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Ethan Allen, Cadaco-Ellis, and All-Star Baseball -- text copyright 2011 by the Baseball Games staff --

From 1926 through 1938, Ethan Allen played a smooth, sound outfield for six major league teams -- starting with his hometown Cincinnati Reds, then the New York Giants, the Cardinals, the Phillies, the Cubs, and the St Louis Browns -- and at the plate, posted a healthy .300 average for his career, leading the National League in doubles in 1934. He became the first director of the National League Film Bureau, served as head baseball coach at Yale University for 23 years, winning five Ivy League championships, and produced numerous books, articles, and instructional films on baseball tactics and techniques. But Ethan Allen is best remembered -- and widely revered -- as the inventor of All-Star Baseball, one of the most innovative and popular tabletop baseball games of all time. All-Star Baseball debuted in 1941. It would go on to a production run of more than fifty years, and even now, seventy years later, remains an avid pastime among a large and loyal horde of fans. All-Star Baseball persists as a collectible, too. Depending on the scarcity, the condition, and the roster of player disks in the many vintage editions and alternate versions of the game, prices can range from yard-sale level to several hundred dollars.
All-Star Baseball game, 1941 Ethan Allen, circa 1934
All-Star Baseball game was a milestone in tabletop sports games. It was the first successful effort to replicate the on-field performances of individual real-life players. Every game that had come before it -- worthwhile entertainments though many of them were -- merely randomized the results of each play, regardless of what player's name was on the scorecard. Each throw of the dice, each spin of the spinner, each draw of a card, held the exact same parameters of success or failure for every player in the tabletop line-up. The only exception had been National Pastime, a brilliantly novel dice-and-cards game by inventor Clifford Van Beek, produced in 1930 by tiny Major Games. The onset of the Great Depression, however, almost immediately cast that game into utter obscurity until 1951, when a new game directly derived from National Pastime -- APBA -- hit the market and would soon create its own tabletop legend. All-Star Baseball, though, was something completely new, beholden to no one but Allen himself for inspiration. "I had this idea, even when I was playing, that you could put a man's playing record on a disc," Allen said in a 1983 interview with Bill Madden of The Sporting News. "While I was with the Cubs in 1936, I went to various manufacturers with the hope of selling the idea to them as a game, only to have most of them practically kick me out of their offices." "Every big toy executive threw me out of his office at least once," Allen told John Rose of All-Star Baseball News. The breakthrough finally came when Allen arrived at the offices of Cadaco-Ellis in 1940. Charles Berlsheimer and Donald Mazer had founded Cadaco -- short for "Charles and Don and Company" -- in San Leandro, California, in 1935. The little company quickly found success with Elmer Layden's Scientific Football, released in 1936. Layden was the athletic director for Notre Dame at the time. They followed up with another football boardgame, Touchdown, a long-running success revised and retitled through the years as Varsity and All American Football. Mazer married Eleanor Ellis in 1937. She helped finance a buy-out of Berlsheimer and became the renamed company's new partner. They moved the company offices to the famous Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Cadaco-Ellis obtained the rights to Tripoley, adding another lasting success to their boardgame line. Mazer "was a very direct and straight-talking guy," Allen told Madden. "He listened to me and then blurted out, 'That's a good idea, we'll do it!' They don't make people like that anymore. No questions. We just did it. All Star Baseball has been going since 1941." Mazer's enthusiasm for Allen's proposal was perhaps uncharacteristic. He had previously rejected Monopoly, and Cadaco-Ellis would later turn down Scrabble and Cootie, all of which, of course, became monster successes for other game and toy companies. Mazer did recognize a winner, however, in Allen's game. Just as he had envisioned, Allen did put playing records on disks -- small circular cardboard pie-charts that reflected on-field performance. Disks for sluggers like Mel Ott and Johnny Mize had proportionately larger wedges for home runs, for example, disks for slap hitters like Arky Vaughan larger wedges for singles and triples, and so on. Forty star players of the day were represented in that first 1941 edition. Nineteen of them returned in the 1942 edition, the rest replaced by different stars -- and so it would go, more or less, for the next fifty years, each season's roster slightly to significantly different than that of the year before, with the disks of returning players updated to better reflect their statistical performance. The disks, with a die-cut rectangular center hole punched out, were placed over a small cardboard block mounted on the gameboard, a spinner spun over it, and the wedge number -- 1 through 14 -- at which the spinner stopped indicated the result of each at-bat. Two "strategy" disks enabled bunts, base stealing, and hit-and-run plays. The "K-P" (later "K-O") dials were introduced in 1955, adding a second spin for fielding plays.
Ethan Allen's All-Star Baseball game, 1943
Ethan Allen's All-Star Baseball Game Special Edition, 1946
Ethan Allen's All-Star Baseball Game, 1949
In the years that followed, both the design of the game box and even the game's title changed nearly as frequently as the selection of the player disks. An alternate "Special Edition" of the game was introduced in 1946, adding twenty "All-Time Greats" -- Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, and so forth -- to the line-up of forty current players. The "ATGs" could also be ordered by mail from Cadaco-Ellis, but after the final "Special Edition" in 1954, ATGs were included in the standard game. Another more radical variation appeared in 1957 -- Ethan Allen's Manager's Supplement To All-Star Baseball. It was not, in fact, so much a "supplement" as an entirely different game, more strategically involved and sophisticated than All-Star Baseball, featuring larger disks incompatible with the standard version. Allen spent many years trying to wean the many fans of his game from the basic version and onto a more detailed form, but he was not successful with this first effort at it.
Ethan Allen's All-Star Baseball Game Special Edition, 1952 Ethan Allen's Manager's Supplement To All-Star Baseball, 1957
Back at the home office, however, Mazer had died in 1951. His widow appointed Mazer's long-time assistant, Doug Bolton, general manager of the company. Cadaco-Ellis and All-Star Baseball continued to cruise along with few bumps in the road, but in 1959 Bolton left to take a position with Rapid Mounting and Finishing, Cadaco's major supplier of boardgame materials. Five years later, Rapid turned and bought Cadaco-Ellis, returning the now subsidiary company's name to simply Cadaco.
Ethan Allen's All-Star Baseball, 1955 All-Star Baseball Game, 1960 All-Star Baseball Game, 1962 All-Star Baseball Game, 1963
More variations were now in store for All-Star Baseball. The All-Time Greats were deleted from the standard-issue game after 1967, but remained available through mail-order into the late 1980s. The box was again redesigned for 1968, featuring a photograph for the first time rather than an illustration (in answer to the often-asked trivia question, the batter shown is a retouched image of Cookie Rojas). The game would now include disks for not just forty current players but for at least sixty. In 1969, the disk format itself was changed, eliminating the distinctive center cut-out and introducing solid disks that were slid into a clear plastic pocket of sorts on the gameboard for each spin. The 1969 edition is notorious for its errors in editing and printing, and was re-issued several times, each with a different set of mistakes. Allen tried a more sophisticated version of his game again in 1971, this time titled Strategic All-Star Baseball, but with only slightly more success than in 1957. The 1975 edition was initially issued with an oversimplified eight-number system instead of the traditional fourteen, but fan reaction was so overwhelmingly negative that a second edition, restoring the 1-14 arrangement, was produced late that year and retained for all subsequent seasons. Vendors, especially, as well as newer collectors, should note that the copyright dates on game boxes indicate only the date of issue of the box graphics, and not the date of the disk set -- "1968," for example, is the copyright date on the boxes containing every season set from 1968 through 1988.
All-Star Baseball Game, 1966 Strategic All-Star Baseball, 1971
Despite the changes and missteps, and in spite of the popularity of rivals APBA and Strat-O-Matic, All-Star Baseball still thrived. Two separate editions of player disks -- "A" and "B" sets -- began to be issued annually starting in 1976. Hall of Fame Edition AllStarBaseball Game, acclaimed by many All-Star Baseball aficionados as Cadaco's greatest achievement, arrived in 1980, featuring an electrical spinner and 124 player disks, including those for nineteen players not available in any other standard, ATG, or mail-in set.
All-Star Baseball Game, 1968 All-Star Baseball Game, 1975
Fan involvement intensified as well. Nick Panos patented an actual supplement to the game, involving a pitching element that had all along been absent from any version of All-Star Baseball. He marketed the result in 1980 as a massive set of player disks titled Greatest Baseball Teams of the Century. The aforementioned John Rose, who in the 1970s had tabulated and published the previously uncatalogued complete list of player disks, began the All-Star Baseball News fanzine in the early 1990s.
Hall of Fame Edition AllStarBaseball Game, 1980 The Original All-Star Baseball, 1989
All-Star Baseball seemed healthy enough to continue indefinitely -- retitled The Original All-Star Baseball for its 1989 edition, the game saw a radical redesign of the box and board and the debut of the "photo disks," picturing each player on one side and his statistics on the other, baseball-card fashion. Miniature editions of the game were produced in 1990, variously titled Travel Edition and Home 'N Away Game. But ominously, no new disks were produced in 1992, and after a new set finally appeared in 1993, the confluence of two events would bring All-Star Baseball to a halt. For more than fifty years, Allen had personally contacted every player featured in his game, obtaining written permission to use their name and statistics, free of compensation. Most, with a very few notorious exceptions, had recognized it as something of an honor and a way to promote both their own popularity and baseball itself among young fans. But in the year preceding the infamous player strike, the Players Association had become more militant -- in the opinion of many fans, just plain greedy -- regarding the use of player names, images, and statistics. When Allen died in September at the age of 89, All-Star Baseball lost its founder and its greatest promoter and diplomat. Licensing fees now demanded by the MLBPA were too extravagant for Cadaco and the game was discontinued.
All-Star Baseball Game Hall of Fame Edition, 2003 All-Star Baseball Game, 2004
Ten years later, however, All-Star Baseball would reappear, thanks to a new in-house advocate at Cadaco, Paul Reidy. Working with the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Reidy was able to arrange a more favorable licensing agreement with the MLBPA, and Cadaco produced All-Star Baseball Game - Hall of Fame Edition in 2003, featuring a vacuum-formed miniature stadium rather than a standard gameboard, and sumptuously packaged in a colorful tin box. One final variation yielded one last year for Cadaco's production, and All-Star Baseball ended its run after the 2004 edition. The Cadaco division of what is now Rapid Displays was sold in April 2010 to Poof-Slinky, makers of the classic "walking spring" and other toys. Through the years, Cadaco had produced numerous sports games in addition to All-Star Baseball, most of them long-running successes even if none were quite the evergreen classic Allen's game proved to be. Foto-Electric Baseball, Indoor Băsbal, and Bean Bag Baseball all had their turn at bat in the Cadaco line-up. Foto-Electric Football joined All-American Football, Varsity, and the Elmer Layden game on their gridiron roster. Hoc-Key had a long shift on the ice for Cadaco. Bas-Ket and College Basketball were their stars on the court, and Cadaco even took a few laps around the turf with The American Derby and Dobbin Derby. Sadly, the venerable Cadaco brand name has already disappeared from the Poof-Slinky catalogue and website. Still, All-Star Baseball -- ever just "ASB" or "Cadaco Baseball" to its fans -- perseveres. Those fans, and their numbers are legion, not only collect and trade vintage sets of player disks, but have for years produced their own sets of disks and also created any number of adjustments and additions to the rules of the basic game. Often derided, by fans of more sophisticated MLB-sims, for its lack of a pitching element, All-Star Baseball can now be played using any number of involved pitching and defensive systems created by those many ASB aficionados, including the aforementioned Panos. Rose's meticulously thorough research, detailing every possible facet of ASB history and thousands of disk and set variations, culminated in The ASB Resource Book, indispensible to the ASB-obsessed and available in CD format through the on-line forum advertised below. That forum owes its existence to Gene Newman, who, along with other ASB devotees like Panos, Rose, Mark Evans, Loren Logsden, and the late Larry Kilbride, ranks among the top echelon of "amateur" diskmakers for All-Star Baseball. There are many more -- and that they, as well as many newer fans of ASB, continue to produce and share both disks and rules innovations ensures that All-Star Baseball spinners will continue to spin for future generations.
All-Star Baseball 'All-Time Greats' disks, 1960
The authors would like to thank the CadacoAllStarBaseball forum -- in particular, Gene Newman, Bob Keefer, Louis Wooding, and John Rose -- and Bruce Whitehill of The Big Game Hunter, for their contributions to the research for this article.
This page is heavy with photos and may cause problems for users with slow connections. If photos do not load, PC users should right-click the red "X," then click "Show Picture," or simply reload page. - Updated January 2014 -


--
 ALL-STAR BASEBALL
created by Ethan Allen

A favorite since 1941!
THE CADACO
ALL-STAR BASEBALL FORUM
is the place to talk about it.
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- Files and Photos - Tips and Tricks - Friendly Discussion Forum - Several versions of diskmakers are available for free download! (But please be considerate and ask the creator of the programs for permission if you intend to use them to sell discs that you make.) For you old-timers, this is the game that you started out with in 1941! For the youngsters amongst you, it was re-issued annually, with a new set of player disks, every year through 1993. It was revived in 2003 and again in 2004. Come on over and join the fun, make your own disks, and read about the many innovations that players have created over the years. Join up now! Veteran spinners and newcomers are equally welcome. - Just click on the name to visit -
Cadaco ALL-STAR BASEBALL
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