Fantasy baseball is a game that is played and beloved by millions of people around the world. The advent of the internet made fantasy sports a huge industry, but it had some humble beginnings.
The first ever set of rules that we could call fantasy baseball were created on a plane flight from New England to Texas by Daniel Okrent, a magazine editor. While in Texas, Okrent showed a group of friends the set of rules he had created, but they seemed disinterested.
Upon returning home to New York, however, some of Okrent’s friends there, including Glenn Waggoner, were enthusiastic about the rules. As such, the group of them came together and started the first fantasy baseball rotisserie league. The league was named for the French restaurant where the players first got together to draft the players.
It might seem mind-blowing that anyone was able to play fantasy baseball without the aid of computers and the internet. Okrent, however, made it work, poring over statistics and keeping a detailed list of the teams in the fantasy league. The promise of acting as an owner and manager of a baseball team was too much fun for the men not to try. According to Waggoner, who split the entry fee with Peter Gethers so that they might co-manage a team, he would spend hours working out stats and trades.
The owners drafted their players at the start of the season, mirroring the process of acquiring new talent in the real world. Then, they tracked their teams’ scores using the stats for each player providing in the sports section of the newspaper. Okrent acted as commissioner, keeping up with the individual teams and standings. In the end, Waggoner and Gethers won the inaugural season, thanks to their diligence.
Waggoner, who administrated at Columbia University, ended up teaching a few undergrads there about the game. They loved the concept so much that they started the Roach Motel League, named after the less-than-enviable dorms at Columbia. Today, the Roach Motel League is the longest-running fantasy sports league in the world!
Waggoner and the gang would go on to publish the Rotisserie League rules in yearly updates, attempting to cash in on the rising popularity. Many other companies moved to head them off, however, coining the generic term “fantasy baseball,” in order to avoid issues of rights and ownership. Waggoner, Okrent and the rest were left out of the ever-growing trend, and gradually grew away from fantasy baseball.
After the Internet grew in popularity, many sites were quick to launch their own fantasy leagues. While the earlier, pen-and-paper style leagues were time-consuming and intensive, the online leagues streamlined all of that. You no longer needed a commissioner to monitor the scores and stats.
You could set your lineup online and play with people all over the world. The game had truly gone global! The rest of this story you probably know, as fantasy baseball has become a huge part of the sport. From its humble beginnings as a fun activity shared by some friends, it has become an international sensation!