I have cut school 7 times in my life.
All 7 times for a good reason
Each time it was on the same day of the year, for all 7 years.
The second Friday of February was a personal holiday for me.
It was Strat-O-Matic day.
The day a small company from Glen Head, NY released the long awaited “cards” of baseball players to fanatics who just had about enough of winter.
It was the day 3 honor students would cut school and travel 60 miles in a beaten down Comet, not even caring what the consequences would be because we had an out – we were getting an extra set of cards for our teachers.
For a person who actually slept with the American League Blue book and the National League Green book (A statistical encyclopedia of every player), which I was one, the second Friday of February was THE DAY.
A modern day Midnight Madden Release could not compare to “getting the cards.”
I remember standing on line in the bitter cold, around the back of a non discreet building, along with other Strato crazies, which included teachers, lawyers and other closet baseball board game junkies.
Waiting and waiting in the cold for the better part of the morning.
I can still picture standing in front of a white building with a blue door.
Waiting for it to magically open.
And when it did, the hustle began.
The opened door would suck two people into the building at a time.
Once inside, one could see the sheets and sheets of the cards being cut into size, just within arms length.
As soon as you were mesmerized enough, a small corrugated bag would be handed to you and you got hurriedly escorted out quicker than being on the Soup Nazi’s line.
I remember half opening the bag as I walked out, bumping into the other crazies trying to get in the doorway that I was trying to get out of.
I remember having so much anticpation that I didn’t have time to say “excuse me” as that second could be used to get my hands on John Lowesteins card instead.
John Lowenstein versus a lefty 1-5, 1-6, 1-7, 1-8 HR – wow!
Jeff Leonard was a monster against a lefty, couldn’t hit a righty, A perfecr platoon player with John Lowenstein.
No one had a more dominating card than JR Richards card vs righty, K’s everywhere, or Gorman Thomas versus a righty – wow 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5 HR 2-10,2-11,2-12 HR. WOW
Mike Schmidt – 1-5, 1-6, 1-7, 1-8 HR. Nice
Dave Winfield -5 arm in RF.
Jim Sundberg -5 arm as catcher.
Mookie Wilson +2 arm,
Willie Wilson AA steal.
On and on and on.
I remember sitting in that beat up Comet for hours, just pouring over each card and blazing every statistic to memory.
The 2nd Friday in February has always been a great day.
The start of spring, of hope, of Strat-O-Matic sleepovers with friends that would make the guys in the Sandlot jealous.
It was the time of 20 sided dice, of corrugated brown bags, of 752 magical connections to the majors.
Here is to Midnight releases, to friendships, to knowing a players height and weight and date of birth, to wondering what the Rangers would do with their 40 man roster over the winter because they have this rookie called “Pudge” coming up.
Here is to putting John Lowenstein and Jeff Leonard together to form the greatest platoon on earth.
(Why didn’t real General Managers realize this?)
Here is to the second Friday in February.
May everyone have that one day a year that you just can’t wait for.