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Old 07-05-2012, 09:19 PM   #1
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Tales From the OOTP Multi-Verse: Islandian Pro Alliance

There are many ways to play Out of the Park Baseball, but one element that runs through every session of the game is the ability to build a living, breathing world. Whether you want to sim one season or 100 seasons, OOTP allows you to create a baseball world that is constantly in motion, always evolving into its next form. Which teams will see their fortunes rise and fall? Which players will transform themselves from goats into heroes?

One such world is Eugene Church's Islandian Pro Alliance (IPA). I encourage you to read his dynasty thread and peruse the IPA's back story, including the cool map he created, but in a nutshell, this is the tale of Ruthlandia and Tycobbia, countries founded in the 1850s by abolitionists who emigrated from the United States to Islandia to escape the intolerance that was about to fuel the Civil War. Immigrants brought baseball to the countries in the 1890s, and by 1920, the sport was so popular that many towns shut down in the afternoons so everyone could attend the local baseball games.

The Amateur Baseball Alliance (ABA) was established to keep Islandian baseball pure ... at least as pure as any popular endeavor can remain before money moves into it, one way or the other. In the case of the ABA, teams were company-sponsored and the players were employees of those firms -- they were expected to play baseball for the love of it, not for the money. However, a shadow economy emerged in which money exchanged hands away from prying eyes, and eventually, in time for the 2001 season, the ABA decided to form the Islandian Pro Alliance and allow baseball players to earn incomes from the sport.

The IPA is based on the 1950s era baseball that Church grew up with; you'll also see elements of his childhood in the story of Islandia's founding. Since he gave me so much great material to work from for this article, I'll let him tell his story. Take it away, Eugene:

The Early Years

I am 72 years old and was born in 1940. There are 6 loves in my life: Jesus, my wife, my mother, my extended family, music, and sports (baseball, football, basketball). I began listening to the radio in 1947 at age 7. Radio was really different at that time, with a great variety of programming: you would hear an hour each of country music, pop music, negro blues, comedy/variety shows at night with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Jack Benny; soap operas in the afternoon from 12 noon to 3 pm like Pepper Young's Family and Road to Life; kid shows from 3 to 6 with Sky King, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, Superman, and the Lone Ranger; and at night there would be Inner Sanctum (suspense stories), Gunsmoke with Matt Dillon, Lux Radio Theatre (which would recreate movies on the radio), crime stories like Sam Spade, private detective, and musical variety shows. I even heard a replay of Orson Welles' classic War of the Worlds, which was so real in 1938 that people thought we were being invaded by aliens, even though they gave disclaimers during the broadcast. On the weekend I would listen to The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) and Gangbusters (police stories).

Beginning in 1950, I began regularly reading the newspaper and following sports. I learned to read well because I read the paper each day in detail. I learned arithmetic because I had to use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to create the statistics used in the various sports. Reading the paper greatly enhanced my vocabulary, taught me to spell well, and gave me knowledge of the world's history and culture. School was a breeze for me because of the newspaper. I also had great teachers, too. Everybody got a good education when I was going to school. At least the white kids did. Sadly, I had very little contact with black kids at the time because of the terrible practice of segregation. Even the poor students in my time could read, write and do arithmetic. I often wonder why they don't teach kids today using the same methods of the 40s and 50s. It worked darn well then. I'm amazed by the ignorance of the present-day generation. My wife taught at Louisiana State University (LSU) for almost 30 years from 1977 to 2005. She would ask general questions at the beginning of the year to see how much they knew about the world. She told me many of them did not know the US fought and defeated Japan in World War II, when the Civil War was, and when Columbus discovered America.

I remember reading about the Mobile Bears of the Southern Association in the Mobile Press-Register in 1950. I would follow them in the newspapers and on the radio, listening to Jack Bitterman on WABB. They only broadcast road games on the radio. Actually, I found out years later that Bitterman did not report the games live. He didn't travel with the team. He would get the play-by-play via the ticker tape and just recreate the game's crowd noise and the ball hitting the bat. It fooled me and a lot of other people, though. I would also go to several games a week, especially doubleheaders at Hartwell Field on Sundays. I also followed the New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association when I lived there. The Pels played at Pelican Stadium and I followed them in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and listened to the "Old Redhead," Ted Andrews on WTPS radio. The Southern Association was a great minor league with the Atlanta Crackers, Birmingham Barons, Memphis Chicks (Chickasaws), Nashville Vols, Chattanooga Lookouts, Little Rock Travelers, along with the Bears and the Pelicans.

I also followed Major League baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals were my favorite team and Stan "the Man" Musial was my favorite player. I don't really know why I like them best. It could be that I listened to Cardinal games on KMOX at night and heard Harry Caray doing the games and fell in love with them. I memorized the starting lineups of American, National and Southern Association teams. I could also quote individual stats on a daily basis. This was a great time for baseball prior to free agency, which ruined the sport as far as I'm concerned. Rosters didn't have wholesale changes every year like they do now. Plus minor league baseball was great, too.

Teams in all levels -- Class AAA, AA, A, B, C and D -- were a mixture of veterans and rookies. Even low minor league teams like the Baton Rouge Redsticks, Montgomery Rebels, and Meridian Millers had players that could have been major leaguers, but the pay wasn't worth it. They could play ball in their home town and have another job in the off-season that paid them more. Nowadays the minor leagues are dominated by rookies with very little veteran presence. It's all about player development. Playing to win takes a backseat to development. It didn't use to be that way. Minor league teams tried to win the pennant and get to the Little World Series (American Association champ against International League champ) and the Dixie Series (between champs of the Southern Association and Texas League). Prior to 1960, AAA teams could have competed with MLB clubs -- they were just a notch below them in the 50s. Major League teams would hoard minor leaguers and not let the other Major League teams get them. The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees had farm teams in Montreal and Kansas City that could have played and held their own in the Majors.

While I was a ballboy for the Mobile Bears (1956-58), I got to know all of the players well. They said the difference between the Southern Association and the Majors was the ability to hit the curve ball and the control of the pitchers. Otherwise, the Southern could hold their own in games. During spring training, the Dodgers would play the Bears at Vero Beach. The Bears rarely won the game, but they were good games.

Creating the Islandian Pro Alliance

I give credit to the Laseron Baseball Association and the Metro League for inspiring me to create the Islandian Pro Alliance. Forum members Portlander (Goody) and DreamTeams really did a fine job on their creations. They created uniforms, stadiums and story lines to get you totally involved in the LBA and the Metro. I just took their ideas and used them.

My original intention was to create a fictional country, Islandia, or the Islands, composed of Ruthlandia and Tycobbia, and use OOTP to cover the history of baseball from the 1870s to the present. I would have begun with town ball teams, then progressed to company teams in the 1920s, when the players became semi-professionals (they were employed by the companies). That didn't work out because I created too many divisions. The game only allowed about 50 at that time and I needed 60 divisions, one for each town with 4 teams in each.

The IPA is my dream world that I can escape to and get away from my real world. It takes me back to a simpler day and time, when families talked and did things together. We didn't stare at computer screens playing video games or text endlessly. I saw two couples at a restaurant recently all texting and not talking to each other. I hope they weren't texting each other.

After spending much time creating this league, I just didn't want to have the heart to start over again. That's when I created 8 divisions with 8 teams in each and began in 2001. At first I only had 12 teams and 2 six-team divisions. However, I had created towns all over Islandia and fell in love with each of them and could not leave out 52 of them, so I expanded to 64 teams after a couple of seasons. That when I found out 64 teams is too unwieldy and will work you to death. I began idealistically trying to play out 32 games a day, but one season would have taken forever. I decided to sim all the time. I tried to play out each game from the 7th inning on, so I could control pitching changes and substitutions, but this also was not feasible.

As far as customization goes, I play 1950s baseball, with free agency after 7 years and very low injuries and trades... and no drug suspensions. When the AI makes a dumb trade, I will create another trade to equalize it. The IPA culture is still drug-free to this day. The IPA is my dream world -- racial and religious tolerance and free of major crime and drugs -- the way I wish it was in this real world.

I am waiting until the final update before starting my next dynasty. I am in my 32nd season of the Islandian Pro Alliance and 64 teams are just too large to administer for a control freak like me, so I would think the IPA will come to an end sometime this year. I may play out another 8 years or so as I would like to see how my favorite players progress. I would like to see them into the IPA Hall of Fame. In order to do this quickly, I will have the AI take care of the league.

Playing APBA and Discovering OOTP

I began playing OOTP in 2002, I think. I became an OOTP forum member in August, 2002. I retired after 32 years as a radio announcer and needed some hobbies. I chose music and baseball.

We used to play a card baseball game, APBA, on rainy days in 1953 and I fell in love with it. I never bought the game, I just used its ideas and created my own baseball, football and basketball game cards and boards. Whatever was in season was the sport I played. Keeping score and stats and computing averages made me a math whiz. I could compute stats in my head. I had a math teacher who would have a competition every Friday afternoon. He would give out numbers to add up, multiply, subtract, and divide. I always won because I never wrote the numbers on the board like the other students. I would just do the math in my head and write the answer on the board. I never lost. I don't know why other students didn't use my method.

I did a search on the Internet to see if APBA still existed and found other similar games. That was when I discovered Diamond Mind, Strat-O-Matic and others, but none of them interested me. I wanted a career mode game. The graphics games like High Heat didn't interest me either; I did not want a video arcade game. My real dream come true would be OOTP with good graphics. I hope Markus can be so successful with the current text game that he will be able to get good graphics incorporated into the game. That would be the ultimate. I was hoping it would happen with SI in 2006.

One day I went to the mall and visited a game store and saw Spring Training Baseball and bought it for $15. It was really OOTP 3. It was my dream game come true --- a game that would keep scores and standings and compute all the stats and was a realistic baseball game, too. I don't think there have been many days when I have not played OOTP since. For 10 cents a day, it is without a doubt the best entertainment buy anyplace, anywhere. I even became part of the Beta team in 2006 and specialized in writing news stories and play-by-play. I did that for about 3-4 years. I still write new stories for new categories that Markus adds with each version, but I am no longer on the Beta team. RBLwebguy is still greatly involved in the Beta process and he contacts me when he thinks I can help out on the news stories. I think Markus even gives me credit in the latest version.

My first league in OOTP was the All-Time All-Star Association (AAA). Teams were composed of the best 25 players in each of the 16 original franchises' history. I even decided to cover it on the Dynasty Forum. It was a great league, perhaps better than the IPA. I would control all rosters and play out the last three innings of every game. The only downer was that great players did not always play well in the AAA. I did not like it when Tom Seaver was 7-22 with a 5.00 ERA or Joe DiMaggio only hit .260. I played the AAA for about 11 seasons, but then the league corrupted one year and I did not have a back-up and lost it all. It broke my heart. Since then I have always backed up the IPA, just in case.

I switched to the IPA and fictional players after I lost the AAA. I really like fictional players because you have no expectations. You just watch them unfold and develop. I may go back to the All-Time All-Star Association and recreate it in my first OOTP 13 league. My next dynasty league will have no more than 12 to 20 teams max.

I started the IPA in May, 2006, but it was over a year later in December, 2007 when I began the Dynasty Report. We are now up to 3,112 posts and over 62,500 views. I decided to cover the IPA like a newspaper and just report on the league teams, minus internal squabbles and such that go on in the good Dynasties.

Why do I continue to play OOTP after 10 years? Because the game is so great. Markus has created a masterpiece, but with flaws that I can live with. I still cringe when the game gives the All-Stars score in the game and doesn't differentiate between the RU Stars and the TU Stars. You would think by now he would have fixed it, but he hasn't and probably never will. There are a lot of little quirks like that in the game that really bug the newbies, but you soon learn to live with them.

I think the players and teams become real to you and that is the allure. Once you create a league, you want to see how your favorite players and teams come out in the end. You really get attached to them. I get excited when I tell someone about my baseball world of Islandia. I know they are not real and it is probably silly to some that a grown man would spend the time I do on a fantasy baseball world. But hey, it keeps me young and active and makes me use my mind -- and I enjoy every minute of it.

Favorite Moments in IPA History

My favorite team moments in the IPA history would be the Far Mountain Redhawks winning the Pro Cup three years in a row from 2011 to 2013 ... and winning the RU North 7 times in 8 years ... the Turon Typhoons making the Pro Cup Finals 6 times in 16 years (2003-2018) and winning it four times, the IPA record ... Turon took 11 TU South pennants in 14 seasons from 2006 to 2019 ... the Eastshore Elegants won the Pro Cup twice in 2016 and 2017 ... Valmara made the Pro Cup Finals 4 times from 2023 to 2031 and won it once in 2026 ... the Vipers have dominated the RU North with 8 flags in 9 years from 2023 to 2031 ... Ozarka won the TU East 10 times in 12 years, winning over 100 games three times, 106 in 2021, 105 in 2016 and 101 in 2018, but the Naturals have never won the Pro Cup, losing 5 times in the Finals ... Colfax set the mark for wins in a season with 107 in 2010 when they won their only Pro Cup crown.

My favorite player moments would be following some of the IPA greats like Jack Elliott of the High Mesa Cowboys, who totaled 848 homers, 122 more than the number two player, Phil Gravelli ... Gravelli of Belair Beach and Crystal Lake fame was amazing with 2,493 RBIs, 373 more than Elliott, who ranked second ... Gravelli was the all-time hits leader with 4,260, 467 more than second place Roy Hobbs of the Waleska Westerners ... Elliott hit over 60 homers twice with 65 in 2021 and 61 in his rookie season in 2013 ... Valmara's Jet Kazmarek, who batted .428 in 2002 and holds the career batting average mark with a .350 average ... Kazmarek also starred for Arroyo Grande for quite a few years after he left Valmara as a free agent ... Roy Hobbs had an outstanding career with a .350 BA (2nd) and 587 homers (3rd) ... I also must say I followed a shortstop named Danny Church, who was fashioned like a player I might have been if I hadn't flamed out early at age 14 and never got any better ... Church was a steady fielder with fair range and a good arm, ending up with 5 Golden Gloves ... an average hitter with little power, but had a good eye ... and not much speed ... but he played 25 years, hit a respectable .278 with a .378 OBP... if I were objective, Church might sneak in the Hall of Fame, but I don't feel comfortable being in the IPA Hall of Fame personally ... but his defense, the 3,496 hits (3rd), 2,068 walks (3rd) and 3,577 games played (2nd) do say a lot.

I also love the Starr triplets of the Tuckanarra Blue Jays ... Quinn and Glenn are pitchers, while Lynn is "just a first baseman," as the sibling hurlers say ... they say that Lynn tried to be like them, but flunked badly on the mound ... the pitchers made the All-Star team several years before the first sacker ... however all of them are star players ... Quinn Starr is 197-137 with a 2.86 ERA ... Glynn Starr is 137-102 with a 3.18 ERA ... Lynn Starr is a .303 lifetime hitter with 284 homers and over 1,000 RBIs ... the triplets are now 33 and it is unlikely any of them will make the Hall of Fame ... after a slow start Lynn is a 4-time all-star, Quinn is a 3-time all-star and Glynn has only made it once in his career ... however, all of them do well in the postseason: Glynn is 10-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 13 starts ... Quinn is 16-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 23 starts ... for three years (2028 to 2030) the AI did not use Glynn as a starter, but then suddenly put him back as a starter and he responded with an 18-9 mark with a fine 2.97 ERA ... Lynn has batted .276 in 63 playoff games with 9 homers, 29 RBIs and 47 runs.

I also really liked Trip Holmes of the Cold Creek Catamounts ... his grandfather T. K. Holmes was an amateur legend in the Islands and his father Junior Holmes was outstanding, too ... T. K. Holmes III has some big shoes to fill, but he did have a fine career, batting .283 in 17 seasons with 373 homers, 1,584 runs and 1,421 RBIs ... Trip made the All-Star team on 4 occasions and picked up 2 Golden Gloves, but was in the running for it each year ... Holmes was outstanding on defense in center field ... sadly, Trip flopped as the Catamounts manager.

Valmara had a father and son I took a liking to ... both were outfielders ... Jan Szymanski played for the Vipers for only 4 years (2001-2004) ... he began in the league's first season in 2001 at age 29 ... Szymanski hit only .269 in a 9-year career, but he was a clutch hitter, an RBI man ... he averaged almost 100 RBIs each year and was a Gold Glove defender ... Szymanski was traded to Midway in 2005 and had his best season by hitting .323 with 36 homers, 108 runs batted in and 101 runs scored ... his 28-year-old son, Teddy, began playing in 2023, is a solid .301 career hitter in his 10th season, averaging scoring 100 runs, driving in 100 with 35 doubles and 25 homers ... both Szymanskis are winners ... the Vipers were division contenders on a yearly basis ... it broke my heart when Valmara traded them ... Teddy is playing for the South Fork Stallions now.

Top favorites among pitchers were the all-time victory leader Nicky Engstrom of the Turon Typhoons, who was 387-218 in his career ... 14 times in 20 years he won 20 or more games ... Engstrom was 14-5 in 29 playoff starts with a 2.14 ERA ... the all-time strikeout king, Cody Burg, who posted 5,250 Ks and had a 369-254 record for the Cape Coral Hurricanes ... Burg was even better in the postseason with a 9-2 record and a 1.52 ERA in 15 starts ... I especially liked Denny Coulon because he pitched so well for mediocre to so-so teams, yet won 342 games and played well even at age 42 ... Coulon just barely squeezed into the Hall of Fame with a sparkling 2.96 ERA ... Coulon also holds the IPA mark for losses with 324 ... Ted Farentino also sneaked into the Hall of Fame with a 337-276 record ... his high 3.71 ERA and number of losses kept many from voting him in ... late in his career he went to Turon and stood out in the playoffs with a 12-8 mark and 2.97 ERA ... when the chips were down and the series was on the line, journeyman Farentino came through ... at age 40 Farentino was 18-11, at 41 he was 21-5 and in his last year at age 42, he chalked up a 16-11 record.
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Old 07-15-2012, 02:27 PM   #2
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Excellent report. Thanks, Eugene, you're an inspiration to the rest of us dynasty creators.
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