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Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter - baseball hitter

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Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter - Pitcher in Logo

Vol. IV, Issue #8 - December 2016

** Interview with Arnie Pollinger **

(We hear from the Commissioner of the SOMBILLA Baseball League,
a face-to-face league that has been around a very very long time!)

Notes from the Wolfman:  
I decided starting in the December issue, our last issue of this year to go back to our roots by doing interviews over the next few months with face-to-face leagues rather than focus on computer-based leagues.  For us old timers, who started to play the game we love back in the 1960's or 1970's, this was how we played our leagues, with dice and cards and face to face although there were mail leagues too, but really you can't compare when you are looking at your opponent across the table.  So here we go now with a new view of SOM Baseball Leagues - as all of the commissioners and leagues I will introduce you to, came from the SOM website, where they allow leagues to be listed in a special on-line directory -- here comes SOMBILLA!)

Wolfman: I would like to welcome to our newsletter Arnie Pollinger, the commissioner of The SOMBILLA face-to-face baseball league which has existed for 37 years - quite a long time for such a league.

In addition, Arnie is a USBN member - we always like to hear from our members.  Arnie, thanks for spending time with us here at the Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter.

Arnie: My pleasure. Thanks for having me!

Wolfman: Arnie, I normally ask some personal questions first to give our members a chance to meet you and know a little bit about your background before we talk about Strat and your baseball league.

So first, which part of the world do you live in right now and is this where you grew up and how did you find yourself in Eastern MA?

Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter - Arnie Pollinger - commissioner of SOMBILLA baseball league
I grew up in Framingham, MA, and am living about 5 miles from my childhood home. I guess itís a geographical womb of sorts. Iím a Masshole through and through.

Wolfman: When you were younger - did you actually play baseball and if so what was your best position?

Arnie: I played midget league. They put me in the outfield, where I could do the least amount of damage. I have been much more successful as an adult playing softball though. Iím in two senior softball leagues now Ė a 50+ league and a 35+ league (playing outfield still).

Wolfman: What about which MLB team did you root for when you were younger and are you still a fan of this team? Are there any ball players you really followed or who were your favorites?

The Boston Red Sox of course - 1967 was my first year as a fan; pretty good year to start following the Sox. Yaz was my favorite player until he retired. I am proud to say that 2016 was my 50th consecutive year of attending at least one Red Sox game in person. My first date with my wife was a Red Sox-Yankees game in 1982, after which we came back to my Boston apartmentÖand I showed her how to play Strat-O-Matic! She joined the SOMBILLA that fall and is still in the league.

Wolfman: How did you hear about SOM Baseball? When did you first begin to play the game?

Arnie: I saw an ad in a baseball magazine in 1969 when I was 10 and sent away for that free brochure. Does anyone else remember that? I must have read it a dozen times and somehow convinced my Dad to buy me the entire 1968 season set.

Wolfman: What is your history participating in leagues (face-to-face or computer based)? Have you ever played in any tournaments?

Arnie: The only league Iíve played in is the SOMBILLA, founded in 1979 and still going. I played in one of the tournaments that John Kreuz ran, before the STAR tournaments took over. I shared a team with a friend Ė Jed Corman Ė another SOMBILLA member and wouldnít you know Ė we won the whole thing! This was 1987. I quit while I was ahead.

Wolfman:How did The SOMBILLA come into existence? Where did the name come from for your league and what do the initials mean?

Arnie: The league began in 1979 with 5 friends of mine from my home town (Framingham, MA). SOMBILLA stands for Strat-O-Matic Ivy League League Ė Advanced due to the fact that, at the time, all six of us were attending Ivy League Schools Ė Harvard, Yale. Princeton, Cornell, and two of us at Penn (including me).

Wolfman: I read on Strat-o-matic that you have 8 teams and play 3 games per week with a 56 game season - is this enough games for a season and are any of the managers in your league right now original managers?

Arnie: The first year of our league was a summer league Ė we all had to head back to school, so we knew it would be a short season. We had a 50-game schedule for 6 teams. Beginning with the í81-82 season, the league became a winter-only league. We start in November after the MLB World Series and finish up in February, with the playoffs and World Series in March, so that our draft is just before MLB Opening Day.

We expanded to 8 teams and a 56-game schedule in 1985 and have been doing it this way ever since. We play fourteen separate 4-game series. Two vs. each team, one home series and one away series. Itís not as hard core as many leagues out there in terms of the short schedule, but it helps us get through winter in New England. It works well for us. And of course, with a shorter schedule, we donít have to worry about bad teams having to play out the string as much.

Four of the managers have been in the league since inception. A 5th is my wife who has been involved since 1982.

Wolfman: What is the name of the team you manage?

Arnie: North Dakota. Iíve always had an odd fascination with the state. I even took the family on a vacation there (Theodore Roosevelt National Park) about 10 years ago.

Wolfman:Can you describe the structure of your league and how the playoffs work?

Arnie: With a 56-game schedule, limits are important. Batters with < 400 plate appearances and pitchers who are not "*" receive 42% of their plate appearances or innings. The top 4 teams make the playoffs: #1 plays #4 and #2 plays #3 in a best of 7 and winners play for the championship. (There are different rules for the post-season limits in the leagueís bylaws). We draft in reverse order of the post-season results. That is, the champion gets the 8th pick, not the team that finished 1st (if different). Iíve never understood why major league sports teams draft via the regular-season standings and not post season.

Wolfman: How do you create your teams? Can you discuss the rules of your league and how you build you team (players you keep from year to year and your draft and trades)?

Arnie: Each team has a 45-man roster. We have a 12-round draft on the Sunday that the MLB season starts. Then, each team cuts their roster down to 45 about three days after the draft, and the following weekend we have a waiver draft of all the players available from the cut list.

Wolfman: Now why did you decide to play a shortened season, is it because it is hard to find a day each week to get all your members together?

Arnie: With a face to face league, we try to maximize the number of managers who are playing simultaneously. Winters in New England are long and snowy and cold, and conducive to rolling the dice indoors. By the time April rolls around, everyone wants to be outside and go on vacations. So part of it is as you said, itís hard to get people together to be indoors and play Strat-O-Matic in the summer.

After all these years, weíre all used to parting ways in April and watching our Strat-O players perform in real life. No worries about burn out over too many games, which I imagine could be the case with a 162 game schedule. When the final out of the MLB World Series occurs, the fever hits and everyone is raring to go for a new season.

Wolfman: When you play your games -- do you use the computer or just use dice and cards with scoresheets?

Arnie: Dice and cards and scoresheets. One guy had an app on his phone that he used to score the games, but when youíre over different peopleís houses to play its nice to just start playing without having to boot up a computer.

Wolfman: We can understand why 37 years ago you started a face-to-face league but with all the new updates with the computer game why have you decided to keep your league face-to-face?

Arnie: With computer leagues, you may not even know your opponent and you play with little to no personal interaction. Thereís nothing wrong with that and that works well for many people. But our league consists of people who have known each other for many years. We catch up on each otherís family, their jobs, we joke about the Red Sox, etc. We say hi to each otherís spouses when playing at their house; we drink beers together. Itís just a different vibe.

That said, one of our original members moved to the Washington, DC-area about 15 years ago and, after being the GM to the local manager, took over full time ownership of the team when the manager quit the league. So, we do play on the computer with him (we always call him on the phone while playing though, instead of using the computer chat).

Wolfman: Have you ever tried to contact other face to face league in your area of MA to have league champions play each other?

Arnie: No. But thatís not a bad idea. But it would also have to be an eight-team league for obvious reasons.

Wolfman: What is your life as the commissioner of The SOMBILLA like? How much time does it take, what are your duties? Do you have other officers in your league?

Arnie: I create the schedules, trying to maximize the amount of teams playing at the same time. Not the easiest thing trying to balance everyoneís work and family obligations. Until 20 or so years ago, I did all the stats for the league, crazy as it sounds. When we had kids, I put the kibosh on that. Now, each team is responsible for doing his or her own stats. I also do a summer newsletter each year that has all kinds of SOMBILLA and Strat-O-Matic studies. See http://www.sombilla.x10.mx/studies.htm

Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter - Championship Trophy for SOMBILLA baseball league

Above is a photo of the offical league trophy
given to the league champion each year
called the SOMBILLA Richman Cup.

Wolfman: Arnie have you ever been close to winning the champion of The SOMBILLA - when did this happen and what type of team did you have? What type of team do you generally like to create? How did your team do last season?

Arnie: Iíve won the Championship 5 times in 36 seasons, which is pretty close to average I guess. Most recently I won back to back in í12-13 and í13-14. I try to have a balance between pitching and hitting, but you do need strong defense at SS and 2B. Some teams like a deep bullpen Ė 12-or even 13-man pitching staffs. Iím the opposite. If I can get away with it, I like just 4 "starred starters" (those who can start every 4th game and have unlimited innings according to our rules) and 5 relievers. Of course thatís getting harder to do because MLB is changing. With 16 batters you can platoon a great deal and also donít have to worry as much about being nickel and dimed by your opponentís bullpen. Even better is when you have a player at a positon who hits both sides well and has great D, so he never has to come out. Thatís the holy grail. The more of those players you have the better, then you just have to platoon the rest of the slobs.

Wolfman: How is the relationship of your members amongst each other? Do you ever do public activities together like go to Red Sox games?

Arnie: Well, Iíve been sleeping with one of the other managers for 34 years. As noted above, we are pretty close friends. Weíve had some summer barbecues to observe SOMBILLA anniversaries Ė 10th, 20th, 25th and 30th I think. Occasionally, a few of us will attend a Sox game.

Wolfman: Is there any team (via their manager) that has dominated your league? I noticed on your website the North Dakota team has been one of the top teams in recent years.

Arnie: Future Wax always has a strong team. Theyíve won 13 championships. Its current manager, Randy Divinski, has the leagueís best all-time regular season winning percentage .593 (633-434). Eric Robinson (who changes his team name almost annually) has won 9 championships and has the best post-season winning percentage, 588.

Wolfman: When you have had a successful (playoff-bound team) what were the keys to your success with this team (or teams)? Are there special strategies you use to build your team? And special strategies you use when playing your games?

Arnie: Trying to play in the correct park is always useful. Our league allows managers to design their own ballparks (constrained by the actual Strat-O dimensions. For example, the max lefty vs righty HR differential allowed this year is 9.) In September, prior to our season, I run thousands of computer simulations trying to figure out the best park for my team. That doesnít guarantee anything, you still have to roll the dice. At the end of the day, Iíd rather be lucky than good.

Wolfman: We always ask those we interview if they have any special tips or advice for our members that could help them with success with their own game playing?

Arnie: Have fun, learn from your mistakes, keep it in perspective. And do not drink too much beer while you are playing; this can impact your decision making. I suspect you were asking about actual in-game strategy, but honestly, much of that comes with experience. Itís more important to have fun and enjoy the game itself. Easier said than done when you roll a 20 on a 1-19 HR chance that would have won the game.

Wolfman: Have you ever tried to play in the on-line baseball leagues that Strat-o-matic offers, other leagues (face-to-face or via the internet)?

Arnie: I have not tried the on-line baseball leagues or other leagues. We do use Internet Strat-O for one of our franchises as noted above, and the game has come a long way; I applaud the Game Co. for its continual improvements in the Computer and Internet games.

Wolfman: What do you like about The SOMBILLA? What is the key for the longevity of your league?

Arnie: The fact that I have known these folks most of my life, grew up with many of them, and am happily married to one has enmeshed the league into my personal life.

Wolfman: Have you had any special experiences (certain games that stand out in your mind that you played or series you played) being a manager in The SOMBILLA that were amazing or very unusual games, or something you are proud of. Maybe some key trade you made ...

Arnie: Winning my first SOMBILLA World Series was the best moment, back in 1996. I had wallowed through years of crappy teams and heartbreaking losses to that point (see below). I even remember the final out Ė I brought in lefty reliever Dave Leiper to face Barry Bonds, who rolled a 3-11 for a strikeout to win me my first championship.

Two years before this, I was in the World Series against the same team. My wife, Robin, had traded her best pitcher, Dennis Martinez, to this team during the season, and he won two WS games against me. This created a small amount of marital friction between us (until I won the WS 2 years later, winning the finale against Martinez). In game 6 of this series, I thought that Bernard Gilkey had hit a game-winning 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th. I jumped up, ran around the room screaming, whooping it up, celebrating. When I finally returned to the table to prep for game 7, my opponent, Andrew Nowell, calmly pointed out that I was looking on the wrong side of Gilkeyís card and he had in fact struck out, the World Series was over, and I had lost it.

Wolfman: Why do you personally like playing SOM - do you try other baseball games like SOM?

Arnie: The same reason Iím sure many of your readers like it - itís so realistic! Being a manager and a GM of a Strat-O-Matic team enhances my interest in real baseball. Finally, Strat-O has been such an integral part of my life and marriage, I canít imagine life without it.

I think I played APBA once when I was a kid; I also remember electric baseball. Anyone else play that? The players ran along the basebath when the field vibrated. Electric football was better, but also pretty silly.

Wolfman: Finally is there anything else you would like to share with our members that I didn't ask you before that you think is important to let them know about about The SOMBILLA?

Arnie: The league was featured in the Strat-O-Matic Review back in 1985, and I think 5 of the 6 members of the league back then are all still active in the league.

See https://s3.amazonaws.com/digital_museum/Strat+Review/Strat-O-Matic+Review+December+1985.pdf
(beginning on page 11 "Gamer introduces future wife to SOM Baseball on first date")

And 5 years ago, the Boston Globe did an article on Strat-O-Matic in which our league was mentioned and I was quoted.


As I stated back in that original Strat-O-Matic Review article, we may not be as hard core as some other leagues (56-game schedule anyone?) but with childhood friendships reaching back 45 years and a 30+ year marriage, I think we have something unique.

Wolfman: So thanks Arnie for spending time with us. Good Luck in the next season of The SOMBILLA with another exciting season of play!

Arnie: Thank you for having me! And Iíll take all the luck I can get.

Wolfman: And if a member of the newsletter wanted to contact you or had some questions for you, is this possible and if so what is the best way to do it?

Arnie: Send an email to arniep@verizon.net

Wolfman: Can we share your league website with us?

Arnie: http://www.sombilla.x10.mx/

Wolfman: All the best and thank you Commissioner Pollinger!



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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 SEAN PLOUFFE, HITTING A BASEBALL, Sean is a pro hitting consultant who works with various minor league and major league players to help them with their swing to be able to be more efficient in hitting a baseball.  In this interview we discussed how Sean was able to become this hitting consultant.  Perhaps Sean can help some of our members hit a baseball better in your physical baseball leagues?

  SOM/MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WORLD NEWS with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO, editor of "The Ultimate Strat Newsletter" roams the world for interesting news linked to SOM or MLB. For this month he shares some gems he found on the Strat-o-matic website, offers two more "Stat of the Week" bulletins through Baseball Info Solutions (John Dewan and Bill James), a special announce of a new draft guide coming out in January through our team in conjunction with Strat-o-gists, new videos on our Youtube channel and a gift shared with our members by a former contributor.

  ARTICLE with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO - How to Setup Your Draft League Team, as we all wait for the new 2017 cards (based upon the 2016 MLB Season) to come out, to our members who are in a Keeper's Draft League, during our off-season we always ponder how to make our teams better.  This article is probably more for GMs wanting to win their first championship, as the Wolfman let's you in on his strategies for building his Skokie Wolfmen in the CBA .... if you are in the CBA don't read this article please ...

  EARLY SOM BASEBALL CARDS with TOM NAHIGIAN, Wolfman's old Strat Friend, Tom Nahigian, known as the "Collector" in Guzzo's book, returns to us as we share images of some of the early SOM baseball cards made for the 1960 season, before Strat-o-matic created the advanced cards that we all know today.  This is one of our favorite periodic columns by our members, also check the links on this page to view the previous release of the early card image from 1960 and 1961.

  SOM BASEBALL LEAGUE REPORT with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO -- the editor of "The Ultimate Strat Newsletter" and 2012 CBA Champion, turns his attention to talk to members of various face-to-face
Strat-o-matic Baseball Leagues that he has discovered through the league registry service offered on the Strat-o-matric website. Each commission speaks about the history of their league and their experiences. To read these interviews, click on the links below:

INTERVIEW with ARNIE POLLINGER, Commissioner of SOMBILLA (Face-to-Face)
INTERVIEW with BLAIR CONRAD, Commissioner of Halifax Strato (Face-to-Face)

  ARTICLE with Chuck Tinkler, Chuck is one of our most popular contributors and is back with a new article for his column, "The Chuck Stop", as he shares with us part one of what he calls "Old Guys Rule". This article deals with the value of a 1st round draft and more - Chuck always entertains our readers with his insightful and colorful stories and experiences - check his new article out now!

  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 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 Baseball Game and Game Company's history.  We have a special arrangement with Acta Sports, who is a publisher of a number of great baseball books (including Bill James Handbooks) to offer for our members a 10% discount. We will continue to add more books to this page in the future as we uncover other gems our members should know about.


Contact Us for Questions or Submissions:

Wolfman Shapiro
Founder/Editor, the Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter

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