The History of Nostalgia Baseball!
It all started one winter day when psychology professor Paul Nesselroades
love of baseball awakened from its off-season sleep as news of spring
training scores began circulating across the wires. On a whim, he
started wandering down the hall, gauging his colleagues interest
in starting a local fantasy baseball league. A few were interested,
many were not, but one response was peculiar. Craig Slane, a theology
professor, declined to participate, not out of disinterest in baseball,
but rather based on his belief that fantasy baseball was inferior
to simulation baseball.
Simulation baseball, he explained, was a competition where, just as
in real baseball, wins and losses were the only things that really
mattered. Sure, homeruns, steals, and strikeouts were of interest,
but only insomuch as they served to produce a win. In
simulation baseball, it was important to field complete teamsbullpens,
pinch runners, defensive infielders and all. In simulation baseball
it was important to pull pitchers when they got fatigued and to get
hits when runners were on base. So much of what makes the game so
interesting, Slane argued, cant be reduced to a simple tabulation
of high-profile stats used in fantasy leagues. Simulation baseball,
however, actually creates games by using probability structures based
on real statistics from historical players to yield events for each
plate appearance. Innings are played one at-bat at a time; plays are
called, and pitchers are relieveda real game with all of its
uncertainty and contingency unfolds.
As the conversation progressed, it became clear that Professor Slane
had already been hard at work creating a computer program to simulate
baseball games. In fact, he had been at it for several years and was
now interested in seeing if his program could be used to simulate
an entire grid of game outcomes that would be needed to run a league.
Soon, a plan was hatched to see if there might be enough interest
in starting a simulation league. In the span of a few days Professors
Nesselroade and Slane gathered together about a dozen potential owners
and decided to create the first Nostalgia Baseball league. Nostalgia
Baseball! was born!
This inaugural season relied on a sealed bidding system
to assign players from about 20 different historical teams to the
various simulation team rosters. There were no long-term contracts,
no financial perks, no injuries or waiver wires, and very limited
control over the players. When the season was over, the team rosters
vanished as well. Nostalgia Baseball! was just in its infancy. Nonetheless,
the league was exciting. Every Friday afternoon a gaggle of professors
could be seen huddling around a computer in Professor Slanes
office, anxiously watching the games unfold. News of Nostalgia Baseball!
soon spread, and by the seventh season, the league boasted 24 ownersincluding
several student-owned franchises.
Over the next five years the current version of Nostalgia Baseball!
was created. As early as the second season new features began to emerge,
such as multi-year contracts and ordered drafts. Virtually every season
thereafter featured some new element added to the game. Some mechanisms
were designed to reward winning teams economically, such as tying
income to winning percentages and special feats, while others were
designed to help faltering teams get back into the mix. The governing
criterion, however, was always to be as realistic as possible while
striving to maintain a competitive balance within the league. In March
2001 the League took a major step towards automation with the initial
version of the NBRemote software. During the previous seasons, all
personnel decisions had to be recorded on worksheets and delivered
by hand to the commissioners office. In September 2002 the League
took another important step towards full automation with the Draft
cards. Previous drafts were a pre-seasonal rite conducted audibly
by attending owners. It was fun, but not very efficient. As a result
of this work, what was once limited to a local phenomenon is now able
to spread as far as the Internet will take it.
Today, the Nostalgia Baseball! creators like to think theyve
constructed a multidimensional experience that does a convincing job
of replicating a variety of real tensions experienced by Major League
owners, general managers and field managers.
Do you think you have the stuff to run a baseball team in a sophisticated
simulation environment? Check it out and see for yourself.