Home
Feature Article
T.J.'s Time Machine - R.B.I. Baseball

Much like the way football has seemingly overtaken baseball as America’s pastime, football videogames have followed suit and become the most popular sports game genre by far. It wasn’t that long ago though that baseball videogames were sitting atop the sports gaming world, and it all goes back to a little game developed by Namco, R.B.I. Baseball. So let’s set T.J.’s Time Machine back to 1988. Curtis Strange was the PGA’s leading money winner at $1.1 million. Mike Tyson was still semi-normal in his title defense against Michael Spinks in what was dubbed Super Fight ’88, and we were all getting our first taste of playing a baseball video game with real players with R.B.I. Baseball.

Unlike other baseball games of its time, R.B.I. Baseball featured eight real teams with real players, thanks to the MLBPA license. Nobody seemed to mind that there was no MLB license, forcing the game to simply refer to these teams by their city name. We were all just so enamored with the fact that for the first time in our lives, we were able to use the real players.

R.B.I.’s formula for deciding which eight teams were included was quite simple. They gave us the eight playoff teams from the 1986 and 1987 season. They are California, Boston, Detroit, Minnesota, Houston, New York (Mets), St. Louis, and San Francisco.

Also included were the NL and AL All-Star teams which for me and my friends, was always the popular choice when sitting down to go nine innings. Through research, I was able to determine that the stats for most of the players in this game came from the 1986 and 1987 seasons, but there are a few errors on each team. Of course, we were all too young and dumb to care about stuff like that back then. 

 Much like the other sports games of its generation, there was no formal season mode in R.B.I. The fun in this title, much like others in its generation, was playing against your friends.

Many debates were started by me and my friends at the time about who the dominant players in the game actually were. The fastest guy was by far Vince Coleman of St. Louis; it was almost considered cheese to steal bases with him because it was darn near impossible to throw him out. As far as power was concerned, Mark McGwire (AL All-Star) and Andre Dawson (NL All-Star) were easily the two guys you didn’t want to get behind in the count on.

And of course there was Roger Clemens. The Rocket was a member of the Boston squad and was easily the toughest pitcher in the game. His fastball caused that little pixilated baseball to fly across your screen, leaving you virtually no time to decide whether or not to swing at it. Nolan Ryan and Doc Gooden were perhaps just as tough, but the fanfare that Clemens was generating in real life back in ’88 made us look nowhere else when we wanted to use a team with a pitcher we felt could shut the opposing hitters down.

R.B.I. Baseball did have its flaws, however. The bugs it had would be considered game killers to today’s sports gamer. Back then, we didn’t mind it so much though. Anyone reaching base by error got credited with a hit. Also, if you got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, the game ending box score would indicate you did not get a hit in that at bat. Again, because of our age and the pure satisfaction of actually having a baseball videogame with real players, we just didn’t care about that stuff.

Several versions of R.B.I. Baseball were released but the NES’s only other version was R.B.I. Baseball 2. Because of licensing issues, it’s highly doubtful that we’ll ever see the original R.B.I. Baseball appear on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console in its original form. Perhaps eventually it’ll be released with fake players, ala Tecmo Bowl.

R.B.I. Baseball was the original baseball sim to 20 and 30 somethings all over the country. So next time you younger guys are complaining about the stitching being the wrong color on your favorite team’s jersey in MLB2K8 or MLB 08: The Show, maybe you’ll realize why us older guys simply laugh and shake our heads at such a notion. If only you grew up in our generation, you’d appreciate how far baseball videogames have come in the past two decades.


Member Comments
# 1 Koolie G @ 03/06/08 02:45 PM
I loved this game. I thought Vince Coleman was still on the Cardinals though. The Cardinals were great to play with b/c they had Ozzie, T. Herr, Willie McGee and Coleman(I think) so you could just play small ball and then hope Jack Clark could drive them in. I think they also had T. Pena then too.

You can't forget T. Armas on the bench with the Red Sox who had like 40 something homers. You always had to put him in the lineup. Great game, I spent many an hour on that and I got really excited when they finally got the Reds on RBI 2. On regular RBI I had to settle for Eric Davis on the NL All-Stars.
 
# 2 SPTO @ 03/06/08 02:47 PM
I was never a big R.B.I. guy. I preferred Major League Baseball on the NES. That game came out the next year and was officially liscenced by MLB but not the PA so you had the full team with the real players except it didn't have their names.

I will say that sometimes I miss those days when you didn't have framerate bugs and the need for a patch and sliders etc etc.
 
# 3 SportsTop @ 03/06/08 02:49 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolie G
IYou can't forget T. Armas on the bench with the Red Sox who had like 40 something homers. You always had to put him in the lineup.
That is my most vivid memory about RBI Baseball.
 
# 4 nyisles16 @ 03/06/08 02:56 PM
Vince didn't go to the Mets until '91 -- sigh, thanks TJ for bringing up that name!!!


RBI baseball was played to the death by my friends and I.. heck I remember playing my dad in some games... I miss the simple days of games..
 
# 5 Steve_OS @ 03/06/08 02:59 PM
How about that "Stealing a base" sound effect? hehe....sounding like a flat tire or a crazy machine gun.
 
# 6 mustang93 @ 03/06/08 03:00 PM
My friends and I still have heated arguments to this day while playing RBI even though we're all almost 30. And Detroit is the team to beat in my opinion.
 
# 7 ndeezlo @ 03/06/08 03:04 PM
Vince Coleman didn't have the fireworks in this game. The 87 Cardinals and Tigers were my first favorite teams . Raised near Detroit, Dad's from StL.
 
# 8 Randor2000 @ 03/06/08 03:32 PM
I don't remember where I saw it (I'm sure it's on Youtube by now) but someone made a recreation of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series using RBI baseball. They dubbed in the audio from the original broadcast. That was pretty funny.

LOL at the hit scoring. I remember if a guy got to 1st, I would throw the ball away so I could throw him out going to second and keep a "no-hitter" going. Ah, to be young again.
 
# 9 daflyboys @ 03/06/08 03:41 PM
Good idea for a feature, but it needs vids and/or screen shots.
 
# 10 SportsTop @ 03/06/08 04:29 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by daflyboys
Good idea for a feature, but it needs vids and/or screen shots.
Did you happen to click the link and read the article?

There's at least three screen shots embedded in the article.
 
# 11 SportsorDeath @ 03/06/08 04:33 PM
Wow, TO, you preferred Major League Baseball? Really? I thought that game was horrid, and if I recall correctly, it actually came out before RBI by at least a month or two. MLB was a part of the group of games released by LJN that were utter garbage. In MLB, every fielder wore what looked like catcher's gloves, and every time a batter made contact, the screen would blink and there would be about a 2 second pause until the next screen came up and showed where the ball was hit.

RBI crapped all over that sorry excuse for a game.
 
# 12 Pdevine22 @ 03/06/08 06:30 PM
Awwww, memories. I loved RBI Baseball, Baseball Stars and Baseball Simulator 1.000. Everything was so much simpler back then.
 
# 13 SPTO @ 03/06/08 07:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SportsorDeath
Wow, TO, you preferred Major League Baseball? Really? I thought that game was horrid, and if I recall correctly, it actually came out before RBI by at least a month or two. MLB was a part of the group of games released by LJN that were utter garbage. In MLB, every fielder wore what looked like catcher's gloves, and every time a batter made contact, the screen would blink and there would be about a 2 second pause until the next screen came up and showed where the ball was hit.

RBI crapped all over that sorry excuse for a game.
I was just a kid. I didn't know any better!
 
# 14 Cletus @ 03/06/08 08:48 PM
I still have this game for my NES, although it doesn't work very well. I loved it, especially stealing bases with the cardinals and pitching with nolan ryan.
 
# 15 DJ @ 03/06/08 11:50 PM
RBI was so much fun back then. I also played a ton of Bases Loaded. Paste and Bay used to tear it up on the New Jersey team.

TJ: you're right about how today games are held to a higher standard. In some ways I agree that they should be scrutinized as we are paying more for the games, and thus, expect more. But, we've also lost that youthful innocence along the way. As you mentioned, bugs in games we played as youths didn't bother us. As long as the overall experience was enjoyable, that's all that mattered. I think we need to go back to that mentality when it comes to how we view games.
 
# 16 SportsorDeath @ 03/07/08 02:24 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Djwlfpack
RBI was so much fun back then. I also played a ton of Bases Loaded. Paste and Bay used to tear it up on the New Jersey team.

TJ: you're right about how today games are held to a higher standard. In some ways I agree that they should be scrutinized as we are paying more for the games, and thus, expect more. But, we've also lost that youthful innocence along the way. As you mentioned, bugs in games we played as youths didn't bother us. As long as the overall experience was enjoyable, that's all that mattered. I think we need to go back to that mentality when it comes to how we view games.
If you're old enough to have played 20+ years of different baseball video games, it is simply impossible to "go back" to that mentality. The reason we have lost that innocence is because a lot of us got in pretty much on the ground floor, so to speak, of baseball gaming, and have gone through 20 or more years worth of technological advancement in the games. Everyone always loves to wax nostalgic about all the great games of yore (myself included), but if you really think back, some of this "loss of innocence" could have been applied even then. Look at the difference between something like Atari Real Sports Baseball and RBI or Bases Loaded. Do you believe that, after playing the latter two titles, most people would have accepted a baseball game that came out afterwards with graphics and gameplay akin to the Atari game? Methinks not. As the technology of the baseball games progressed and matured, so did our expectations for them.

The games were a hell of a lot simpler then, but our minds and experiences with the games were a hell of a lot simpler to match them. It goes hand in hand.
 
# 17 ZekeRoberts @ 03/07/08 07:54 PM
i think the article mentioned that rbi and rbi2 were the only games for NES, but I had rbi baseball 3... all 26? teams at the time, and then some divisional champs from the 80s... solid solid game, coming from a former 11-year-old who would play the game and then type up a box score on his parents' typewriter in the basement... that's right, a typewriter
 
# 18 catcatch22 @ 03/07/08 11:16 PM
I would play this game in my school in the after school programs and stuff when I was a kid 20 years ago. However it was on Commodore computers with the huge Atari style joysticks. Wow was that game fun back then.
 
# 19 DJ @ 03/08/08 12:23 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by SportsorDeath
If you're old enough to have played 20+ years of different baseball video games, it is simply impossible to "go back" to that mentality. The reason we have lost that innocence is because a lot of us got in pretty much on the ground floor, so to speak, of baseball gaming, and have gone through 20 or more years worth of technological advancement in the games. Everyone always loves to wax nostalgic about all the great games of yore (myself included), but if you really think back, some of this "loss of innocence" could have been applied even then. Look at the difference between something like Atari Real Sports Baseball and RBI or Bases Loaded. Do you believe that, after playing the latter two titles, most people would have accepted a baseball game that came out afterwards with graphics and gameplay akin to the Atari game? Methinks not. As the technology of the baseball games progressed and matured, so did our expectations for them.

The games were a hell of a lot simpler then, but our minds and experiences with the games were a hell of a lot simpler to match them. It goes hand in hand.
I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. The only point I was trying to make is that I think sometimes we get carried away with what we nitpick on with games.

Take Madden and NCAA...does it really matter in the grand scheme of things if the referees or chain gang aren't on the field? I know they were in previous versions, but it's not like those things make or break a game. I'd gladly give up some features for tighter, crisper gameplay.

With the amount of money we shell out for games we should have the right to argue about gameplay issues, but also remember that it's nearly impossible to have a "perfect" game. So, as long as the flaws aren't crippling, learn to love them and enjoy the game experience for what it is.
 
# 20 SportsorDeath @ 03/08/08 06:41 PM
I do agree with you, Djwlfpack. I wish people could just enjoy things the way they are now, too. The sad truth is that the advent of the internet served to create a land of malcontents and nitpicking. Like Bill Maher said a couple of weeks ago, "the internet is for porn and bitching."

I have absolutely no qualms about people getting pissy over things in games that are big issues, such as the framerate problem in MLB 2K8. The kind of crap that needs to be curbed is people getting up in arms over sock colors being wrong and things of that nature.
 

Post A Comment
Only OS members can post comments
Please login or register to post a comment.