Early Days at the BCBL Draft – by Frank McIlvaine                   


            Some of my best league memories were of the early year BCBL drafts. The league has evolved over the years, to what it became today, but in the early years it was quite different. We were playing; of course, with the old board simulation games so that there was quite a bit of draft preparation time… not attempting to figure out who to draft, but just getting the cards out of their packets and sorting them by position or however you wanted to sort them. I remember making stacks of players and then sorting them down to different piles for “analysis”. The analysis consisted of looking at the numbers on the cards and seeing who was good. This leads me to take Pepe Frias in the initial draft of 2bmen. He had 2 doubles and a triple in 15 AB’s and had a monster card. When I told Beardsley that I was going to play Pepe in all 162 games <I never did learn to keep when to keep something like that under my hat> immediately instituted the BCBL first playing restrictions.

            It was a simpler time back then. I’m not sure that we had decided that the league would continue year after year, when it was originally set up but I, for one, didn’t buy any scouting magazines or anything for that draft. Heck, I could read the cards as well as anyone. I wasn’t playing for the future, just that year. I wrote an few articles for the league newsletter and do things like count up the “hit numbers” from the teams starting lineups to determine overall team strength. We played the season out and enjoyed it, and the small league size made it easier for you to meet the new guys in the league.

            As the league continued, it started to get a little more sophisticated. All of a sudden, people were starting to show up to the draft with magazines! Street and Smith was considered to be the old traditional choice, but some of the younger managers <I was one of them if you can imagine that> discovered the Bill Mazerowski magazine which we liked a little better! This was about the time that fantasy baseball was discovered, but it wasn’t popular yet, and of course no one was on-line. We then discovered Bill James baseball abstracts and the league buzz was about how you should draft pitchers from the Dodgers and hitters from the Red Sox, since the simulation game we were using made no park adjustments.

            Well now that the preamble is over I would like to talk about one of the early drafts that we had in Medina PA. This one pretty much expresses what these days were like. Brent Hildebrandt had a team and lived in Northeastern PA in a rural area. I had progressed from the ever popular sleeping on the floor phase of my life to the “I want a bed” phase of my life. Brent, living in the country, had reported that there weren’t too many hotels in the area, but the closest one was by a local horse-racing track that was nearby. During the racing season many of the trainers and stable hands stayed there. Bob Beardsley and I decided to share a room to cut expenses. I mean the room was like $19 a night after all!

            Well, it was a damp, dreary day in late March and Bob and I drove to the hotel. It was an old 50’s style motel. We checked in and discovered that it was pretty basic. I clearly remember that the shower unit was uniquely constructed. No tile shower for this hotel, and no fiberglass either. The hotel shower was made up of galvanized steel sheets. If you touched the sides it sounded like there was a thunderstorm going on. I think the shower was used as a sound stage in early Hollywood movies and then sold for surplus. The room was dark and the furniture was very basic and very old. Bob immediately dubbed the place “The Horror Hotel”.  Little did I realize how true that would be.

            Of course, at the time we didn’t care much. I mean we were there for the draft not to stay at fancy hotels. We would hardly be in the room at all! Well, we bunked out for the night and I immediately discovered that Bob Beardsleys snoring could and possibly did wake the dead! It was so loud that it actually caused the sound stage/ shower unit to vibrate in sympathy. It was the longest night in my life. It just went on and on and on. When dawn finally, and I mean finally came the most amazing thing occurred. Bob “sonic boom” Beardsley had the nerve to tell me that he didn’t get a wink of sleep that night since I kept him up all night with my snoring! Since, I seriously didn’t think I had even gotten one second of sleep I realized that the night could have been even worse than it already was. I also realized that saving the $10 by sharing the hotel room was not the wisest investment I could have made.

            When the draft was getting ready to start the big problem was not the lack of electrical outlets, but rather everyone needed room to put all these stacks of cards they had to spread out.  The draft was very memorable to me by two unusual events… Rick Michal’s tape player and Paul Gallaghers secret draft list. We were much more causal in those days in trading draft picks, we would seemingly trade them at the drop of the hat. In addition, you got extra bonus picks if you cut to a certain roster size. Rick had traded many of his players to get one of the bonus picks, and in addition had picked up a bunch of early picks. He had analyzed the team needs, talked to people and had figured out how the top ten picks would go. Since he had a bunch of them he had recorded his “North to Alaska” theme song and his announcement of his draft picks. He planned to just hit the play button and let his pre-recorded antics amuse the crowd.

            Paul Gallagher in his own way had a similar story. He had some later picks, but came to the draft with a super secret draft list that he refused to comment on, nor reveal to anyone. Since he had later picks he didn’t want to tip off anyone. I remember thinking that I should have been more prepared, and wishing that I had some secret picks. Hell, all I did was read “Bill Mazerowski” and look at the cards!

            As the draft started, Rick immediately started playing the “North to Alaska” theme song. He had the first pick of the draft and used his tape player to announce his selection. Everyone was amused and thought it was a great idea. If I remember correctly, the second pick was supposed to be young phenom Fernando Venezuela. Everyone in the room knew that he would be the 2nd pick, and Rick had planned accordingly. Naturally Fernando was not selected 2nd. Now, this really messed up Rick… who was trying to fast forward his tape to the correct place to make one of his other selections since his carefully planned sequence immediately fell apart. It was really priceless. Eventually Rock did get on track a few picks later when the sequence of picks went back to a pattern that he could have selected, but it was a riot.

            On my list, I needed pitching and I was taking guys like Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershier, and Danny Jackson. Every time I would take one of these guys Paul Gallagher would get upset because I had taken one of his “secret” picks. No one else may have noticed, but I got a real kick out of it.