A few months ago, I started seeing links to Shawn Baier’s blog, “The Boys of Summer”, pop up every few days on Facebook. Now, I make a point of visiting there often. Shawn has been a lifetime baseball fan and as well as a lifetime APBA fan, too. Among other things, Shawn writes about his APBA projects in fantastic detail on his site.
I decided to ask Shawn a few questions about what it is he likes about baseball, APBA and what motivates him to tell fans about the respective games. Fortunately for all of us, he agreed.
The APBA Blog: Shawn, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Shawn Baier: First off I just want to thank you for this wonderful opportunity, I have been following your blog for over a year now, and I just love it. So thanks a lot, I never get sick and tired of talking about APBA Baseball or Baseball in general, and I am so happy to share my love for the game.
I am 36 years old (Born in Pontiac, Michigan). I am the oldest of four, two brothers – Jared (34) and Chris (25), and my sister Sara is 27. I grew up in Waterford, MI until I was almost 15 years old, I would have went to Waterford Kettering High School if we stayed there, the same high school my dad graduated with the one and only Kirk Gibson. We moved up north to the Traverse City region in which I currently reside – The Cherry Capital of the World, a booming town on Lake Michigan that hosts the National Cherry Festival.
I would go on to serve in the United States Navy from 1996 to 2000, spending three of those years in Augusta, Georgia. I had a security clearance in which I worked with Top Secret information, working in Cryptology (working for NSA) pretty impressive stuff, a very interesting experience.
I’m a natural-born artist, God gave me the ability to draw, I just never went to college and pursued a career in Commercial Art, from what I understand it’s a tough field. I have drawn up some baseball logos for leagues in the past, so it does come in handy.
I work as a overnights as a maintenance guy for a family that owns all six Burger Kings in T.C. (it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it); – plus the pay is pretty good for someone that never went to College.
I’m happily, married to my beautiful wife Becky. She is my best friend, loves my passions and loves letting me be myself — we are now approaching 7 years of marriage coming in October. We have no kids, and have been trying from the beginning, if it’s meant to be – they will probably grow up to be little APBA fanatics.
My favorite two baseball teams are the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves.
TAB: Also, tell us about your “APBA Life”. When did you start playing? What APBA games have you played?
SB: I can’t exactly say when APBA came into my life, as long as I can remember, it has always been there. My dad was in a league of about 20 people or so, they would get together and all be huddled around the kitchen table with their beer, rolling dice while listening to one of my dad’s 2,000 records — Listening to the likes of Elvis Costello, XTC, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones or whoever, it’s also safe to say where I got my music taste from. But I remember it as clear as day, the excitement alone, I remember as early as 3 years of age, seeing those white cards for the very first time with the red print, there was just something special about them from the get-go. I knew in some weird way, I would be doing the same thing one day.
I also remember my dad splitting his team in half evenly, and had me and my brother Jared play each other in APBA. My dad had an excellent team then (His team’s name was the St. Louis Cardinals), and would go to the World Series three consecutive years, he won it with the 1987 edition cards, in which he practically had a who’s who of 1987 MLB Season. He also spoke that one of the other World Series could have went his way, but his die rolled too far and fell off the table, he was pretty sure it was going to be a 66, in which it would have been a walk-off, instead it was a Game 6 victory for his friend that would also lead to a Game 7 victory as well. How things can change with one roll. They actually had this cool looking trophy with a batter in the middle (name plates of champion & teams below) with a big giant red die on the left, and a big white die on the right (of course 66, facing up)
I got my first APBA set in 1992 on my Birthday at age 16, the 1991 APBA Baseball Season – I started a APBA League with a few high school buddies, in which we played a 80-game season. It was fun, there was only 5 of us, with 2 teams each. But we all know how consistency goes when it comes to high school life, so I played the “League” for a few years, and then it went kaput. Plus a word to you young kids out there, never add a member into the league who happens to be a high school bully – we eventually kicked the guy out, while he tried to kick our butts (LOL!).
During my time at Pensacola, FL (summer of 1996) for my ‘A’ school training in the service, I ended up buying the 1995 Season, in which I got two of my friends playing games with me. My dad happened to photo copy the big playing boards on to sheets of paper and send them to me. I remember my friend Joe bugging me to bust out a game of APBA, when we had to leave in like 25 minutes for formation, to go march to school. Thank goodness, it was a pitcher’s duel!
By the time I got to Ft. Gordon in Augusta, GA – I hit it off with another command newbie in my soon-to-be best friend Neil, we started talking baseball, in which I explained the game of APBA to him, once we played, he enjoyed it very much. He had a computer and when we started talking about the possibilities of a Baseball for Windows league, we got really excited about it. We would eventually start the IGAL, led by our friend Jeff (the commissioner) and we all sat in this hot room, 10 of us when we started it out, and would do our draft. I would go on to win five IGAL titles, The league lasted from 1998 to 2009 – My brother Jared would join in 2003 or so, and we all kept it going for some time, but then we had computer problems, people going off to seas, college, the life of kids & then financial situations. We ended up getting behind, and then debated to catch up or continue. I miss the BBW league, but when it comes to computer APBA & board game APBA, I prefer the board game… It’s so much more fun.
I have played APBA Football, the problem to me, is that the game took way too long to play, and I always wished they had a BBW of Football that was quite similar to that of the windows edition.
TAB: I’m really enjoying your website, “The Boys of Summer”. What prompted you to start that?
SB: The Boys of Summer blog was started as a blog for all things baseball. My wife has been blogging for some time before I started my own; she encouraged me to start one. At first, I didn’t have any direction. I started a Batman-themed blog to post about things in my personal life, my reviews on movies or whatever got me going in pop culture. I enjoyed it, but decided to channel my enjoyment for baseball into its own blog – this became Boys of Summer.
The year was an eventful one for the wife and I, who have for most of our marriage dealt with financial problems. She would lose her job over last summer, it was a long hot summer all across the country, and it also happened to be during an election year. Facebook which used to be my equivalent to a morning paper, became a negative breeding ground – so by the time fall and winter was coming, I found myself releasing negativity in my blog and on facebook as well. I hated it, while our bills and debt kept piling up, I felt myself changing… going into a funk, heading for depression. Becky noticed the difference in my mood.
So during my birthday in October 2012, I bought Volume 1 & 2 of the Greatest Teams of the Past from APBA. I designed a tournament bracket, did all these formulas, took in what all the experts from Tom Verducci to Bob Costas or what not, and came up with a seeding process for the 64 NCAA-styled tournament. Entering December, I found the APBA Baseball Group on Facebook pretty much by accident (just when I was that close to getting rid of FB), that’s when I realized I was not the only one with this APBA sickness (LOL!). Men of all ages, all die-hards and as passionate about the game as I was. Guys who have excellent ideas and wonderful leagues, talking about their season replays & projects. The positivity that came from the group was nothing short of amazing, these guys would become a second family to me, these guys would inspire me to share my APBA Baseball fun as well. We always encourage each other, and are each other’s biggest fans, and that’s when Boys of Summer for me, started to become relevant.
I started posting first on the tournament, which I am still doing by the way (It’s on hold, I just need to buy Volume 3 of the GTOP), and found that people were actually interested in what I had to say. I changed the setup, so it’s easy to navigate for the readers. The wife helped me tweak a few things that she learned along the way. I started doing pages such as ‘My APBA Collection’ and a page on the tournament & etc. I am actually in the works on making a page for my Baseball Books Library, and possibly my Baseball Card collection in the future. The cool thing is that Boys of Summer keeps evolving and it is taking on a life of its own, having a Facebook page for BoS has also helped. I’m also thinking about having a section in which I have a list of APBA Replays that other APBA fans have played & I would use this page to post the final results of their league, or links to their leagues with the results. It would become a data base of season by season, I found reading other people’s replays fascinating, from Kenneth Heard’s 1981 replay to Beau Lofgren’s 1987 replay. My little bro is currently doing the 1962 Season replay. I am also going to have a section for my Izzy Baseball Cards (Custom-made baseball cards) on the site as well. I want Boys of Summer to just become a branch from one tree to another tree (site), keeping our love for APBA connected while trying to inspire other people in their leagues, or for the people that have no idea what APBA is, and get them acquainted to fall in love with APBA Baseball as well.
Rapid Fire Questions with Shawn Baier
If baseball was never invented, what sport would you follow most?
“Football, I believe Baseball could actually learn a lot from its marketing & success.”
All-time favorite player regardless of talent?
“My favorite player growing up – Tony Gwynn. After that? The list of guys on my right side of my home page (home plate) of ‘My All-Time Favorite Players’ in no particular order.”
If you could receive a season ticket to any team from any year, which would it be?
“Season ticket would have to be the 1984 Tigers. Sorry, not to trying to be a homer here… but the team was something special from top to bottom.”
Pete Rose… Hall of Famer?
| “I think it’s ridiculous that he’s not in the Hall of Fame. All-Time Hits leader, maybe the biggest competitor the game has ever seen (not named Cobb), just ask Ray Fosse on that.”
TAB: A good part of “The Boys of Summer” details your current Crazy 48s League. How did you select the teams for the league? Also, what is the basic setup for this league?
SB: The Crazy 48’s came about while I was just actually goofing around and placing the APBA teams I owned into division setups. During the tournament, weird things happened where teams were upset (98’ Yankees lost 3 games to 1, to the 69’ Mets) and other teams you thought would do better would just fall flat, it got me thinking about what would these teams do in a 162 game season, and all had to play each other. Every team plays different against other teams, because even the bad teams beat the great teams from time to time. Of course, none of these teams are “bad” teams, but when you put the best up against the best, you will have teams with a losing record regardless.
So like I was saying, at first it kind of happened by mistake, I took teams and placed them in eras, I made sure that there was a bit of balance between what teams are where & etc. I first scheduled only three series for each of the 48 teams. I tried not to have any divisions with the same franchise or whatever, for example: I had the 1904 Giants already in the Stripes I Division, so I placed the 1912 Giants into the Stars I Division, plus the Stripes I also had the 1912 Red Sox, the team the Giants would play in that World Series. It was also a move to balance out strength, I didn’t want too many teams with a .600 plus winning percentage all piled into one 6 team division. All teams were actually based on their Pythagorean records, not their actual records. If I remember right, the 1906 Cubs are the strongest team in the Crazy 48’s according to Pythagorean.
I will admit, after the first games for each of the teams was done, I did have that moment in which it all hit me. Thought to myself “Shawn, you are crazy, you will finish only a series in each month at the rate of playing at least 4 games a day”. So during that one day or moment of doubt, I tried to make a new division setup of a league with only 24 teams, but then found myself thinking, how many Yankee teams make it? I need to at least represent every team, who gets left out? I found out, that I didn’t have it in me to leave anyone out. I told my wife about the my little dilemma and she said “I know you babe, you want to do all 48”, as my mind cleared up, I realized, a series a month, 1 game a week practically was 52 games a year is not all that crazy.
I know it’s going to take a while, my goal is to finish by my 40th birthday (October 2016), I am definitely ahead of that pace, my wife returned to work which works out well, I work overnights, so I stay on that schedule on my two off nights as well — which means when the wife is a sleeping, I am a rolling! I took practically two weeks (combined) off since starting this league, so I believe I will at least be at Game #62, if not Game #70, this time next year.
THE BASIC SETUP
The basic setup is 6 teams each per four division in each league, the separate leagues are the Stars league & the Stripes League. The Stars & Stripes League was the original name, I’m still thinking of naming the divisions after famous players to visualize it better and for the era of those divisions. The label of “Crazy 48’s” happened, because for one thing it has 48 teams, plus the fact, the whole idea of 48 teams is a bit crazy. I also got the idea for the nickname from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies, in which there was a group of warriors named “The Crazy 88’s”. Who knew that Tarantino & Baseball mix, right?
For league matchups between teams in opposite divisions/same league, they would play a four game series in which the team with the worst Pythagorean record (according to Baseball Reference.com) would host the first two games – I did this so that, the team with the worse record can at least have home-field advantage against the better team’s two best pitchers (believe me, it’s no picnic for a team that has to play the likes of the 1906 Chicago Cubs). These teams will only see each other one series the entire season, for example the 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords have just recently swept the 1942 Cardinals, the Cardinals won’t be able to get revenge, unless both teams meet up in the playoffs.
In division rival matchups, they would play their division rivals 8 games during the season – one four game series at home & one four game series on the road.
There is interleague, but it’s the top 12 teams of one league (Pythagorean Records) to play the opposite league’s top 12 teams, while the bottom 12 are scheduled to play the bottom 12 of the opposite league. The same rule is in place, one series a year, first two games at home for the team with the worst Pythagorean record, while the team with the better record will host Games #3 & #4 with their #3 starting pitcher & #4 starting pitcher.
The rotations are 1-4, the ace is always kicking off the series. So you can only imagine some of the legendary matchups. Pitchers bat when the home team is a team from the pre-DH era or National League; the DH rule is in effect when it’s a American League team from the DH era, the Negro League team Pittsburgh Crawfords have their pitchers hit.
The season is 160 games long and will have a post-season, consisting of the four division leaders, plus two wild cards in each league. 6 teams in each league, so think NFL football – the top two seeded teams in each league will get a first-round bye. The rules are the same with the playoff results, in which the matchups can vary on the strengths of the teams that are left remaining. Best of five until the LCS, which will become the best of seven. Just like the NFL, one division could have the possibility of 3 playoff representatives. I thought about making it 8 teams each league, but I think having just 6 makes things a bit more exciting.
Plus there will be an All-Star Game, in which each team will have at least one player representing their team. I know that Bob Costas is not a fan of that, but I feel it gives the fans from losing cities a more incentive to watch the mid-summer classic.
I’m trying to do my best to do at-bat & innings pitched limits as well – Overall, I think it will be impossible not to have the J-1’s & J-2’s go over their marks, as long as the J-3’s & J-4’s are in their reasonable parameters. For example: Shane Spencer (and his 1.321 OPS) would not be allowed to play every day with that monster card of his, for the 1998 Yankees.
TAB: What are the highlights of the Crazy 48s league? Any big surprises?
SB: The Highlights from the Crazy 48’s? I would definitely say the no-hitters from the 1914 Braves’ “Seattle Bill” James (over the 1971 Athletics) & Satchel Paige (Crawfords) who has been invincible so far, with his no-no against the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals (a lineup that consisted of Musial, Slaughter, Kurowski, Cooper & T.Moore), which now gives me about 16 no-hitters in my lifetime (one perfect game).
The 1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords are a bit of a surprise, and I say this because, even though they are really talented, the roster is small & the entire team has the injury rating of J-4. The team roster is 10 hitters & 6 pitchers. Satchel Paige & Leroy Matlock are A’s for starting pitchers, while the other four pitchers are D’s. The Crawfords are currently in first place of the Star I Division, with a 8-1 record.
The 1927 Yankees have been disappointing, I had Ernie Crosetti batting near the bottom, in real life he lead-off with a .242 average which didn’t make sense to me – they struggled, I placed him back and they seem to be playing better… so maybe those managers knew what they were doing. The 27’ Yankees also got beat 3-1 in their series against the 1944 St. Louis Browns, the same Browns that the 27’ Yankees had no problems sweeping in the tournament – That was a bit of a shocker, their pitching has been awful, and their hitting has been more quiet than usual, but as of late, I have seen signs that this all should change.
Other Yankees teams in 1937 & 1953 also started off slow, but now appear to be on track. I believe the 1953 team is on a winning streak and now lead their division at 5-4. The 1998 Yankees have just been downright rolling at 8-1. They have the biggest division lead I believe, I feel they are one of the few locks to make the playoffs.
The 2001 Seattle Mariners’ bullpen started off the season with 27 1/3 innings of no runs allowed, which I found astounding, Ryan Franklin won two games in relief, in which Kazuhiro Sasaki has 5 Saves. The Mariners are 6-3.
Jorge Posada is having a huge start, 6 HR’s already (he only had something like 16 for the 1998 season). The 1969 Baltimore Orioles’ trio of Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell & Davey Johnson – who are a combined 8-for-92! The team is batting .170, while Mark Belanger & Don Buford have been playing great.
The 86’ Mets losing their first six games or so, was a bit of as surprise to me.
You find out you love playing teams that sports experts labeled as fluke champions, teams such as the 1914 Boston Braves, I have a lot of fun playing with teams like them, they are on a slide now after their 5-1 start… but you learn about the Joe Connolly’s & Butch Schmidt’s of the game. I would say that’s one of the fun and surprising aspects of this league as well. Sure, there are times when you look at the series, and think “this series is going to be a snoozer” and suddenly the strangest & most exciting things happen in that series, and that’s one of the many reasons I love baseball – the unpredictability of it all.
TAB: Finally, you obviously have a love of baseball history. From where does that come? Does APBA help foster that?
SB: Baseball, like APBA, has been with me as long as I can remember. I remember in my dad’s drawers, he had stacks of the late 1970’s Baseball Cards (1977 Topps is a personal favorite) – and how there was just something about them, that was so natural. I remember the Tigers on TV in the background, and watching Al Kaline & George Kell call the game – and if the Tigers won, the cartoon Tiger logo (at the end of the broadcast) roared, and if they lost, he had a thermometer in his mouth (a bag on his head) and he meowed.
The game spoke to me at an early age, I played tee-ball, and started imagining myself as one of the early 80’s Tigers at the plate, and how I started to recognize the names that were being brought up at the kitchen table, when my dad and his friends played APBA, they were the same names I would hear on the TV from time to time.
My dad’s three best friends (who were also in the league) were practically uncles to me. One was a big Yankees fan – always chanting REG-GIE, REG-GIE while the dice bounced in his roller, and making crowd noises from time to time depending on the result. I was just getting into Baseball cards, but had no clue who these guys were on the cards, so when one of the “uncles” asked me, who my favorite baseball player was? I went to my small card pile and pulled out a random card – Don Hood’s 1982 Topps card, and said this guy. Yeah… to this day, he doesn’t let me forget it.
I remember that the 1985 Topps (another favorite) were the first cards, that I started opening packs to, I started packs of cards while riding around the car with my dad (probably while we are splitting a Mounds Bar, as usual) – and it would be the 1987 Topps that I actually started collecting. Baseball Cards, APBA life & summer league baseball were intertwined with my childhood, while my brain worked like a database. It’s easy to take in & remember the things you love, it’s safe to say that these early moments in my life, were the genesis of my knowledge of baseball history.
I remember watching “This Week in Baseball” with Mel Allen, and them doing a piece on a young star named Tony Gwynn. I remember thinking, this guy loves the game – an electric smile, great hitter. No more Don Hood, this is the guy!
I’ve been watching the playoffs regularly since 1984, my brother Jared & I, burned out my dad’s VHS of Game 5 against the Padres in 1984 (Kirk Gibson taking it to the Goose) – I remember how the 1986 World Series sealed the deal for me, you can’t write this stuff – I remember it well, two outs, Roger Clemens is in the dugout, looking out at the mound as his bullpen was one out away from finishing off the Mets – then suddenly, the wonderful magic that is baseball took over, while hearing Vin Scully (God, I love Vin Scully!) calling the game. He would call one of the greatest other moments, years later, my brother & I, were in are bunk-beds watching the little black & white TV on the dresser, when Gibby smacked that HR into the right-field stands at Dodger Stadium.
As I got older, of course, I got my own APBA sets. I’ve watched the Ken Burns’ Baseball over and over, I have probably at least 25 books on baseball, from Encyclopedias to year-by- year World Series matchups, to dynasties & great teams. Each season and each team has a story to be told, and telling it & hearing it is, is like true romance to me; I am truly in heaven when it comes to Baseball. My goal is to one day, is to visit Cooperstown, I don’t care what it takes, I’m going to make that happen (rain or shine)!
I have had friends joke around that I should work for someone like ESPN, but to tell you the truth I have a friend that would just put me or anyone to shame – You can ask him any question, he would answer it — he’ll tell you the 1936 Philadelphia Athletics’ complete coaching staff without flinching, he’s like a walking computer. I think I would rather work in a Baseball Organization, I think that would be pretty cool stuff – I do feel I have a good eye for talent, good gut instincts, plus I really love to go in depth when looking for the next big thing or when it comes to drafting, or making trades. My favorite day in APBA is actually draft day, I love the strategy of it all, the off-season.
One of my dreams is to get a Basic Board Game league going, I see these wonderful leagues such as your Illowa league & my dad’s league when I was young (which that league is still rolling from what I understand), I think it would be a lot of fun, I feel I know enough guys to make it work – it’s something I keep in the back of my head. That’s the thing, getting people to actually sit down and play for the first time can be challenging, but once you do, everyone gets hooked, I don’t recall ever getting someone to play it, and then afterwards them not having any interest in it or fun with it. For the time being, I’m pretty excited how my Crazy 48’s is rolling, and I am looking forward to reporting about it week to week on Boys of Summer.
I want to thank Shawn Baier for his time and effort in helping out with this fantastic APBA Fan Profile! If you haven’t already, check out his website, The Boys of Summer.
If you want to read other APBA Fan Profiles, there are plenty more to read.