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Issue #7 - December 2013

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Interview with Steve Barkan  **

      (This interview was conducted on Decmber 1st, 2013 by our columnist and one of
our SOM advisors and very good friend Bruce Bundy. Bruce has been friends with Steve
Barkan for quite some time. Mr. Barkan as many of you know was one of the two key lieutenants  {with James Williams, see his interview also in this issue} for Hal Richman,
founder of Strat-o-matic and the creator of the SOM games, during the late 1960's and
early 1970's. Mr. Barkan and Mr. Williams were part of the main force in setting up
the foundation of the game company as we know it today.
We thank Bruce Bundy
and Steve Barkan for their permission to include this interview in our newsletter.)

 (Notes from the Wolfman:  We are sure you will enjoy this interview as Mr. Barkan
discusses many aspects of his work at Strat-o-matic plus his other interests with baseball (playing softball and coaching).  If you have not had a chance to meet Mr. Barkan before, you will enjoy your opportunity to do so in this interview. Also he has announced his retirement will be at the end of this year which he also discusses how this will work for him.

Steve Barkan, Strat-o-matic Executive working in his office, photo by Bruce Bundy, Ultimate Strat Baseball

Steve Barkan in his office at Strat-o-matic (a normal day at work)
( photo submitted by Bruce Bundy, (c) Bruce Bundy )

Bruce:  So this is Bruce Bundy and its 2013 and I am interviewing Steve Barkan who is the chief operations I would say ...

Steve Barkan:  Research and Development Guy still a little bit ... yeah

Bruce:  Thank you Steve - for the Strat-o-matic Game Company. Hi Steve.

Steve Barkan:  How are you doing Bruce?

Bruce:  I am great (Steve: good). I have a bunch of questions for you and I hope you like them all. The first one is: "What was Baseball Research like in the 70s?"

Steve Barkan:  Ohhh, it was a lot different than it is now because really we were working with stats that we had, we didn't have to create them. Of course in the 70's we weren't producing the old seasons so it was just a matter of making up the cardset at the end of the current season. To do that we actually had all the stats we needed, so it was pretty easy. The biggest difference is that we didn't have computers to work with, we were actually using calculators when we needed to. And if you actually go back to the late 60's when I started we were actually renting calculators, that's how far back we go.

Bruce:  That's incredible!

Steve Barkan:  Yes, when you think about the original work that Hal did in the first years before the game was computerized, it was all done by hand and done by calculator.

What was it like to work with Hal back then?

Steve Barkan:  It was very relaxing. We didn't get nearly the correspondences, phone calls, day-to-day let's call it distractions that we do now. So it was strictly working. In those days it was James Williams and myself and Hal. You know, it was very very informal let's say. We did a lot of the proof reading. Back in the old days we had to proof read each card twice because they were varityped. And then they were setup to be printed. We had to read each card at each stage to make sure there weren't mistakes. There were a lot more mistakes in those days that were found because everything was done by hand. Now a days everything is done by computer and there are very few mistakes made. (Bruce: nice!) Hopefully they are all caught.

Bruce:  It has come a long way huh!

Steve Barkan:  Yes it has. When I think back about the way we use to do it back in Port Washington (editor's note: NY, near NYC where SOM had its early office) and the way we do it now. A lot of the steps are the same but they are done by computer and its a matter of checking the output more so than checking the input. So it's a little bit different.

Bruce:  Well you have already put this out to print, can you talk a moment about retirement?

Steve Barkan:  Yes, retirement is right around the corner. It's actually more like semi-
retirement because I am still going to continue to do some work at Strat-o-matic I guess on a
consulting basis. The way I'm putting it when I talk about it, I am not going to be working at
Strat-o-matic but I will still be doing some work for Strat-o-matic. We taught about that actually
at the 50th Anniversary, someone had brought it up. We had said that we were try to keep
going on a part-time basis.

At the time I thought I was going to be working on the older seasons, which is stuff I like to work on which I think everybody knows. But there are going to be some other things thrown into the mix so I won't be doing exclusively old seasons but I will be working on a part-time basis from home which makes it a lot more palatable to me and puts a big junk into that gas budget.

Bruce:  Well I want to take a moment and thank you for your career at Strat-o-matic
and I have enjoyed your work tremendously.

Steve Barkan:  Well thank you much.

Do you prefer cats or dogs?

Steve Barkan:  (Laughs) That's a great question. When I was growing up I was a big dog
person. Now I actually I have a cat, its the second cat that I owned. I am still a big dog person but the thought of going out on a 17 degree day in the snow walking a dog does not excite me any more. The idea of getting up on a 17 degree day and cleaning out the litter box is a lot better, put it that way. I had always been a dog person and I always like big dogs.

What happened was a friend of mine became pregnant and she couldn't keep her cat and she wound up bringing the cat over to me and I kind of fell in love in him. He was very affectionate which is not the typical cat. The typical cat is very standoffish. He was a little bit of a goofball and when he passed away I went through a period of about six months where you know I kept trying to think whether I wanted to replace him or not. And I wound up getting a rescue cat who I have had now for two and half years and she's great. She doesn't take much maintenance and she is more standoffish but she is a lot of fun.

Steve Barkan, Strat-o-matic Executive with his friend Bruce Bundy, columnist Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter

Steve Barkan (right) with Bruce Bundy (left)
( photo submitted by Bruce Bundy, (c) Bruce Bundy )

That's great. Here's a back to a baseball question. How was this year's softball experience?

Steve Barkan:  Well, softball was very interesting. I'm still coaching and what we did this year with my own softball (team?), we had a 40 and over team. Most of the same guys we have had for the last 12 or 15 years, a few of the guys are getting older and a couple of the better players retired because they were having trouble seeing at night. So we lost a lot of the power that we used to have. We played in our summer league, we played a 28 game schedule I believe it was and we finished tied for first and then we won the playoffs. So it was a good summer softball wise.

And in the fall what happened, we went to go into the same 40 and over league that we played in but a lot of the other teams didn't want to play against us. They felt like they didn't have too much of a chance to win so they dropped out. Then our manager made a slight mistake and said he wanted to play in an open league but he wanted to play Tuesday nights. So they put us in the second strongest open league. We wound up playing against four very good teams of
mostly 25 year olds and our team is pretty much in their early to mid 50's so we took a beating. You know we competed but we took a beating. So I spoke to the manager and we agreed that we belonged in the third open league which was a little bit weaker but that's pretty much where we belonged at this point.

What I really enjoyed with this year's softball was that I got involved with Hofstra University Softball. And for people not familiar with women's softball, Hofstra is a mid-major school playing in the Colonial Athletic Association with teams like Drexell and James Madison. And we've pretty much dominated the CAA for the last several years. We had a two time All American pitcher which helps and during the year we beat the University of Texas when they were ranked 5th in the country. And in the NCAA tournament we beat Missouri when they were ranked 6th in the country.

(However) we were beaten in the finals of the Missouri Regional so we were pretty good. I really enjoyed it. I went into the Hofstra schedule just looking to watch to see what was going on. I was very friendly with the head coach going back for 30 years. I went down to watch them and I really enjoyed it. And he (the coach) said to me why don't you come down to some of the games and some of the practices. And in the spring I came up with a little scoring system just to do, well it was actually pluses and minuses. This enabled the girls to understand a little bit better about what happens when they make mistakes, how it effects the wins and loses. So I guess you could say I was a consultant with Hofstra University and I enjoyed it a lot and I will be doing it again next year.

Bruce:  Well congratulations on Hofstra and also your summer league. So can we get back to Strat-o-matic at this point? (Steve: Sure) How often do you see Hal anymore and how is he doing?

Steve Barkan:  Hal is doing very well. He comes in, ah I would say once or twice a week. His son Adam technically is the President of the company now and Hal is the SEO. We have brought in outside people and the company is very busy. We have a lot of projects coming up in the works that are almost completely different from what we're doing for the future but it's something that I can't talk about it.

  But what do you see generally for the future of the game?

Steve Barkan:
 It's kind tough to tell. Well I think the board game, at least for the baseball and football is here to stay. The other two sports it pretty much depends upon the sales. Basically, people don't think about it but the cost of paper in the last decade has gone up 600%. So its a matter of keeping the customer base up. As far as the computer game, that is not going
anywhere. And like I said, there are other projects coming in that I ca not talk about.

  Great. What would you say was your best year at Strat-o-matic? (Steve: My Best Year?)
Yes, if you gave it to a number, what year would it be.

Steve Barkan:
 I would say, but I can't talk about sales wise so ... (Bruce: Your opinion..) My
opinion, my best year ... I would probably say 1983 from a personal standpoint when we
started doing the old seasons for Baseball. And at the time it was a project that I got involved in and you know I didn't know where it was going lead to, it was just an experiment. Based on the work that I did and the possibilities that it created for the game company, I got a real nice salary boost at the end of the year. Based on dollars alone and based on the ability to do something that I grew to enjoy, I would say that year was my favorite year, let's put it that way.

Bruce:  Is there a chance you could give a morsel of data of this year's cards?

Steve Barkan:  No I really can't do that because we have a ratings preview coming up. I will say that we are going have more cards than ever before this year, the card-set is being expanded. With some of the teams using 20 pitchers or more, we really need that expansion. But as far as the cards themselves I can't really gave any information out.

  Well that is ok. Is there any chance you can share a last formula with me? (Steve: No)
Ok, I just thought I would ask.

Steve Barkan:
 Well the formulas, its funny because the last conversation I had with Hal and Adam is that I have to sign another confidentiality assignment similar to the one I signed in 1970 that I can't give away that information.

  Can you talk about what you still will do with the company?

Steve Barkan:
 I'm still going to do some old card research, some of the old cards. Also I might just set them up and then let John do most of the work which is what he was hired to do. I am going to be involved a little bit again in the College Football game. Steve Reiter has decided that he can't do it anymore so it has been thrown back in our laps. Actually in January, John, Lenny, Shawn and myself are all going to work on the College Football. And then I may work some stuff as it comes up, we don't really have a definite plan on that. I am not going to be working nearly the hours that I did work, I haven't been working the overtime that I use to do, so I've cut back alot. And like I said, there are probably about 30 different seasons (Baseball) that we want to get done. With John working them by himself in the office amongst other things, he can't keep up with the schedule so I am going to help him out with that.

Bruce:  So now on to your plan, how's retirement looking, where are you going?

Steve:  Pretty much right in this chair that I am sitting in right now. The original plan was to go down to Florida and become a full time Florida Gator's fan. The way the Gators played this fall, that's out. And also I have too many things going on in New York so I am going stay right here, I'm comfortable here and I don't want to give up my softball. If I need to go into the office which I do foresee that happening occasionally I will be able to go in for a week or so to help out, you know and do it that way. Right now the plan is to work from home. There are still a lot of things that probably won't get worked out until I actually do it, to see how it does work.  So that is the plan that I will be in New York for the foreseeable future and I will be working for the game company for the foreseeable future.

Bruce: I want to thank you again for making my hobby so good.

Steve: Well, you don't have to thank me because I got to do something that I love to do.

Bruce: You've been quite a factor in my life and you have been a great friend. (Steve: Well I appreciate that.) And a great friend for our community. I have one more question for this interview. (Steve: Sure). What would you like to say to your many SOM Fans as we conclude this?

Steve: Ah ... I don't know how many fans I have out there, I have some detractors (Bruce: oh no no no). You know it has been fun. I have enjoyed interacting with the people that I like, I have enjoyed interacting with the people that I don't get along with.

There's one thing that has come up on one of the other forums that I've read. I pretty much stick to the Strat Fan Forum as you know. Although I am familiar with the other forums and I have read the other forums. I've been quoted as talking about one of the forums and calling it the "Outlaw Forum".  And its gotten a lot of talk on that particular forum only people don't know why I started that whole term. And what it is as are our customers who frequent the forums know, the Strat Fan Forum is tightly monitored by Dan Patterson and Tommy Nobis and they have a set of rules. And if you don't follow the rules, and the rules are pretty simple, if you don't the follow the rules then they will give you a warning and take you off the forum for a couple of weeks.

And that's what happened to a friend of mine. One of the people I go back to the 1960's with, he got crazy one day and he was pretty much banned from the Strat Fan Forum. And while he was banned, he actually started another forum. He was supposed to be running this forum but he totally forgot it about once he came back to Dan's forum. And for that reason I always refer to the forum he started as the "Outlaw Forum" because he started it while he was banned -- not that I was picking on any of the other people that are on that forum. So that was something that I've wanted to straighten out but I never did.

So again there is the give and take that I have had with various customers. Sometimes some our customers don't think about the whole they think about themselves and what they want. Occasionally I would come on and answer what they demanded saying in not so gentle terms that you can't always have what you want. For that I guess that I kind of developed a reputation and it never really bothered me that much as along as they were getting the message that they're certain things that we can do and they're certain things we can't do. We try to do as much as we can but it's a small company as you know and we can only do what we can do. But other than that its been a lot of fun and I have been there for almost forty five and a half years and for the most part I enjoyed it.

Bruce: Well you need to make no excuses to me Steve. (Steve: laughs) I think you have a well earned retirement.

Steve: I think so, you know I am looking forward to it. Things at Strat-o-matic have changed drastically personal wise. I'm kind of not as crazy about some of the new things but its grin and bear it.  But in saying this I'm not saying the new changes are for the worse, they are probably for the better. You know I look at myself and I look back at the way we did things in the 70's and the 80's and I guess at this point I am becoming a dinosaur and that's not neccesarily a bad thing.

Bruce: Thanks Steve, is there anything else that you would like to add at this point?

Steve: Not really, just you know that we've had a good run at Strat-o-matic. Strat-o-matic as I said before there are a lot of things going on. A lot of things are happening a little bit slower than we would like but you are going to be seeing a lot of new things. hopefully they're good things in the future. And we are constantly working to make things better.

Bruce:  Thanks Steve.

Steve:  You're welcome Bruce.

Bruce:  Ok than, this Bruce Bundy a Strat-o-matic fan saying goodbye to everyone.


Interview Notes:

If you would like to learn more about the
Strat-o-matic Game Company, the best place to visit is their website at:  www.strat-o-matic.com

Last week (the week of December 9th) Strat-o-matic released their "Range Rating" file (as either a Microsoft excel spreadsheet or Adobe PDF file) which has the fielding ratings of the hitters or players on the field but also list all the players who will receive cards, are extras or are just on the computer rosters. To get your copy of this file go to:


As many of our members now, Bruce Bundy also released last week his "2013 SOM Projection Sheets" (Microsoft excel spreadsheets plus some extra files) package - you can read more about these sheets (and the combo package with the Stratogists.com Rookie Review) by visiting:

(Or you can just order directly the Bundy Sheets below)


Ultimate Strat Baseball - Bruce Bundy's 2013 Projection Sheets
Ultimate Strat Baseball - Bundy's 2013 SOM Projection Sheets

at a very very special holiday discount

Normal Price $9.99, Ultimate Strat Members:



Support the Cause

If you are enjoying the content and information our newsletter shares with you, why not support us with your helpful donation for our minor expenses and time?

Contained inside this exciting issue of Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter:
(to view the various interviews, articles, columns and special sections click on the links {underlined} and this will take you to the appropriate webpage)


  INTERVIEW with JAMES WILLIAMS, retired Sales Director of Strat-o-matic

  STRAT THOUGHTS with BRUCE BUNDY, SOM Gamer, Creator of Baseball Card Formulas, Baseball Strategy Advisor, Beta Tester for the Game Company
(Continuation of his column of "Strat Thoughts", photos linked with SOM and a brief
 discussion about the 2013 SOM Projection Sheets)

  ARTICLE with MIKE SANCLEMENTE, founder of Stratogists.com
(Mike will discuss a bit more about the 9th Annual Rookie Review with some examples
 of what the review will look like.)

"The Ultimate Strat Newsletter" and 2012 CBA Champion. Wolfman takes us back in
this article to the seventh national Strat-o-matic Convention in 1978 held in Champaign-Urbana, IL, at the University of Illinois as the Wolfman and his buddies organize their fifth convention. Wolfman will be our guide through the first nine conventions happening through 1980 of which he was present at each one. This particular column now moves into the 1974-1980 era when the conventions moved to Illinois. We will continue to share one new convention in each future issue till all of these early conventions are published. Also as an inspiration for the SOM On-line Baseball Convention this month.

  COMMISSIONER's CORNER with MARC WASSERMAN -- commissioner of the Cyber Baseball Association (CBA) continues his column about what it is like to be a League Commissioner. In this article he focuses upon the Strat Alliance and beginning
to introduce to our members some of the SOM Baseball Leagues that exist.

  RECOMMEND ON-LINE SOM RESOURCES -- On-line Strat-o-matic and Baseball related websites that offer amazing information, special tools and products to improve your game play that we strongly recommend. In most cases, we have had personal contact with these sources who agree with the principle to work together and help promote each other.

  BOOKS TO DIE FOR and Become a BASEBALL GURU -- This page is a new page we are adding for the newsletter that is specifically about special books we are finding that either will expand your insights about the game of Baseball, help you in the creation of your current league teams or with your replays and learn more about the Strat-o-matic Base Game and Game Company's history.  At the time of the release of this newsletter we have a special arrangement with Acta Sports to offer our members a 10% discount. We hope to add more books in the future.


Contact Us for Questions or Submissions

Wolfman Shapiro
co-Founder/Editor, the Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter

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twitter: @StratBaseball4U

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