For Strat-O-Matic duo, record was in cards
Gamers go 54 consecutive hours to set endurance mark
Brett Carow and Sam Hennemann, fans of Strat-O-Matic and friends from Minnesota, made the trip to New York City with the expressed purpose of breaking the endurance record set last summer. Foley's Pub & Restaurant served as host of the event, which started Thursday and ended Saturday.
Carow, crowned the Ultimate Strat-O-Matic Fanatic at last year's 50th anniversary celebration of the game's creation, may have been the ideal person to break the record. The 32-year-old has played more than 10,000 games in his life, but he'd never attempted a feat quite like this before.
"Extremely exhausted," Carow said. "The low point for me was between 4 and 5 [a.m.]. We took an hour nap last night and that was the first time we slept. That was 40 hours in. That's been the struggle, fighting fatigue, fighting the need to do something else.
"But Strat-o-matic is a great game. We have new teams constantly. They're always changing. It's made it a lot easier than we thought it might be."
Carow and Hennemann played more than 100 games during their marathon gaming spree, and they were allowed five minutes of every hour to freshen up or take a break. Sometimes, they banked those five-minute increments and kept them for a longer break somewhere down the line.
But there were no showers, no change of clothes, no indulgences except for dice-rolling. Carow and Hennemann kept their limbs fresh by drinking Gatorade and eating bananas and Snickers bars, and they kept their minds right by engaging in a tournament involving some of the all-time best teams.
Over time, they found that they were engrossed as much as they were exhausted. Carow, who missed his prom after an all-night Strat-O-Matic binge and even played the game on his honeymoon, may not have been surprised by that development. For Hennemann, it was something new.
"It's more about communication and keeping each other involved," Carow said. "The beauty of it is that there really wasn't as much of a need for us to do that with each other. The game itself helped us stay involved.
"You always have a rotation of teams you're going through, and even though you've used those teams in the prior round, it's still something fresh every time you pick them up and put a new lineup together. Maybe you're facing a lefty this time, or the ballpark is different."
The previous record had been 53 hours and 59 minutes, and it had been fittingly set by a group of people playing "Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game." Carow and Henneman briefly stopped to acknowledge breaking the record, but they planned on playing another six hours.
Hal Richman, who invented Strat-O-Matic Baseball as an 11-year-old and has turned it into an industry over the last five decades, said he never imagined this kind of achievement.
"This is 54 hours and it might go 60," Richman said. "We don't know. It's how long they can last. They've been through a couple tough moments, particularly [Friday] when they cramped up. But the bananas and the Gatorade worked. They snapped out of it. [Saturday] morning, they got up, they were tired, but they knew they had banked 46 hours in already. They knew they were in the home stretch."
The winner's circle finally appeared around 3 p.m. on Saturday, temporarily touching off a jubilant celebration at the front of Foley's and spilling out onto 33rd Street. But the two combatants -- president and vice president of a local league in Minnesota -- elected to sit right back down at the table.
"We're going to shoot for 60," Hennemann said. "We've got a tournament we still need to finish. We're in the American League Championship [Series]. We broke the 54 mark, but we've got two outs in the bottom of the ninth and a one-run lead right now in Game Two. It's a five-game series for the American League and we've got five more for the National League. And then a seven-game series for all of it."
Carow, 32 years old, said that the results had been fairly even over their two-plus days of gaming, and both players seemed genuinely interested in finding out which team would win their tournament. On top of it all, though, they had a new-found appreciation for the game and for their hobby.
Now -- for the time being, at least -- Carow and Hennemann are world record-holders.
"I never thought anything like this was possible," Carow said. "You start playing games as a kid, and if you like doing something, you do it. If you like collecting baseball cards, you do it. You don't ever think you're going to get rewarded for it, or get a chance to come to New York City and get publicity for it."
But what happens if someone breaks their record? Will Carow and Hennemann be back?
"I'm not going to do it again," Carow said. "We said that if we start out and something happens -- if we fall asleep or someone breaks a leg -- we gave it a shot. If we don't make it, that's it."