Baseball Stars, sports, and summer ’89

Baseball Stars NES Box ArtParents’ basements were made for safekeeping childhood memories.

I recently rediscovered a stack of Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges locked inside a storage bin in my folks’ home. The titles were part of an obviously curated collection that boasted some of my all-time NES games, including Contra, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, and River City Ransom. Honestly, I don’t remember when I purchased them. Was Contra the same cart that I picked up in ’88? Was Goonies II part of the game lot that came bundled with my top-loader NES eBay buy from a few years back? Those details are lost to time.

But when my eyes locked on the Baseball Stars cart, several major and minor dust-covered memories floated to the surface.

I remember buying Baseball Stars during the summer ’89 with money that I had saved since my mid-May birthday. I knew Baseball Stars was soon to hit retail due to write ups in various video game magazines, but in those days solid releases dates were incredibly rare. As a result, I held on to $50 for weeks, ignoring my desires to drop coin on Nerds candy and Daredevil and Uncanny X-Men comics.

That was a small miracle made possible by an overwhelming desire to own what I knew was going to be the best baseball video game ever made; a game that would enable me to create my all-time favorite players and teams and pitch, hit, and run all summer. And that’s exactly what I did after making the purchase. My friends and I devoted days to tweaking players and teams, and setting up elimination tournaments for nothing more than bragging rights. Days and nights melted away.

Rediscovering Baseball Stars also made me remember just how much I loved the sport during my teen years. I watched nearly every Mets and Yankees game that was broadcast during non-school hours, collected Topps, Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck trading cards, and obsessed over stats. I emulated Rickey Henderson’s offensive and defensive style when playing baseball with the boys. I began to casually wear batting gloves, too, a habit that continues until this day. Seriously. They help keep convention cooties at bay.

Nowadays, baseball’s plodding pace and overly long regular season don’t inspire me to do anything but turn the channel to the nearest MMA or NBA broadcast. And that’s fine.  I no longer have a desire to study box scores, or devote four hours of my day to watching men adjust their cups and spit brown sludge.

I’d rather take swings in Chelsea Piers’ batting cages or, now that it’s been reintroduced to my life, fire up Baseball Stars on a lazy weekend.