WHAT'S IN A NAME AND A GAME?
"Rotisserie," as in Rotisserie League Baseball, seems an especially peculiar buzzword in a sport that has its share. The reference is not to barbecuing, but to a New York restaurant, La Rotisserie Francaise, where Daniel Okrent, a writer and editorial consultant, introduced a statistical baseball game to a group of friends at their monthly luncheon. The concept was born out of Mr. Okrent's "offseason antsiness," as he awaited the 1980 major league campaign.The restaurant has long since gone out of business, but the league plays on with seven of its 10 original members, as do numerous other leagues that either use the Rotisserie rules or some variation of its thriving fantasy-baseball concept. Although Rotisserie's originators trademarked the name in 1986, Glen Waggoner, a founding father, says that the business rewards have always been secondary to him and his fellow pioneers, who are "all still working stiffs primarily writers and journalists. Waggoner is a contributing editor at Esquire, as well as a freelancer. A prime concern now, as it was 11 years ago, is to win the pennant and get doused with Yoo-Hoo, a bottled chocolate drink once endorsed by Yogi Berra that Okrent says has "a certain comic rightness." From the beginning, the approach has been one of "relentless whimsy," Waggoner says. "We've avoided going off the deep end in terms of stat worship, while understanding that the same things that turned us on when we were nine years old about ERA [earned-run average], home runs, and batting average still turn us on. It's a fine line we walk." Thanks partly to Rotisserie's media connections, the game almost immediately gained wide exposure. "Within a year there was a Rotisserie game in every major-league press box," says Okrent, who fanned the flames of acceptance when he wrote a story on Rotisserie for a national sports magazine.