How can a die-hard baseball fan survive rainouts, or for that matter, lockouts? Quite easily, actually. No, you don't have to watch old games on videotape or replay bloopers and blunders from years gone by. And there's no need to feign excitement over a scratchy black-and-white film trip down memory lane with the greats of yesteryear.
Rejoice! Indoor baseball is here, sort of. I'm talking about the wonder of the microchip, about realistic simulations of America's pastime, where it's always spring and the pennant race has just begun: baseball video games.
Here are five games, compatible with an assortment of video game machines or computers. All of the games are designed to be played alone or with an opponent.
The most detailed and complete game for a personal computer is Earl Weaver Baseball ( Electronic Arts, 1820 Gateway Drive, San Mateo, Calif. 94404; $39.95), which was designed with the help of the former Baltimore Oriole manager. His baseball expertise and the design talents of Eddie Dombrower and Teri Mason have made Earl Weaver Baseball a best-seller.
"A lot of my minor league and major league experience is in the game," Weaver says, "...the majority of it from what the Orioles did in the 1969, the 1970 and the 1971 seasons."
He gives some examples: "I'm talking cutoffs and relays when they have a rundown on the play, ...where the shortstop's supposed to be, and who's backing him up, and all that." The game offers a number of options. You can play the game in the arcade mode, enjoying the action on the unique split screen that shows the whole field on one side and a pitcher facing the batter on the other. Or you can choose the full mode, managing the team as well as playing, using all the stats and decision-making opportunities he would have at his disposal. You can hit-and-run, steal, and use your roster of pitchers. You can build a dream team of legendary players: Cobb, Ruth, Musial, Mays—they're all in there. And so is, of course, Brooks Robinson, just the way Weaver remembers him.
"If Brooks doesn't get a hit with a man on second base with two out after the sixth inning," Weaver says of the game, "then there's something wrong with your machine. He always did that for me."
But there's more. In the full game you have to deal with injuries and select from dozens of real stadiums or design your own park. In both modes there are special effects that make this a perfect game for the stat maven. You can examine a controversial play in slo-mo or in freeze-frame. And when you're in a tight spot, you can press a key and "Ask Earl" for his advice.
How realistic is this game? Well, a manager can confer with a struggling pitcher and check his arm. And there will be additional disks available each year to update player stats. This is computer baseball with the works.
If you're interested in fast-paced arcade action, there are games that offer more speed than you'll be able to coax out of your PC.