Despite claiming to be “shy and reserved”, Arkansas journalist Kenneth Heard reveals himself in a quite personal way in his blog, Life, Love and APBA. In it, he details not only his 1981 baseball replay but his perspective on baseball and life in general.
At first, Ken was graciously reluctant to be interviewed for The APBA Blog but I’m glad he changed his mind. Every APBA fan has a story to tell especially one who can tell it so well.
The APBA Blog: First if you don’t mind, give us a little background on who you are.
Kenneth Heard: First, thank you for asking me to do this. I’ve spent my life interviewing others as a reporter, so being on the other end of the questions is a bit different. I’ve visited your blog a lot and love what you’re doing there. Being included in it is an honor.
I’ve held a lot of jobs in my life, ranging from a greenskeeper to a cable installer to a repo man. But mainly, I’ve made a career out of news. I’ve been the northeast Arkansas bureau correspondent for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the past 15 years, having covered the Westside Middle School shootings in 1998, the West Memphis 3 homicides and ensuing court hearings, numerous tornadoes, floods and other disasters, courts, government, features and some sports.
I was born in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1960 and I take full credit for Bill Mazeroski’s seventh game home run in the World Series that year against the Yankees. My family moved to Madison, Wisc., in the mid 1960s where, as a toddler, I became aware of Henry Aaron when he played for Milwaukee.
In 1966, we moved to Minnesota where my baseball foundation was set.
My father retired as a university professor early due to health reasons and we moved to Arkansas where I began writing things to avoid being too weird. I was a Yankee with a huge Northern accent in rural Arkansas. I had to find some hobby to keep my sanity.
I ended up teaching English and journalism for two years and bluffed my way into the Texas Tech University’s English doctoral program. But quickly realized journalism was the only thing I really could do. I dropped out of the doctoral program in October 1991 and scampered back to Arkansas in time to watch my Minnesota Twins play Atlanta in the Series that year. (Notice how baseball is a prevailing theme in my life?)
TAB: How were you introduced to the game of APBA baseball? Was it love at first sight with APBA or did you try out other tabletop sports games too?
KH: I first got into sports games like most kids with the electric football game. I moved on to electric baseball, but the noise of the magnetic ball smacking the metal walls drove my father nuts. I ended up getting my first real replay game when I bought a Sherco II baseball game in 1975.
A year later, I saw an advertisement in a Smith and Street magazine for the APBA football game. I urged my parents to get it for me for Christmas and I’ve been hooked on the game company since.
I got the basketball game in 1978 and, while most people didn’t like it because of its plodding play, I loved it. I played it all the time. It became a shelter, a comfort zone, a normalness in the world of dating, goofy girls, teenaged angst and all that accompanied teen life.
I bought the basic baseball game in December of 1998. By then, I became enamored with APBA and realized the magic it holds in its game. I knew the baseball game would be perfect and I have been playing season replays since.
TAB: Of the few people I know who write about APBA, I think you are one of the best writers in the purest sense (certainly better than me). With you being a journalist by trade, that would follow. Also, your articles on Love, Life and APBA look at the game from a very personal perspective and I think that appeals to a lot of fans. What was your impetus to start the blog? Where do you see it going?
KH: Thanks for the compliment! Sometimes, I go off on tangents and explore
ideas and memories that pop in my head with the blog. The impetus of Love Life and APBA is twofold. My wife passed away in 2006 and I went into the depression that ensues the loss of a loved one. But I played the game. I think I was replaying 1932 at that time, and I saw how it helped quell the sadness and the loneliness.
A few years later, a high school girlfriend called me after 30 years apart and we got back together. I began replaying 1977, the year we first dated, and began making comparisons with the season and our high school romance. Sadly, my high school girlfriend remembered me when I was young, optimistic, thin and happy. Not as an old, cynical, broken down fat guy.That breakup was what spawned the term “circling the drain” to refer to our fading romance in the blog that I’ve received
comments on. Again, the game was there for me during our crash. So, I thought of how the game was always there and how it had been the one constant in an ever-changing life and I began writing things about embittered relationships, weird observations and, of course, the replay.
My editor and another friend urged me to write these things in a blog format and on Jan. 1, 2012, I began Love Life and APBA Baseball. Sometimes, it may get off topic and I’ve had a few I didn’t post because they were off-key. Now, I try and do some updates of the 1981 season to keep the thing real.
TAB: I notice from your blog that you are very close to finishing up the 1981 baseball replay. Congrats! What made you choose the 1981 season? Give some details on how you set up your replay.
KH: I picked 1981 to see what would have happened if the strike that year never happened. Since I live in St. Louis Cardinals country, I hear about how the team didn’t make the oddball playoff system that year, despite having the best record overall. I do everything by hand. I keep a three-ring notebook for the season and have a page for each team’s schedule. When I complete a game, I write the score on the corresponding line for that date. I also have team pages for the minimal stats I still keep: Home runs, wins and saves. It takes a few days to get ready for a season. I photocopy the roster, write the number of games each player played that season by his name to give me a guide for using them during my replay.
There’s always that hesitation you get when you are about to embark on a replay. You know it’ll take a long time, but there’s an excitement with it. I play a lot of games each day. I generally roll two or three in the morning and two to four each night. It’s both a testament to the greatness of the game and the fact I simply have no other life. I truly think now, at my age and as many times as I’ve been burned in
love, if a girl comes along wanting a relationship, unless she has a lot of money or is built like Beyonce was during the Super Bowl, I’ll just say, ‘Nah, I’ve gotta roll some more games.” Sad, but true.
TAB: Does it give you a big sense of satisfaction to complete such a large undertaking such as a 162-game season replay? What were some of highlights of your 1981 replay?
KH: I’ve done several replays: 1998, 1987, 1957, 1932, 1964, 1974, 1977 and now I’m about 250 games shy of finishing 1981. I love doing the replays because I learn those seasons. I can’t tell you the lineup of the current teams, but I’ll know the pitching staff of the 1932 Philadelphia As when I’m doing that season. And I love the quirky things that happen in a season. In my 1981, Richie Zisk is a monster walk-off guy for Seattle. Seems like every time the game is on line and he’s up to bat, he jacks one out.
The highlights of the 1981 season so far include an amazing race in the American League East. Detroit is a half game ahead of both Baltimore and Milwaukee. New York is four games back. Looks like a fun dogfight to the end. I’ll be sure to blog about that soon. Also, in my replay, Montreal is the runningest team I’ve ever seen. Tim Raines must have over 120 steals already. That 14 asterisk on his card seems to roll whenever Raines is at bat. Also, I think APBA should put some warning label on the 1981 season to advise the faint-hearted of how bad the Minnesota Twins really were that year. In my replay, they are epically bad. As I go into Sept. 12, 1981, the Twins are 40-101. Very sad.
TAB: What do you see as the biggest strengths of the APBA baseball game? What makes you want to play it? Also, if you could change one thing about the game, what would it be?
KH: I am probably the simplest APBA player out there. I no longer keep stats after losing a few replays in crashed computers. I play the basic without XBs, and I play with the suggested rosters and don’t do transactions, actual lineups or even injuries. There are so many in the APBA community who do amazing, detailed replays. I just roll the dice and watch. For me to suggest any change in APBA is like a third grade finger painter giving tips on art to Pablo Picasso.
I think the strength of the game, at least for me, is the ease of play and the world you can create with the cards and the season. I get totally immersed in a season and escape. It really helps escaping with the game after I come home from writing yet another news story about a murder, or corruption or a lurid trial. The magic of the game stays with us. There’s been nothing else in my life that’s stayed with me
for so long and through so many personal changes. I don’t know if Richard Seitz imagined the lasting beauty of this game when he invented it more than 60 years ago. I’d like to think he did.
TAB: Lastly, what’s next for you when you finish your 1981 replay? Do you have another replay project planned?
KH: Wow! What’s next? I’ve never rolled an at bat for Joe DiMaggio, so I have 1942 up next. I hope to tear into that in April. I also want to do 1991 to see if the Twins can do better than they did in 1981. And I just bought 1919, so that’s on the deck too. And, there’s hockey … and someday, I’d like to drag out the old basketball game and replay that first season I’ve ever owned. There’s years ahead for me and plenty of fodder for the blog to keep going on.
Thanks to Kenneth for taking time out from his busy schedule as a newshound to answer a few questions. Good luck on finishing that 1981 season!