'RBI Baseball' returns to consoles, brings back baseball memories

RBI Baseball is coming back, filling the baseball video game void left by the crumbling of 2K Sports’ MLB 2K franchise. With the classic game’s return comes a flood of nostalgia of days gone by, when we would sit Indian style in the calm glow of televisions, tiny plastic controllers in our hands, assuming this was what it was like to be a real ball player.

Bases Loaded (NES)

You’re probably also humming the theme song. That, like other infamous aspects, are instantly brought back in a wave of nostalgia any time this game comes up.

I remember spending summer with the Jersey team, their bright, sky blue uniforms eliciting the sort of hopefulness that Jersey does not. Summers went by as Paste, the No. 3 hitter, bashed the league’s pitching all over the diamond, humiliating 8-bit hurlers who could only move in a few key programmed animations. The shame every pitcher showed after every home run indicated that there was always some extremely high stakes in play, like the manager had the pitcher’s family tied up in a warehouse somewhere.

Also charming were the old school “charge the mound” bits, which you knew were coming from the batter screaming in pain from getting beaned one too many times.

Going into a somewhat feral state, he would then run at the pitcher, arms flailing, and have him crumpled to the ground, sobbing, before any of the other players could stop him. It was brutal enough that you had to wonder why the stadium technicians put it all up on the jumbotron.

Hardball 5 (PC)

A rockin’ ‘90s soundtrack and an auto-tuned Al Michaels made this one a childhood, though I actually did not know who Al Michaels was at the time. A lack of MLB licensing prevented them from using real logos, which subtracted heavily from the legitimacy, and sometimes certain players couldn't have their names said out loud, so Michaels was left calling them “Now batting… the third baseman” but you and the game knew damn well that was Ed Sprague up there.

We know that's you, Ed, with your oddly shaded face and name written in neon cursive lettering for some reason. Todd Stottlemyre just looks lost. Maybe because he forgot to pack his uniform number.

Baseball games hadn’t learned that they didn’t need poppy instrumental versions of “Take Me out to the Ball Game” playing during the game yet, so Michaels had a nice musical accompaniment to his robotic calls of “Here’s // the // pitch … … slider // ball // one.” Also, why was the Blue Jays' - sorry, I mean the Toronto team's - logo a baseball with a Saturn ring around it? How does that... what is that?

HB5 had a team and franchise creation mode, in which you could build a squad of unknowable players, dressed in the most hideous uniforms the world had ever seen. I used to imagine my orange-and-yellow shirted starting nine jogging out onto the field to a sea of raucous boos.

“YOU’RE RUINING THE GAME,” they’d shout.

“I’m sorry. I’m color blind!” I’d reply.

Then my parents would tell me it was probably time to go outside if I wanted half a chance at being a normal kid.

All-Star Baseball 2000 (N64, PSX)

Hey, wow! Real names! Real players! Real logos! Truly, this is the baseball anthem of a generation.

Except the guy doing the play-by-play is Michael Kay, which costs them a few points. Derek Jeter was on the cover, too, so that’s a pretty Yankee-heavy lineup. Of course, in 2000, putting anybody other than Jeter on the cover probably would have been an insult to baseball, video game covers, and Derek Jeter, so.

Pitching was a little more accurate, though hitting was still conducted with a button press and not a flick of the joystick, as more modern games employ. Pitches moved with the hummingbird accuracy, and the umpire was extremely vocal in his calls, possibly to increase the shame of striking out. I spent 90 percent of my youth striking out, AI umpire, I don’t need your help feeling bad about it.

Hey, look who it is!

A young Mariners slugger named Alex Rodriguez, a big bat and a heart full of dreams. Look at him, dancing around the base paths with his arms in the air after hitting a solo shot in the first inning of an exhibition game.

And is that the Mariners playing the Dodgers? How would that ever happen? Remember, this is the year 2000. [Editor’s note: Interleague Play started in 1997, so this joke makes no sense. We left it in to further shame you.]

Super Baseball 2020 (SEGA , SNES)

Like most fans, you love the game, crack of the bat, smell of the grass, some third cliché, probably. Peanuts, or something. But also like most fans, there are certain changes you would make if given the chance. For instance, expanding instant replay, or a more definitive infield fly rule, or adding high-powered explosives to random parts of the outfield between innings. Super Baseball 2020 scratched that itch. With land mines.

That was just one of the devastating new rules experts predicted baseball would adopt by the year 2020 (it’s approaching fast). Also new to Abner Doubleday’s creation are glass cases over the stands in right and left field, preventing home runs, “jump zones” bordering between the fence and the field to allow for spectacular catches, smaller foul territories, and robots playing the game.

Yes, it’s amazing, the leaps we’ll make technologically by 2020, from self-checkout aisles to the automation of an entire industry. But hey, it’s the future. Sometimes you get an easy pop-up. Other times, your robot players get overheated and explode and you might spend the rest of the game with a worthless heap of scrap metal playing right field. Which the Phillies experienced last season with Delmon Young.

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE [Where every team plays in the same ballpark, called Cyber Egg Stadium, for obvious reasons.]