11 February 2010
In the mid 1990s there were few athletes, if any, more famous and seemingly superhuman than Ken Griffey Jr. Long before Mark McGwire ate steroids by the handful (not that it helped him hit homers) and Barry Bonds’ head grew to hippopotamus-like proportions, Griffey Jr. was the great American hope to smash Roger Maris’ famed home run record.
He was also the only real person in Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball. Though the title had a MLB license, it didn’t have licensing from the players’ union, which meant real stadiums and teams with imaginary players. One of the best parts of the game was how these “fake” players would be given nicknames so anyone with half a brain could figure out who they were really supposed to be.
Long before anyone used a joystick to determine the downward action of a 12-6 curveball, baseball video games were simple and repetitive affairs. In Griffey’s baseball game, pitches were either fast or slow, strikes or balls. Hitting was also simple. You pressed a button and you swung the bat.
If a batter struck out, they would either sigh and put their head down, yell at the umpire or my personal favorite, snap a bat over their knee. All-in-all, the game was simple and charming.
Including me, there were four boys who grew up in my neighborhood within two years of each other. Every one of us owned this game.
The home run derby was fun and the season modes let you go from something like 20 games all the way to a full season of 162 games. No matter how many games you played or how many times the same music looped over and over again it never got old.
Oh, and you could hit 575– home runs. Maybe the imaginary players in this game were on imaginary steroids too.
By George Morse