If Baseball Had Robots

You may not have been alive back in 1991.  Or perhaps you were, but you weren’t of the age where you came home from school to eat macaroni and cheese and watch Disney Afternoon on syndicated television.  But if you were, and you had parents who bought you Nintendo games for Christmas and didn’t consult with you about them first, you may have once before opened up an instruction booklet to read these words:

At last it can be told. How, at the turn of the 24th Century
the game of baseball was changed forever. It happened in Cape
Codpiece, Florida during the annual winter meetings. On the
aluminum paneled walls of the posh hotel’s Presidential Room
hung stirring portraits of baseball’s all-time greats. Legends
like Cecil “Rooftop” Shingleton, Travis “Tee” O’ Justice, and Tip
“Rude” Wayter. Around the huge conference table sat a group of
sour, seething executives collectively known as the baseball
team owners. The issue before them-astronomical player salaries.
(A Solar League official had just ordered one of the weakest
franchises to shell out $2.4 billion a year to Gomer “Go Homer”
Gomez, a lifetime .250 hitter.)

For hours the owners debated their options. Until suddenly
Irving Flopilidopolous, owner of the Boston Banshees, leaped from
his chair and slammed his fist on the table.

“Robots!” he exclaimed. The other owners looked blankly
at each other. Then smiles slowly crept across their faces as they
realized they had found the solution-replace the players with
mechanical men. No more salary demands. Better yet, no more salaries!
Just obedient automatons pre-programmed for action.

The now inspired owners worked feverishly that weekend
to refine their new sport which they christened Base Wars. The
public was quickly captivated by this bizarre combination of
baseball and gladiatorial combat played by an army of armor clad
cybernetic swingers. They especially loved the one-on-one battle
royales for base possession, the loser of which is retired to the
scrap yard. It wasn’t long before Base Wars became the new
intergalactic pastime.

Given the salary of Vernon Wells, it doesn’t seem as though the owners of the 2300s have made out too badly with player contracts like Gomer Gomez, but it’s silly to try to estimate inflation in the world economy of Tomorrow.  Nor should we question the interior decorating decisions made by the hotels of the state of Florida.  Instead, let’s concentrate on the question that mankind has been asking ever since Walt Whitman posed it in his second edition of Leaves of Grass: “Why can’t we have robots that clean our chimneys?  And, also, play baseball for us?”

Finally, the game Base Wars for the Nintendo Entertainment System realized that we could. And that it would be awesome.

What follows is a short list of the ways in which robots demonstrate a marked improvement in the game of base-ball:

  • A glowing, blinking, pink ball
  • Replacing certain robot legs with tank treads
  • Replacing certain robot legs with unicycles
  • Replacing Linkin Park walk-up music with funky, bass-driven synthesizer
  • New parts obtained from store, avoiding inconvenient surgery
  • Eschewing umpires by deciding close plays by way of one-on-one combat to the death
  • Said one-on-one combat to the death including laser swords

People of the twenty-fourth century will look back on Base Wars as the moment when society finally got it - the point where we couldn’t yet realize the dream, but when we knew what the dream was.  That dream, obviously, was sitting in stadiums floating in space to watch giant monochromatic automatons destroy each other with aforementioned laser swords. Destruction of the planet and consumption of finite natural resources be damned; this is a moment when we can all do little except quietly envy our moon-cavern-dwelling descendants of the future.




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Patrick Dubuque writes for NotGraphs and The Hardball Times, and he served as former Bill Spaceman Lee Visiting Professor for Baseball Exploration at Pitchers & Poets. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.


18 Responses to “If Baseball Had Robots”

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  1. Jared says:

    Why is Toronto red and California blue?

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  2. Ryan says:

    Lefty Robots? Blasphemy

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  3. therood says:

    I move that modern players’ horsepower be calculated and displayed during broadcasts.

    Or Hit Points, if that’s what the HP stands for.

    Either/or.

    When I played Base Wars as a kid, I always assumed HP was horsepower.

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    • DaClyde says:

      Yeah, HP was hit points. Not only could you destroy players on the base paths, you could also bean them to knock off more HP. Once you had some power and the battle gimmick, it quickly became a lopsided game of attrition.

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  4. buddy says:

    I’m seriously baffled that no one has signed Strike-O-Matic to even a minor leageu deal.

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  5. Dan says:

    Game was awesome, but really the first person to get laser guns could just run the bases as they pleased!

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    • TheFuzziestKitty says:

      I thought flybots could avoid laser gun spam. Cost effective robots used the Battle Gimic (Battle Gimmick? Battle Gillick? I think we’re on to something here…)

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  6. GB says:

    When it comes to the greatest sports video games ever, some say Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, some say TECMO Bowl, some say Blades of Steel (the fighting alone beats any hockey video game prior to or since).

    For me, it will always be Base Wars. It’s one of three games I have remaining with the old Nintendo (along with ‘Blades’ and of course, Mario/Duck Hunt). No baseball game has ever been quite so much fun.

    Thanks for the memories :)

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  7. macseries says:

    i got a rom of this not too long ago, but unfortunately i can’t tap my phone’s screen fast enough to make playing it worth the hassle.

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  8. David says:

    Baseball playing robots? Is that what a league of JD Drews would look like?

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  9. Resolution says:

    Just out of curiosity – are we sure this is actually footage from a 1991 NES game? Or is this footage from the Nippon Baseball League and the teams just feature ironic, prehistoric names like ‘Toronto’ or ‘California’??

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  10. SFSUGatorAlum says:

    I assume we already lived through the Super Baseball Simulator 1000 era…1998-2004?

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    • TheFuzziestKitty says:

      Right, this is after several deaths involving the missile ball hurling infielders into the outfield walls in addition to the overuse of the spinning field causing the Earth to fall off its axis. The only solution was Flybots!

      Some Basewars teams had themes, some having potential social commentary. Everyone on Chicago was armed with a gun, for example.

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