Game Transition

1999 to 2007

Way back at the beginning of the 2007 season I indicated that the our game had changed significantly since we first went on-line in the year 2000 and I promised you some research on the growth and make-up or the current game. Well, as it turns out, the data for that research did not exist in one, easy to analyze place. In fact it was pretty well scattered about and it took some time to pull it all together into a useful format. After thinking on it for a while I decided to create a new spreadsheet that accumulated all the year-by-year player standings from 2000 through 2007 and then added 1999 just so that I could see where we had come from. This new file gave me a set of data that could match up with my original Apple llc/AW2 file- a really big thing that included well over a 1000 lines of data- and the two files now have a two year overlap.

The data shows that we are clearly in a transition period, about the eighth such period that the game has experienced since it's inception in 1955. The first few transitions were with Nelson Slagle, who created the game in 1955 in Central Ohio, than went off to Ohio State, then into the work environment and finally relocated to Southern California. The most recent ones have occurred since I took over the game in 1981, then when I retired and left SoCal in 1992 and finally put the game on-line in 2000. But before we get into the specifics, lets take a look at a few data points from the new spreadsheet:

Table 1

Year Tot Plyrs 3 Yrs + % NAA/RI/BC % Surfers %
1992 195 129 66 117 60
1996 158 121 77 83 53
1999 196 123 63 73 37 0
2006 203 141 69 48 24 32 15
2007 185 145 78 38 21 25 14

Where TotPlyrs represent the number of active players; 3 Yrs + represent the no. of active players that have been with the game for three or more years; NAA/RI/BC (North American Aviation/Rockwell International/Boeing Company) represent the no. of active players that can be traced directly to our Southern California industry ties, including family and friends; Surfers represent the no. of players that found the game via a net search (Google, DMB, etc); and % represents the percent of each of those groups to the total. Please note that the Aerospace group of NAA has changed hands twice since the mid-60's.

So here is what we've got? It appears that the game has remained relatively stable at about 200 players, even after a big drop-off following the 1994 Player's Strike. In 1999, the last year before we went on-line, we had 196 players. Less than a third of those players were still with us in 2007. We can go back even further than that. From the time that I took over the game in 1981, more than half of the game was made up of players with NAA/RI ties. When I retired from RI in 1992 that participation was at 60% and has since dropped to 21%. Where did they go? and how come we appear to be so stable?

Well, first of all there are a lot of players that get invited into the game and play for a year or two, then they find that it is not their thing and move on. There were about 50 such players in 1999. There are also a lot of sportswriters that make predictions for newspapers and magazines, then either the publication or the writer discontinues their predictions or we simply lose track of the publication and this goes on every season. There is also a certain amount of loss of interest among regular players while others are in and out of the game on an irregular basis but the drop-off from 1999 to 2000 was unusually high and I can think of two reasons this might have occurred. First of all I started to contact players via the internet (e-mail) rather than USPS and probably lost contact with some of the players, and second, some players might have felt uncomfortable competing in an on-line game and decided not to continue.

Finally the core of the regular participants represent an aging population. In 1999 there were 27 players that had been in the game since 1980 including 24 that were included in the 1999 game. By 2007 that count had dropped to just fourteen active players. The drop-off here is easy to explain. Eight regular players have died since 1999 including four as recently as 2006. They were: Gene Slagle (26 yrs), one of the original 1955 predictors, John Baker (33), Jack Hauck (30) and Larry Bowser (19).

ps: Sad to report that we have lost another veteran player. Randy Lang passed away shortly after Christmas, 2007. Randy first joined us in 1988, while working for Rockwell International in Seal Beach. He started his own game the following year and contributed 50 players to our game that year. In 1990, Randy's wife, Donna won both games. Over the years Randy participated in 19 games and contributed significantly to our game, bringing in many new players year after year including 1998 winner, Mark Martinelli. Randy will be missed. ggh Mar 14th

Now we come to the really interesting part: Where did the new players come from? First of all we must thank Nelson Slagle, Randy Lang, Rick Mize and George and Lucy Hay for their continued support. We also need to add Brock Hauck and Gene Yarrobino to the support list as they have, on their own, added 22 new players since 2003. Without their support our game participation would no doubt continue to decline.

Beyond that we have added some interesting new sources starting with Diamond Mind Baseball (DMB). Diamond Mind is a baseball simulation game the I joined on-line in 2001. Since then about 35 DMB players have joined our game either through the game and site that I joined or through Tom Tippett, the founder of DMB, who has featured our game and site in his newsletters. It was also through Mr. Tippett that I was able to locate Pete Palmer and eventually reach several members the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) including their annual preseason prediction survey.

Beginning in 2004 we added the predictions from Baseball Prospectus which are available on-line. BP did little more than replace ESPN that had been active from 1999 through 2002, but then discontinued their team-by-team predictions in 2003.

Now we come to the most interesting group of all. Beginning in 2003 new players began to "surf" into the game. It turns out that Google had found our page and added it to their search engine. By 2006 over 50 new players had surfed in from all over the country and in fact a couple from outside the US as well. This group peaked at 30 players in 2006 before the count dropped some in 2007 and the only new surfers had been referred by others. Within this group there are a few new supporters including George Darany and Rick Kelly.

When I checked Google early this season we weren't there and I feared that that our new site was buried so deeply in the United Leagues site that Google would not find us. Then I checked again a few days ago using key words "welcome baseball predictions" and found 102,000 hits and our two sites, Tidepool and UnitedLeagues, were listed #2 and #3. Go ahead and give it a try yourself. Go into Google.com and then type in the key words "welcome baseball predictions" and see what you get.

A word about the old site: When InReach decided to move our site to a new server last January we lost access to it for several weeks at a very critical time. I was told by their tech support folks, several of them, that the transfer was complete and the site was gone. They could not account for it. I took the hint and found a new ISP and a new host. Some time later, I don't recall when, I tried again and there it was, just like I had left it. Unfortunately I no longer have access to it so I guess that it will sit there until InReach needs the space for something else.

So what have we got here? What this most recent transition has given us is a whole new influx of players and these are serious baseball fans including some that make their living analyzing the game and two guys that have run their own game comparing their predictions to those of prominent baseball annuals and they have been doing it since 1955. And these guys that surfed in; they were actually looking for baseball predictions when they found our site. Finally lets take one more look at that little table above. Nearly 80% of the players from our most recent game have been in the game for three or more years. While I don't have all of he data in front of me I wouldn't be surprised if that isn't the highest percentage of three year players that we have ever had. So you see despite all of the change the game might be as stable as it has ever been.

Before I had promised you that I would stay with the game through 2008. Now I believe that the game is just too good to let it go. If anything this little exercise has rekindled my interest in the game and I think that it will run a little smoother in the future so I've decided to stay with it a while longer or at least until someone else steps up and expresses an interest in the game. That's all for now, folks. Thanks for staying with it.

Gerry Hamilton
Trinidad, CA- 10/17/07

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