As spring arrives and the baseball season begins, young people everywhere are pulling their bats, balls, caps, and gloves out of the closet and heading to the nearest ballfield. There, they will choose up sides, argue over foul balls and close calls at first, and run the bases as if they were playing in the World Series. But what if it rains?
Sure, they could play a video game at home. They could even watch professional games on television or go to the Internet and watch highlights of old games and players. But what if a lightning strike takes out the power? Yes, some might play wiffle ball in the garage or the basement, but those spaces are pretty confining. Fortunately, when all else fails, they can still enjoy baseball indoors without the threat of broken household items. Dice baseball is the perfect, non-electric, indoor game for fans of the national pastime.
If you’ve never played before, go steal the dice from your Monopoly game and start rolling.
As you can see from the illustrations (positions above and combinations below), each of the 21 number combinations has a specific outcome, and many of the outs mirror what you might see in an official scorebook. Infield outs to the pitcher, second, third, and short are 1–3, 4–3, 5–3, and 6–3, respectively, and baserunners advance. Somewhat similarly, fly outs to left, center, and right are 2–5, 2–6, and 4–5, and infield flies to second, third, and short are 1–4, 1–5, and 1–6.
On the positive side, you can also have a bunt single (1–2), a line-drive single (2–4), and a double, a triple, or a home run (4–6, 5–6, and 6–6).
Since the base on balls (1–1), the hit by pitch (2–2), and the sacrifice (5–5) don’t count as plate appearances, the five possibilities for hits in the remaining 18 combinations add up to a robust .278 batting average. (The average last year in all of Major League Baseball was .248.) Since only two combinations result in strikeouts, dice baseball is more typical of the sandlot game than the free-swinging Major League game. Note, too, that the called-looking strikeout (3–3) results in a double play if there’s a runner aboard, but the swinging strikeout (4–4) results in a stolen base if there’s a baserunner and less than two outs. Finally, the remaining 2–3 combination is an error, so the batter is safe at first, and any baserunners advance one base (just as they would with a sacrifice with less than two outs — and a run batted in for the batter if a runner is on third).
If you’re actually keeping a box score and want to give that error to a particular fielder, you can roll again, add the two numbers, and assign the error to the position player for that number (See illustration for positions.) If the dice add up to 10, 11, or 12, score it a two-base error, and assign it to the leftfielder (10), centerfielder (11), or rightfielder (12). Naturally, any baserunners advance two bases as well. Also, if you roll a 5–5, but no one is on base to sacrifice, you should record that as a groundout to the pitcher.
Growing up in Amsterdam, New York, we played this game often and not just on rainy days. We sometimes played on the picnic table in our back yard, in the Dufresnes’ garage next door, or on the Borwhats’ front porch as we waited to deliver our afternoon newspapers. And if I were home alone and really desperate for a game, I would play the game by myself in my bedroom and keep the box score for both teams.
For old times’ sake, I played dice baseball again last week and kept score as my beloved Mets played the hated Yankees in game seven of the 2019 World Series at Citi Field. The 2018 Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom, faced off against the Yankees’ opening-day pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka. I used the opening-day lineups for both teams except that I substituted my favorite Met, Tim Tebow, for Brandon Nimmo in left field. Unfortunately, the Yankees clobbered the Mets 16–6, and Tanaka led the way with a triple, a homerun, and four runs batted in.