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12 Cold, Hard Facts About Life

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Shella Sund via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Famed board game manufacturer Milton Bradley has been creating diversions for well over 150 years, and The Game of Life is among its most celebrated. Check out 12 facts about the game’s history, its controversies, and how it wound up someplace far more revered than your closet.

1. IT WAS MILTON BRADLEY’S FIRST-EVER GAME.

Before Milton Bradley became synonymous with cardboard amusements, the 23-year-old developed The Checkered Game of Life in 1860. Because games were considered a waste of time, Bradley tried to downplay its frivolous nature by eliminating any dice or cards, instead boasting of its “virtuous” teachings. Consisting of 64 squares that took players from “Infancy” to “Happy Old Age” with pitfalls in between, the game sold 40,000 copies during its first year of release, making Bradley a recognized name in recreation.

2. "SUICIDE" WAS AN EARLY SQUARE.

In less politically correct times, Bradley’s earliest version of Life offered both great reward—advanced education, marriage—and significant penalties for making poor choices. Instead of a prosperous retirement, players could find themselves on “Suicide,” a square marked with a head encased by a noose. You could also find yourself upon “Ruin,” where you fall over drunk and destitute. 

3. CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS LOVED IT.

Sensing a need to supply Civil War soldiers with items to occupy their minds, Bradley offered a bundled game set that included chess, checkers, dominoes, and his own Checkered Game of Life. At less than five ounces, the package was small and light enough to be mailed virtually anywhere; Bradley advertised it as “just the thing” to send to members of the armed forces during Christmas.

4. IT WAS REINVENTED IN 1960.

To commemorate the game’s 100th anniversary in 1960, Milton Bradley gave freelance designer Reuben Klamer a task: update and retool Bradley’s original idea for contemporary audiences. Klamer added a spinner, tiny plastic avatars in automobiles, piles of cash, and removed most of the more morbid fates for players. The revised, suicide-free edition has gone on to sell over 50 million copies.

5. ART LINKLETTER HELPED SELL IT.

Klamer had a relationship with television host Art Linkletter stemming from an attempt to imitate the success of Wham-O’s Hula Hoop with their Spin-A-Hoop. When Klamer designed the new Life, Linkletter promoted it heavily on air and even appeared on boxes with the quote, “I heartily endorse this family game.” The $10,000 bills were printed with his face on them.

6. BRADLEY APPEARED ON THE MONEY.

As a tribute to the company’s namesake, Milton Bradley manufactured all denominations of bills from their 1977 release with the face of an older, bearded Bradley.

7. IT EVENTUALLY REWARDED GOOD BEHAVIOR.

Klamer’s reimagining of the game drew perpetual criticism for rewarding materialism: The player with the most money wins. In 1992, the company offered an update featuring squares that allowed players to adopt pets, vote, and drive sober.

8. IT BECAME A TV GAME SHOW.

Recognizing Life had unparalleled brand recognition, Hasbro—which absorbed Milton Bradley in 1984—paired with TV network the Hub Network in 2011 to air The Game of Life as a family game show. Teams competed in trivia and activities of daily living like barbecues; a computer-generated board moved car pieces through squares. At least one contestant got motion sickness from having the prop shaken by crew members to simulate driving. It lasted one season.

9. THE ONLINE VERSION OFFERED SAME-SEX MARRIAGES.

Never one to shy away from hot-button issues, Life drew some ire from conservative groups in 2009 when it was discovered that players operating an electronic version of the game could enter into same-sex marriages. As Endgadget pointed out, however, it was always possible to stick two of the same color stick people into their plastic cars in the analog version.

10. THEY SWITCHED TO VISA.

While the paper currency has long been a fixture of Life, in 2007 Hasbro offered Life: Twists & Turns, which switched out hard cash for a Visa-branded credit card reader. Critics huffed that it would devalue money in the eyes of juvenile players; Hasbro countered that the game taught fiscal responsibility.

11. THERE’S BEEN CONTROVERSY OVER OWNERSHIP.

In early 2015, Lorraine Markham sued Hasbro for $2 million in unpaid royalties, claiming her husband, Bill Markham, had revised the game for its 1960 reissue and didn’t receive credit for it. According to NBC News, Reuben Klamer insists Markham only came up with an unused prototype of the game board that underwent revisions before Klamer turned it in. The case is ongoing.

12. IT’S IN THE SMITHSONIAN.

Hasbro

In honor of Life’s enduring place under American beds and on shelves, the Smithsonian Institution made it part of their permanent collection in their National Museum of American History, where it joined another Milton Bradley creation: Simon.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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This Just In
Mattel Unveils New Uno Edition for Colorblind Players
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Mattel

On the heels of International Colorblind Awareness Day, Mattel, which owns Uno, announced it would be unveiling a colorblind-friendly edition of the 46-year-old card game.

The updated deck is a collaboration with ColorADD, a global organization for colorblind accessibility and education. In place of its original color-dependent design, this new Uno will feature a small symbol next to each card's number that corresponds with its intended primary color.

As The Verge points out, Mattel is not actually the first to invent a card game for those with colorblindness. But this inclusive move is still pivotal: According to Fast Co. Design, Uno is currently the most popular noncollectible card game in the world. And with access being extended to the 350 million people globally and 13 million Americans who are colorblind, the game's popularity is sure to grow.

Mattel unveils color-friendly Uno deck
Mattel

[h/t: The Verge

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