Don Smith blows a duck call during highlights in his own games.
Joel Pike was mired in a 15-inning game and Kevin Burghardt milled about, watching the contests of the Chicago Retro World Series APBA Tournament held Nov. 14 in Grayslake, Ill.
I know all this because I was there. For the first time ever, I actually saw, in person, others who are obsessed with the baseball game with which we all recreate seasons. I made the nine-hour trip from my home to north of Chicago — not specifically for the tournament, mind you, but to make a second visit of a girl who lives nearby and who has changed my world.
I took her with me to the Grayslake Historical Society and Museum to give her a crash course into the game and the mania that ensues. What better way to introduce her to the game than exposing her to a room full of intense guys rolling dice, marking score sheets and watching others play.
When we walked into the museum, two workers greeted us at the door. I told them we were there for the baseball tournament and a man pointed us around a bend toward a room. “I'm surprised you haven't heard them,” a woman said.
At one point, Doug, with that elbow-breaking roll, tossed a walk-off home run for Darryl Strawberry. Loud cheers ensued. My own obsession for the game game seemed pale by comparison.
We were late, and it was difficult to meet and talk with the guys. I've never played an APBA game with anyone else before; the logistics of who rolls the dice, the rules for two, etc., were not familiar with me. It was not a place to learn. Instead, I walked around and recognized a few of the players from pictures I had seen on the APBA Facebook page.
I was glad to meet Rich Zawadzki. I called him at his Jackson, Mich., church a few months ago out of the blue just to talk to him. The other guys were great as well. There's a bonding with this game and although we come from different areas, cultures, lives, we do share the commonality of the game.
It was good seeing Joel as well. By far, he is the most creative person, I think, in our group. Check out his Facebook posts to see what I'm talking about.
The games rolled on. We didn't stay too long. Like I said, it's hard to interfere with guys heavily mired into the strategy of their games. You don't interrupt people praying, eating or rolling APBA dice. It's common courtesy. We left early; we had other stops to make before nightfall and we planned to venture into Chicago the following day.
There are upcoming tournaments in the area. Thomas Nelshoppen has one in the Champaign, Ill., area in April and Doug has another in Grayslake in July. I won't play in them — I can never commit to anything like that far ahead because of the fickle nature of my news job and its schedules. But I do know that I have added motivation to make it back up there to visit my Illinois girl. And I don't think the mania she saw that Saturday scared her away … yet.