(Greg in his high school playing days, #62)
Greg Barath is known today as one of the premier APBA Football guru’s, especially when it comes to the season replay. In my opinion, his replays are the best ones documented, thanks to his game by game posting of his replays at the APBA Between The Lines forum and his own blog site, OGuard62: APBA Football Replay website.
(Note: Greg’s OGuard62 blog site has received well over 90,000 views from almost 15,000 visitors. These visitors come from all around the world, 89 different countries to be exact, everywhere from Albania to Venezuela … Thanks to Greg for providing these blog stats)
I have witnessed Greg offer help to anyone looking for advise or answers on anything to do with APBA Football, whether it be a rule interpretation or an innovation to use, etc. He has also played a vital role in the APBA Football Convention held in Canton, OH, in 2014 as well as making a habit of attending the regular APBA Convention which is currently held in Alpharetta, GA every June.
Speaking of the APBA Convention, if you were in attendance this past June (I was not unfortunately) you would have witnessed Greg Barath being inducted into the APBA Hall of Fame, earning the award thanks to his never wavering support and encyclopedic wealth of knowledge for the game of APBA Football. His methods used in his season replays are well documented, and are a perfect illustration for how to make your replays organized, realistic, relatively simplistic and most important, fun. Greg’s contributions to APBA Football include several Youtube videos demonstrating different features using the APBA Football game. I have included a few links throughout this interview, including this link:
Greg was inducted along with another APBA Football guru, Ray Dunlap, and APBA Game Co. owner/CEO, John Herson.
(Ray Dunlap on left, Greg Barath on right)
While Greg received an early introduction to APBA through his father, I would say that Greg’s APBA trail was blazed a little later in life and perhaps more profound than many of us, as you will discover through the following interview questions. On to the interview ….
Jimsapbabarn question #1: Tell us about yourself, your youth, etc (outside of APBA).
Greg Barath: I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. Being a typical kid in the pre-internet or video game age, I played outside from dawn to dusk participating in unorganized and organized sports. From 8 to 12 years old my life revolved around baseball (Little League) and the Chicago Cubs. I can remember putting the Cubs cap on the minute I got dressed and removed it only at dinner time or when going to bed. I wish I had a dollar for every time over the years my Dad would ask me “Do you have a test today?” and I would reply “No” and we would be heading to Wrigley Field. My fondest memory was all the games we went to during the 1969 season and being able to see Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal or Tom Seaver dual Ferguson Jenkins, Bill Hands or Ken Holtzman. My mom’s favorite player was Ron Santo but my dad’s and mine was the great Ernie Banks. Tremendous memories!! I was a very accomplished catcher at a very young age. From the time I was 8-years old my Dad would have me put on my protective equipment and his friends and him would fire away at me. I learned really quick not to whimper or I would face his ridicule. He daily worked on my arm strength for eventually throwing to second. Countless times we sat behind home plate at Wrigley to watch Randy Hundley work.
All I can say is his methods worked; I was the only 10-year old starting in the majors (ages 10-12) and made the All-Star squad as an 11-year old. Back in Gary at the time they had an All-City team which consisted of two, 12-year olds from each team in the city. It was a real big deal and I can remember my heart breaking when I learned that our star pitcher and the coaches’ son would be representing our team. After that season, I never had the desire or urge to ever pick up a glove or bat again. After that, football became the only sport that I have ever been interested in.
Once I turned 13-years old, I discovered a passion that would rule me for the next 25 years. I walked into my first poolroom. Over the next four-years, my game and life experiences increased ten-fold. Every waking minute was spent on improving my game. When I turned 17-years old, my parents decided to move to Naples, Florida. Trust me when I say there is a monumental difference between “The Region” (northwest Indiana) and Naples, Florida. The first two things I did were locate a poolroom and try out for the football team. I ended up becoming the starting left guard my first year (junior) and making the first-team, All Southwest Florida squad my senior year. My jersey number was #62 and that is how Oguard62 came to pass. However, my real education took place at Brookside Billiards were I learned the art of nine-ball, southern style.
After my first semester in college, I decided to quit and pursue my dream of becoming a professional pool player. For the next seven-months, I would be spending 10 to 12 hours a day either practicing on drills or gambling. Needless to say, my game took off. I could walk into any poolroom and run five racks with a cue off the wall. During this time, I met my backer, Billy Angel, who was a 45-year old ex-con. We traveled a lot of miles together and he staked me in a lot of matches. One of my fondest memories is when we were at a Pro-Am Tournament in Melbourne, Florida. The place was littered with hustlers, Jimmy Reid, “St. Louis” Louie Roberts, Steve Cook, etc. The tournament format was double elimination, race to eleven. Steve Mizerak (Lite Beer Commercials) put me in the losers’ bracket after beating me 11 to 8.
My next match was against this fellow named Bill Stegall, who had been the Florida state champion on numerous occasions. I eliminated him from the tournament after winning 11 to 5 and he was fit to be tied. To make matters worse, all the other players were busting his chops about losing to some 19-year old kid. He wants me in the worst way but if you know anything about pool players is they will bicker for days on trying to obtain that “edge” before ever picking up a cue. Billy asked me how much better he was than me and I honestly answered “a ball and half”. With that said, Billy said we needed the seven and the break to even consider playing him. He would only give me the eight ball which was a bad proposition so the game never occurred. We were just beginning our road trip to Sheffield, Alabama, to play in another Pro-Am tournament when fate took over. Billy was driving and we get pulled over, next thing I know we are surrounded by police cars. When they ran his license, it was red-flagged for having an outstanding warrant in the state of Pennsylvania for a book-making charge. He gets taken to county jail for an extended stay while they decide if he is going to be extradited or not. I remember going to visit him and listening to him laugh about being on vacation. He said “Greg I spent 22-years in cell block “C”, I can do this time standing on my head”.
From there I decided to drive up to Tampa to check out “Bakers” poolroom which was owned by Bill Stegall. After some small talk, he gives me the seven but not the break and we start playing “one-hundred dollar freeze out” which was a race to 5. I win the first four matches and he said that the seven was too much weight and he would only spot me the eight. I agreed and over the next five hours I’m more than holding my own and I’m up about a grand. The spot goes away and the bet goes up and something magical happened, I went into the “zone”. Over the next five-hours, I played the finest pool of my life. There I was beating Bill Stegall straight up in his own poolroom on his own table. At that moment, I actually felt like Paul Newman in the Hustler. To make a long story short, after 26 consecutive hours, I felt like Fast Eddie Felson again because I left there completely and utterly broke.
(Above: Pool great, Earl Strickland, with a young Greg Barath)
I headed back to my parents’ house with my tail tucked between my legs. After being home for about a week, one afternoon my Dad and I are playing gin rummy and he starts to ride me. Listen, when Jack Barath got on you, he was relentless. It was a verbal barrage of what a no-account loser I was and how I was going nowhere in life, on and on and on. Just to stop the madness, I blurted out that I was going to enlist in the military. Now, I absolutely had no intention of going into the military but just wanted to shut him up. Than a funny thing occurred, two days later I’m sitting at a recruiter’s office and six months later I’m getting my head shaved.
I entered the United States Air Force on May 2, 1983. I went into the Security Police career field and my first duty assignment was Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota. I’ve never been in a place colder in my life, I remember from Jan 1 thru mid-February 1984 the temperature never got above natural zero and I’m not factoring in the wind chill factor. I literally watched my Florida car die piece by piece until it imploded in flames on US Route 2. In August 1985, my permanent change of station was Ramstein, Germany where I spent 8 glorious years. It was during these years that I really grew as a person and a professional. I enjoyed the various cultures, cuisine and especially that fine German beer. Professionally I started making a name for myself at Command level for operating and managing electronic security systems for nuclear laden areas. I met my soul mate in 1991 and she followed me to Great Falls, Montana in July 1993. We were married in August 1993 and started our life together. One of my future replay projects will be “93” season because the Jets were solid and it was just a great year for me personally. In 2000, I got my dream assignment to Eglin AFB, Florida to work directly for the Secretary of the Air Force as one of only three enlisted Test Directors for the Air Force Operational Test & Evaluation Center. My job was to determine the operability and suitability for any security sensor or system being considered for the Department of Defense. My mantra for my last three years was “Plan, Execute, and Report”. All of my final test reports were reviewed by the decision makers at the Pentagon to determine if the item-under-test would go into full or limited production or never see the light of day. In April 2003, I retired from the Air Force as a 20-year Master Sergeant. The following week Becky and I moved up to northern Virginia and I began my career as a Defense Contractor. Ten years later, I changed companies and we relocated to the “Rocket City” Huntsville, Alabama where we reside today.
Jimsapbabarn question #2: How did you discover APBA and what APBA games do you own?
Greg Barath: My dad was a big APBA guy, he played the football game some but he was all about APBA baseball. He had stacks of spiral notebooks were he would have all his box scores and statistics from his replay projects. I’ll never forget when my dad says to me, “Hop in the car, we are going to the library to get the Baseball Encyclopedia.” Well he wasn’t kidding, we walked directly to the card file station to determine the location and then proceeded to appropriate book shelf and there it was. He looked at me and said, “Son, this is the holy grail” and he picked it up and walked directly out of the library while waving at the librarian like nothing was wrong. On numerous occasions over the years, I would walk up to him while he was playing and ask if I could also play. The response was always the same, he would put up his big hand in front of me and say, “Son, this is not for you, this is SERIOUS”. I eventually was allowed to dabble some with his football game. (A link to an old photo Greg recently posted of his dad)
I only own the Football game and have no desire to play any other game. The only other board game that I played from “nuts to bolts” was “Title Bout”. Let me share how I got back into the game. One day in early 2001, Becky and I were sitting at the bar in a poolroom in Fort Walton Beach, Florida and I turned around to observe my fellow patrons. While looking around I had an epiphany, that not a single person in this room was a credit to society in any way, shape or form. I looked at Becky and said, “Get me out of here because there is not a person besides you in here that I give two flips about”. When we got home, I put my custom-made cue away and have not used it in a meaningful way since that date. The next day I placed my order for the APBA 2000 Football game. It’s ironic because I’m now using those cards for my current 1999 NFL replay.
Jimsapbabarn question #3: What was your first complete NFL replay?
Greg Barath: I always viewed a full NFL replay as a marathon, so I completed numerous smaller projects as stepping stones before undertaking a full replay. My first full NFL replay was the 1981 season, being a life-long Jets fan this season was near and dear to my heart. I owned the original card set but I wanted to be able to use the modern boards without having to use conversion tables. So I repeatedly pestered my dear friend, Mark Zarb, to card the season and he finally did for me.
(Greg’s good friend, Mark Zarb)
The season was a joy to replay and I learned so many things all the way. The team and league statistics can be viewed on my site to include the play-by-play of Super Bowl XVI. https://oguard62.net/super-bowl-xvi/
Jimsapbabarn question #4: Tell us about the APBA Football “convention” that was held in Canton, OH, at the Pro Football HOF in 2014?
Greg Barath: It was an absolute joy! The entire event was the brainchild of Geoffrey Giordano and he did a fabulous job organizing it. We not only had a tournament but he slotted presentations and even offered them to be viewed on-line. Although we all contributed money, I know that he paid a substantial amount of his own to reserve the great room we had. The Hall of Fame is an incredible exhibit but when you truly the love game of football, it’s hallowed ground.
The best part for me was actually meeting folks that I’ve known virtually for years through the Delphi forum or articles in the APBA Journal. I can remember back in ’01, I spent three-nights at the kitchen table writing out index cards for Ray Dunlap’s match-up system and there he was sitting in front of me. Had the opportunity to meet Johnny Cochrane and his better half and of course, my good friend, Greg Wells. This is when I realized that the APBA community is family.
(The 2014 APBA gathering at the Pro Football HOF in Canton, OH: From left – Pat McGregor, John Cochrane, Ray Dunlap, Robert Tassinari, Greg Wells, Greg Barath, Jerry Zajack, and Geoffrey Giordano)
The one other important part of that trip was on the last day; all participants discussed how we could incorporate football somehow into the APBA Convention. Well, the following convention, Ray Dunlap and I were there demonstrating our methods of play for whoever was interested. https://oguard62.net/2014/05/29/2014-apba-convention/ . At last year’s convention, John Herson had Ray and I give presentations on the football game and this year we are having our first football tournament.
NOTE: Greg has made it a habit to share his wealth of APBA Football knowledge, which is the “shirt-off-his-back” genuine nature of Greg Barath.
Jimsapbabarn question #5: What is your favorite NFL moment?
Greg Barath: That’s a tough one, of course eliminating New England in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011 was a big deal, especially after they humiliated us on the Monday night game a few weeks earlier. I don’t know if everyone feels this way but for me the games of your youth just resonate more than when you are older. The first truly memorable moment I experienced as a kid was November 28, 1971. Of course, this was light years before the “Sunday Ticket” so it was surprising that the Jets – 49ers game was being televised. I can remember sitting on my grandfather’s couch watching Bob Davis flop around on the ground in agony and all of a sudden, Joe Namath removed his jacket and trotted onto the field. I was cheering with all the fans at Shea Stadium. Once he got warmed up it was a magical to watch, it was the first time in my life that I watched greatness. However, my all-time favorite moment happened when I was in college on November 22, 1981. The Jets just came off of a decade of failure and here they were facing their arch rival in a game for first place. Richard Todd had broken ribs and this was the first game that a QB wore a flak jacket for protection. The Dolphins were winning late in the game and were about to put it away when Abdul Salaam stuffed the Dolphins ball carrier on a third and one to force a punt. The Jets got the ball back with a little over a minute remaining. Richard Todd started marching them down the field. I can’t adequately describe the elation and exhilaration I felt when Richard Todd found Jerome Barkum in the end zone for a touchdown with 16 seconds left. Once Pat Leahy made the extra point for the Jets to take a 16-15 lead, I got up and kissed the television.
Jimsapbabarn question #6. Why the NY Jets?
Greg Barath: That’s easy, Broadway Joe Willie Namath!
He was my idol as a kid and for that matter, he still is today. You have to realize that my nationality is Hungarian and so is Namath’s. The church I grew up in was Hungarian-American, meaning there was a Hungarian service followed by an English service. So he was a real big deal to a lot of the folks I grew up with. Unfortunately I’ve betrayed a lot of things in my life; however, I’ve never betrayed my football team. I will bleed Kelly green to the day that I die.
Jimsapbabarn question #7: What would you like to see APBA Game Co. produce in the future for the APBA Football game?
Greg Barath: APBA Football is a very simple but effective game engine that renders outstanding results when played correctly. So, how do you make it the best football game on the market?
Simple, you repackage the Master game in the same print/format as the Basic game. The Basic game is formatted by field position, not play type, so there is minimal page flipping resulting in quicker play time. Secondly, the black and white print is easier to read and appears not to fade. I understand that I play a high volume of games; however, I go through four Master game booklets per year because the print wears off from all the page flipping.
(Denny Hodge on left, going head-to-head on the gridiron with Greg Barath)
Greg, it is easy to see why you are so respected and highly touted in the APBA Gaming community. Without your involvement in APBA Football, there is no doubt the interest level in the APBA Football game would not be quite as avid as it is today. Congratulations on your well deserved, recent induction into the APBA Hall of Fame. Thanks for giving us your time.
As a “Hail Mary” attempt, I would like to send a shout out to NFL head coach, Rex Ryan, a noted SOM Baseball fanatic (http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap3000000423890/NFL-Films-Presents-Strat-O-Matic-with-Rex-Ryan) … if you come across this Greg Barath interview, please send us a note if you would be interested in taking part in an APBA Football game between yourself and Greg Barath. Of course, Greg will be coaching the NY Jets … 😉
For you APBA Football fans, please make sure you check out the following APBA Football websites:
(*Note: For the APBA Football Basic Game, Greg has added “How to” videos, you can find each of the links here: APBA Football, the Basic Game, How to )