There are a lot of scary things out there -- this is one of them. is the only place to follow the Strat-o-matic play of the Bon Vivant League. It should be obvious, even to the casual observer, that everything on this site is fictitious, even when life imitates the BVL. Or, it is the other way around? Still, we hope there is something in here for you as there is for us. -- Jesus Diaz

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A BVL History

The name of Burt Shulman has fallen into the black hole of Bon Vivant League history. Yet, revisionist historians, pointing to the link connecting Shulman with the BVL, now call him the Father of the BVL. Shulman worked at the Village Voice as a proof reader in 1983. As commissioner of the Yoo-Hoo League, he invited co-workers Jesus Diaz and Joseph Jesselli into his Rotisserie venture. While walking down 2nd Avenue to Shulman’s cramped East Village apartment one rainy Friday night in March, the two men formed the Joe Foys (named after Joe Foy, a troubled MLB infielder). That same year, the Foys would join the Bon Vivant Stat League (BVSL), and later, the Bon Vivant League (BVL). To Mr. Shulman, now the father of two daughters in a Mets household, the BVL salutes you for what you started -- we think. So, the question: how did the BVL begin? Two men were present on the First Day: Jesselli and Frank Ruscitti. Neither has written the definitive history of the early days. This will have to do. According to Jesselli, Ruscitti approached him at the Voice’s 842 Broadway cafeteria.
The conversation went something like this:
Ruscitti: Is there a good baseball board game out there?
Jesselli: There’s only one game [to get] -- Strat-o-matic.
Ruscitti: We should start a league!

The BVSL -- Before the BVL, there was the BVSL. The league was named after a Manhattan restaurant located on 12th Street and Broadway. Four Rotisserie clubs formed the 1983 association: Mighty Diamonds (owned by Jesselli), Brooklyn Bruisers (Ruscitti), Joe Foys (Diaz) and Suicide Sleeze (Greg Rapport). Jon Simonds’ Big Trouble club came on board in 1984. BVSL owners were eccentric. In developing performance bonuses, they agreed to end their league if a MLB player hit five home runs in a game, or a pitcher threw back-to-back no-hitters. Owners made a profit if their players hit a grand slam, or won the Triple Crown. They would earn 50 cents and five bucks, respectively, from their owners. Though Steve Kemp (Sleeze) was the first BVSL player ever drafted, many historians consider Bill Almond (of the Yoo-Hoo League Foys) the BVL’s First Player. The Diamonds, led by Andre Dawson and Jim Rice, won the 1983 BVSL title. Recently discovered documents (the Jesselli Papers) show the Diamonds repeated as champions in 1984, the final BVSL season. Of note, Julio Franco, the last of the BVSL players, played in the BVL until 1933. The Diamonds, capitalizing on the 1983 Sleeze breakup, added Mike Schmidt, Ryne Sandberg, and Rickey Henderson to their roster. The rest is history -- the Diamonds would dominate the BVL like no club ever has.

The Old, Old League and BVL -- Ruscitti, along with his brother, Tony, his wife, Esther, and friend, Rossi Bright, founded the Old, Old League during the 1983 BVSL season. According to legend, Esther ended many Old, Old League orgies (i.e., gatherings) with rainouts by sprinkling water across the game board. With the success of the Old, Old League spreading, the BVSL owners decided on a Strat-o-matic league of their own. That summer, the BVL was born. Owners agreed on 1903 as the start date for their new league, in homage to the first MLB World Series played. On November 28, 1983, the Joe Foys defeated the Brooklyn Bruisers, 4-2, in the historic first game. Mario Soto got the win; Jim Palmer, the loss. The Mighty Diamonds defeated the Foys in seven games to win the first BVL World Series. The final out (a Pedro Guerrero shallow fly) gave birth to the still-famous cry of “It’s all over!” Of note, according to the Ruscitti Archives, the league was originally called the VVPRBVSOMWBL, or the Village Voice Puerto Rican Bon Vivant Strat-o-matic Winter Baseball League. The name was shortened the following year. The simple version of Strat-o-matic was used during the early years. Advanced versions of the game, plus additional rule changes (i.e., brawl chart, death by injury, etc), were added as the league grew. Rules were finally compiled into the BVL Rule Book in 1923. A long forgotten rule never made it to print: the loser of the World Series announcing the winner over WFAN radio. In the Old, Old Days, two seasons were sometimes played with the same card set.

The Expansion I Era -- In 1907, the BVL split into two divisions as two clubs were added: Saskatchewan, owned by Jay Nemkowitz, and Wisconsin, Tony Ruscitti. Outside Shea Stadium, the Nationals won the first All Star game, 4-2. The phrase Simonds’ Watch was coined in honor of Big Trouble boss Simonds. The term remains in use today, alerting owners of inaccurate card readings, or of unbelievable stories. Nemkowitz moved to Florida in 1915, leaving his franchise in the hands of Al Lee Wyer, who shifted the club to Sioux City and witnessed Bo Diaz's steal of second base. A devastating flood forced an emergency evacuation to Cape Hatteras seven years later. Wyer became famous by naming rolls of dice with quirky names, i.e., Hendu, Dresden Roll, Amnesia Roll, etc. In 1916, the league sent players across the ocean in support of the First War (i.e., Gulf War). Three players never made it back: Kirk Gibson, Brian Harper, and Terry Steinbach. The death of Gibson (determined by his 3-digit Lotto number, 007) caused hysteria still unmatched in BVL annals. After the war, rumors surfaced the note written by then-Commissioner Tony Ruscitti, urging support for the war, was a hoax. Some have alleged the younger Ruscitti as the culprit. The promising career of Paul O'Neill was cut short in 1918 by a Dennis Martinez fastball. Rushed to Kingman Hospital (the official hospital of the BVL), he would never play again. Support for the 1920 Lazarus Proposal (5 consecutive rolls of 20 of a 20-sided die) was voted down. In 1919, the league expanded by two clubs: Indianapolis, owned by Andy Villalba Jr., and Cleveland, Jon Simonds (Simonds relinquished ownership of New England to Andy Villalba Sr. and Jr. two years prior). Brooklyn Bruisers dominate and win back-to-back titles (1918-19). They finish in last in 1921; their fans turn on them.

The Modern Era -- It took 2777 BVL games before Pete Harnisch (Foys v. Cleveland) pitched the league’s first no-hitter in 1921. Five years later, Pedro Martinez (Brooklyn v. Moisture) throws the first perfect game. Shockwaves were felt in 1922 when the Mighty Diamonds ended operations. Owner Robert Fermann, who ruled the Diamonds for 16 years, formed the expansion Battery Cannons one year later. He is not welcomed in Mighty. In 1925, the owners allowed Wyer to continue playing his keyboard at BVL games. Owners bitterly complained about the length of games and annoying riffs. Soon after winning the title, Wyer denies the rumor the Pine Tar is missing. In 1926, he introduces an inferior replica (a slightly used Brillo pad sealed in plastic) during the owner's meeting. The rumor became truth. Wyer changed his tune, and blamed his first ex-wife. Twelve months later, he is embarrassed as he discovers the symbol of BVL supremacy behind his loosely tuned piano. Of note, only World Series winners are allowed to whiff the Pine Tar during the annual ceremony. “Hello, my name is Adam Goldberg,” began Goldberg’s famous 1929 introductory memo to the league. “I am now the new owner of Las Vegas.” After selling his club to Goldberg, Jesselli became the BVL’s second (or third) commissioner, replacing Alan Levine, who moved to Florida.

The Shekels Era -- The BVL was covered by the 4e48, the Cleveland Chatterbox, the Brooklyn Eagle, and the yearly draft preview magazine, lomax. The Ruscitti Archives, which opened its impressive collection to the public in 1931, contained every score of every game played between 1903 through 1906. Because of the WEB, the paper coverage is what old men reminisce about at Pepitone's (the official bar/strip club of the BVL). Fans today now turn to for the latest BVL news. After many attempts, the frugal group of 1927 owners agreed to pay their players -- in shekels. They also approved long-term contracts and free agency. Four years later, the Jewish Babe Ruth, Shawn Green, became the first 60-shekel player. The great race of 1931 ended with division finales determining the World Series participants. Indianapolis and the unhittable Eric Gagne upset New York in a classic 7-game set. The first crop of free agents are introduced in 1932. Indianapolis outbid the Joe Foys for Javy Lopez, paying the slugging catcher an outstounding 5-year package worth 315 shekels. Thus, the phrase “Javy money” is born. Admitting he ran his club into the ground, Al Lee Wyer hired slickster Greg Duva as Sioux City GM. Little did Wyer know, Duva was his Trojan Horse. Nine months later, Duva gained control via a hostile takeover.

The Expansion II Era -- The league expanded to 10 clubs, 500 players in 1933, welcoming
Peter Stratigakis (Lower East Side Con-men) and Robert Emrich (who bought the Joe Foys from Jesus Diaz) into the fold. Diaz starts anew with expansion Brick Church; Duva is approved as New Orleans boss. Scott Rolen of Indianapolis hits the most famous home run to date: a walk-off, 2-run shot in the bottom of the 11th to beat New York and starter-made-reliever Livan Hernandez, 3-1, in Game 7 of the 1933 finale. In 1934, an accounting error prevented Brick Church from signing Andy Pettitte, who ended up in New York with a record 5-year deal worth 350 shekels. The fiery Duva was suspended for a year over a draft dispute; Commissioner Jesselli resigned as a result (one unidentified owner celebrated the decision to step down with drinks). The drama was quickly forgotten as 1934 became the year of (1) Bip Roperts and the Amazing "According to Who?" LES Con-men, who battled the mighty New Yorkers (53-17) up until the final weekend, (2) Indianapolis, who run away with its division by 22 games, by becoming the first 50-win club, and (3) Johan Santana (Indianapolis) and Roger Clemens (New York), both pitchers 13-1. Their staffs put up these amazing totals: New York: 13 shutouts; Indianapolis, 26 complete games. A Dan Haren (Homestead) fastball to the temple cut short Brooklyn 3B Hank Blalock's career. Brooklyn becomes the first club to accomplish a worst-to-champion turnaround with their upset victory of New York in 7 games for the 1935 crown. Brick Church hands out biggest beating of the year, a 23-0 slaughter of Tampico. Brooklyn rookie Josh Johnson throws a perfect game v. Homestead. New York catcher Joe Mauer homers consecutively in four offical at-bats.

The Hurly
-Burly Era -- Egos come to boiling point in a July, 1936, week referred to many as Shark Week. After the smoke cleared, Mr. Duva is removed as New Orleans owner. A day later, Tampico owner Mr. Lavin resigns over f2f issues. Owners would later agree to contract to three 3-club divisions. Good-bye, New Orleans. On the field, Tampico and new owner Andy Villalba Jr. sweep LES in the World Series. Tampico is second club to accomplish worst-to-first finish. War of 115 is fought between Tampico, NE Hawks. The six-game set produces 182 hits, 32 home runs -- and 115 runs. Seventeen-day-old Jeremy Goldberg watches a New York victory against BC. The first playoff game in 19 years is a thriller: LES dethrones Indianapolis on the road, 1-0, to clinch 1937 Central crown. Pinch-hitter Jack Cust hits solo HR in the 5th. For the first time since 1906, the Yogi series returns. Banksville wins series 3-2 over LES. Down 2-1 in games, Tim Lincecum throws 4-hit, 17-strikeout masterpiece to overcome LES classic Game 3 pregame video and Bib Roberts prayers to God of Home Runs. The World Series follows Yogi in inagural Camp Day. After 10 hours, 15 minutes of action, dominant New York defeats Banksville for 1937 crown. During regular season, BC defeated Indianapolis, 1-0, in 19 innings. Brandon Phillips hits walk-off homer (Cubes 1-3 in 1-0 contests). Making a spot start, BC Jonathan Sanchez throws no-hitter v. NE Titans. The dreaded Curse of Mighty is finally released. After 16 years, Robert Fermann celebrates his first title since disbanding Mighty. His Dogs defeat LES in 6 games in the 1938 series. In Yogi series, LES backup catcher Kurt Suzuki hits "I Hope He Gets Injured and LES has to use a Plus-5 Catcher" home run as LES holds off NY. During regular season, BC rookie Tommy Hanson no-hits Indianapolis. Against LES, Homestead Julio Lugo and Carlos Beltran make the first 2 Grey outs via STRIKEOUT+INJURY rolls. The final game in 1939 was a wonderful Game 7 between Banksville and Homestead, won by the Dogs, 1-0 in 10 innings; Greys only have one hit. During the regular season, the April 25h session between Brick Church and Indianapolis concluded a 24-inning match that too three days to complete. Cubes win, 2-1. Their staff whiffs 29 of the total number of 56 strike outs.

Theodore Strum Era -- Owners rename the Championship Trophy after Mr. Theodore Strum, who died from a heart attack when Babe Ruth hit a home run for the New York Yankees. Indianapolis wins 1940's Game of the Year (6-5 over LES) to clinch the Central crown. Miguel Cabrera swats a 2-out go-ahead 2-R homer off rookie Graig Kimbrel in the 9th; Michael Young, the potential tying run to keep LES hope alive, is out at home: 1-16 safe, 20 rolled. Brandon Beachy throws the second perfect game and whiffs 15 as Homestead beats Indianapolis. Cubes Clayton Kershaw no-no's New York, 3-0. Toronto blanks New England four straight games. Of course, Bo Emrich is youngest to roll a Strat dinger at 2 years. Banksville wins 12 straight during the 1941 season and their last five to host the World Series. They are eventually beaten by Homestead in the most lopsided G7 ever, 9-0. Dylan Simonds becomes the youngest owner in history, at 16, and vowes to avenge his father's tormentor (Robert Fermann) as he takes over New England. Jon Simonds gets the Brooklyn Bruisers from Frank Ruscitti after both agree Brooklyn will never be moved. Indianapolis begins 1942 with an 11-0 start, go 15-1 before losing its second game. Toronto woeful streak reaches 13 over two seasons. Clayton Kershaw blanks New England, 8-0, whiffs 13, goes 4-4 with a homer and a triple shy of a cycle. New York blanks Brooklyn 1-0 in back-to-back games, the first lasts 17 innings (PH David Ortiz HR; Jose Fernandez 14.7IP, 14K) and the second 14 (Matt Harvey CG, 4H, 1W, 16K). Unfortunately, the BVL reveals an ugly side as New York defeats Indianapolis in 7 games. The Cubes owner Andrew Villalba Jr. shows poor sportsmanship in defeat. The 1943 season is delayed (July 3 is Opening Day) and cut short (to 48 games). The U.S. Post Office detained six packages of cards at the DLO (Dead Letter Office). A bump results when you rubberband 50 cards; the envelopes became suspicious. A second set of cards is ordered. Brooklyn held a 3-1 lead in the Yogi series before Indianapolis, who started the season 14-1, stages an improbable comeback. They go on to sweep Banksville in the World Series. Banksville boss a no-show. Indianapolis top their 14-1 start a year later with a stunning 18-0 start in 1944. Unrecognized as a record, the Cubes streak is 24 straight (they won the last six games in postseason). Sadly, Cubes are cooled off by New York during their perfect 8-0 finish in the postseason.

The Age of Trump -- Brick Church jumps to a 3-zero lead against Indianapolis in the 1945 World Series. But the Cubes, rally, tie the series with three wins in a row. They stood 3 outs away from accomplishing the impossible, holding a 2-0 lead. The third out never comes. Foys score 3 runs, highlighted by Andrelton Simmons game-winning two-out hit. That’s it for now. In the words of a long-forgotten
WFAN announcer, STAY WITH US!

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