The Atlanta Cracker Fantasy Baseball League, founded in 1982 by oncologist Gerald Goldklang, attorney Bob Goldstucker and dentist Dennis Jaffe, still thrives today, some 40 years later.
It turns out that those who can’t play professional sports can still trade, trash and cajole each other for the best team configurations using a complicated virtual matrix of calculations.
On April 10, many of the League’s original “owners” met at the Belle de Jour Hair Salon in Sandy Springs (run by Goldklang’s wife, Andrea) to roast and rib each other with stats, pizza and good cheer. Such an emphasis is placed on meeting attendance that owner Phil Meeks flew in from Tel Aviv to attend.
“Rotisserie” baseball was invented in 1980 by author Dan Okrent and developed with his baseball-minded friends who met at the Manhattan restaurant La Rotisserie Française, forming the core of the first rotisserie league.
The Atlanta Cracker League purports to be one of the oldest running fantasy sports leagues in the country. Many changes have been implemented along the way, like the addition of numbers “genius” and retired actuary Joey Moskowitz, now an AFLAC board member.
Dennis Jaffe, ex-commissioner, still holds that honorary title. Passing the day-to-day responsibilities on to “younger blood,” the 68-year-old Moskowitz has a better grasp of technology. The “commish” has broad powers and responsibilities, like ensuring that rosters are “legal” and trades are fair, without any friend-to-friend favors. “Like, I will get you a better job if you trade me Acuña for some bum,” Moskowitz explains.
Originally, stats were tabulated once every three weeks using USA Today and a spreadsheet. Teams were unaware of the standings until they were snail-mailed. The league moved to a third-party automated stat service in 1990. With the expansion of the internet, they employed an online stat service (CBS Sports 2005) that provided instantaneous statistics with every “at bat.” Roster moves to replace or sub for injured players can be made daily.
A winner is determined based on head-to-head stats. Teams then have win-loss records. The ACL has stuck with the Rotisserie format, with stats based on batting average, stolen bases, home runs, RBIs and, for pitchers, ERAs, strikeouts, wins, saves and WHIP —the average number of walks and hits allowed by the pitcher per inning.
Team rosters are filled by an annual auction. Players are brought up for bid and each team has $50 to spend on 22 players. Spending too much for one player can cause a deficit later. Spending too little might result in not getting good players.
“A lot of research is required to make sure you have the requisite knowledge to bid wisely,” Goldklang said.
The League’s team names are a spirited reflection of the enthusiasm of the participants. Moskowitz’s team, “the Maulers,” harkens to his Georgia Tech ZBT days and the StatoMatic league’s “Manischewitz Maulers.”
“Manischewitz was a nickname given me by older brothers,” Moskowitz said, “I retained the Maulers.” It may sound bland compared to some of the others: Barking Pumpkins, Flying Burritos, Jaffe’s “Broad Street Incisors,” or Goldklang’s “Chemos” and Goldstucker’s the “Nodules.”
Goldklang, who is known for his competitiveness, admitted that “with most of the members being attorneys and judges, there are not infrequent clashes that the commissioner has to handle. All past commissioners have a personality leading to fair decisions despite team owners bickering.” Moskowitz concurs. “A lot of lawyers in the league results in some shenanigans.”
Goldklang said that “over the years, team owners have called MLB’s offices for inside info. All and all, we’re friendly, with regular interactions. The formal trade meeting is at someone’s house the night of the All-Star game and the winner hosts a celebration party with the World Series game on TV. As we have 10 teams and limit ourselves to National League players, it makes things more competitive and there are no teams filled with superstars.”
Goldstucker brought in his 38-year-old son, Richard, who is also an attorney, to co-own the team and carry the torch. “Richard and I have shared an interest in baseball since he was a child, during his playing days, through high school and the Braves’ great run in the nineties,” Goldstucker recalled.
“It was natural to own our rotisserie team together as a shared endeavor, not as father and son, but as peers. I can speak for both of us when I say that our joint management during the baseball season is the highlight of each year. We interact and speak of our team daily. How could a father ask for more?”
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