They announced the latest entries into the Toy Hall of Fame on Friday. The winners were Magic the game, Matchbox and the coloring book.
None of those resonated much with me although, like most people my age, Matchbox cars were part of my growing up. I like the Hot Wheels that kind of went along with it although Matchbox cars were more collectable than racetrack worthy like Hot Wheels.
It did get me to thinking about my favorite toys growing up. I can remember being in on the ground floor of the popular G.I. Joe series. My Joe’s were, for lack of a better word, dolls in military gear, though, I’d never have admitted that way back when. I had footlockers to keep them in, guns, helmets and other attire that made them more than the male version of Barbie’s.
The G.I. Joe’s were the size of Barbie’s when they were first launched into the toy world although they were shrunk down considerably later. I also always loved getting those bags of plastic soldiers or Cowboys and Indians, too.
My mother loved Christmas and always made sure me and my brother had plenty of toys under the tree (and that practically quadrupled with her grandchildren). We had a note from Santa one Christmas where he decided to “let us put the rest of this toy together because it would be fun.” It seems “Santa” was out of patience with the multiple parts and directions.
Probably the one “toy,” if you can call it that, that brought the most enjoyment to me was a game called Strat-O-Matic Baseball. I was introduced to that great game in the spring of 1971. The cards that came out were from the 1970 baseball season when the Reds won the National League pennant and I was hooked.
Over the next 15 to 20 years, I would purchase cards. I can vividly remember the anxious anticipation of the mailman bringing me those cards and then tearing into that package like it was a prized possession because, to me, it was.
These days, of course, Amazon will bring us packages practically overnight so the anticipation of the wait has been erased.
A couple of Christmases ago, my daughter and son-in-law purchased me a Strat-O-Matic Baseball game. When I opened it, memories flooded back. It was a terrific gift, easily my favorite that particular year, even though I only played with it a few times.
But seeing the game and those cards after about 30 years of not purchasing the game, it was a good reminder of a childhood “toy” that meant a lot to me. I owe much of my rudimentary math skills to Strat-O-Matic since we had leagues and kept extensive statistics. I can still divide and multiple with the best of them (not all journalists share this talent).
My circle of friends loved Strat-O-Matic. It was something to do when it was too wet or cold to play outside (Do kids ever do that anymore?). The game probably kept us out of trouble, too. Many nights were spent in my basement playing this game with friends.
So, if I could put something in the Toy Hall of Fame, I know what it would be. My childhood would have been vastly different without Strat-O-Matic Baseball.
MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org