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 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
"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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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- Updated January 2014 -
created by Ethan Allen
A favorite since 1941!
- 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 -