At the ooolllld balllll gaaaaame!
I’m excited for baseball season–I always am. Last night the Twins played the Red Sox as the preseason wraps up. It was the first time I saw Nishioka hit and I was thrilled that Morneau is back in the lineup. I don’t know who the Red Sox preseason announcer is, but I sure liked hearing him say “Cawo Cwafode” instead of Carl Crawford, “Rahn Gah-denhiya” for the Twins’ GM.
But it wasn’t the first time my team took the field yesterday. No, yesterday I also played a game of Dave Anderson’s Round the Bases, a fantastic cribbage variation that combines our national past-time with a little 15-2. Like cribbage? Like baseball? Read on. I first met Dave at the annual world’s largest cribbage tournament in Reno, NV. “I tried to build in as many little actualities as possible,” he told me, “the more real it is, the more fun it is.” Fun like baseball. Using the same scoring phases in cribbage (pegging and counting), players can expect singles, doubles, triples, homeruns, steals, pickle plays, strikeouts, double plays, and more.
Make no mistake, it is a cribbage game at heart. But instead of the usual first-to-121-wins the race round the cribbage board, Anderson’s twist is a competition over three innings. Pegs–the batters and runners–advance based on the difference of points once they’re all counted in typical cribbage fashion. A hit is at least +4 net points for the dealer; anything less is an out.
Cut a jack and you clear the bases–homerun!
To demonstrate how well the cribbage math and baseball twist work out, let’s put it in baseball terms. On the board, remember the batter (dealer) needs at least +4 for a chance at a hit. At six points per base, that’s just over half the baseline. In real life, a ball player wouldn’t expect a hit if the ball were fielded by the time he’s halfway there, right? So it works well. After the hands are counted, you simply follow the directions on the board. From there, cribbage transmutes to baseball. It’s a wonderful alchemy.
But it’s all for nothing if cribbage isn’t integral to enjoying the game. Anderson tested for the better part of a year. “Playing it to try and work the bugs out, I worked for a good 6, 7 months, over and over and over again. You get to a point where you think it’s good, and then a situation occurs that forces you to reconsider. So you dream up another adaptation that is true to the game we love.” The more we spoke, the more it became evident that Anderson and Round the Bases is rooted in the same values most ACC players will admit: win or lose, “the pursuit is part of the pleasure.” It’s a variation by a cribbage player for cribbage players.
And we played a humdinger–on Sunday, February 13, as Herschel Mack and a few others made their way to the final rounds of the ACC Open Championship, Dave and I played quite the game. We had homeruns. We had steals. We had hits and strikeouts and double plays, all rooted in the same cribbage hands Herschel and the others were playing next door on the mezzanine floor of the Sands Regency casino. We met Jim Hicks (up soon on the blog), a former minor league player for the Dodgers. After he beat me in extra innings, I was able to ask who he would play, alive or dead, on the board of his design. “Mickey Mantle,” he grinned, “try and throw one by him! When I was a kid, Mantle was it, he was everything.”
As we played, eCribbage.com creator Damien Blond strolled over. He and Dave are partnering to release Round the Bases on Damien’s website just in time for baseball season; the expected launch date is April 1, just a few days from now. If you’d like to see what the game is all about, head on over to eCribbage.com.
Before we finished, I asked Dave if he saw parallels between baseball and cribbage, or if he decided to make a baseball game for crib players and go from there. “Probably the latter; I like both of them. Cribbage supplies you with numbers, and then you can adapt rules to make those numbers fit. Then you just work the bugs out.” We even spoke a little of business, and the same trepidation every entrepreneur (or writer) feels at the start of a new project:
“It’s a commitment,” Dave said. “It’s tellin’ yourself ‘I’m going to see this thing through before I kick the bucket.’ Less a risk than an investment or opportunity.”
“Like throwing a pair to your opponent’s crib while keeping a mittful,” I offered.
“Exactly,” he grinned, “no guts, no glory.”
So give it a go. Who would YOU play, if given the chance?