The Legendary Cabell Baseball Draft: Established 1970 – The Oldest Fantasy Baseball League In The United States…

Here’s the generally accepted version of history when it comes to the origin of fantasy baseball in the America:

The invention of fantasy baseball is commonly attributed to Daniel Okrent, the author and magazine editor, who devised a version in late 1979 or early 1980 and invited friends to begin a league in Manhattan. Participants in a Rotisserie league draft notional teams from the list of active Major League Baseball players and play out an entire imaginary season with game outcomes based on the players’ latest real-world statistics.

WHOA! HOLD IT! STOP THE PRESSES! REWRITE!

Here are the facts: The first fantasy baseball league was started on Friday, March 31, 1970 in a downtown office in San Francisco. It was organized by a dedicated group of baseball aficionados and became known as The Cabell Baseball Draft. This is first organized fantasy baseball league in the United States. And it’s still going strong!

Established March 31, 1970

The legendary Cabell Baseball Draft (the oldest Fantasy Baseball League in the United States) will hold it’s 43rd draft on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the Plaza Suites Hotel in Santa Clara, California. First pitch (pick) is at 11:30am. Sharpen your spikes and pencils!

I joined the league 10 years ago, in 2002. But these guys are the true pioneers of fantasy baseball. Their first draft date (03-31-1970) pre-dates all other fantasy baseball and rotisserie leagues by at least 10 years! It’s time to rewrite the history of fantasy and rotisserie baseball and give credit where credit is due. The Cabell Baseball Draft is the granddaddy of them all! Roger Cabell (Commissioner), Robert DeBarr (Secretary to Commissioner), and Phil Johnson are three of the original owners (and are still active in the league). All three deserve to be enshrined in the Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame!


I think a similar rewrite of history occurred with Christopher Columbus, whom for centuries was credited with discovering America. Until they unearthed a Viking’s helmet and realized they’d been playing football in Minnesota long before Columbus reached our shores.

The Cabell Baseball Draft is a story filled with tradition, joy, sadness, family, friends, but above all else a love of baseball. In 1970, there were only 9 franchises. Over the years, the number of franchises has grown to 16 and includes a rich legacy of fathers, sons, and even grandsons. Franchise owners have come from a variety of fields, banking, advertising, law, technology, produce, wine sales, and real estate spanning more than four decades!

The Cabell Baseball Draft Owners Meeting in Santa Clara April 4, 2009


Several owners have retired, some have vanished, and six have passed on to the big draft board in the sky. RIP – Walt Anderson, Mort Herrmann, Gene Linehan, Jim Farley and Tim Farley-RIP. But the Cabell Baseball Draft just keeps rolling along! Over the decades, the annual Cabell drafts have been held in San Francisco, Brisbane, Los Gatos, Dana Point, Santa Clara, Portola Valley, San Jose and even on Catalina Island!

Hey why is the picture Of The Cabell Draft Owners from Catalina so fuzzy? Oh yeah, what happens on Catalina stays on Catalina!

Just like real baseball, the rules have changed a little over the years. But the Cabell Baseball Draft is basically a keeper league with players drafted to fill all nine positions, with five starting pitchers, one closer, one designated hitter and six bench players. This adds up to 21 players on each roster. Each year, players drafted in the first two rounds (and the DH) along with all bench players must be released at the end of the season. Starting in the third round all players drafted are considered keepers. In addition, owners are only allowed to retain 10 players and must voluntarily release two other players, before the start of the next season.

What’s great about the Cabell Baseball Draft is you don’t need a computer or calculator to keep track. All you need is a box score. The scoring is based on just three player statistics listed in every box score.

Home Runs = 1 point
Wins = 2 points
Saves = 1 point

The challenge of the Cabell Baseball Draft is to find position players who hit the long ball, pitchers who know how to win, and closers who can seal the deal. BA, RBI, SB, BB, for hitters, and OBP, ERA, WHIP, Ks for pitchers don’t really add up to anything in this league. It may sound simple, but just like real baseball it’s damn hard to build a winning franchise and move up in the standings!

I got the call to join the Cabell Baseball Draft in the spring of 2002 from my life-long friend Danny DeBarr. My brothers and I had grown up on the same block with Danny in San Jose playing street baseball, trading cards, and going to Giants’ games. He was just a couple years younger than me. When Danny called me I noticed he was coughing every few seconds. What I didn’t know was that Danny (at just age 43) had somehow contracted lung cancer. Even though he never smoked a day in his life. Sadly, Danny passed away that August leaving behind two young daughters and a wife. Just like baseball, there a moments that can break your heart.

Oh Danny Boy... 1958-2002

But life and baseball go on. And so does the Cabell Baseball Draft. I’m looking forward to draft day next Saturday. I’m also looking for couple power hitting outfielders and two starting pitchers who can rack up the W’s.

You can judge a season by a magazine cover: BEAT LA!


Here’s my current roster with scouting reports:

OF – Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) The Miami masher! Where’s Mikey?
OF – (OPEN)
OF – (OPEN)
1B – Eric Hosmer (KC) Last name should be Homer?
2B – Kelly Johnson (TOR) Good pop for a two-bagger.
SS – J.J. Hardy (BAL) Another 30 HR season?
3B – Mike Moustakas (KC) This kid can rake!
C – Matt Wieters (BAL) Finally living up to hype…
DH – (OPEN)
SP – Josh Johnson (MIA) Stay healthy ace!
SP – Dan Haren (LAA) 16 W’s possible with Pujols?
SP – Mat Latos (CIN) Better team = more W’s?
SP – (OPEN)
SP – (OPEN)
CL – J.J. Putz (ARI) 40 save formula: 3 Ks in the 9th

Hey, how did I end up with two J.J.’s on my squad?

The key to success in the Cabell Baseball Draft is to always be on the lookout for young up and coming talent! Baseball skills help too.

Anyway, it’s going to be a great season… B. J., Rick & Jeff, Phil & Bob Day, Mike & Brent, Tom, Don, Young Bob, Jim & Kev, Tony, Bull, Joey, Rog, Ray & Dan, and Old Bob… Play ball!

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