George Adams, model ballpark builder guru, has become known in the table-top baseball gamer’s world through his nifty ballpark creations. His ballparks smack of creative, yet simple playability, while highlighting key features of the ballpark they are modeled after, to give the gamer the true essence of their favorite ball yard.
I first came across George Adams and his wonderful creations from a message posted on the Delphi APBA Between The Lines forum about ballpark building several years ago. His ballparks have been featured in a few different blog posts over these last 5+ years, even including a writeup at “The APBA Football Club” site.
He has is own unique style, which give his ballparks the “signature” of being his design. These are not “exact” replica ballparks, but rather, ballparks designed to give the gamer a quality experience, without taking up too much space on the table-top, and without taking too much out of the customers wallet. His standard size ballpark sits on a base which is just 15″ by 15″. This means the ballpark will not take up much desk space as you are able to roll your dice onto the felt surface field, and still have room for your game booklet, cards and scoresheet.
I know first hand, the quality work George Adams is capable of, because I purchased one of his ballparks in October of 2015. George attended TCABT-IV in October of 2015, delivering a hand-crafted Metropolitan Stadium, circa 1965. Not surprisingly, George previously had never received a request to build the old Metropolitan Stadium which graced the Bloomington, MN suburb just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, from 1956 to 1981 (after the Twins and Vikings final games there in 1981, it was razed 4 years later in 1985).
George Adams’ first Metropolitan Stadium build, proudly sits in my basement office.
The scoreboard with Longines clock and “Twins O Gram”, as it looked in 1965. George informed me this was his first attempt at duplicating an actual scoreboard.
The actual Met Stadium scoreboard during the 1965 World Series vs the LA Dodgers.
A full view of the Metropolitan Stadium scoreboard, before 1965, varying advertising.
The Met Stadium completed left-field double-deck seats in 1965, which are a main feature in the Met Stadium creation by George Adams.
Each of the ballparks which George builds are really pieces of art. You will discover as your read on about George Adams, the man is an artist underneath that “Marlboro Man” exterior … 😉
(L to R: Randy Coryer, Pete Stevens with George Adams, visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown)
Onto the interview, with George Adams, of Kansas City, MO …
Jimsapbabarn question #1: Tell Us About Yourself, Outside Of APBA.
George Adams: I’m 58, and retired from Ford Motor Company. I was born in Detroit, and grew up just south on Grosse Ile. Like most kids in the ‘60’s, I dabbled in everything. Model building, Matchbox cars, comics, and waiting for our friend’s older brother to hand us down his last month’s Playboy magazine. But what really caught my attention, were “SuperMarioNation”, “SuperDynaMation”, and “SuitMation”. Gerry Anderson’s Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, and Thunderbirds mystified me. The idea of using puppets in place of real people, and all the cool miniature sets. My childhood friends would make fun of the shows do to the fact that you could see the strings moving the puppets. I was way past the strings, and admired how they built all that cool stuff. The first Ray Harryhausen film I remember watching was, “Jason and the Argonauts”. While watching the movie, an Uncle explained to me “stop motion affects” and how long it took to do a scene. I soon found myself watching any Harryhausen film that came on TV. Then in the late ‘60’s, Godzilla films invaded the U.S. Once again, my friends made fun of the fact that a man was inside the Godzilla suit, but that still didn’t stop my attraction for these wonderful movies, and the skills that went into building the miniature sets. These wonderful shows and movies were probably what developed my creativity. Playing sports was also a must in our neighborhood. After the Tigers won the World Series in ’68, I started following “real” baseball, which I hadn’t before. I still have a scrapbook where I cut out box scores and photos. I also did many drawings and paintings of baseball players. I even created my own comic one summer, called “Baseball Nuts”, with simple drawings of baseball players in action.
(Brooks Robinson painting by George Adams, during his high school days)
(Brooks, 1970, the black and white photo)
My grades always suffered through Junior High and High School (except for art of course), so after graduation, a neighbor who worked at Ford, Woodhaven Stamping Plant, gave me an application. I was hired on January, 1977. In the summer of 1980, my fourth year at Ford, I, along with thousands of other auto workers nationwide, got laid off. I journeyed down to Arlington, Texas in 1981 for a year doing odd jobs, then coming back to Detroit working other mundane jobs. In late ‘83, I was offered a transfer with Ford (once again with many others) to the Kansas City Assembly Plant. I started January of ’84. Met my wife, and we married the next year. Working in an assembly plant is probably the most boring and repetitious work anyone could do, and I would pass the time away creating stories in my head, and repeating them to anyone who cared to listen. Our son was born in ’88. I Did what most dad’s do, coached youth sports, and a few years later, become a volunteer scout leader throughout my son’s scouting years (where he earned his Eagle). Erik graduated from the University of Missouri in 2012, with a Mechanical Engineering degree (I’m very proud of him). In late 2010, my wife was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that can be treated but not cured. She has had two blood transplants, the first (2011) was successful, and put the cancer in remission for two years. The second (2013), did not put the cancer in remission. Through chemo/steroids and many other medications and treatments, we continue to fight this cancer. Because of how they attack multiple myeloma, she has no immune system, and gets sick often. We take advantage of the good times by spending it with friends and just being happy to have each day. You learn a lot when someone you live with has cancer. Witnessing what my wife has gone through, I’ve come to the conclusion that life isn’t about a length of time, but that we received the gift of life in the first place. There is no “winners” line, we won when we breathed our first breath.
Jimsapbabarn question #2: How did you discover APBA?
George Adams: My first stat based, dice baseball game was Sports Illustrated, with the 1970 season tri-fold charts. Three years later, I met some guys in High School who were carrying around some Strat-o-matic cards, I started playing with them on weekends, always playing with their cards. I was aware of APBA from the magazine ads, but I didn’t know anyone who had it. After a hiatus from gaming for a few years, I bought Strat in 1982, and spent a lot of time rolling solo. Kept playing Strat-o-matic, including a mail league for a couple years run by Rod Yoder (I think that was his name). Then, in ’93, everything went into the closet as fatherhood took over. In the mid/late 2000’s, I decided to get back into gaming. I purchased APBA for the first time, played off and on a couple years. In 2010, I discovered the Delphi forums, and that really opened the door. I started buying and playing several baseball games. At this time, I met local gamer, Mike Boling. It’s funny how as the years went by, I thought I was the only guy in town that played these silly games? Now, we have several guys in the Kansas City area, who try to get together as often as we can. Several years ago, I met Jeff Boeding, and through Jeff, I got hooked up with Jim’s tournament, went for the first time last fall. It was a wonderful Saturday tournament, meeting many APBA guys.
(A Sports Illustrated Baseball game, from 1970)
Jimsapbabarn question #3: What other sports games are part of your collection (besides APBA)?
George Adams: Sports Illustrated, Strat-o-matic, Statis Pro, Pursue the Pennant, Skeetersoft, Ball Park, Replay, Box Seat, Payoff Pitch, History Maker, Inside Pitch, Pine Tar, Dynasty, and whatever else I have stashed in my gaming closet (I actually designed and redid an existing closet just for my sports games). I own too many, which keeps me from sticking with just one. Baseball is such a numbers game, station to station, and fits so well on the game table.
(Pine Tar Baseball Game)
Jimsapbabarn question #4: Tell us about your venture into model ballpark building.
George Adams: When I got back into gaming in the early ‘80’s, I built a very simple, but large boxy looking park out of particle board, with high walls to roll the dice against. Put some felt down for the grass, very simple, but served its purpose. After I relocated to Kansas City, and my wife and I bought our first house in 1986, I started building my first replica. Tiger Stadium, it was huge, around 36 inches wide and something like two feet deep.
(Photograph of George’s first ballpark creation, Tiger Stadium)
This would be used until I took a break from gaming in ‘93, and eventually took it apart and threw it out because it was too damn big. Then, in the mid 2000’s, as I got back into rolling again, my wife was working on some crafts using colored foam found in craft stores like Hobby Lobby … and it hit me, this foam will make the perfect dice rolling field. I then went to get some particle board at the local big box lumber store, and found this quarter inch MDF board that I thought would be way better than the particle board I had used previously. Made my first, what I call, generic ballpark, around 18 inches square.
Six years later, In 2011, when I met Mike Boling, he saw my generic ballpark and thought it was pretty neat. I then told him to design something, and I could build one for him.
(The simple yet beautifully crafted generic park built for Mike Boling, including the built-in dice tower)
After Mike posted a picture of his park (it also incorporated my first dice tower) on one of the APBA Facebook pages in early 2012, all hell broke loose. Within weeks, I had over 40 people asking about my ballparks. I was very thrilled that so many people were interested in my little toy parks. At this time, I was designing a Fenway as my first retro park, not so much of an architectural design, but more of a “caricature”, something that captures the identity, but still playable for gaming. During the next two years, things were crazy. I built and sold over 30 parks, most of these were “replica’s” of different ballparks that I designed and built as I received requests. This was no longer a hobby. Half my garage had become my “shop”, and saw dust from both my table saw and miter saw got everywhere. I couldn’t get the parks insured for mailing, unless they were packed with Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrapped, so I had to pursue a local manufacturer to buy this stuff in bulk. I bought specific sized boxes/bubble wrap in a huge roll, and two humongous bags of peanuts. My wife was not amused when she saw the space that this packing material used up. I had gotten in over my head, as I was just a one man show. Even though I had tons of gamer’s wanting my parks, usually something very specific, I just couldn’t keep up … I bought one of those wood sheds (12 x 8) that the big box lumber stores sells, and designed and built the inside to suit what I was doing, along with having power run out to it.
(Where the ballpark “elf” constructs his masterpieces.)
But now, instead of doing the whole project in one space (my garage), I was now going back and forth from my shed to the garage, which is inconvenient. I have this vision, and even discussed this with several of my gaming friends, that the best way to continue is to build and sell what I design exclusively, a couple generic models and maybe two replica’s? But everyone still wants something specific. Do to this, and my wife’s health, I have slowed down considerably. The perfect scenario: a large work space, where the designing, cutting, fitting, painting and gluing, would be done under one roof with enough space to move about freely …. and a couple employees. But now we are talking about an operation that would mean renting work space and hiring and paying employees? Not feasible within this niche hobby.
Jimsapbabarn question #5: What is your favorite build to date? (note, George was nice enough to include a step-by-step procedure of how he builds his models, prior to letting us know which his favorite build was)
George Adams: Before I answer this question, I will talk about the material and length of time to build a toy ballpark for gaming. Quarter inch MDF board (medium density fiberboard), I use quarter inch, which is the thinnest, because the thicker stuff is overkill for what I do. The big issue with quarter inch, it’s the least popular size, and isn’t always available.
(Note, pictures shown are the step-by-step building of his Atlanta Fulton County Stadium)
Assorted pine to use for mounting behind walls and my front edge. Pine lattice strips which I use when I build bleachers. I just cut these to length, and overlap them to give the visual of bleachers (or seats).
Acrylic paint, sold in all craft stores in those little bottles. Colored foam sheets bought at same craft stores, this has become an issue, as the most common color I use, green, changes tints from batch to batch, and I can no longer find the “army” green that I use for natural grass. White auto pin striping for the foul lines.
No nails, wood glue exclusively, cutting tools/many straight edges of assorted lengths, several small carpenter squares. I start off with a 15×15 piece of MDF, draw my lines where I will be putting the walls and foul lines. Cut my walls using a table saw, using a miter saw for angle cuts. With the walls now cut to size and sanded, I glue a pine piece to the back of the wall that will help with the support once glued down. Several hours later, I can start painting the walls, usually demanding several coats. The next day, put a clear matte acrylic finish on all the painted pieces.
Day three, place the auto striping for your foul lines, I can now glue the walls in place, letting a wall firm up in place before I glue the next adjacent wall, so things stay square and aligned.
After all walls and edges are glued down, I will now cut and glue down my foam field. I also put foam on the walls so you get a completely quiet roll.
This is a stop and go procedure. For replicating a real ball park, so much more time is needed for designing the “caricature” I am trying to capture, I want a baseball fan to recognize which park it is without being told. Replica’s demand more time for fitting and gluing as many more steps are involved.
Because it’s such a unique ball park, I kind of favor my replica of Fenway Park . This has been the most in-demand of the ball parks I have been asked to build, probably around seven of these are out there. It has gone through changes in design, starting with the leftfield wall at 4 and a half inches high, now down to 2 and a half high. I like this current design over the more bulky look of my first models.
(Fenway Park x 2)
My Yankee Stadium was one that came with much challenge; I actually stopped in the middle, as I was not happy with its progress in design. After leaving it for six months, I came back with some new ideas of how I wanted to tackle some of the design issues. I was very pleased with the finished product.
One particular gamer who was not afraid to try and build his own, built a replica of my replica of Yankee Stadium. After talking to me on the phone, and telling him of my process and materials, he built his own, and it came out gorgeous. But what I thought was the most unusual request, was a gamer wanting Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, with painted bleachers to match the era he wanted. I never considered tackling one of the doughnut parks, which I had to build in the same fashion as my other “squared” parks. The angled roof was very challenging, and came out very nice. I was quite pleased with the final product.
(Atlanta Fulton County Stadium)
Jimsapbabarn question #6: Tell us about some of your gaming acquaintances from the KC area?
George Adams: I first met Mike Boling on the Delphi forums. It turned out Mike lives just 20 minutes away. Just the thought of gamer’s living so close to each other for 25 years. This is such a niche hobby, you think you’re the only adult in town who plays these games? Mike and I started to get together (2011), we both had just retired from our 30 year jobs, so weekday get-togethers started to take place. Gamer’s Les Thierholf, Brad Logan, Jeff Boeding, Chuck Latimer, Danny McCubbin, Charlie Lord who recently moved to Phoenix (and is a former minor leaguer, ed.), John Roberts, Patrick Rock are some of the guys I’ve met here. Most of these guys are still working and raising families, and I don’t get to see them as much as I would like. Brad Logan joins us about every two weeks, otherwise, it’s just Mike and myself. Mike is very supportive of my creativity, which includes tinkering with everything. I am very visual, and very messy, papers with notes and drawings everywhere. My wife has been very tolerant, but occasionally puts her foot down as I creep into yet another room of the house. I can’t leave out others I have met outside the KC area. Jim Woods (Mich) and Pete Stevens (NY) both became friends as I built there ball parks back in 2012. Most gamer’s who contact me, stay on the shy side, but Pete and Jim were relentless as both wanted up to date info on the building of there parks. Jim Woods just happens to live 45 minutes from my mother in Detroit area, so I meet up with Jim when I’m in town visiting my mom. Pete was so curious about the parks I built, I finally asked if he’d like to come out and watch me build one, and he did. Pete came out for a week in the spring of 2013. After watching how I work, Pete gave me the greatest compliment; “Your vision and how you design your replica’s can’t be taught, that stuff is coming out of your own head as you go along”. Pete and I talk on the phone at least twice a month. A couple years ago, I drove with a Detroit friend to Cooperstown N.Y. to visit the Hall of Fame for my first time. Pete and fellow gamer Randy Coryer met us there, for a great visit. This hobby is so much more than just rolling dice, meeting people after all these years and sharing our stories of gaming and life has been the icing on the cake. I’m 58 years old, and when I’m with any of these guys, I revert to being 12, all over again.
Jimsapbabarn question #7: What product (for any of the APBA sports, including baseball) would you like to see APBA Game Co. produce?
George Adams: Since I’m mostly a baseball guy, I would like APBA to venture into the 1871-1900 years. This is not a popular period, but there are so many great players who still haven’t been carded out of this era? The 1890’s were high octane, and would be a blast to replay with APBA.
(One of George’s “old-time” feel ballparks)
A quick AROUND THE HORN with Adams …
Your favorite sports team?
George Adams: Baseball is my favorite sport. I am obviously a Royals fan, but root for my hometown Tigers if the Royals aren’t in it. My mother is a terrible Tiger fan, always complaining about them to me, something is always wrong with them, I then try to explain it’s a 162 game season and not to get to hung up on one game. For the most part, I’m not a “favorite” kind of guy. I enjoy many things and like to keep my interest wide open.
Your favorite athlete?
George Adams: I don’t have a favorite athlete, I’m my own favorite, so I root for myself.
(Using one of his original “generics”, George Adams managing his 1949 Athletics during TCABT-V action)
Your favorite beer?
George Adams: My favorite beer is probably Miller Lite, but I will drink anything with a smile. I was a big fan of our local microbrewery “Boulevard”, but since they sold to a European mega beer company two years ago and then raised the prices…I refuse to support them.
Your favorite ballpark?
George Adams: My favorite ballpark would probably be Wrigley Field. I’ve only been there once, but their fan base is equal to none. (In my alternate life,) I would love to live around the corner and just hang out outside Wrigley on game days.
Your favorite MLB commissioner?
George Adams: My favorite MLB commissioner would probably be Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis. Under his reign, baseball of the twenties skyrocketed. And the twenties is probably my favorite decade.
(Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, at Yankee Stadium, 1923)
George, my best wishes to your wife. She sounds like a fighter and reminds me of my mom, who battled her breast cancer for 20 years. Thank you for taking the time to be part of my APBA’view series of interviews … you are a very talented and a creative genius when it comes to model ballparks. You are a huge asset to the table gaming, and table-top baseball world. I look forward to our semi-annual “meetings” during your treks to the Twin Cities, with Jeff Boeding. Be prepared to roll some APBA American Saddle Racing during your next visit. Your presence at our local Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournament is a huge plus for all of us in attendance.
It would be a shame to end this interview without showing a few more creations from the man, Mr. George Adams …
George’s creations include “custom” ballparks built for the gamer’s request (this park was built for Dan Velderrain), and not necessarily modeled after any current ballpark as seen here, a ballpark incorporating a “dice tower” into the field of play.
(Ebbets Field with built-in dice tower)
(Polo Grounds with built-in dice tower)
(Shibe Park with built-in dice tower)
(2 generics, one with built-in dice tower, one without)
(Tiger Stadium – without lights)
(Tiger Stadium – with lights: note, this ballpark belongs to Jim Woods who customized his George Adams built ballpark with lights, flagpole, Budweiser advertising, etc.)