1. Sports
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Who Created Fantasy Baseball?

Explaining the Origins of the Game that Started a Billion-Dollar Industry


We play it. We love it. But do we know how it started?

If you're a fantasy baseball junkie, a novice or someone in between, you should be familiar with Daniel Okrent.

It was his wacky idea that started the fantasy sports industry -- now a multi-billion-dollar-a-year behemoth that causes joy, pain, frustration, anxious moments and the occasional marital strife.

Those of us who have played fantasy baseball and/or football since the 1980s or early '90s marvel at how far we've come.

Gone are the days of mailing out the league standings. We no longer have to wait for the commissioner or one of his underlings to figure out the scores for the week, and we no longer have to wait for final confirmation that we won a close game three or four days after it ended.

The computers do most of the grunt work. (If only we could program them to collect the slackers' money at the end of the year, too.)

We might not miss the good old days of fantasy, but we probably did miss the origins of it.

Of the millions who play, most probably don't know if Okrent created fantasy baseball, is the Kansas City Royals' fourth-rated prospect or the Chiefs' long snapper.

According to a 1999 Baseball Weekly article, Okrent came up with idea in the fall of 1979.

He ran it by a group of academics and writers who gathered at La Rotisserie Francaise in Manhattan. From there, The Rotisserie League was formed.

The group started playing in 1980. The original eight categories: batting average, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, earned-run average, wins, saves and composite ratio (now known as WHIP).

The group had many media connections, and the game gained popularity after an article in The New York Times in 1980 and one penned by Okrent for Inside Sports magazine a year later.

Many sportswriters read the stories, the game gained steam, and now we have fantasy sports experts, Internet studio shows, even someone known as The Talented Mr. Roto.

In 2010, ESPN aired a compelling documentary on the beginnings of fantasy baseball as part of its excellent 30 for 30 series.

Directed by Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen, "Silly Little Game" introduces us to the origins of what many of us know only by the game we play.

Watch it, appreciate what Okrent and friends did for us, and learn how we became fake general managers, owners, CEOs and COOs.

As great as Okrent's idea was, the words he used to describe it were even better.

Okrent's Law: "There's nothing more interesting than your own rotisserie team and nothing less interesting than someone else's."

Anyone who has a co-worker who informs you of every bad break he's endured -- as if he's the only one who was victimized by Jose Bautista's 2010 home-run barrage -- will tell you no truer words have ever been spoken about this goofy game millions of us love.

Thank you, Daniel Okrent.

Darn you, Daniel Okrent.

Related topics:

More fantasy baseball tips:

  1. About.com
  2. Sports
  3. MLB
  4. Fantasy Baseball
  5. Fantasy Baseball FAQ
  6. The Beginnings of Fantasy Baseball Games

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.