By night ScottSimkus, 39, is a dispatcher for a Chicago limousine company. By day he's abaseball historian, and in the mid-1990s he started collecting box scores ofNegro leagues games. Digging through microfilm and digital archives of theChicago Tribune and African-American papers such as the Pittsburgh Courier,Simkus gathered more than 3,000 of them, dating from 1909 to the late '40s.
It might be thecountry's largest trove of raw Negro leagues data, and Simkus decided tocombine it with another of his passions: Strat-O-Matic Baseball, thedice-and-card simulation game that was hugely popular in the days beforefantasy leagues and video games. With Negro leagues stats so scattershot,Strat-O-Matic had never incorporated players like the young Satchel Paige(below), Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson. But with Simkus's help the companyreconstructed thousands of games and calculated stats that lend Strat itsrealistic feel: righty-lefty splits, fielding data, catchers' caught-stealingnumbers. Last week Strat-O-Matic released its first Negro leagues edition,playable with 103 black stars. Stratheads can simulate Negro leagues games ordrop players onto big league rosters of yesteryear to see what might havehappened if baseball hadn't waited until 1947 to integrate. "I wassurprised how much information on these players is out there," says Simkus."The game has a nice feel. It just feels right."