DMB News July 2000
Diamond Mind Email Newsletter #8
July 6, 2000
Written by Tom Tippett
Welcome to the third edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter for the year 2000. Through these newsletters, we will try to keep you up to date on the latest product and technical information about the Diamond Mind Baseball game, related player disks, and our ongoing baseball research efforts. Back issues are available on our website.
If you don't wish to receive these messages in the future, please send an email response with the subject line "unsubscribe". We'll immediately remove your email address from the list. And if you know someone who would like to subscribe to this newsletter, we'll be happy to add them to the mailing list if they send us an email message with the subject line "subscribe" and their name and street address in the body of the message.
Topics for this issue:
We are happy to announce that you can now place orders for Diamond Mind products via the Internet using our new online store. Although the store is hosted in the Yahoo shopping mall (stores.yahoo.com, Computers/Software category), you can easily move back and forth between our web site (www.diamond-mind.com) and the store. The store has been up and running for about a week, and we've already processed a bunch of online orders.
The online store is more secure than ordering by email, faster than sending an order through the mail, and it's available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now you now have five options for placing orders -- mail, phone, fax, email, and online -- and we will be happy to serve you no matter which method you prefer.
Our shipping schedule has not changed. Orders placed by noon Monday-Friday are shipped no later than the next business day, and most are shipped the same day. We do not ship on weekends, so orders placed between noon Friday and noon Monday are shipped Monday afternoon.
We are in the midst of moving our web site from one Internet Service Provider to another. If all goes well, you won't notice the change. You'll continue to access the site using the same address that we've been using for over four years (www.diamond-mind.com). And the old site will remain up and running until we're sure the net is routing everyone to the new location.
But it's possible there might be a few temporary glitches during the day or two that it takes for the change in location to be rippled through all of the internet databases that store this information. If you experience problems that persist for more than a day or two, please let us know so we can take corrective action.
We want help with Help! We've started writing the online help for our new version 8, and we believe we have the skills to put together a very good help system. But we'd love to have some assistance from an experienced Help system developer who knows baseball and is very familiar with our game.
We would provide provide lots of raw material -- specifications, newsletter articles, text from past versions of the user guide and from our web site -- to get you started, working copies of the version 8 software, and timely answers to your questions.
You would update existing material to reflect any changes, write about the new features in version 8, organize this material into help topics, create links among related topics, and make sure that the table of contents and index are both very helpful and easy to work with.
We're looking for someone who can start very soon, put in the necessary hours between now and the version 8 ship date, and continue to work with us on an as-needed basis on future versions of the game. If you're interested and qualified, please e-mail me at email@example.com or call me at 1-800-400-4803. I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
About a year ago, I found a book by Burt Solomon called "The Baseball Timeline", started reading it, and then promptly misplaced it. Happily, I found it again last week and was reminded of how much I enjoyed it the first time around.
It's a chronology of major baseball events with one chapter per year. Each chapter begins with a brief summary of what was going on the world outside baseball that year (a fascinating aspect of the book in its own right) and then walks through the year's major baseball events. It's the sort of book you can pick up, flip to any page at random, and find something interesting to read, whether you have two minutes or two hours to spend.
Last week, I happened to open it up to the chapter on 1936, and I was amazed at how much interesting stuff I encountered in just a few minutes. Some of you who are baseball history buffs may already know many of these things, but I'll bet you didn't know at least some of the following items from 1936:
- the Athletics were carrying out an ongoing salary dump that is not unlike what the Expos/Marlins/Twins have done in recent years. This time, the A's traded two everyday players (OF Doc Cramer, who batted .332 the year before, and starting SS Eric McNair) for two fringe players and cash. They lost 100 games in 1935, and did it again in 1936.
- the Boston Braves lost 115 games the year before, so to generate fan interest they held a name-the-team contest, and the club was known as the "Bees" through 1940. The new name must have helped, as they gained 40-1/2 games in the standings from 1935 to 1936.
- the first Hall of Fame members were elected - Hank Greenberg, who drove in 170 runs the year before, felt he had no choice but to hold out at the beginning of spring training in order to get a decent contract. Two weeks later, he signed for $25,000. Good thing, because in May, Greenberg broke his wrist in a collision at first base and missed the rest of the season.
- because too many homeruns were being hit into Lansdowne Street, the screen was added to the top of the left-field wall in Fenway Park
- Joe DiMaggio made his major-league debut, singling in his first atbat and going 3 for 6 with a triple, three runs scored and an RBI. He began his career as a left fielder, then moved to CF in June when he had given the Yankees enough confidence to trade the incumbent, Ben Chapman, to the Senators. In July, he became the first rookie to play in an All-Star Game.
- for those of you who think we've had a monopoly on slugfests in recent years, consider these: Mel Ott drove in 8 runs in a 13-12 win over the Phillies; the Yankees beat the A's 25-2 as Tony Lazzeri racked up a record-setting 11 RBI on three homers and a triple; the Yankees swept a double-header from the Indians 15-4 and 12-2, with starting pitchers Red Ruffing (four hits, two homers) and Monte Pearson (four hits, four RBI) leading the attack; a week later, the Yankees beat the White Sox 18-11; in August, the Yankees swept a twin bill by scores of 14-5 and 19-4; the Tigers took a double-header from the Browns 12-0 and 14-0 in the most lopsided shutout sweep ever; the Yankees ended the year with five players reaching the century mark in RBI; finally, in game two of the World Series, those same Yankees bombed the Giants 18-4 to even things at a game apiece, then clinched it with a 13-4 romp in game six.
- on July 10th, Chuck Klein just missed a homer in the second inning when a long drive was caught at the wall. Too bad, because he hit homers the next four times up, becoming the fourth major leaguer to hit four homers in a game. The last one won the game in the 10th.
- seventeen-year old Bob Feller made his major league debut on July 19th. Feller claims that he struck out John "Buddy" Lewis in this game, the boxscores and official records do not show any Ks for Feller.
[By the way, I decided to look into this myself, and according to Dave Smith of Retrosheet (www.retrosheet.org):
"The account in the Cleveland Plain Dealer supports Feller. His debut was in the 8th inning of game two of a doubleheader, with Cleveland behind 8-2. He entered with no outs, two runs and a runner on 3rd. Here is what the paper says: Feller replaced Allen in the box.
Kress was hit by a pitched ball.
Weaver walked on four straight balls filling the bases.
Chapman grounded to Trosky, Bolton scoring and the other two runners advancing.
Kuehl popped to Knickerbocker."]
- five weeks later, facing the Browns in his first big-league start, Feller fanned the first eight hitters in the game and fifteen total. On September 13, he set a new AL record and tied the major-league record for strikeouts in one game with 17; the opposing pitcher was 18-year-old Randy Gumpert of the A's. Later that month, Feller graduated from high school.
- that summer, Feller threw out the first ball at the Illinois State Amateur Baseball Championship, and a 10-year-old boy got Feller's autograph on that ball. The boy, Robin Roberts, made his major-league debut with the Phillies in 1948 and later was enshrined in Cooperstown.
- on September 11th, Connie Mack of the A's once again got cheap and failed to take enough pitchers on a road trip. Hod Lisenbee, 37, paid the price, being forced to go the full nine innings despite allowing a record-tying 26 hits and losing 17-2. [You may recall that Mack took only two pitchers to a game in Cleveland in 1932, and when starter Lew Krause lasted less than an inning, reliever Ed Rommel was forced to go the distance. That turned out to be an 18-inning outing in which Rommel allowed 29 hits and 14 runs, but still got the win in an 18-17 game.]
- Carl Hubbell of the Giants ran his consecutive win streak to 16 - Walter Alston made his debut as a player, striking out in his only major-league atbat and making one error in two chances. Alston, of course, went on to manage the Dodgers for 23 years, winning five world titles and seven pennants.
- the President of the Des Moines team in the Western League claimed that Feller was illegally signed by Cleveland and therefore still belonged to Des Moines. Three months later, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis resolved the dispute by awarding Feller to the Indians and cash compensation to Des Moines.
All of those tidbits were found in one 6-page chapter of a book that runs a little over 1000 pages. Even if the other chapters have fewer items of interest, if you like baseball history, there's a very good chance you'll like this book.
I bought it in a bookstore last year, but I haven't seen it on the shelves lately. There's still a listing for it on Amazon.com, though their page says it normally takes 4-6 weeks for shipment, suggesting that it's not a big seller. Two Amazon readers have posted reviews that give the book a thumbs up, though one of those readers recommends a similar book called The Baseball Chronology by James Charlton that is no longer in print. I've tried to locate a copy of the latter title through Amazon's out-of-print book service, but have not had any luck so far.
We've been busy, and I'd like to bring you up to date on a few things that we have been working on.
I may have mentioned in the past that we've added support for double headers in the fatigue system. The game now knows whether a player's previous outing was yesterday or earlier today and takes that into account when determining who's tired and who's not. We've also updated the team status report and the on-screen display of fatigue information to be more useful.
I also wrote in the last newsletter that we had hired a graphic artist to prepare a series of ballpark images for our new game window. Since then, he has completed 23 of the 31 images we've requested, and I'm very happy with the results.
The new stats transfer tools
I want to spend most of my time on our new tools for transferring data in leagues. I'll call this set of features "stats transfer" for short, even though we're transferring more than just statistics.
A few weeks ago, when we began work on the stats transfer tools, we had a decision to make. We could replicate what we had in version 7 with a modest amount of time and effort, or we could take more time and make some dramatic improvements. We chose the latter course and I think you'll be pleased with the results.
I'll start with a quick look at the most common scenario for running leagues in version 7:
- the league commissioner starts a play cycle by using a product like PKZIP to zip up all the files in the league directory, then sends that zip file to the league managers, each of whom is responsible for unzipping the files into the right directory
- after reviewing reports, but before playing any games, each manager zeroes out the stats for the season
- after each game, the manager must remember to save a boxscore and/or a scoresheet for the game if the league wishes to keep them
- after playing the games, the manager uses the export feature to create a series of files that include team rosters, manager profiles, and updated year-to-date statistics. The manager then zips up these files and sends them to the commissioner.
- the commissioner unzips the files from each manager and then imports them into the master copy of the league disk. If the same team was used in games by more than one manager, the fatigue information and hitting streaks may or may not be correct for that team, depending on the order in which the games were imported.
Why is it necessary to zero the stats in this approach? Because we're transferring year-to-date stats. If a player is 30 for 100 at the beginning of a play cycle, and he goes 5 for 10 in the games played by Manager A and 2 for 12 in the games played by Manager B, his new year-to-date totals should be 37 for 122.
If neither manager zeroed the stats before playing games, Manager A's disk would show 35 for 110 and Manager B's disk would show 32 for 112. Neither total is correct, and adding them together is wrong, too.
By zeroing the stats, each manager can export stats that reflect only the games played on that computer, and those stats can be imported by the commissioner and added to the previous year-to-date totals to get accurate updated totals.
But it's not nearly as much fun to play games without having the year-to-date totals available, and we decided we could do a lot better. So version 8 focuses on transferring the results of each game instead of year-to-date totals.
Here's how the new process works:
- while setting up the league, the commissioner can choose league options that (if activated) will automatically generate a boxscore, scoresheet and game account file after each game, so league managers don't have to remember to save these items manually.
- the commissioner chooses a menu command that automatically zips up all of the files in the league database and creates a single transfer file that is ready to be sent to the league managers
- each manager uses another menu command to install the updated league database. Note that neither the commissioner nor the league managers need to own a copy of PKZIP or any other tool of that sort, as the capability is built into the game.
- managers can generate reports, move players between the active roster and the reserve rosters, update their manager profiles, and play games WITHOUT HAVING TO ZERO THE STATS
- to export these changes, the manager chooses a menu command that leads him through a simple three-step process to select the games, manager profiles and transactions to export. Version 8 keeps track of which games and transactions were already there at the beginning of the play cycle and automatically selects the ones that have been added since. (You can override these selections if you ever need to send something to the commissioner a second time.) When the selections are complete, version 8 creates a single transfer file that is ready to be sent to the commissioner.
- to import these changes, the commissioner chooses a menu command that leads him through another simple three-step process to select the games, manager profiles and transactions to import. When the selections are complete, version 8 imports all of the selected items, updating the schedule, year-to-date statistics, injury logs and everything else that is affected, after performing validations to ensure that the same information is not imported more than once.
- after the imports have been completed, the commissioner can choose another menu command that rebuilds the usage and streaks information. Now that all of the games are in one place and can be evaluated in the proper sequence, version 8 can go through the game-by-game logs and figure hitting streaks and fatigue information correctly.
Our goals with this new system were to:
- allow managers to play games without zeroing the statistics first
- eliminate the need for commissioners and managers to acquire, learn and use tools like PKZIP
- reduce the potential for error throughout the process by putting more of the steps under the control of the game and by more thoroughly validating the data when the commissioner imports the statistics
- keep the transfer files as small as possible given the amount of data being sent back and forth
Judging by our experience providing technical support over the past five years, these improvements will go a long way toward making league play easier and more fun for commissioners and managers.
To borrow an image from another sport, we've rounded the final turn and are heading down the home stretch on version 8. The list of things to do is getting shorter, and we're gearing up to begin field testing this month. I wish we were already finished, of course. At the same time, I'm very happy with how the product is shaping up. In stats transfer (and a few other parts of the product), we've done more than we had initially planned for this release, and I believe league commissioners and participants will benefit from those extra features.