" John Denny, two dollars," he said. We laughed.
He was, still is, Daniel Okrent, owner of the Okrent Fenokees. We were, still are, the Rotisserie League, a flock of loons who have and hold our own baseball teams. You could say that these teams are imaginary, but we prefer to think of them as real, and the Chicago Cubs as imaginary.
We gather every year on the first Sunday after Opening Day, at Corona Park, which is really the dining room of Corlies M. Smith, the former owner of the Smith Coronas. There we choose National League players for the coming season in a sort of auction. Each of us, in turn, introduces the name of a player and his appropriate price, and the highest bid wins him. We cannot spend more than $260 to assemble a 23-man team. In that way we are like Calvin Griffith.
The Rotisserie League is silly, and we know that. We also know that it has caused great changes in the lives of each and every one of us, mostly for the better. We play for money, of course, but we also play for friendship, competition, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Corona Park, on Manhattan's fashionable East Side, is a very special place, for it is here that we share our innermost secrets, such as the knowledge that one of us once paid $32 for Paul Householder. At 10 a.m. on draft day, we board a mysterious elevator that beams us up to Corona Park. We exchange pleasantries, sip coffee and then get down to business. Laden with books and charts, we take our places around the table, and a wonderful table it is—long and mahogany. That's the way it was when we gathered for the 1983 draft, and that's the way it always will be, we hope.
But it's last year's draft of which we speak. Someone said, " John Denny, one dollar." Pause. Okrent said, " John Denny, two dollars." Snickers, but no other bids, followed. After all, in 1982 Denny had been a combined 6-13 for the Indians and Phillies, giving up almost five earned runs every nine innings. Sold to Okrent for $2.
What genius! Denny won 19 games for the Phillies, had an ERA of 2.37 and gave up just 1.16 hits and walks per inning pitched. Denny also won the Cy Young Award in the National League, but that's for sentimentalists. " John Denny, two dollars," said Okrent. Of course, he also said, " Greg Minton, forty-two dollars," which comes out to about $2 a save, so what does he know?
Okrent certainly didn't know what he was about to start on that dreary January day in 1980 when he and five others rendezvoused at La Rotisserie Fran�aise, a restaurant—now morte—on Manhattan's fashionable East Side. They met for a regular session of the Phillies Appreciation Society, but out of that meeting came the idea for a statistical baseball league. The league was actually organized at another East Side eatery, P.J. Moriarity's—also now defunct—but the Rotisserie League sounds a lot better than the Moriarity League, don't you think? It's also a nice play on Hot Stove League, but you probably don't care.
And so the Constitution was hammered out in long, painful sessions. "I felt like Madison writing The Federalist papers," says Okrent, who, incidentally, is Vedie Himsl's biggest fan (see page 575 of the fifth edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia): "Glen Waggoner was Hamilton and Bob Sklar was John Jay. At one point Glen said, 'Why do this for money? It'll be fun to play for nothing.' We looked at him as if he were a Martian."
The basic rules are fairly simple. At the auction, each owner assembles a team of nine pitchers, two catchers, a first baseman, a third baseman, a first or third baseman, a second baseman, a shortstop, another middle infielder, five outfielders and a wild card player (or DH). If you use NL players, there should be 10 teams, and with AL players, 12.