This was a week full of bad news. Police beat up peaceful protestors from coast to coast after the murder of George Floyd. A global pandemic continued to rage while sports somehow got closer to returning, even as athletes tested positive for coronavirus.
Maybe it was with that in mind, or maybe it was just a desire to see cute pink bunny umpires, that led to this week’s selection for the Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club entry — the 12th game in a series that didn’t need to last this long, but has allowed a little bit of relief from the world around us for the past three months.
It’s time to revisit one of the great unlicensed games of all time, Bad News Baseball.
The available teams for this game feature the colors of their Major League Baseball counterparts — San Francisco, Toronto, Detroit, Boston, Texas, Oakland, Minnesota, St. Louis, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles — but that’s pretty much where the connection to the real world ends.
All the players have first names bearing no connection to their professional counterparts. I go with Oakland, whose power-hitting tandem is the left fielder and first baseman, but Robert is a lefty batter, while Wesley is a .287 hitter.
Who cares, though? It’s a battle of the Bay, and a sort of rematch of the 1989 World Series, as San Francisco is the computer opponent.
Lee, my leadoff hitter, takes a strike to open the game as I don’t realize at first that on the emulator I’m using, Z is the swing button — I expect it to be X from previous games. On the second pitch, I line a single to center field.
This joy is short-lived, because the next batter, Dean, hits a fly ball, and I discover that I have no idea how to make Lee retreat to first base. He’s standing on second when he’s doubled off easily. At the moment the pink bunny ump calls him out, he falls to the ground like a sack of potatoes, seeing stars, as do all players in this game when they’re out.
Pitching is as intuitive as it is in many games of this era, with the ability to manipulate off-speed stuff so the computer rarely makes solid contact. The fielding engine is forgiving of a slow jump on the ball, which is good because it’s hard to know exactly how hard a ball is hit or where it’s going to go off the bat. I scatter a couple of hits through the early innings, but don’t have any real trouble with the San Francisco lineup.
Meanwhile, in the third inning, my baserunning foibles continue as Danny, my catcher, sends a drive off the center field wall. I tap the wrong button at first to send him toward second, and the hesitation proves costly — but does result in an animation for a close play, and a closer look at the adorable pink bunny umpire.
If I’m going to score in this game, it’s going to have to be with the long ball, and in the fourth inning, that’s just what Robert delivers.
And that means a celebration!
Kurt goes deep in the fifth, resulting in the same celebration, but two batters later, when Danny makes it 3-0, he gets the line of fives that was one of my favorite parts of this game back in the day.
Is that supposed to be Mr. T? What in the… you know what, it doesn’t matter, because it’s just so ludicrously silly and enjoyable — at least, when it’s your team hitting the home run.
The three homers drive San Francisco starter Frank from the game, and they bring in the sidearmer Mac, who throws… 111 miles per hour?
Maybe that guy should’ve started? There’s no DH in this game, so San Francisco winds up pinch-hitting for Mac in the bottom of the sixth.
The remaining drama in this game is if my starter, Mickey, can finish off a shutout. He does clearly start to tire, with less bend on those breaking balls and no zip on his fastballs, but he gets into the ninth inning still stringing together zeroes. Finally, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, San Francisco does score, but Mickey gets the last out to finish off the complete game.
Mickey’s final line is nine innings allowing one run on eight hits with no walks and no strikeouts. The last time someone had that line in the majors, for the record, was July 26, 1958, when Harvey Haddix outdueled Vinegar Bend Mizell, allowing a second-inning homer to Del Ennis in the Reds’ (actually, at that time, the Redlegs’) 2-1 win over the Cardinals.
Oakland celebrates like it just won another World Series, including the players receiving leis?
What, no silk robes and kimonos?
I loved this game as a kid, and I still love it now.
Previous Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club entries