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April 14, 2011

Wezen-Ball

"Challenge the Yankees", the boardgame

by Larry Granillo

While doing some routine browsing of "baseball" and Wikipedia the other night, I came across a board game I hadn't heard of before. I imagine the older and/or die-hard Yankees fans will know the game well, but it's definitely the first I've heard of if. The game was published in 1964 & 1965 by Hasbro and was called "Challenge the Yankees".

Using prior year stat's, the game came with 50 player cards: the current year Yankees players and 25 all-stars whose job it is to "challenge the Yankees." One player would set a Yankees-only lineup, while the other would focus on his "all-stars" to create a team. They would then play the game using dice to determine each at-bat's outcome.

The Board Game Geek described it as:

Challenge the Yankees is a simple two player baseball simulation that was published twice. The first set, printed in 1964, uses 1963 stats; the second, printed in 1965, uses stats for 1964. One player takes the Yankees, and the other takes a collection of Major League All Star players. Die rolls indexed on each batter determine the result of a pitch; special card draws add further random behavior to fly balls, ground balls, and base hits of varying types.

Digging around some more, it seems that cards from this game are often hard to come by - the player cards were individually marked and featured headshots, clever facts about the player, player "autographs", and game statistics - having been separated from the board game years ago. Collectors have to go out of their way to find the more popular cards. In the two editions, cards were made for many loved and respected players, including Yogi Berra, Jim Bouton, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Juan Marichal, Eddie Matthews, Willie McCovey, Ron Santo, Carl Yastrzemski and dozens more. It's not hard to see why these cards got separated from their homes.

Looking for references to this game from the '60s (and not from today's eBay listings - whew!), I came across this ad from Boys' Life. It doesn't tell us anything that we don't already know, but the ad sure is fun to see.

What this reminds me of most of all, though, is a similar game that my older brother invented when I was probably eight. I could probably spend 4,000 words describing how this (relatively) simple game was played, but I'll try and keep it short. Using a deck of cards and a lineup that was completely invented (but almost certainly a part of a larger "league" with standings and MVP votings, for example), a game could be played by tracking each at-bat on a card-by-card/at-bat-by-at-bat basis. A deuce, for example, would be a ground out; a red five possibly a triple (depending on a secondary check); an ace was a strikeout, while other cards were simple balls & strikes or home runs or doubles or anything else possible. We spent hours playing that game as kids, inventing entire biographies for each player under our control.

The king of all games is still, of course, Strat-O-Matic, which continues to go strong fifty years later. Contenders and pretenders cropped up along the way, like 1964's Challenge the Yankees, but none of them could stick. They are now collector's items, hanging around the eBay marketplace, hoping to get picked for one last game. I don't think I'll be playing "Challenge the Yankees" any time soon, but just knowing it's out there is a great start. Maybe I'll keep digging to see what other gems have been lost to the pages of history.

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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jhardman

Great article, Larry. As a "purist" of the era who still actively plays in a face-to-face cards and dice Strat league (playing tonight!) with 15 other local throwbacks, I love the articles that are done on the great games before the era of computers or video games. I have played in ABPA, Statis Pro, and OOTP leagues as well as Strat-O-Matic leagues, and there is something about the season simulation that the computer games just don't seem to get right. As this era slowly rides off into the sunset, there are plenty of us who fight it and would love to see more on the subject of baseball board games. Thanks!

Apr 14, 2011 09:01 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

Thanks for mentioning those other games. A few people reminded me that I maybe blew off those other games a little too quickly in my Strat comment. I didn't mean to. Obviously those games you mentioned all have a long history too... I was thinking more along the Challenge the Yankees type games...

Apr 14, 2011 15:27 PM
 
dom

I retrieved this game from my parents house last fall, and have not looked inside the box to see if any of the cards from the game remain. Your article reminded I still have this game! It will be interesting to see if it is the 64 or 65 version.

I seem to recall a similar card game featuring Mr. Met entitled " Beat the Mets!", from the same time period. Not sure if it featured player profiles. No doubt not as big a seller.

Apr 14, 2011 09:51 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Larry Granillo
BP staff

There's a decent chance that Beat the Mets game is the same thing... I may have to look into it.

Also, if you're interested, you'll probably want to look around ebay, etc for games in the same condition as yours... I saw some high price tags when I checked...

Apr 14, 2011 15:29 PM
 
BrewersTT

A team of all-stars against the 1964 Mets. There may have been a balance-of-play issue with that one.

I love tabletop baseball games. Invented a Statis-Pro-like one at about age 12, then discovered Statis-Pro itself, which became a mania for many years. Replayed all of 1956 NL to see whether I could get the Braves the pennant (nope). For some reason my friends and I did not discover SOM until much later, and never really even tried APBA.

Apr 15, 2011 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
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