A work in progress, a timeline of notable occurrences in the history of the APBA Game Company since 1951.
1951 – APBA Baseball is introduced. The first customer was Jimmy Lacey of McKeesport, Penn., who purchased the game (for $10) on April 15. A total of 137 sets were known to exist, with Founder J. Richard Seitz keeping one and giving one to the Shirks Motor Express Activities Association. The company resides (as did Seitz) at 118 E. James Street in Lancaster, Penn.
1954 – APBA offers 13 Great Teams of the Past (GTOP) for baseball, though some GTOP sets (like the 1937 and 1927 Yankees) had been offered as early as 1951.
1956 – Seitz leaves his job as a purchasing agent and devotes himself full-time to running the company.
1957 – APBA moves into a purpose-built, two-story building at 53 Eastman Avenue in Lancaster.
1958 – APBA Football is introduced, offering 30 players for each of the then-12 NFL teams.
1962 – APBA Golf is introduced.
1964 – The Feb. 15 issue of The Sporting News includes an article on APBA. The story, “Inventive Fan’s Parlor Game – Test for Diamond Strategists,” by a Carl Lundquist, gives the company its first national exposure.
1965 – Extra players for the traditional 20-man baseball sets are introduced, four per team.
1966 – APBA Basketball is introduced.
1967 – The APBA Journal is first published by brothers Len and Ron Gaydos. It would last 351 issues over the next 35 years.
1968 – Seitz accepts, then changes his mind and rejects, a $600,000 offer for the company from a fan from Illinois.
1969 – APBA is featured in an article in Sports Illustrated, spurring a $1,000,000 offer from SI for the company. Time, Inc.’s board of directors eventually kiboshed the deal and began their own line of sports games. That same year, APBA is featured in a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal, and The CBS Evening News runs a six-minute story about the game company on Nov. 1.
1971 – APBA Saddle Racing is introduced. The company moves into its traditional home at 1001 Millersville Road in Lancaster, a 22,000 square-foot building. Forty Years of APBA, a biography of the game company, is released. (If it’s confusing that 1971-40=1931, the book dates the history of the game back to The National Pastime, a rudimentary game created by Clifford Van Beek, which influenced Seitz.)
1973 – The first APBA national convention is held in Philadelphia. More than 300 fans show up.
1974 – The 1949 season is the first “old” (pre-1950) season to be released. It was followed in 1975 by the 1930 season.
1976 – The baseball Master Game (which sold for $16.25) is introduced. In a masterstroke of selling the sizzle, Seitz refused to sell the game to anyone who had not owned the Basic Game for at least six months to purchase a Master Game.
1977 – The Gaydos brothers sell the APBA Journal to Tom Heiderscheit. APBA Football is featured on the halftime show of NBC’s Thanksgiving Day telecast of the Miami Dolphins/St. Louis Cardinals game.
1979 – APBA Bowling is introduced. It was discontinued in the late 1990s “due to licensing and a lack of major interest.”
1983 – The APBA Football game is overhauled and revamped. To its designer’s everlasting regret, it is not backward-compatible, meaning gamers could not use their existing card sets with the new game.
1984 – After years of debate about the propriety of reprinted baseball card sets, APBA recalculates, updates and re-releases the 1950 set. The cards are printed with grey backs to differentiate them, a practice that would also be undertaken with the 1953 season reprint and then discontinued.
1985 – Major League Players Baseball, in partnership with Random House, is released as the first APBA computer-based product.
1986 – The May issue of the APBA Journal is the last of its original run as the publication bottoms out. Taken over in full by co-owner Howard Ahlskog, it resumes in Septtember.
1992 – Founder J. Richard Seitz dies at age 77 after suffering a stroke on Sept. 26. Vice President Fritz Light, who had begun working for the company in 1972 at age 26, takes over. The APBA Baseball Card Handbook (known in the hobby as the “Zack Handbook” for its author, Edwin Zack) is published for the first time. It would be updated in 1999 and again in 2023.
1993 – APBA Hockey is released as a board and computer game. APBA purchases a small West Virginia company and buys the rights to its hockey game after trying for nearly 20 years to perfect their own.
1993 – Eric Naftaly becomes the new (and, as it turned out, final) editor of the APBA Journal.
1994 – Of Dice and Men, a documentary on the APBA Game Company, is released and sells 500 copies. Sports Associates, Inc. of Newark, Del. purchases the APBA Game Company from Fritz Light, who continues as president and part-owner.
1997 – APBA Boxing is introduced and disappears just as quickly.
1998 – Dark times, in which the company loses its licenses for football, basketball and hockey. The 1998 Football cards are fan-produced and printed in the APBA Journal. The company, then known as MMI, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Bowling, Golf and Saddle Racing are officially discontinued.
2000 – Bill Bordegon, an executive from Fleer/Skybox, becomes the new CEO and president of APBA International, leading to a rebirth of the company. After some time away, APBA Hockey and Basketball are restarted.
2001 – No football cards were printed this year. Instead, they offered four downloadable Excel files. Fritz Light leaves his position as COO of APBA International after nearly 30 years with the company.
2002 – AbleSoft Holdings, which owned most of APBA International, puts the company on the market for $1.2 – $2 million. The April issue of the APBA Journal is the final official issue of the magazine. A two-page “Convention Special” issue is printed for attendees of the annual convention and an “APBA Compendium” comes out in October (the APBA Journal name having been purchased – along with other assets – by Francis Rose), but that ends the run. Publisher Eric Naftaly cited losses of “significantly above $50,000” as a contributing factor.
2009 – John Herson purchases the company.
2010 – APBA Games joins social media site Twitter on May 18. A revamped golf game is introduced.
2011 – APBA Soccer is introduced. The company moves from Lancaster, Penn. to Alpharetta, Ga., an Atlanta suburb.
2012 – APBA Games joins social media site Facebook on Jan. 3.
2016 – APBAGO, an online version of the baseball Basic game, is introduced.