The 2002 Anaheim Angels have won the World Series, and while their grit and determination are admirable, I can’t help but long for the Angels of my youth: RBI Baseball’s California (Ca).

Paul Wong
David Horn, Tooting my own

Gary Pettis (Pettis), Doug DeCinces (DCincs), Wally Joyner (Joyner), Reggie Jackson (Jacksn), Brian Downing (Dwning), Bobby Grich (Grich), Dick Schofield (Schfld) and Bob Boone (Boone) filled out the roster of one of the more formidable teams on the classic game for Nintendo.

Rick Burleson (Burlsn) and George Hendrick (Hendrk) could match up inning for inning with Minnesota’s Frank Viola (Viola) and Bert Blyleven (Blylvn), or even Houston’s (Ho) Nolan Ryan (NRyan) and Mike Scott (MScott). California had it all, and was one of the more underrated teams (there were just 10) on the Greatest Video Game Ever.

If my mother did not have such a passion to send me out “into the merry sunshine” when I was 9, and I wasn’t trying to go to law school now that I’m 21 (which gets me out of the house and into the classroom), my entire life would have been spent playing RBI Baseball.

Oh, it has its competition for the title of Greatest Video Game Ever. Tecmo Bowl deserves an obvious mention, but for games of that era (mid-’80s), charm lay in the game’s nuances. RBI Baseball had the random errors, easily tired bullpens and first base throw away (and the best musical score in the history of video game scores). Tecmo Bowl, the grandfather of three generations of simulation games, was almost too polished, too ahead of its time. And when run 1 didn’t work and you had to go to run 2 or – heaven forbid – a pass play, terrible things could happen – especially if your buddy Mikey over there on the couch had wandering eyes.

But RBI Baseball and Tecmo Bowl still stand out against the rest of the NES field.

The field?

Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel introduced a generation of NES players to the misunderstood world of hockey. The former offered the fat guy/skinny guy debate that captivated video game hockey players for years. Bases Loaded gave RBI a run for its money on the virtual diamond. John Elway’s Quarterback was the first football simulation to offer the shotgun set, and 10-Yard Fight was a game only a wedge buster could love. Jordan versus Bird – which pitted Larry Legend against His Airness in a game of one-on-one – was a dark-horse favorite of mine.

What all these games lacked, though, was true interaction. One year for Chanukah, my parents bought me the Power Pad, which allowed players the opportunity to run as fast as they could on a touch-sensitive plastic sheet. The speed of the animated player on the game corresponded to how quickly you ran. It was fun as hell for about three hours that wonderful Chanukah night. Then the Power Pad was crumpled up and stuffed in a cabinet in my basement, until a Labrador puppy who will remain nameless found, chewed and digested that novel piece of gaming equipment.

There were other tools offered by NES, such as the Power Glove and the Zapper Gun. But don’t get me started on Mike Tyson’s Punch-out (for which the Power Glove was best-suited). That deserves an entire column all to itself.

I would also like to suggest that playing marbles is a sport; so too, for that matter, is duck hunting.

Anyway congratulations, Anaheim. Your story is great, but your team will always be an RBI team to me. The game of baseball is made up, in no small part, by the … nevermind. I’ve got next.

David Horn can be reached at hornd@umich.edu.

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