Strat-o-Matic Negro League All Star Cards

Strat-O-Matic released this 108 card set in 2009. 103 Negro League players are represented (5 double duty players, hence 108 cards) including 23 HOF’s. From the Strat-O-Matic website:

“For the first time, Negro League players are rated so accurately they can carry the Strat-O-Matic name. Thanks to years of research by Scott Simkus, we now have the data to confidently rate the Negro League’s best of the best in all Strat-O-Matic categories, including the first-ever credible representation of lefty-righty performance, ballpark adjustments and the level of competition in each of the Negro Leagues from the 1910s through the 1940s. Featuring 23 players in the Hall of Fame, this set is a natural companion to Strat-O-Matic’s Hall of Fame 2000 card set.”

  • 108 cards for 103 Negro League stars
  • Strat-O-Matic exclusives: Lefty-righty breakdowns, ballpark effects, much more
  • 1st SOM cards for legendary Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Oscar Charleston

The cards do not look like traditional SOM cards. They are larger than standard SOM cards (think 2000 HOF cards) and are printed horizontally on both sides. The advanced side will look very familiar to most seasoned SOM’ers but the Basic side leaves a little to be desired. They feature a bar graph on the left side that feels a little out of place. I think more advanced stats or somewhat of a small bio on each player would have been more fitting. None the less, I like the four color printing process on both sides. Playing Basic horizontally takes a couple of games to get use to also.

I purchased these when they first came out. I quickly perused them and put them into a storage container. The hardest part of getting started for me was my complete unfamilialarity with the era. After watching the movie ’42’ I was more inclined to learn more about the players that made the Negro League’s what they were in their hey day.

I found a few replay threads on the strat fan forums and used those as a guide line for teams. Most SOM’ers tried dividing the teams up geographically according to where they actually played. This did not interest me as money would sometimes put powerhouses together that were hard to beat. I did not want that to be my experience. I wanted close hard fought series. I took to the task of making 4 equally talented 20 man rosters.

I separated the pitchers from the position players and set out to make a ranking system for both. For pitchers, my main starting point was ERA and WHIP, followed by W, IP, etc. Hilton Smith was my surprise top pitcher as I was expecting Satchell Paige to take that spot. Here are my top four that were split up amongst the teams as their ACE :

Hilton Smith
Satchell Paige
Slim Jones
Smokey Joe Williams

Next challenge was ranking the position players. I ranked them based on AVE, OBP, SLG, etc. my top four position players were:

Oscar Charleston
Josh Gibson
John Beckwith
Turkey Stearnes

Since this is an All Star set, there are great players at all the positions and you will find yourself putting well known stars on the bench (Cool PaPa Bell for me). You will find some 1’s in the outfield and a few scattered in the infield, but defensive ratings cover the full spectrum in the set. Catcher’s have great arms and while there is a lot of speed in the set, running can be somewhat tempered because of those arms. Some lineups will have 4-6 players that hit over .330 but the pitchers are so good that I have had games where I could only muster three to five hits.

The SOM set comes with a playing guide/manual that gives a brief glimpse of each player. Strengths, where they played, quotes about them. This is the stuff that should have been condensed onto the cards.

My suggestion would be to supplement your replay by reading one of the many great books written about the Negro Leagues. As I am playing through mine, I have been reading “Only the ball was white” (available at Amazon) and it has been wonderful to read about these incredible athletes and then play a game with them.

Final Thoughts

I am disappointed with myself for not starting to play with them sooner. The cards are well done and the players are a fantastic representation of the most neglected part of American Baseball History. I am a little surprised that SOM has inventory left on this product. If you are thinking about getting this product and need some guidance in setting up a replay, please feel free to reach out to me. If there is any interest with my final rankings of the players, I can list them on the site here.

The cards can be purchased from Strat-O-Matic: Card Set, Cards and Game