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. Wait. 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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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 refer to him as the Father of the BVL. Shulman had 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 on a 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 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 if a pitcher threw back-to-back no-hitters. Owners profited if their player hit a grand slam, or won the Triple Crown. They would earn 50 cents and five bucks, respectively. 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 Sleeze breakup, in 1983, added Mike Schmidt, Ryne Sandberg, and Rickey Henderson to its roster. 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 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. 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 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 Era -- 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, 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 dice rolls 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) 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 Pete Harnisch (Foys v. Cleveland) pitched the league’s first no-hitter in 1921. Five years later, Pedro Martinez (Brooklyn v. Moisture) threw 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 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. Note, only World Series winners whiffed the Pine Tar at the annual owners 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 had moved to Florida.

The Shekels Era -- The BVL was covered by the 4e48, the Cleveland Chatterbox, the Brooklyn Eagleand 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 dwindled to nothing, leaving old men to reminisce 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 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 were introduced, 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” was 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 started anew with expansion Brick Church; Duva is approved as New Orleans boss. Scott Rolen of Indianapolis hit 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 for 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 became the first club to accomplish a worst-to-champion turnaround, upsetting New York in 7 games for the 1935 crown. Brick Church handed out biggest beating of the year, a 23-0 slaughter of Tampico. Brooklyn rookieJosh Johnson threw a perfect game v. Homestead. New York catcher Joe Mauer homered consecutively in four offical at-bats.

The Hurly
-Burly Era -- Egos came 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 resigned over f2f issues. Owners would later agree to contract to three 3-club divisions. Good-bye, New Orleans. On the field, Tampico and its new owner, Andy Villalba Jr., swept LES in the World Series. Tampico is second club to accomplish the 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 watched New York's victory against BC. The first playoff game in 19 years was a thriller: LES dethroned Indianapolis, on the road, 1-0, to clinch the 1937 Central crown. Pinch-hitter Jack Cust hit the solo HR in the 5th. For the first time since 1906, the Yogi series returned. Banksville won the series 3-2 over LES. Down 2-1 in games, Tim Lincecum threw a 4-hit, 17-strikeout masterpiece in Game 4 to overcome LES, their pregame video (produced by Andy Wong) and Bib Roberts' prayer to the  God of Home Runs. The World Series followed the Yogi in the inagural Camp Day. After 10 hours, 15 minutes of action, dominant New York defeated Banksville for the 1937 crown. During regular season, BC defeated Indianapolis, 1-0, in 19 innings. Brandon Phillips hit the walk-off homer. Making a spot start, BC Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter v. NE Titans. The Curse of Mighty was finally released. After 16 years, Robert Fermann celebrated his first title since leaving Mighty. His Dogs defeated LES in 6 games for the 1938 crown. In the Yogi series, LES backup catcher Kurt Suzuki hit the I Hope He Gets Injured and LES has to use a Plus-5 Catcher home run as LES held off NY. During regular season, BC rookie Tommy Hanson no-hit Indianapolis. Against LES, Homestead Julio Lugo and Carlos Beltran make the first two Grey outs via STRIKEOUT+INJURY rolls. The final game in 1939 was a classic Game 7 between Banksville and Homestead, won by the Dogs, 1-0 in 10 innings; Greys had one hit. In the regular season, the April 25h match between Brick Church and Indianapolis concluded a 24-inning game that took three days to complete. Cubes won 2-1 and struck out 29 of the 56 strikeouts.

Theodore Strum Era -- Owners renamed 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 won 1940's Game of the Year (6-5 over LES) to clinch the Central crown. Miguel Cabrera clubbed a 2-out, go-ahead 2-run homer off rookie Graig Kimbrel in the 9th; Michael Young, the potential tying run to keep LES alive, was out at home: 1-16 safe; 20 is rolled. Brandon Beachy threw the third perfect game and whiffed 15 as Homestead beat Indianapolis. Cubes Clayton Kershaw no-no'd New York, 3-0. Toronto blanked New England four straight games. Of course, Bo Emrich became the youngest to roll a Strat dinger, 2 years. Banksville won 12 straight during the 1941 season and their last five to host the World Series. They were beaten by Homestead in the most lopsided G7 ever, 9-0. Dylan Simonds becames the youngest owner in history, 16, and vowed to avenge his father's tormentor (Mr. Fermann) the moment he became New England's owner. Simonds the Elder took over the Brooklyn Bruisers fromMr. Ruscitti after they agree never to move from Brooklyn. Indianapolis begins 1942 with an 11-0 start, go 15-1 before they lost a second game. Toronto's woeful streak reached 13 over two seasons. Clayton Kershaw blanked New England, 8-0, whiffed 13, went 4-4 with a homer and was a triple shy of a cycle. New York blanked Brooklyn 1-0 in back-to-back games, the first went 17 innings (PH David Ortiz HR; Jose Fernandez 14.7IP, 14K) and the second 14 (Matt Harvey CG, 4H, 1W, 16K). Unfortunately, the BVL revealed an ugly side when New York defeated Indianapolis in 7 games. The Cubes owner Andrew Villalba Jr. showed poor sportsmanship in defeat. The 1943 season was delayed (to July 3) and cut short (to 48 games). The U.S. Post Office detained six packages at theDLO (Dead Letter Office). A bump in each envelope resulted when 50 cards were rubberband 50; the envelopes became suspicious. A second set of cards was ordered. Brooklyn held a 3-1 lead in the Yogi series before Indianapolis staged an improbable comeback. They go on and sweept Banksville in the World Series. Banksville boss was a no-show. Indianapolis improved their 14-1 start a year later with a stunning 18-0 start in 1944. Unrecognized as a record, the Cubes win streak reached 24 straight (they had won their previous six postseason games). Sadly, Cubes were cooled off by New York during their perfect 8-0 postseason finish.

The Age of Trump -- Brick Church jumped to a 3-0 lead against Indianapolis in the 1945 World Series. But the Cubes rallied to tie the seriesand stood 3 outs away from accomplishing the impossible, holding a 9th-inning 2-0 lead. The third out never came. Foys scored 3 runs, highlighted by
Andrelton Simmons game-winning, two-out hit. The Canadian heartland suffered cardiac arrest when Toronto signed Adam Jones to a rich free-agent deal and the career of Corey Kluber ended tragically. Yet, the never-say-die Monarchs tied LES for the American flag. In their one-game playoff, Jones gave Canada a cardiac arrest of a better kind with a walk-off Grand Slam for an 11-7 win. Andrew Villalba Sr. reached his first World Series in 22 years after the Indianapolis players went on strike and forfeited the Yogi series. Indy ownership had refused 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), showed Toronto no mercy, swept the 1946 World Series. Earlier in the season, Chris Sale threw the first-ever no-hitter on Opening Day and Lance Lynn won the historic first game for the expansion New York City Scrappers against Brick Church, 2-0. Eddie Rosario drove in the first run. Brick Church complained about the poor lighting on the field and the on-going construction of the “upper” upper deck during the game. The Mr. Charles Experiment  proved historic as Banksville starters ended up with no complete games and one victory. In a season dominated by pitching, Brick Church and theirKKKK Klub (four starters struck out the equivalent of 300 MLB batters) stood out. The Foys won their second title in a Game 7 thriller against LES, but not before the Con-men shocked Homestead to win a Game 7 of their own. One out away from a Homestead World Series, the world heard Bip's Yell after  Shohei Ohtani crushed 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 to the game that went 13 innings.

The Avenge Me Era -- Remember October 20 for the longest BVL game was played on that day, 29 innings. Brooklyn beat Brick Church, 5-4. Tony Wolters delivered the game winning hit in a game delayed by a dog walk (Django). Yoan Moncada topped all batters by hitting .393. In possibly the greatest storyline ever written, the New England Hawks defeated Banksville for the 1948 crown, a 1-0 Game 7 thriller, to complete Dylan Simonds' Avenge Thy Father dream. Jacob deGrom threw a 3-hit masterpiece; Tim Locastro scored the only run in the 7th inning by stealing third base and trotted home after cather Omar Narvaez's throw sailed into left field. Demolish the Kennel and build Troutgorod and win a championship. Easy. And that is what Banksville did, defeating Brooklyn to capture the 1949 World Series. Yep, Robert Fermann beat Jon Simonds again in the World Series! And Mike Trout got his ring in four tries. For Simonds, it was his first WS trip in 22 years. In the Yogi, he took satisfaction by sweeping Jesus Diaz and Brick Church in their first-ever playoff clash. It only took 38 years for that to happen. Banksville socked a record 103 homers. Other notables: Bruisers’ Shane Bieber struck out 130 batters, including 20 Dogs in 9 innings, 21 overall. Foys’ Max Fried went undefeated, 9-0; Hansel Robles of Toronto earned an historic save despite a card ERA of 10.26. Rookie Dinelson Lamet threw a no-no against NYC two days after the LES career of Adam Wainwright came to an end. That’s it for now. In the words of a long-forgotten WFAN announcer, STAY WITH US!

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