When George Barr McCutcheon wrote the novel “Brewster’s Millions” in 1902, little did he know that it would eventually not only be adapted for film ten times but also offer the inspiration for an online OOTP league. True, the Montgomery Brewster World Baseball Association (MBWBA) actually draws on the 1985 Richard Pryor film, not the book, and, yes, McCutcheon would have been hard-pressed to imagine something like a baseball management game, let alone the Internet, but it’s amusing to think that his work could reverberate across decades and find its way here.
“Having watched and loved the movie ‘Brewster’s Millions’ many times, I decided to use the premise of Montgomery Brewster shelling out money from his inheritance to form a new professional baseball league that would ‘defeat the baseball system,’ as he said in the movie,” explains MBWBA commissioner Matt Rectenwald. “Throughout the years we occasionally brought in MLB players as ‘defectors,’ given the premise was we were directly competing with MLB, but we stopped that practice in the late 1980s of our league.”
An image of Brewster at a podium adorns the top of the MBWBA forums page, where anyone can not only read the latest league chatter but also check out the MBWBA constitution, which declares: “January 1973: ‘Businessman’ Montgomery ‘Monty’ Brewster, who has come into millions of dollars from a deceased uncle, forms the Society for the Preservation of the Baseball System, which then decides to launch a new Major League for baseball. The Montgomery Brewster Baseball Association was thereby formed.”
“It’s a Long, Long Story”
The MBWBA’s roots lie in Rectenwald’s participation in fictional baseball leagues dating back to the late 1980s. He recalls: “It all started in my hometown of Oconomwoc, Wisconsin. Brad Browne and I were absolutely nuts about baseball and computers. When we put the two together, it was awesome. While we were still in high school, we got a couple other guys and formed our first baseball league which became the OCBA (Oconomowoc Computer Baseball Association).
“As we all went our separate ways to college in the early-to-mid-1990s, we wanted to have a way to continue to play. By this point we began to use Front Page Sports Baseball Pro. There was also this cool new thing called ‘the Internet.’ We formed the WCBA (Wisconsin Computer Baseball Association), which quickly morphed into the North American Computer Baseball Association (NACBA). I’m sure we were one of the very first fictional baseball simulation leagues on the Internet.”
He continues: “The problem with Baseball Pro is that it was very hard to run a league smoothly. It was hard to get everyone’s changes, and it was incredibly hard and time-consuming to run sims. As Commish, sims would take 3-4 hours. Things got missed because there was no easy way to export your changes. As we continued to expand, gaining GM’s from Canada and Korea, we eventually changed our name to the Global Baseball Consortium (GBC). One of our GMs, named Terry Stapleton, was able to build an elaborate but easy to use online system to export changes and maintain roster organization, submit trades, claim waiver wire players, run free agent bidding. That system, called the Player Tracking System (PTS), was certainly the first of its kind.
“We continued to play, I continued to sim. Even with the PTS, it still took 2 hours plus to run a sim due to the manual process to make changes for each team. One of my league’s GMs, Lee Honigsfeld, had alerted me to the existence of a new game called Out of the Park Baseball. My memory’s shoddy, but I have to believe this was probably around the time of OOTP2. I finally bought it with OOTP3, and was hooked. With OOTP4, I was ready to completely import the GBC to OOTP, but there was no easy way. Also, the league’s GMs weren’t ready to make the leap.”
A solution was reached, he says: “Since just a few were willing to take the plunge, we decided to have the best of both worlds. The GBC would continue as is, running FPS, and it still remains to this day, in its 39th season. Meanwhile, I took rosters from a previous season of that league and began creating the teams and players one by one, by scratch. After months of tedious work on rebuilding players and teams I’d previously known and loved in a different game (a process that would later be commonly referred to as ‘Recte-hacking’), I finished the file on New Years Day of 2003.” The league was now an OOTP one.
Decades of History
The MBWBA went on hiatus in 2007, after simming the 1994 season, due to the GMs’ increasing family and work demands, but it resumed in 2010 with the 1995 season underway. “Our current history only goes back to the 1995 season (which we consider the ‘modern era’), but all of the records include the entirety of the league,” Rectenwald says.
Asked for anecdotes from nearly four decades of MBWBA history, Rectenwald solicits thoughts from league GMs and one name immediately jumps out: “Manuel Aguilar,” offers New Orleans Crawdads GM Jim Roberts. “A 26-year-old kid who wins the triple crown, only to have a career ending injury before ever making another plate appearance.”
Aguilar played for the Carolina Kraken, whose GM, Ben Teague, can only offer these terse thoughts: “Sooo, you won’t be needing any quotes from me, then? Because I’m thinking they want this PG? On the last day of spring training. Diving for a line drive.”
Recentwald fills in the rest, wistfully recalling the player’s history as if he was being interviewed for a documentary: “Manuel Aguilar was the bright young star for the new Carolina Kraken. He had debuted for the franchise in their first year in Carolina (2001), having moved from Hackensack, where they were the Bulls. In his second year, 2002, he got full-time play and batted .281 with 21 HR and 66 RBI.”
Rectenwald continues: “Then, in 2003, he exploded for the greatest offensive season in modern era history. His .413 average, .749 slugging percentage, 1.206 OPS, 141.0 VORP, and 459 total bases are all still single-season MBBA records. The Kraken and their GM were thrilled about the prospects of the future, at least until spring training of 2004, when one fateful dive in the outfield led to the quick and abrupt end to Aguilar’s career from the dreaded ‘torn labrum’ injury.”
Teague wrote a heartfelt article about Aguilar’s injury.
On the pitching side, the Hollywood connection again comes up when Buffalo Bison GM Matthew Bornac mentions Steve Nebraska, who’s based on a pitcher by the same name in the 1994 film “The Scout.” “The best pitcher I have ever seen in this game,” Bornac says.
Rectenwald explains: “We created him in the GBC and he was a golden god there. I wanted to make him as good in OOTP as he was in the GBC, and as good as he was in the movie.”
He adds: “Well, it seemed to turn out okay: Nebraska is the MBBA career leader in ERA (2.04), Wins (382), Winning Percentage (.767), Games Started (658), Shutouts (53), Innings Pitched (4774.1), Strikeouts (6156), Hits Allowed/9 (6.03), Strikeouts/9 (11.6), WHIP (0.83) and WAR (279.7- noteworthy that this number is more than DOUBLE the highest offensive total in league history).”
Participation Points and More
“All of our customizations stem from our Participation Point system, which rewards participation and writing in our forums,” explains Rectenwald. “Members are awarded points for their contributions, which can then be exchanged for rewards. Some examples are converting a starter to a reliever, and improving a player’s work ethic or intelligence.”
He adds: “We also give GMs the ability to create ‘Custom Ammys’ each season. They are created from the feeder leagues we have (High School All Stars and College Conference All Stars). You can then watch them grow into stars, as one GM has.”
Valencia Stars GM Lee Honigsfeld then rattles off a list of names that sound uniquely baseball: “For me, it’s some of the cool names I came up with and watch develop into stars, like Jake Urban, Dash Kelly, Maddux Vaughn, Brock Lee, Hurley Reyes, Ferris Wheeler, Chip Foodie, Tyler Ryan, Justin Alexander, and Jim Cramer.”
Rectenwald adds: “And now we even have an independent European Baseball Alliance (EBA) from which MBBA clubs can buy matching rights of players there that go out to the free agent market.”
“My Main Hobby”
Rectenwalk is a longtime baseball fan whose earliest memory is watching the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1982 World Series. “The game intrigued me, the numbers intrigued me,” he remembers. “I, like many in my generation, became a baseball nut through baseball cards. Those numbers on the back turned me into a stat junkie!”
Today, he plays OOTP because he says he’s “heavily invested in it, having spent the past 7 (if memory serves) versions as a member of the beta team. It’s part of my daily routine at this point. I run a fictional historical league as well, the Other Reality Baseball 2, and I’m in another fantastic fictional league, the Global Unified Baseball Association, as well as the Classic Baseball Union.”
Rectenwald sums it up: “OOTP is my main hobby. It challenges me daily. It entertains me. These leagues become somewhat real, and the progression of OOTP has so much to do with that. (FaceGen, for example, was one of the best breakthroughs the game has made in this regard.) OOTP continues to get better and better as it develops into the game I envisioned many years ago when we were heavily modding games like EWB and BBPro.”