By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
The winter of 1956 was when it began. I was eight. Earlier that summer, our family in Stevens Point would hunker down by the big radio in the living room. We enjoyed listening to Earl Gillespie as he called the Milwaukee Braves’ baseball games. On a good day and if the stars alligned properly, we would get a pretty good reception.
But this was now the winter. My late dad surprised me as I was sitting around the house probably watching Annette Funicello and the “Mickey Mouse Club”. He handed me a new notebook, a pencil, a ruler, and two dice. One of the dice was bigger than the other.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Play some baseball,” he replied.
Huh? It was way too cold to play baseball outside.
He explained: “Here’s what I want you to do. Write down a Milwaukee Braves’ lineup on one page of this notebook. When you’re done with that, write down another team’s lineup on a different page.”
I did so.
“Then what?” I asked.
Dad then pulled out a piece of paper with a lot of numbers on it. He said: “These are the rules. Let’s see your Braves’ lineup.”
Billy Bruton (cf) … Johnny Logan (ss) … Eddie Mathews (3b) … Hank Aaron (rf) … Joe Adcock (1b) … etc.
He said: “Okay, play ball — roll the dice.”
I rolled the two dice. A “2” on the big dice and a “1” on the little one.
We looked at the sheet.
“Well,” he said, your lead-off batter Bruton just grounded out to short. Write it down in your scorebook.”
I did so.
Then he continued: “Who’s up next? Logan? Okay, roll the dice.”
Big “3” and small “2”.
“Okay,” he said. “The sheet says Logan flew out to center. Write it down.”
My next guy, Mathews, hit a double because I rolled a pair of deuces. Two outs. Man on second. Then Aaron flew out.
First inning. Braves. No runs.
“Now what?” I asked.
“Let the Cubs bat,” he said.
Ernie Banks. Third batter up for Chicago. I rolled boxcars. Cubs 1 Braves 0. Home run by Banks.
I played about a thousand “games” that winter. I kept making trips to the Stevens Point grocery stores to buy more notebooks and lots of baseball cards in wax packs.
Then came “The Shoe Rule”. If I had a player’s baseball card, he could bat. This rule really hurt Braves’ catcher Del Crandall’s production.
Pretty sure the cheating started after about 30 games. For one thing, the Milwaukee Braves, my favorite team, were losing way too many games in my dad’s dice baseball.
So I fudged a little.
For instance, the Braves at bat … two runners on base … two outs … Joe Adcock at the plate. Rolled a big “3” and a small “2”. Strikeout!
This wouldn’t do. Must’ve been cocked dice. Kept rolling the dice until boxcars came up. 3-run homer! Much better!
My new “system” was fun, and once I got it down, my Milwaukee Braves won over 100 games in a row.
And even THAT was strange. After my first “season” was over, I’d total up the stats.
Eddie Mathews: .210 batting average, 17 home runs. Hank Aaron: .230 batting average, 19 home runs. Bob Uecker: .750 batting average, 64 home runs?
The real Bob Uecker rarely played. But in the dice game, I didn’t have a Del Crandall baseball card so he couldn’t bat. And for some weird reason, boxcars seemed to be rolled a lot when Uecker came to the plate.
This didn’t seem right. Even the lady next door knew Bob Uecker wouldn’t hit 64 homers in a season while Aaron only had 19.
So I fooled around a little more with the lineup. I made Aaron my first batter and Mathews my second. Sometimes I’d skip Uecker entirely. When it was his turn to bat, he’d suddenly hurt himself and return to the dugout. Mathews up again! Sometimes Mathews would be batting even though he was on second.
But Uecker never led those other guys in homers again.
Dice Baseball. It was a perfect way to get through those dreary winters without ever leaving the comforts of home.
But I sure went through the erasers.
And the Milwaukee Braves never lost another game.