A with APBA owner John Herson, watching the hockey tournament semi-finals and finals, watching the football tournament semi-finals and finals, Friday night dinner and the tournament rules discussion).
We were formally introduced to APBA GO this year. APBA GO is the basic game on the computer. It’s due to be released in a few weeks. I had the opportunity to play a few games and was fairly impressed. The game play is smooth and you still get the cards/dice feel. We used 2015 teams, and played opponents head-to-head. My understanding is that there will be a micromanager if you wish to play solo, but we did not test that this past weekend. This seems to be a great opportunity for league players to play games head-to-head even if they live in different parts of the country. However, we did not see a "league play" feature this weekend.
For the third straight year, I participated in the APBA Home Run Derby. I believe we had 34 participants this year. For those that haven’t played the Home Run Derby, it’s a great head-to-head game. You roll the dice on the players’ card and look at the Home Run Derby Chart, which is on the back of the playing field that comes with the APBA baseball game. 1’s are always home runs. 30’s and 31’s and 12 are homers for most right handed hitters, while 32’s, 31’s and 35 are homer for the lefties. 13’s and 14’s are re-rolls. So the strategy in picking a player to use is a guy with lots of power who walks a lot or strikes out a lot. I used 1936 Lou Gehrig. I also used Lou in the inaugural Home Run Derby in 2014, where we lost in the finals to 1953 Ted Williams (after beating someone else who had 1953 Ted Williams in the semi-finals). This year Lou lost in the first round to 1950 Ted Williams, 15-12. I had an 11-3 lead after four innings, but then went ice cold with the dice and only had one homer the rest of the game. My opponent, Chuck Walker, proceeded to lose in the next round. 1998 Mark McGwire, under the skillful watch of Convention newcomer Ken Wyks won the Derby this year, out homering 2001 Barry Bonds! The prize for winning….a full size Louisville Slugger bat engraved with your name on it, which is probably the best prize APBA offers all weekend.
For the first time, APBA offered a football tournament at the Convention. Four coaches participated using the 2015 conference championship teams. Ray Dunlop (2015 Broncos) lost to Greg Wells (2015 Patriots) on Thursday night, while Greg Barath (2015 Panthers) easily dispatched Mike Harlow (2015 Packers). The finals were played on Friday afternoon and Greg Wells led New England to victory!
Also for the first time APBA offered a hockey tournament, with the semi-finals and finals played at the Convention. This was an 8-team tournament coordinated by Steve Skoff. The first round games were played head-to-head, or via Skype or Facetime over the first few months of the year. The finals came down to Chuck Sorce and his 79-80 New York Islanders against the high powered offense of Steve Skoff’s 83-84 Edmonton Oilers. True to form the Oilers won game one 7-1. But the Islanders struck back and took game two, 6-5 in overtime. That set up the deciding Game Three in which Steve Skoff got the overtime winner from, no, not Gretzsky, Kurri, Messier or any of the other great scorers on that team, but from fourth line player Don Jackson! What an exciting series! This is the second straight year that I have come away from the Convention very impressed with the APBA Hockey game. Instead of watching the Hockey Tournament at next year’s Convention, I plan to play in the tournament as I purchased the game and the 15-16 cardset (Go Blues!).
One of my favorite things to do at the annual Convention is to visit the APBA store. Normally, we mill around the APBA warehouse, where all the cards and games are stored, or hang out in the main lobby area and peruse owner John Herson’s sports library (it is vast! I thought I had a lot of sports books, but John’s library puts mine to shame!) Usually I buy one or two items and this year was no exception as I picked up the Hockey Game and the 2015-16 hockey cards. I wanted to pick up the 1978 baseball season, but alas, they are currently out of stock.
After dinner on Friday is the presentation of the newest APBA Hall of Famers. This year, Greg Wells was the emcee and he welcomed in Ray Dunlop, Greg Barath, and John Herson. Ray submitted many articles on baseball and football to the APBA Journal through the years and he has become a football ambassador. Last year he led a discussion on the football game. From the basics of how to play the game to more advanced options that he has developed over the years. Greg Barath is another football ambassador who has developed and shared many innovations for the football game with the APBA community. He has a website (oguard62.com) and you can also follow him on Twitter (@OGuard62) as he posts results of his many replays. John Herson has owned the APBA Game Company for a number of years and probably saved it from bankruptcy. He has expanded the number of products APBA produces and has made the National Convention much more than just a baseball tournament. Having had the pleasure of meeting all three of these gentlemen and seeing their work over the years, I don’t think we could have asked for a better HOF class.
Of course, the main event of the Convention is the baseball tournament on Saturday. 50 teams participated in this year’s tournament. As I did at the Prairieland Tournament, I brought the 2015 Houston Astros. Unfortunately, I did not roll well for them at this event and finished a disappointing 4-6, losing one game to the 1962 Mets and barely avoiding getting swept by them. I almost always lose to the 62 Mets. I think this is the third time I’ve lost to them….and I once lost to the 1969 Seattle Pilots in the APBA tournament (the same guy, Michael Davidson, brings a crappy team to the tournament every year). Of course, the eventual division winner, Greg Wells and the 1990 Oakland A’s also lost one game to the 1962 Mets, so I can take some solace in that fact.
The eight division winners were:
John Cody – 2005 Houston Astros (I’ve used this team a few times and didn’t do well with them)
Chuck Sorce – 1961 New York Yankees
Roy Langhans – 1985 St. Louis Cardinals (another team I’ve brought a few times, lost in tiebreakers for the division title at least once)
Nick Braccia – 1957 New York Yankees
Bill Blair – 1970 Baltimore Orioles
Greg Wells – 1990 Oakland Athletics
Jack Dolan – 1970 Baltimore Orioles
Steve Ryan – 1998 Atlanta Braves
John Cody, Roy Langhans, Greg Wells and Steve Ryan advanced to the semi-finals on Sunday. Steve Ryan dispatched Greg Wells in two games to advance to the finals. Langhans barely beat out John Cody, 2 games to 1 for the other spot. I must say John Cody was hilarious rolling for the Astros. Before almost every roll he is talking to his cards, exhorting them to do great things, or singing to them (BE-G-O, BE-G-O, I almost felt like I was in the Astrodome or Minute Maid Park!) Langhans then bested Ryan for the title. Roy has been to, I believe, every APBA Convention, going all the way back to the first one in 1973. This was his first championship in all those years! He’s a truly classy guy and I was very happy to see him finally come out on top!
All in all another great Convention! John Herson has dubbed the Convention a "family reunion", and in a lot of way he is right. It is great to see many of the same faces from year to year, and to welcome new ones. I’m already looking forward to next years event!
Many thanks to John Kalous for his comprehensive summary of the National APBA Convention. Congratulations to tournament winners Steve Skoff, Greg Wells, and Roy Langhans!