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exploring the world of APBA Baseball for Windows

It’s a small, small, small, small, world . . .

Posted by bbintelligencer on May 8, 2009

The original title of this post was “Introducing The APBA Blog”, but instead it seems more appropriate to use the closing lines from a song I sang back in those long ago High School chorus days . . . . .

I’ve been aware of several existing discussion boards since my return to playing APBA Baseball for Windows some time ago, there are 4 groups listed among links on this blog’s sidebar, but I didn’t know about any other blogs dedicated to APBA until just this last weekend, when I discovered a real gem in The APBA Blog.

apba-blog-logo

I’d even go so far as to confess that were I to have discovered The APBA Blog in advance, I’d likely never have started this site.  On the other hand, I’m always of the opinion that diversity is a good thing, and it appears that The APBA Blog is more about league play between card and dice enthusiasts, while I’m almost exclusively about Baseball for Windows, an interesting coincidence that’s not lost on me when considering the rest of the story . . . . .

While wandering thru the APBA Blog, I discovered the Illowa APBA League.

Normally that’s nothing exceptional, after all there are dozens of leagues out there playing APBA in one version or another, but this is a little different because I also am an Illowian.

These guys aren’t just in my vicinity, or even in my back yard, in terms of proximity it would seem to me that they are rolling their dice and setting their lineup cards right on my back porch.  It’s looking like I physically live somewhere in a small triangle formed by the dots on the map indicating the locations the owners of the Bombers, Upperdeckers, and the Rocket Fire.

I never had any idea there were active card and dice leagues just out my back door, let alone such a well organized and dedicated group.

And they are bloggers too!

Ain’t life grand?

There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all . . . . .

Posted in APBA Baseball for Windows | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Meet me in St. Louis

Posted by bbintelligencer on May 7, 2009

APBA's New Busch Stadium in St Louis

APBA's New Busch Stadium in St Louis

The previous post I made with a screenshot of one of APBA’s new original artwork stadiums – New PNC Park from APBA – has led to requests that I offer reviews of the stadiums I’ve picked up so far. It’s a little more difficult task that you might imagine, I don’t fancy myself an art critic, and my personal artistic sensibilities / abilities are limited to building scale model kits.

With those caveats in mind, I can at least say that this new Busch is pleasing enough to the eye, and it serves as a nice backdrop for the game and for the occasional broadcast with Ernie Harwell calling the play by play.  I don’t think I like it quite as well as the company’s rendition of PNC Park, as the city backdrop behind the stadium here in St Louis is quite two dimensional and yes, perhaps, even a little bit cartoonish.

Some folks prefer high definition pics for backdrops, but I do find a certain charm in artistic renditions of stadiums, so I’m not going to necessarily come down on either side of that debate.

The things that can be done with pictures and renditions today with programs such as paint shop etc, are pretty dramatic, so I’d expect that over time the quality of game backdrops available for purchase and/or download from sites like APBA.zip, will continue to improve . . .

At least that would be my hope!

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they say BBW 6.0 is still on the way . . .

Posted by bbintelligencer on May 6, 2009

In the game April 24 edition of the company’s periodical newsletter, APBA made a brief announcement (which follows) concerning the ongoing development of BBW 6.0.  apba-logo-email

We continue to receive numerous phone calls and emails in regards to our current software development to the baseball upgrade. APBA Baseball 6.0 is still in development and testing and going very well. The development process has merely taken much longer than we anticipated. This is not a small project by any means. Since missing our initial projection date by a mile, we have decided that we are not announcing a new one until we’re very close to the games actual release. We’re very sorry for the delay, but please be rest assured that we’re still actively in development. In the very near future we’ll begin to release information on the games features along with screen shots. We appreciate all your interest in the product and thank you for your patience during this long process.

As with any endeavor, APBA has had it’s share of critics over the handling of the long awaited Baseball for Windows upgrade. Baseball for Windows 5.5 is more than a decade old, that’s several lifetimes in the software word,  That the game is still relevant today is a real testament to the vision of the computer game’s developers, as well as the timeless nature of APBA baseball itself.

Of course I’ll be continuing to play BBW 5.5 for now, patiently awaiting (and hoping) for something even better . . .

Posted in APBA Baseball for Windows | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Screenshot – New PNC Park from APBA

Posted by bbintelligencer on May 5, 2009

APBA's new Pittsburgh

APBA's new Pittsburgh

Here’s a screenshot of a game in progress, featuring one of APBA’s new original artwork stadiums.

Some have complained that the backdrop is a bit cartoonish, and for those of that opinion, APBA.zip has a good number of high definition pictures set up as backdrops for APBA Baseball for Windows.

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A little background on BBW

Posted by bbintelligencer on May 4, 2009

There are a number of great online resources for APBA / BBW enthuiasts, I hope to detail a few of the best at a later date, but in describing the evolution of APBA Baseball for Windows (BBW), I’d be remiss if I failed to share a bit of the history behind the development of BBW that has already been posted at a site named APBA.zip.

apbalogoThe notes from APBA.zip indicate that this piece was authored in November of 2008, as a part of a discussion of the likely difficulties behind updating APBA Baseball for Windows to a version 6.0 that will operate properly in a 64 bit operating environment like some versions of Windows Vista.  While I am not totally sure of the origin or writer, I’m posting a fairly complete (but annotated) version of the story – the original can be found here.  This post may not be of interest to all readers, as some folks prefer to just play the game and enjoy it without knowing any of the details behind the games actual development.

Here is a little background on BBW.

There were several langiages that it was written in, converted from/to: Pascal, C+, Borland just to name a few. I don’t believe that Visual Basic actually was one, but a fore-runner to it could have been.

In 1984 the DOS game, along with StatMaster was written for IBM machines. (An Apple product was created in 1985, although it didn’t last long.) This program was an almost exact duplicate of the Master Game boards. There were somethings that were slightly different because they could not be exactly programmed the same way….really not that important to discuss. winstats

StatMaster and the game alreally had some limitations. The game did not capture all of the same data that StatMaster could use (it got the stuff that Roswell could think of, but over time, new types of Bill James’ stats were created and not included because they were not thought of by Roswell.) Enter, various patched to make it work. Patches were sometimes written in different languages which further complicated things.

Next came the program that Bill Staffa attributes Miller Associates with selling the farm….Wizard. Wizard created a pretty good card. Good enough to make the game work. The first version of Wizard was “probably” created as a means for getting back at the soured relationship that MA had with APBA, but who knows for sure. It was a good program.

That portion of this posting describes the DOS game I mentioned in prior posts here at APBA Baseball Replays.  An old friend had a DOS version of the APBA game that I played once or twice, but at that point in my life I found computer football sims to be more to my taste.  After all, if I wanted to play a baseball sim I could get out cards and dice, and I wouldn’t have to strain my eyes staring at those terrible old computer displays from the DOS days.

Next came a chapter that few even know about….CSN, Computer Sprts Network. It was an on-line gaming center that used a revamped MA version of the game and formed leagues that people signed up, and played in. While the player would handle his team’s home games, it was not a two-player game. The visiting team would send in written instructions to the home team as to how he should handle the opponents players. It was pretty neat. What it added were, basically, all of your AIM rules that you have today.

What killed CSN was money. People would drop out of the league when their team fell too far behind; others would cheat their way to championships; still others failed to follow the written rules of their opponent and fights (protests) would erupt. CSN ultimately folded but, in doing so, it begat two new programs. First was MicroManager..the program that was going to end the problems about cheating; and (pat on the back to me here, I convinced Kenneth Miller that the CSN version (with AIM, etc.) could be sold as a stand-alone version of the game. I break-away from APBA, a new game, completely. Many new games (graphics) were coming out at that time and Kenneth was worried that he would lose too much money if he didn’t follow suit with the other games.

I didn’t know about this portion of the APBA computer baseball game’s history. Several current baseball simulation makers are introducing or planning to introduce something similar, the more modern version is online head to head play, but the concept isn’t that different, so it looks to me that Miller Associates was simply ahead of it’s time.  winlm

MicroManager was one of the neatest programs ever created. But, it was too smart for all of us dummies. MicroManager game you a glimpse, not only of your manager, but of Kenneth’s own mind. Nice program but, way too hard for the common man.

The stand alone version of the game to almost a year to create/convert to a program that was now called BBW. It converted everything from DOS to Windows and, with a few more patches attempted to blend all f the programs into one.

Some of the most modern micromanagers are quite outstanding at recreating the tactics of historic managers, making this a special feature that makes BBW more attractive than most other baseball sims (at least in my eyes.) I’m planning an entire post singing the joys of one particular micromanager maker, detailing a few of his creations, so that’s another subject for another time . . .  bjebe

At the same time, MA’s employee Colby Duerk was working on the encyclopedia. Wow! When completed (another language, I think) it worked with Wizard to create a whole data disk with just a few key strokes in a manner of minutes. This was great, and horrible at the same time. MA could, in effect, ruin sales of season disks but selling this product. It sold for a few years. Colby ultimately quit, and went on his way….and the demise of MA’s was on its way.

I talked up the Bill James encyclopedia in a prior post, it’s a great tool.

With every new version of BBW the game inched further away from the original Master Game version. (Sometimes it was leaps and bounds, not inches.)

Financial problems continued. Fans weren’t buying all of the updates (or updates were coming too fast for fans to spend money on all of the updates) and things were changing. Finally, a law suit against the owners of 6 baseball games filed by the player’s union for use of names. The suit sapped the wind out of Kenneth and and the game, and the rest of the history you already know.

As far as the game is concerned, numerous programs were used; numerous patches were created; numerous programs were converted. Somehow, it works. It was still limited to what it could do (i.e. changing the batting characteristics to the + and – system required a whole new re-write) but it was do-able.

I guess I was a sucker, as I did purchase every update, as BBW was (and still remains) my favorite computer game. When all the dust settled, I ended up owning, BBW 1.0 BBW 2.0, BBW 3.0, BBW 3.5, BBW 4.0, BBW Harwell ’97 Update, BBW 5.0, and, of course, BBW 5.5 which remains to this day the most recent version of the game. I mentioned the three different versions of the Bill James Baseball Encyclopedia (1.0, 1.5, 1.51) I collected as well.

Although this collection may confirm, in some minds, the old adage about the birth frequency of suckers, I prefer to consider it loyalty.

Posted in APBA Baseball for Windows | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

BJBE

Posted by bbintelligencer on May 3, 2009

bjplate One of my most favorite tools associated with APBA Baseball for Windows is the Bill James Baseball Encyclopedia (later renamed the Fanpark Encyclopedia).

Distributed by Miller Associates in the mid-1990′s, the Bill James Baseball Encyclopedia (BJBE) was, in it’s day, the most informative and user friendly Baseball Encyclopedia available.  1990′s versions of Total Baseball included their own electronic versions of the book’s data, but they were nothing much special at all when compared to Miller Associates’ offering.

I also have a true affection for books of all kinds, as my postal carriers could attest, (I purchase a history book or two per week on average from various used booksellers,)  and my bookshelves carry the weight of 4 different editions of Total Baseball.  I also own two different versions of the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia, as well as the pair of 2500+ page behemoths from Stats, Inc, – the Stats All-Time Major League Handbook and Stats All-Time Baseball Sourcebook.

Even with all those available references, I found the data from the BJBE so essential that I once spent the better part of a month printing out, organizing, and then filing every pitcher’s and hitter’s record since 1900.  The project consumed two entire cases of paper,  and a box of file folders, and it took up three drawers of nice business filing cabinet.  At the time (about 1998) I never would have envisioned an online resource like Baseball-Reference.com would come about and make the whole works a waste of my time, but at least I’ve since donated all the paper to be recycled at the office where I work . . .

Included in the BJBE was a a page of biographical information, and perhaps a short biography for significant and/or current players, for every major league player through the discs publish date.  Here’s the biography for “Little Joe” Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman for the 70′s Big Red Machine -

Screenshot of Jor Morgan bio page from BJBE

Screenshot of Joe Morgan bio page from BJBE

The bio pages were nice and all, but the real “meat” for a stat-head such as myself was most complete set of statistics published up until that time.

Here’s a screenshot of a portion of Johnny Bench’s offensive statistics -

Johnny Bench batting stats from BJBE

Johnny Bench's career 9 year peak batting stats from BJBE

Having complete batting statistics gave me outstanding tools for advanced analysis.  One problem with sources like the Stats All-Time Major League Handbook is their printing is so small as to almost require a magnifying glass, but a laser printed BJBE readout was not only completely legible without reading glasses, it begged to be highlighted and marked up with notes.

If anything, it seemed to me that the pitching records had even more information by comparison -

Don Gullett's Reds Years

Don Gullett's Reds Years -Of course the Big Red Machine offense had more than a little involvement in helping Don's winning percentage, but back in the day my eyes were always impressed by Gullett's gaudy won-lost record.

To many, the best feature of the BJBE (later FPBE) was it’s ability to create teams and leagues for use in Baseball for Windows.  While data discs have never been totally prohibitive in price (in fact they are quite reasonable value in my eyes) I did find their cost a bit more steep in my younger days, and the BJBE’s import function allowed me to play with a variety of teams and seasons I’d never before imagined possible.

The player ratings produced from an encyclopedia import were somewhat different than the subjective ratings for fielding, arm, pickoff, etc as on the company’s discs (which in some/most/all? cases were directly derived from Master Edition board and dice game cards if I understand my APBA/BBW history/evolution correctly.)  Because a player’s defensive reputation sometimes lags behind his actual skill when he’s getting established, and because his fielding skills sometimes diminish but still garner gold gloves based on reputation later in a career, it might be argued that the more objective ratings produced by the encyclopedia are even more accurate than subjective grades assigned based on awards and the like.  That’s not an argument I’d take on either side, as I have my own strong opinions on player grading, but will hold them for the time being.

One advantage a BJBE data disc had over the seasons sold on 3.5″ floppies by Miller Associates was the inclusion of all peripheral data apparently left out of early DOS versions data discs.  Complete Games by pitchers was the most onerous omission (at least in my opinion), but other important data like GDP, SF, and HBP didn’t show either.  Every CD data discs I’ve bought from the APBA Game company in the recent past resolved the omission of those additional stats, a much appreciated act (at least by yours truly).

Strangely enough, I usually end up using a Mako Jo utility program to load those additional stats, and that mention will serve to conclude this posting, as a segue into my next here at APBA Baseball Replays . . .

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A quick intro to APBA Baseball for Windows

Posted by bbintelligencer on May 2, 2009

In my previous post I outlined the basics of the tabletop APBA Baseball game, here I will introduce APBA Baseball for Windows (BBW).

apbabbw

original packaging for BBW

BBW was not the first APBA baseball game made for the computer, instead it evolved from a DOS version of the game that was essentially a computerized version of the Master Game with no real significant changes. As the game was ported to the Windows environment, BBW evolved and slowly began to develop innovations not included in the table top game.  This means that while Baseball for Windows (BBW) remains based on the same kind of player cards as the Master Game, there are a significant number of innovations included in BBW which serve give more options to managers, as well as making game play even more realistic.

My first experience with Baseball for Windows was in the early 1990′s, the game was purchased at a local Best Buy (electronics big box store) in anticipation of purchasing my first Windows 3.1 machine. Yes, you read that right, in a classic case of “putting the cart before the horse”, I bought APBA BBW software before I had even purchased my first personal computer.

My first version of BBW (I think it was 2.0) loaded from 3.5″ floppy discs, and was essentially a dressed up version of the DOS and tabletop games, although I understand that the process of moving away from the simplicity of the card and dice game was already underway.  Some APBA enthusiasts are bothered by the changes that evolved, preferring a product that was true to the original board game.  It’s my understanding that folks of that particular ilk still play the old DOS version of APBA, using “DOS Box” or other similar emulator software to make that old game work on even the most “advanced” Windows operating systems.

miller-associates

the old Miller Associates logo

During the original heyday of Baseball for Windows, the game was designed and developed by a company named Miller Associates, under license from the original APBA game company.

The largest single innovation in the evolution of the game came with the release of BBW version 3.0 – a product which introduced Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell as the voice of APBA “Broadcast Blast”. With this feature, the longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster entered the virtual press-box of the APBA game engine and began announcing my fantasy baseball contests.

Here’s the company description from the original Miller Associates website.

APBA PRESENTS
BASEBALL FOR WINDOW 3.0 WITH
ERNIE HARWELL BROADCAST BLAST
NOW COMPATIBLE WITH WINDOWS ENCYCLOPEDIA
PLAY ANY TEAM OR PLAYER IN HISTORY
ALL THE FEATURES OF BBW 2.0 PLUS
EVERYTHING DESCRIBED BELOW

Announcer Ernie Harwell sets the action…two out…bottom of the ninth…tie game…your last pinch-hitter his bat on the plate…the cheering swells…RUSSEL deals…and it’s crushed deep to right…JACKSON races back he leaps…

Baseball for Windows — long praised as the leading strategy game for serious fans — is now the first game ever with full-broadcast sound. With break-through SmartSound technology, every action is vividly described by Hall of Famer Ernie Harwell, his classic baseball voice taking you to a time and place known only to tru baseball fans.

Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell calls the whiffs, the boots, the shots in this major new version!

  • From the first pitch to the heart-stopping, game-winning collision at home plate, sweat out triple steals, wild errors, rundowns, dramatic injuries, ejections, rain outs and rain delays, near-miss homers, and great home run calls from history including Ernie’s famous “it’s lonnng gone!”
  • Ernie announces the lineups, batter’s skills and current stats as he steps up to the plate. He’ll tell you who’s on base, who’s having a good games, who’s due, who’s yanked, and who’s working on a no-hitter.
  • Feel the tension as the pitcher stares down the slugger with the game on the line. Then listen to those home team fans cheer, groan, call for the hook. You’ll be on your feet!
  • Broadcast sound is available with all modes of play and separate controls over the voice, crowd, and music let you set the levels the way you want.
  • The crowd and new animations are pretty smart, too. They know when it’s regular season or championships, if it’s early or late in the game, blowout or close situations, and of course what team they’re rooting for. For example, when your home team wins on a clutch hit, watch out for the fireworks.

Advanced Draft 3.0 now links to all of history!

The new Advanced Draft makes your ultimate matchup fantasies easier to set up. Combined with Bill James Electronic Baseball Encyclopedia for Windows, you can now play any team or player in history. With Fantasy Linker, you get four ways to import players from the Encyclopedia:

  • Import whole teams or multiple teams into an organization
  • Import an individual player onto a team (using his entire career or any subset of his career years)
  • Import players for the Draft List
  • Import and replace a player (modifies the abilities of an existing player but the player name is unchanged)

Also with Draft 3.0

  • You can edit any performance rating for a player (except his batting “card” numbers or his personal characteristics, like handedness or positions — for that you can still use Wizard).
  • You can change a player’s first and last name. If you select from the Name List, Ernie speaks them during a broadcast game. More than 12,000 names are available, but if the name you want is not there, Ernie also announces initials.

Important Note: Players imported from the Encyclopedia are not “official” APBA players. The import rating algorithms were developed independently by the publisher for Draft 3.0. If you want official APBA players, including certain subjective rating, consider the individual season disks described under “Glory Seasons” starting on Page 27.

Many new features and free add-ons in BBW 3.0

In the past Miller Associates has always tried to give you more function and features than you expected. BBW 3.0 is no exception — the free add-ons make it a great startup and upgrade value. BBW 3.0 coms with:

  • 7 player disk included — 1921, 1943, 1971 and all four Old Timer Teams Volumes 1,2,3 and 4. They come with multiple lineups, rotations, and schedules all set up for you, so they are ready for replay. Note: The names of some professional players are restricted by license and do not appear on these player disks.
  • 3 additional ballparks included — all new Detroit (Day/Night), Ernie Harwell’s home field for more than 30 years, plus Cincinnati (Day/Night) and Minnesota (Dome).
  • 4 computer managers with modestly updated versions of Johnny McCoy, Larry Pepper, Cap Spalding, and Duke Robinson. McCoy and Pepper, the two fanmanagers by Larry Bubb, are designed to handle replays of older seasons when today’s concept of relief pitching was not in vogue. Robinson and Spalding are modern managers who like to use their bullpen.
  • 55 oil painting by noted baseball artist Andy Jurinko and Gerald Garston to enjoy as backdrops in Draft, StatMaster, and the Encyclopedia. This is more art than you see in many screen savers. You can tile each image or use best fit, as you want, and whichever painting you call up becomes the default are (of course, you can still use the ballparks, which is the way it worked in previous versions).
  • 25 Great Announcers biographies by Voices of the Game author Curt Smith. These are the stars of baseball broadcasting, and their biographies track the history of the game throught the spoken word. Ernie’s story is there, along with Barber, Dean, Buck, McNamee, McClendon, Saam, other classic announcers as well as the modern school of broadcasting.
  • Tale Spinner(TM) — a new program that displays paintings and photographs while you listen to professionals talk about their work. Hear Ernie’s Views from the booth, a 45-minute exclusive interview, including Ernie’s recitation of his Hall of Fame poem “Baseball in America,” and an interview with artist Andy Jurinko about his 600-painting masterwork The Game We Left Behind: 1946-1960.
  • Full-function Bill James Encyclopedia demo included — Just in case you want to give a try out to the Encyclopedia before buying it, we have included a demo version with BBW 3.0. It includes the full 1959 and 1960 season and will show you how charting, career analysis, and BBW 3.0 importing work. See the Encyclopedia of Page 7 for more details. (If you do buy the game and Encyclopedia at the same time and are not satisfied with either, you can return them for a refund — see our Unconditional Guarentee on the order form.)
  • Updated versions of League Manager and StatMaster with minor fixes in response to user comments.
  • New Advanced Options Menu helps you more easily manage custom choices and saves them from session to session.
  • Tutorial is now online so that you can have the Tutorial window open as you go step-by-step through the major features of each program.
  • Expanded Help and Readme now cover setting up league play and replays, importing players from the Encyclopedia, and all the new features of Version 3.0.

Even in today’s somewhat more jaded world of consumer electronics, that all sounds pretty good . . .

As was mentioned in the company description of BBW, there now was also a Baseball Encyclopedia associated with the game, and it allowed individuals to import players, teams, and even complete seasons directly from the encyclopedia to the game.  Previously, the only source for the actual players cards (with as played statistics and proprietary player ratings) was to purchase individual seasons from the game company, but now at least fair facsimiles could be created for any past season.  In my eyes, this was a wonderful development, as it gave me the ability to play a wider variety of seasons than I’d ever imagined.

Originally titled the Bill James Baseball Encyclopedia (BJBE), it was an essential tool on my desktop for years.  Not only did the BJBE interact with my APBA Baseball game, it also had the most comprehensive stats available in it’s day.  The first version of the BJBE included information on all of baseball history from 1876 thru 1994, including an even greater number of statistical breakdowns than the STATS All-Time Major League Handbook and the STATS All-Time Baseball Sourcebook, a pair of 2700 page reference behemoths that weigh not far from 10 pounds each.

Once upon a time, working from that encyclopedia, I printed out the complete individual statistical records of nearly every baseball player since 1900, a project that used nearly two full cases of paper (20 reams) and nearly filled a 4 drawer filing cabinet, not to mention a series of 3 ring binders which held season recaps and team statistics. Two upgrades (versions 1.5 and 1.51) followed the original Bill James Encyclopedia (version 1.0) – they each added one new season of statistics – version 1.5 adding the 1995 season’s statistics, while 1.51 included numbers from 1996.

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