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Championship Baseball (Apple II) artwork

Championship Baseball (Apple II) review


""Adjust tint til blue field is green." That's the opening screen of Championship Baseball (CB,) with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" blaring. I never bothered. Blue grass is just one of the things that aren't true to life in CB but are probably more fun. With only so much disk space, only the most exciting bits of baseball survive. You draft your own team complete with abilities that don't matter except for batting. You get to name everyone: eight fielders, three starting pitchers, two utility me..."



"Adjust tint til blue field is green." That's the opening screen of Championship Baseball (CB,) with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" blaring. I never bothered. Blue grass is just one of the things that aren't true to life in CB but are probably more fun. With only so much disk space, only the most exciting bits of baseball survive. You draft your own team complete with abilities that don't matter except for batting. You get to name everyone: eight fielders, three starting pitchers, two utility men and a reliever. Each game gets a new lineup card and shows different attendance, AL scores and NL scores between innings. I didn't mind losing by double digits in the basement league for my first season.

Several seasons later, though, twenty run wins weren't enough. I mastered the art of mixing up pitches. I got sick of breaking my own records. Then I brought my friends over. We learned to play chicken on the base paths, lead off almost a third of the way, and use the pitcher as the best cutoff man. I remember being disappointed not finding new tricks, not just because I'd keep winning, but because I knew it would mean the end. But it took much longer than expected for an old Apple game.

What made CB so special, like so many early sports games, was that it didn't bother with the realism nobody cared about. It had many natural quirks without trying to be crazy. The split screen for each bat showed a catcher's view on the right and the base paths on the left. You could see the pitcher pitching and the batter swinging. It wasn't hard to determine which pitches were wide and inside, but I needed a lot of practice to judge the down-the-middle stuff, especially in the early innings before starting pitchers started throwing gopher balls.

Not that the game was a swing-fest. Double plays were possible with any infield grounder, so with plus-.500 batting averages, stealing was necessary. You only controlled the lead runner, so clogging base paths was trouble. Second was always available, though the play was close, with or without the cool-looking useless slide. Then, if you were lucky, you could get the catcher throwing to second before a runner feinted back to third. The game also didn't follow up on rundowns. Chasing fielders would often throw just before tagging a runner, and the baseman ahead would just hold the ball. With a man on third, catchers would run to the pitcher's mound on a strikeout. The game made outfielders hold the ball to avoid forcing runners, but somehow in this bandbox, home runs were rare.

However, there was a way to stretch singles. The game had exhibition modes and batting practice, and the computer studied this in an attempt to play to your level. Misjudging fly balls on purpose helped occasionally, but I got more laughs--and more use--watching the computer's shortstop head entirely the wrong way on a double play ball until the runner from second scored. It really only increased the blowout margins by the time I found it out.

Playing friends was different. We covered our joysticks so our opponent couldn't steal signs. There were eight pitches. Diagonals were usually strikes but got less reliable as the pitcher stayed in. Left was a fastball down the middle, right a changeup, and up/down were usually balls. Soon we learned which pitches were hittable, and that led to base path fights. We realized how far we could lead off, and we knew our fast runners could steal third, too. I pulled a surprise on them--forcing an out with the bases empty, left to second to first.

The scores got closer, and we learned the art of the run-down. Some lasted a minute, since fielders only covered the bag. We all got good enough that the only reason we got caught was when we forgot going right meant counterclockwise--disastrous when trying to steal home. We learned when to put in relievers between innings, so they would not run out of gas, and we learned other quirks, too, like catch between the shortstop and second-baseman. The ball would just hover over second base as the other guy came in. Each fielder had maybe four different plays to make, so anyone committing an error got laughed at.

Through all this we forgot the field was blue, or that there were only two foul balls. It took a while for 17-14 scores to lose their novelty, but I think after each of my friends finally beat me, we got on with our own pseudo-baseball in backyards and parks and such. I actually bought another copy of the game to revive interest--we could create new teams, but we couldn't delete the old ones. It didn't work, but I've wasted $15 far more hopelessly. And of course, my friends sabotaged my league play. The computer smartened up from their play, not enough to get close, but it started scoring in the teens regularly and holding me under forty runs. It was time to move on.

I've replayed CB on an emulator, but my mind wanders mid-season. By then I've found all the old memories and trick plays, so I guess I have time for other old games. I can't re-learn fooling the computer, and I don't know a lot of Apple emulator fans in person to play against. So that is out. But I did run into my friends during college break. They said the only reason I won was that my runners didn't take crazy risks. I said I just knew the risks better. We thought back to all our strategies. They remembered, too, and I hope they still do.

Rating: 8/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (November 01, 2010)

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