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Rod Kanehl, Strat-o-Hero
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Rod Kanehl, one of the original New York Mets, has died. I remember him well, or at least I remember his card from my 1962 Strat-o-Matic baseball game. Strat-o-Matic used players' real statistics, dice and cards, to accurately simulate play back before we all had computers that made such stuff commonplace. It's hard to imagine the fascination the game held for me, and I wasn't alone. (See Ode to Strat-o-Matic by Steve Treder) The winter day when the new player cards arrived in the mail was nearly as exciting and eagerly anticipated as Christmas and the last day of school.

I spent endless hours replaying games and entire seasons and poring over the esoteric statistical information on those cards. Today the numbers are all instantly available on the internet, even as the season progresses, but in 1962 you were lucky if the Sunday paper found space to list a few league leaders.

As a result I spent a lot of time with players from the sixties and always notice when they're mentioned in the news. It's like I know them, even though I never saw them play, except on the desk in my bedroom.

Rod Kanehl was the guy I never put in the lineup unless someone was hurt. I couldn't understand how a fellow who hit and fielded so uninspiringly had got so many at bats even on a team as dreadful as the 62 Mets. Now I've learned manager Casey Stengel liked him for his scrappiness and hard-nosed play. His nickname was Hot Rod. Strat-o-Matic cards rated players on fielding ability and speed but not scrappiness. I guess intangibles are hard to quantify. Since scrappiness wasn't on the card and therefore couldn't score or prevent any runs I ignored it. Strat-o-Matic made me a proponent of sabermetrics before there was such a thing.

I came across some more interesting, real, recollections of Rod Kanehl here.

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