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even to the casual observer, that everything on this site is fictitious,
even when life imitates the BVL. Or, is it 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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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 refer him as 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 (after a troubled MLB infielder, Joe Foy). 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
A BVL History
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!
-- 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
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 if 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) as 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 breakup of the Sleeze in 1983, added Mike
Rickey Henderson to its roster. The Diamonds would dominate the BVL like no club
The Old, Old
League and BVL
-- Ruscitti, along with his brother, Tony,
his wife, Esther,
and friend, Rossi
Bright, founded the Old, Old League in the early spring
of 1983. 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
first game. Mario Soto
got the win; Jim
Palmer, the loss. ¶
The Mighty Diamonds defeated the Foys in seven games to win the
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
or the Village Voice Puerto Rican Bon Vivant Strat-o-matic Winter
Baseball League. The name was shortened a year later. ¶
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 the print addition: the loser of the World Series
would announce the winner on the WFAN radio station. ¶
In the Old, Old Days, two seasons were sometimes played with the
same card set.
The Expansion I
In 1907, the BVL split into two divisions as two clubs were added:
Saskatchewan (owned by Jay Nemkowitz) and Wisconsin (Tony Ruscitti). The Nationals
won the first All Star game, 4-2, that was played outside Shea Stadium. 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
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) got voted down. ¶
In 1919, the league expanded by two clubs: Indianapolis (owned by
Andy Villalba Jr.)
and Cleveland (Jon Simonds, who relinquished ownership of New
England to Andy Villalba Sr.
and Jr. two years prior). ¶ Brooklyn
Bruisers won back-to-back titles (1918-19), but when they finished
in last in 1921, their fans turned on them.
The Modern Era
-- It took 2777 BVL games before
(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
who ruled the Diamonds for 16 years, formed the expansion Battery
Cannons one year later. He is still not welcomed in Mighty. ¶
In 1925, the owners allowed Wyer to continue playing his keyboard
at BVL games. A few would later complain about the length of games
and annoying riffs played at The Moat. ¶ Soon after
winning the 1925 title, Wyer denies a rumor the Pine Tar is missing.
A year later, he reveals an inferior replica (a slightly used Brillo
pad sealed in plastic) during the owner's meeting. Wyer blamed his first ex-wife for losing the symbol of BVL
supremacy. Twelve months later, it is discovered behind his loosely tuned piano. Of note, only World Series
winners were allowed to whiff the Pine Tar during the annual ceremony.
¶ “Hello, my name is Adam
Goldberg,” begins 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 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, BVL print coverage is what old men still reminisce at Pepitone's (the official bar/strip club of the BVL). Fans today now turn to BVLAction.com for the latest BVL news. ¶ After many attempts, the frugal group of owners agreed, in 1927, 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 World Series participants were determined on the last day during The Great Race of 1931.
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 slugging catcher Javy Lopez
with an outstounding 5-year package worth
315 shekels. Thus, the phrase “Javy money” is born.
¶ Admitting he ran his club into
the ground, 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 that decision with drinks to all). 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 won its division by 22 games, 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 by upsetting 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.
Era -- Egos come to boiling point in July, 1936, referred to many as Shark Week. After the smoke cleared, Mr. Duva was 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 a 4-hit, 17-strikeout masterpiece to overcome LES in a classic Game 4 pregame video and Bib Roberts prayer to God of Home Runs. The World Series follows Yogi in the inagural Camp Day. After 10 hours, 15 minutes of action, dominant New York defeats Banksville for the 1937 crown. During regular season, BC defeated Indianapolis, 1-0, in 19 innings. Brandon Phillips hits walk-off homer. 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 leaving 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 took three days to complete. Cubes win, 2-1. Their pitchers whiff 29 of the 56 total strike outs.
The 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-run 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 is rolled. Brandon Beachy throws the third 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 (Mr. Fermann) as he takes over New England. Simonds gets the Brooklyn Bruisers from Mr. Ruscitti after both agree Brooklyn will never be moved. Indianapolis begins 1942 with an 11-0 start, go 15-1 before losing a 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 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 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. They stood 3 outs away from accomplishing the impossible, holding a 9th-inning 2-0 lead. The third out never comes. Foys score 3 runs, highlighted by Andrelton Simmons game-winning two-out hit. ¶ The Canadian heartland suffer cardiac arrests when Toronto signs Adam Jones to a rich free-agent deal and the career of Corey Kluber ends tragically. Yet, the never-say-die Monarchs tie LES for the American flag. In their one-game playoff, Jones gives Canada a cardiac arrest of a better kind with a walk-off Grand Slam for an 11-7 victory. Andrew Villalba Sr. reaches his first World Series in 22 years for the Indianapolis players go on strike and forfeit Yogi series when Indy ownership refuses to pay $25 for the new cards. The New York Knights, who completed the Mouse Trap Massacre (sweeping the final 6 games v. Indianapolis to win the National), show Toronto no mercy, sweep the 1946 World Series. Earlier in the season, Chris Sale throws the first-ever no-hitter on Opening Day and Lance Lynn wins the historic first game for the expansion New York City Scrappers against Brick Church, 2-0. Eddie Rosario drives in the first run. Brick Church complains about the poor lighting on the field and the on-going construction of the “upper” upper deck during the game. ¶ The Mr. Charles Experiment is historic: Banksville ends up with zero complete games and their starters with one victory. In a season dominated by pitching, Brick Church and their KKKK Klub (four starters strike out the equivalent of 300 batters) stand out. The Foys win their second title in a Game 7 thriller against LES, but not before the Con-men shock Homestead to win a Game 7 of their own. With one out away from the World Series, the world hears Bip's Yell for Shohei Ohtani crushes a 9th-inning solo home run to tie the game and break the hearts of the Greys. "I'm just shuffling the chairs on the deck the Titanic," said Greys boss Robert Emrich prior the game that went 13 innings. ¶ That’s it for now. In the words of a long-forgotten WFAN announcer,
STAY WITH US!
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