The Annual Baseball Predictions is now
in it's 54th year. It was first conceived and created in
the Spring of 1955 by Nelson Slagle, then a sixteen year
old Junior in high school in Marion, Ohio. Nelson and a bunch
of his high school buddies got together and predicted the outcome
of the 1955 pennant races. Nelson, a budding stat junky at the
time, kept a record of the 26 separate predictions and published
the results in October. He didn't win, as he had expected, so
he tried again in 1956.
The next year the game grew to 36 participants and when Nelson went off to Ohio State the following September, he took the idea and the game with him. The game continued to grow while Nelson was in college, increasing from 46 players in 1957 to 91 players in 1960. Then in 1961, unburdened of all those college books and classes and finals, the game really took off, growing from 121 players in '61 to 270 players in 1964, a growth of nearly 200% from the last year at OSU in just four years.
By then Nelson had resettled in Southern California and was working at North American Aviation in Long Beach. At NAA, where the Apollo and Saturn Sll programs were just getting started, Nelson had access to thousands of new friends and associates and the game quickly reached it's peak- growing to 339 players in 1965 and topping out at 410 players in 1968.
During all this time, the standings had been done manually, once a year, with a calculator, a typewriter and a pair of very fast hands. During the peak years in the late '60s, Nelson and a few friends would gather up all the calculator tape that they could find and get together in October to pound out all those numbers. (Slag crunchin' the numbers in 1965)
By then Nelson had acquired another interest and new priorities- he got married. The game quickly went into decline and was discontinued after 1970 for a five year period, before being restarted by Nelson's younger brother, Jim Slagle, in 1976. Jim ran the game for a four year period while attending college and law school at Ohio State before giving the game back to Nelson in 1980.
Gerry Hamilton, who first joined the game in 1978 and helped out with the final stats in 1980, moved to California's Central Coast in 1981 and took the game with him. He has been running it since then. The game experienced steady growth throughout the '80s, reaching 228 players by 1989 and holding level in the low 200s through 1994. The 1994 player's strike had a significant effect on player interest as the game experienced nearly a 40% decline in 1995 and the game did not return to it's pre-strike level until 2009, our 50th season.
The game was mechanized on an Apple //c in 1986 using AppleWorks 2.0 but the little computer couldn't handle all of the data until the 128K RAM was enhanced to 640K in 1988. Up until then, the standings had never been done more than two or three times a year, usually at the All-Star Break and at the end of the year. In 1988 the standings were done 43 times and in 1990, at the suggestion of John Slagle, the standings were published and distributed monthly. Standings have been published monthly and distributed by USPS mail through 2011. The only player using snailmail was lost in 2012.
Spinoffs: In 1989, Randy Lang, then with Rockwell International at Seal Beach, CA, started his own game with over 50 participants. Randy submitted most of his player's predictions to be included in our game. Randy ran his game from Seal Beach for a few years, often putting out weekly standings. Randy's wife Donna Lang, won both games in 1990. In 1991, Dennis Davis started his own game while at Kaiser-Permanente in Dallas and ran it for four years. It is from Dennis' game that we took our current tie-breaker, the sum of each player's projected division winner's scores.
In the year 2000 an iMac DV was added to the staff and the game went on-line for the first time. The web site was activated in August of that year. There are currently about 150 players on e-mail distribution and to the best of my knowledge all the current players, excluding sportswriters and publications, have internet access to the game. The game has undergone a significant player transition over the past few years since going on-line and we now include several members of SABR, about 20 participants of a baseball simulation game from Diamond Mind Baseball and a growing number of players that have simply "surfed in" while searching the internet for baseball predictions.
The user friendly e-mail submittal form was added to the web site in 2003 and is currently used by about 90% of our players. Finally the web site was moved to the United Leagues site in 2007 after my old ISP deleted the old site just before the 2007 season started.
The Challenge: In July of 2008, Bob Schaffer submitted a suggestion for a revised scoring method. Bob's method was analyzed and discussed via e-mail among a few veteran players and ultimately rejected. Bob's suggestion was probably related to the housing collapse in the Summer of that year and the melt down of the world economy that followed. Both were bad ideas. A separate section has been added to the game's history, including the e-mail exchange, an overview of the suggested method and a spreadsheet that compares the scoring of the suggested method vs the current method for the 2008 season.