Ron Clasky and his son David have been going to baseball games for years, both in Chicago and in South Florida. They grew up watching and listening to announcers like Jack Brickhouse and Harry Carey making the game come to life. Inevitably they purchased several baseball board games, but were disappointed in them. While the majority of the games used statistics and graphs to simulate baseball matchups, ultimately they all boiled down to a roll of the dice or a spin of a spinner. After a while the games became predictable and uninspiring, not to mention unrealistic. The final straw may have been a game in which a bunt became a home run!
Ron came up with the idea of dividing the baseball field into squares. The idea was players would be placed on different squares, the ball would be hit to a square and how far the nearest player was from where the ball landedwould determine how good a hit it was or if it was a hit at all. Every time they would play one of the other games they would discuss this idea. One day on a whim David took out a sheet of construction paper and quickly sketched a baseball diamond, which he then drew lines over to create the grid. He quickly drew up some cards for the results and showed it to his father. Naturally, this quicky version was pretty shabby, but from this Ron and David set out to create their vision for real!
It took several years to design thegame by hand. They bought a large sheet of graph paper and drew a baseball diamond on it. The most difficult part was working out the cards. The deck would contain 100 cards, so as to work out the percentages, and there would be different pitches and different types of hitters. They made sure that every square had at least one hit to it for every type of hitter and pitch, but they made sure to weigh the results for the different hitters and pitches. For example, the .100 hitters had fewer hits to the outfield and fewer line drives than the .300 hitters. The right-handed hitters had hits to every part of the field, but more of their hits went to left field than to right. The different pitches also have their own characteristics. The Fast Ball produces more line drives but also more strikes. There would be advantages and disadvantages to every pitch. Calculating these odds for every possibility was time consuming, as was the process of handwriting each card. The game also underwent some changes.
The original board only went as deep as row R. The current game goes all the way to row Z. Some hits were taken out if too many runs were scored in a game; similarity, hits would be put back in if the games seemed to be too low scoring. Since powerful PCs with sophisticated graphics and word processing had yet to be available in the mid 1980s, changing the game meant getting out the liquid paper and trying to write legibly over the dried white gunk! They used different colored screws purchased at a local hardware store for the game pieces. The game has also had several names. It was called Balls and Strikes (and very briefly, it was called simply ďBallsĒ) for much of itís life before being renamed Great Play Baseball and then simply Great Play!
Finally, in 1984 the game was ready for the world! The two designers copyrighted their work and set out to find someone to produce it. After several dead ends, they drew some interest from Gary Gygax, the owner of TSR Hobbies and the genius behind thelegendary role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Ron made the two-hour drive from Chicago to TSRís home office in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to play a game of Great Play Baseball with the D&D wizard! Gygax seemed impressed with what he saw, and put the game into research. However, after a year TSR said that while they liked the game they had just purchased a game company that already had a baseball game, Stratomatic, so they didnít want to produce another one. This was as close as Great Play got to being published by a major game company. While they continued to play. improve and enjoy Great Play Baseball with themselves and close friends, they put aside trying to sell the game for the time being.
Fast forward to 2002. Over lunch one day in Fort Lauderdale, FL, where they operate their business together, Ron and David decided to try and publish the game themselves. With the advent of computer graphics and the internet, they realized the game could be redesigned and marketed with relative ease, without all that messy liquid paper! They spent the better part of a year redesigning the game and finding different manufacturers to produce the different parts. The screws were replaced with wooden game pieces. They formed a new corporation called Clasky, Inc. and are selling the game both online and in their T-Shirt shop called T-Shirt Court. Itís still in the early innings, but they believe they have a winner!