“WARNING: This column is about obsession,” announced Peter Lewis in the April 28, 1992 edition of the New York Times.  “It is also about using the personal computer to pursue a late-night hobby so addictive (and so stupid, some would say) that thousands of otherwise normal people are willing to risk friendships, jobs and even marriages to pursue it.” Nope, not Compuserve’s CB simulator, but Prodigy Baseball Manager (link taken from East Windup Chronicle)

Each night, after the real games are concluded, statistics are gathered and games are “played” in Prodigy’s mainframe and personal computers in White Plains, N.Y. The computers keep track of hundreds of leagues, thousands of teams and tens of thousands of statistics each night.

When the Rattlesnakes’ manager connects his computer to the Prodigy network tomorrow morning, a mock newspaper might fill his computer screen with the news: “Kelly’s Slam Powers Snakes Past Dirty Sox, 7-0.”

Some managers may prefer to sit back and let the computer manage their team. Others may prefer to tinker with lineups and pitching rotations, pursue free agents and trades, scour the box scores and injury reports each morning and send scurrilous notes to other fantasy managers throughout the country.

That’s Prodigy Baseball Manager at its best. At its worst, Prodigy baseball can cause an obsessed manager to blurt out to complete strangers: “I just paid $1.62 million for Ozzie Guillen and now he’s out for the rest of the season. Waaaaaahh.”

It’s true. I am that man. I apologize to the woman in the post office the other morning who simply asked “How are you?”

One of the most fanatical managers turns out to be the rock star Meat Loaf, who managed seven teams last year by long-distance telephone from Australia, where he was on tour. He is managing eight teams this year. At least some major league players are said to be managers as well.

The biggest drawback of the Prodigy is its speed, or lack thereof. People accustomed to using other on-line information services, like Compuserve or Dow Jones, will be frustrated by the long delays as Prodigy moves from screen to screen. Another drawback is the 25-cent fee assessed for each E-mail message beyond 25 each month. On the bright side, the long delays provide an opportunity to scan the morning’s box scores and ponder possible trades. By the way, does anyone have a spare shortstop who bats lefthanded?