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Old 02-04-2012, 02:26 PM   #1
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The Baseball Chronicle: MLB's Alternate History

What if we could rewind baseball history and start over, only this time with a fresh set of names? Who would emerge as the Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner, and Sandy Koufax of this alternate world?

Those are the questions that Joe Cronin, commissioner of The Baseball Chronicle, set out to answer.

Q: Why did you create TBC?

A: The Baseball Chronicle owes its basic concept to two OOTP 6.5 leagues that came before it and were an inspiration - Time Warp Baseball (TWB) and the Professional Replay Baseball League (PBRL). I decided to start TBC because OOTP had evolved to the point where it was possible to start in 1871 and build a league that could play through the entire history of MLB with the many changes and variations in leagues, teams, playing style, and so forth.

I also created the basic premise: a historically accurate framework (leagues, teams, ballparks, etc.) where only the key element - the players - would be fictional. I liked the idea of the grand scope and the possibility of creating storylines and history that would evolve over a lengthy period of time.

We're following actual history in terms of the world around the players - we had the Players League, the Federal League, and a World Series gambling scandal, and going forward we'll have players miss time for the Second World War and we'll have integration, expansion and so forth, with fictional players taking the starring roles instead of the historical figures we all know, like Ruth, Koufax, Williams, etc.

My main purpose has been to mirror MLB history as closely as possible, and that means the negative stuff as well as the positive. This is why we had the Cincinnati Reds throw the 1919 World Series, why the league is segregated, and why players who jumped to the Federal League in some cases ended up blackballed. I try not to be heavy-handed, but I am trying to steer a historical course.

Q: What are some of the most interesting things that you've seen happen in the TBC so far?

A: One thing that stands out recently is the story of Steve Prior. He was a big, strong first baseman playing for the league's top dynasty - the Philadelphia Athletics. He had put up a career average near .340, belted over 400 career home runs and generally had to be considered one of the top players in the game. But as the 1937 season wound down, he started to tail off and took an apparent ratings hit over the 1937-38 winter (we play with actual ratings hidden, but his number of stars dropped from 4.5 to 1).

As commissioner, I don't run a team so I am free to help shape the storylines and Prior's seemed like a good parallel for the real-life story of Lou Gehrig. So I crafted a story about Prior's sudden loss of his skills due to contracting ALS and had him retire (like Gehrig he had become a part-time player early in '38 and had dismal stats). We had a tribute to him at the 1938 All-Star Game and he'll likely be voted into the Hall of Fame early.

The A's GM announced a "Steve Prior Day" and uniform retirement. Obviously a disease like ALS is nothing to joke about, but the storyline seemed to fit, especially with the strength of the A's and the career accomplishments of Prior himself.

Another great story was that of a player named Carpetbagger Jenkins. He played in the 19th century and - just as his name would indicate - was a "jumper" - he played in the National League, the American Association, the Player's League and briefly in the first season of the AL before jumping back to the NL. He was also a very talented guy, with a .325 lifetime average and 3,142 hits.

Finally, and this isn't really a funny story, but it is interesting how things evolved: I created a player in 1890, gave him some decent talents and named him Heinrich Heinsohn in honor of Markus.

I didn't know what to expect from young Mr. Heinsohn, but he essentially evolved into the TBC's version of Honus Wagner. He didn't play SS, but he was a slick fielding 3B and 2B (for the high-error era he was playing in) who could flat-out hit. He eventually ended up playing until 1914 and by the time was done, he had amassed 4,037 hits, 516 doubles, 218 triples, 201 home runs, and a .323 lifetime average. All but the average were the all-time career marks when he hung up his spikes, and he's still the all-time hit king.

Is it all in the name? I don't know, but I didn't expect him to be as otherworldly as he was - at his peak he was the best player in the game, posting six seasons in which he hit .380 or higher (with a peak of .418 in 1895). He's one of my personal favorites, so much so that I gave him a son, Arnie, who's currently a reserve outfielder on the New York Giants, with a career .287 mark and who is nowhere near as good as his dad, who managed the Reds with middling success for two years in the early 30s.

I think TBC is fairly unique in that I am acting solely as commissioner. This allows me to remain completely impartial. While I do have favorite players and storylines, I am not actively rooting for any individual team but rather enjoying watching the GMs maneuver and shape their franchises over time. The great thing is that while the GMs know certain things are going to happen - like the upcoming war - the fact that we're playing with fictional players gives everything a freshness. There are no expectations attached to the players.

Our home run king, Jake Waite, had a career that was similar to Babe Ruth's, but he played for the White Sox. There were a couple of other "Ruthian" contenders out there, so everyone was wondering who it would be, but no one had any prior expectations. We let OOTP shape the players and the game's done a wonderful job of surprising us and occasionally of breaking our hearts when a favorite hits the skids early (such as Steve Prior). That's the beauty of OOTP and a fictional player universe: it's full of surprises and you can root for guys without having preconceptions.

Q: In what ways have you customized the TBC?

A: One of the main things I've tried to do with TBC is to model early 20th century baseball as best I can. So we use custom name files and I've also added an independent Pacific Coast League while slowly adding farm teams to the major league teams. I've designed a lottery system (we call it the "Golden Ticket") that gives MLB teams the right to purchase players out of the PCL.

Currently, I've added the International League and American Association as AAA farm leagues, the Eastern League and Southern Association (as AA farm leagues for MLB) and the Texas League as a farm league for the PCL. (That's not historically accurate, but I wanted to let the PCL teams have a developmental arm as well.)

I've been thinking about adding the Negro Leagues to start to build some history before we hit the era of integration. I am also considering adding the Japanese leagues after the war. (I considered starting them in 1936 as they did historically, but the impending war would make it difficult as the league shut down for a few seasons for obvious reasons).

Q: When did you start playing OOTP and how did you get into it?

A: I've been playing OOTP since version 2. I've always liked baseball sims and honestly don't remember how I found OOTP, but once I got it, that was it - I've been playing ever since and have been running online leagues of various (usually historical) formats for about 12 years now.

I played some Strat-o-Matic as a kid, but the card-and-dice game that really hooked me was Pursue the Pennant. I loved the box with its field and outfield walls that let you roll the dice in something that bore at least a passing resemblance to a ballpark. I've still got a 1988 edition of the game, though I've hardly played it since getting hooked on OOTP.

I also played early baseball simulations like SSI's Computer Baseball on the Commodore 64 as a teenager in the 80s. I moved from the board game of PTP to the computer version, which eventually evolved into Diamond Mind Baseball. I've owned and played every version of DMB up to version 9, but I haven't touched it in years now, mainly because of OOTP and the incredible flexibility it affords us.

Q: Why do you continue to play OOTP?

A: The thing I love about OOTP is that it is incredibly flexible and complex yet easy to play and most important of all: it produces great results. When I play a game in the 1910s, I want it to feel like the Dead Ball era, and OOTP does that. The game has evolved over time into a nearly perfect baseball simulator - if you want to play a historical season with a very high degree of accuracy, which was a hallmark of the Diamond Mind series, well, now OOTP does that just as well, if not better.

If you want to do something like TBC, with fictional players producing statistics similar to what the historical players did in any given season, OOTP can do that too. With the tremendous community OOTP has and the willingness to draw upon that community that has been demonstrated by Markus and Andreas, we get a sim that is like a diamond that constantly shines brighter year after year. I loved OOTP 6.5 and felt like it was nearly perfect, but the game has evolved so far beyond what I then thought was ideal that it blows my mind.

Q: How long have you been a baseball fan? Which team is your favorite?

A: I've been a baseball fan essentially my whole life. I'm not sure how I got into it - my parents have no real interest in sports at all - but I grew to be a huge baseball fan as a kid and teenager. One of my first memories was going to Yankee Stadium with my family just after Thurman Munson died in August of '79 - they were playing the White Sox, who were wearing those funky collared jerseys. That was my first of many trips to a Yankees game, though I think it was the only time I ever went with my parents.

Later I was lucky enough to get a job in professional sports, first with the NBA and eventually with MLB. After working for the league for eight years on a full-time basis, I've been doing freelance work for them for the past three seasons and still love going to the ballpark and getting paid on top of it. I do video work for them at Indians games - basically running the Pitch F/X system. I've been a Yankees fan my whole life, having grown up in the NYC area, though I will admit to rooting for the Indians too, now that I've relocated to northeast Ohio.

Last edited by BradC; 03-29-2013 at 10:06 AM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 10:17 PM   #2
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This pretty well sums up what I try to get out of this game, as a fictional player. Fictional play is not for everyone and can have meaning only to those who create it and follow it closely. But, if you are one of those people and can get into it to this degree (I mean, just look at the TBC web site - it's amazing), the rewards are immense. I, too, have had my "Steve Priors" from several successful simulations. I keep their career profiles in my personal Hall of Fame and have yielded to the temptation to spice up their histories with a bit of imagination . . .
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Old 06-05-2012, 12:47 PM   #3
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John Ralph

I noticed that your career batting avearge leader is John Ralph. Is that a randomly created name, or did you create it?
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Old 06-06-2012, 07:40 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by batted balls View Post
I noticed that your career batting avearge leader is John Ralph. Is that a randomly created name, or did you create it?
That's one I created, although I think I may have just edited the first name after OOTP came up with last name. It was a while ago and I'm not 100% sure. I did work with a fellow by that name at MLB.com and that probably had something to do with why I changed the first name.
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Old 08-01-2012, 05:44 AM   #5
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I personal believe that baseball has reached to a different level when it comes to legends, truly speaking we will never face legends like Nestor Chylak, Sandy Koufax, Willie McCovey, Babe Ruth and many others...

A perfect league stands up, when players play with passion for the game, and not for the material payment. It's good to see that TBC find out a good way to point out the new generation stars. I strongly believe that some will put a good footprint on the baseball history as others did.

Again, i want to underline that early baseball in middle 50's and 60's was just a different spirit, and players were dedicated 110% to the game..
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Old 08-01-2012, 06:58 AM   #6
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Just wondering...are you going to have the Continental Baseball League (CBL) form? They were supposed to begin play around 1960-1961 time frame. That's why MLB added expansion teams to try to kill off the CBL before it could even begin. The CBL was the brain child of Branch Rickey btw. Just food for thought man.
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Old 08-03-2012, 07:25 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Scottiedog View Post
Just wondering...are you going to have the Continental Baseball League (CBL) form? They were supposed to begin play around 1960-1961 time frame. That's why MLB added expansion teams to try to kill off the CBL before it could even begin. The CBL was the brain child of Branch Rickey btw. Just food for thought man.
That would be interesting.
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