Junk Wax Fun
Junk Wax (noun) : Sports cards manufactured in the 1980's and early 90's that flooded the sports collectibles market and ushered in the birth of sportscard shops, Beckett price guides, soft sleeves, and the 5-row box.
If you collected during this era, odds are that you have a box of this stuff lying somewhere--unless your mom threw them out, you donated them to charity, or used them as bonfire kindling. I harken back to my young adolescent days when I spent a great deal of my time playing a self-invented game called "Big League Battle".
The game starts with setting down MLB logo place holders (the logo stickers from Fleer packs were perfect) for each American and National League team in neat rows on a large flat surface. Then, one by one, each team is randomly assigned a catcher, 1st baseman, 2nd baseman, shortstop, 3rd baseman, three outfielders, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers and one closer from the pile of commons.
After each roster was assembled, I would then select three cards at random from my commons pile. Copiously, I evaluated the potential strength of each roster and then chose to skipper the best of the trifecta. If the player that I randomly selected trumped a player of the same position on my roster, I would then have the option to make the roster strengthening swap.
Competitive advantage set. Now it was time to select the best statistical season for each player on my roster and tally their statistics. Minor league stats were eligible for inclusion, which made players like Ron Kittle (.345 50 HR 144 RBI in 1982) and Gene Nelson (20-3 1.97 ERA in 1980) superstars. The offensive statistical categories included:
- Batting Average
- Home Runs
- Runs Batted In
- Stolen Bases
And for pitchers:
- Earned Run Average
- Complete Games
Roster set, I would then go to battle against the rest of the major leagues. A card would be blindly selected from the commons box with the team represented on that card becoming my next nemesis. The randomly selected card, as I did with my team, could be swapped into the roster if it served to the advantage of the team. The best season stats from each player on the enemy roster were determined, calculated and then compared to the aggregate totals from my roster. The team that wins the most catagories is determined the victor and the other team is exiled to the commons box.
Despite the small initial advantage of being able to select from three potential teams, it was quite rare to lead a team all the way to the championship. Once my team lost, the game would end and all remaining teams would be tossed back into the commons box and the game would start over again.
Mundane as it seems, "Big League Battle" allowed me to accrue enough statistical knowledge by the age of 12 to make baseballreference.com blush and was the cure for many a rainy western Washington day....now excuse me as I go and take my George Brett-led Expos to battle against Dwight Gooden and the rest of the Seattle Mariners.