Free Agent Draft

Most collectors have a cringe inducing story surrounding the desecration of cards or related products during their youth. A classic example is Jeff Katz gluing ’71 coins onto a board. Of course cards were designed to provide fun and entertainment for kids. At the time, the alterations we made brought us joy. However, I was enough of a collector as a kid to only mess with duplicates. The following is a tale of desecrating a ’69 Pete Rose card-amongst many others-in the pursuit of fun.

Parker Brothers produced a board game called “Pro Draft,” which utilized ’73 Topps football cards. I very much coveted this game but never obtained it. Being a clever lad, I decided to create my own game using baseball cards. I called the game “Free Agent Draft.” My best guess is I created it in ‘75 after the Messersmith/McNally case resulted in free agency.

Borrowing liberally from the rules of Monopoly, I crafted a board game where the first player to obtain a card for each positon–plus a manager–would be the winner. The players had different values, much like the properties in Monopoly. Drawing from my vast number of duplicates, I proceeded to write dollar values, ranging from 50 to 500, on the front of cards. This resulted in not only Pete Rose being defaced but Luis Aparicio, Boog Powell and Bill Mazeroski as well.

My “Monopoly like” board had spaces for drafting players, winning or losing money, being forced to trade a player or pay opponents fees. I had a “Community Chest/Chance” space called “Hit or Error” resulting in good or bad outcomes depending on which card was drawn. Examples included: “3 game winning streak: move forward 3 spaces” and “Pay $100 to pension fund.”

Competitors could raise money by placing players on “waivers,” receiving half value from the bank. An opponent could put in a waiver claim if you couldn’t meet your financial obligations. Obviously, I stole this from the mortgage option in Monopoly.

Participants could purchase multiple players for the same position in an attempt to block opponents from filling out a team. Conversely, you could take a player you needed if you landed on a “trade” space.

Initially, I drew the game board-poorly- on the back of a roll of Christmas paper and glued it to a checker board. Later, the board was significantly improved by my buddy, Ted, utilizing a piece of plywood and etching the spaces with a wood burner tool. We even varnished it.

Since we played this game for hours, it must have been somewhat compelling. I remember having to alter the rules several times since flaws would creep up. Eventually, we nailed down a fun game.

During a furnace installation in my grandparent’s basement, the board and the “Hit or Error” cards disappeared. I saved some of the adulterated baseball cards, which you are viewing.

If I had sold this concept to Parker Brother or Milton Bradley–not the player–I might have made a fortune. Alas, I’m sure copyright infringement would have been an issue.

I also created a game called “Jenk-o-Matic” baseball, but that is a topic for another post.


Author: Tim Jenkins

Sports memorablilia collector with Seattle teams emphasis. HOF autographs, baseball cards and much more. Teacher for over 30 years. Attended games at 35 different MLB parks.

12 thoughts on “Free Agent Draft”

  1. This is awesome. Shame the board didn’t survive.

    I never did anything this cool but this has reminded me of modifying/extending my baseball board game. I opted for Pursue the Pennant instead of Strat-O-Matic as a kid because I got suckered in by the stadium models for the playing surface. You had a different outfield wall insert for each park and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

    In the age of multi-use concrete donuts, being able to change the board to look “like” an old park with irregular walls was great. Unfortunately, as a Giants fan, playing in Fenway wasn’t ever going to happen (yeah right like both the Giants AND the Red Sox would make it to the World Series) so I looked up old photos of Seals Stadium and the Polo Grounds and created my own “vintage” outfield walls. I had to make up the colors for the advertisements and the shape of the game box obviously wasn’t anything like what the Polo Grounds dimensions were but I was happy with my results.

    I even used the weather conditions values for Candlestick for Seals Stadium (probably not quite accurate) and the conditions for Yankee Stadium for the Polo Grounds (much more accurate).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the creativity, I am pretty sure I would have never gotten to the business side of baseball in that era. My game of choice was Avalon Hill Status Pro. Still have the game in the basement somewhere 1978 cards I think. The Pro Draft game brought back memories. Saw it in a toy store once when I was a kid, never again. I found the 1973 Topps football cards fascinated ever since I saw them on the game box.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Monopoly was based on a game from the public domain, The Landlord Game, so if you’d avoided trademarked terms like “Monopoly”, you’d have been in the clear legally. There’s knockoffs of the game that are much closer to the Habro version that Free Agent Draft would have bee.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just to confirm the premise, I’ll have to dig up my 1963 Topps Roger Maris that I poked multiple holes through. Curse him for breaking Babe’s record! (Sorry, Rog, I know you meant no harm.) Of course, I also have my share of cards on which I helpfully added useful info, such as “optioned to minors,” Wouldn’t a subsequent owner to be misled, now, would I? 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The generational gap strikes again! I know there were defaced cards that would show up now and then in the 1980s Becketts (think a card of Kevin Bass with a sticker of a bass stuck over his face or body – I don’t know if that was actually one but it’s the first thing that came to mind), but the general rule for those of us who started collecting then was to not write on or alter the cards at all. We didn’t want to deface those valuable 1988 Topps cards … I mean investments … by writing on them. Maybe, just maybe, we could get them autographed by the player and that would be okay, but it was a serious question as to whether Mackey Sasser signing his card would drive the value up or down … eBay says an autographed 1990 Donruss sold for $1, whereas the non-autographed one sold for 99 cents, so that question has been answered. We were supposed to hoard these pristine cards and pay for a car or college or both once we cashed in!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: