About 1950, I discovered a game that became a dominant part of my life for about five years. The table-top game was named Ethan Allen’s All-Star Baseball game. It was launched in 1941 and produced by a Chicago company Cadaco-Ellis. This game was a fore-runner to the current fantasy sports phenomena that has grown into a multi-billion dollar business estimated to involve over 60 million people worldwide. But in 1950, All-Star Baseball (ASB) was a relatively simple board game in a box and was marketed to pre-teen boys who loved baseball. I fit the bill completely.
Not sure how I discovered the game, but I quickly became hooked. The game’s creator, Ethan Allen, was a former major leaguer who became the head baseball coach at Yale University for many years. He was George H. W. Bush’s (the future president) baseball coach at Yale and was a respected teacher of the game. ASB used real players and real statistics and produced very realistic results.
The game consisted of a mock ball diamond, a spinner, and a series of round disks representing individual major league players. A current website (https://baseballgames.dreamhosters.com/CadacoASB.htm) explains how the game worked: “The disks, with a die-cut rectangular center hole, punched out, were placed over a small cardboard block mounted on the game-board, a spinner spun over it, and the wedge number — 1 through 14 — at which the spinner stopped indicated the result of each at-bat.” The spinner would land on a number indicating a walk, single, double triple, home run — or an out via strikeout, ground out, or fly out.
The number “one” indicated a home run. A home run hitter like Mickey Mantle would have a much larger slot for a homer than speedster Richie Ashburn. Mantle was the all-star centerfielder for the Yankees in 1952, and Ashburn was the all-star centerfielder for the Phillies, my favorite player at that time. Ashburn was not a power hitter, so his home run slot was slim, but his singles and doubles were large because he was a consistent hitter who beat out bunts and stretched singles into doubles. I was captivated by the accuracy and realism of the statistical results.
My neighbor Steve joined my excitement, and we organized so that each of us conducted a 50+ game schedule with two separate leagues. Then we had a world series of our own at the end of our season. We had a great time keeping all of the statistics just like we read in the sports pages of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. But this was our league, and to us, it was not fantasy — it was real.
A few years later our family moved to Chicago, and I persuaded two of my new friends, Butch and Pat, to go with me on an exploration to find the headquarters of Cadaco-Ellis, the manufacturer of my beloved game. By searching the massive Chicago phone book, I discovered that the company’s offices were on the 14th floor of the 20-story Merchandise Mart, near Moody Bible Institute, on the north side of the downtown loop.
Butch and Pat weren’t too interested in my game adventure, but they agreed to go if we could stop at the magic shop on Randolph Street, a few steps west of State Street. I can’t believe my mother allowed me as a 13-year-old kid to go with two friends downtown Chicago via the Elevated/Subway train. We had a ball on the “L” — running back and forth between cars and acting like typical jerks. Then they introduced me to The Treasure Chest that I’ve recently learned was owned by a famous Chicago magician who hosted a local TV magic show. We had a great time traipsing up and down the Chicago streets, exploring The Treasure Chest and running the stairways of the Merchandise Mart. Those were truly different days.
I’ve not been a big game person the rest of my life but was enticed by Connie about three years ago to join the monthly Mexican Train Tournament conducted here in Maranatha Village. This event draws around 100 or more every month to play in six-person table configurations of this challenging and competitive game. Some strategy and thinking are required — which I like — but lots of luck is needed. I am amazed that we have a handful of octogenarians, and beyond, that are so sharp and have so much luck. Several of these ladies win over and over. We’ve dragged our kids into Mexican Train, and the granddaughters were overjoyed this Christmas to get their own set.
Mexican Train with the family at Christmas 2019.
But we are also still adventuring. The Lord has allowed Connie and me to travel extensively in ministry for many years. During those trips, we continued to explore new places and new experiences. And we are still doing it today as we have launched out over the past seven years to explore the adventures of Florida. This coming summer Connie and I are praying about a new adventure…stay tuned.