Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Radio Baseball
This is the seventh entry in a series focusing on computer baseball simulations to supplement the chapter “Play Retro Baseball Video Games In Your Browser” from my Hardball Retroactive book along with the corresponding post at Baseball Analytics. The series focuses on baseball simulations – games in which the primary emphasis is on managerial strategy and the ability to replay entire seasons with a degree of realism. Baseball video games that are strictly arcade representations of baseball (based solely on reflex and hand-eye coordination) are excluded.
Publisher – Electronic Arts
Release Year – 1986
Platforms – IBM PC
|Programming / Design:||Art Margulis|
Radio Baseball eschews the graphical rendering of a ballgame in favor of re-creating the sensation of listening to an entire contest over the airwaves through the use of vivid play-by-play descriptions. The simulation encompasses an array of statistical and strategy options that were only found in the rival product, “APBA Major League Players Baseball”. I hope to review the APBA game in the near future, however the Apple version is missing the flip side of the Team Disk and I don’t have the IBM (MS-DOS) version circa 1985.
Through the magic of emulation I was able to spin up a series of Radio Baseball contests using DosBox. Upon starting Radio Baseball the user is greeted by the Pre-Game Options menu. I chose to “Begin a New Game” then had to pick the visiting and home clubs from 2 team sets. The “Superstars” set encompasses the Greats, Heroes, Legends and Stars while the “Champs” include 8 former World Series winners. I elected to manage the “Greats” and the computer manager (Abner) will be the skipper for the “Stars” squad. On the game settings menu I enabled the Designated Hitter rule, sound and league game (so I could view compiled statistics and standings later). The human manager(s) can enter their name when asked “Who will manage this team?” During pre-game, you have the option to bench players who are ineligible due to injury or fatigue. A feature that might be useful for novices was presented: “When the Stars team is up, do you want Abner to reveal before each play if his team will hit away, steal, bunt, or hit-and-run?” The Game Mode screen allows you to select either Regular or Fast Play. Regular delivers the play-by-play descriptions with several seconds of delay between each line while Fast reduces the pause. There are 2 saved lineups available for every team or you can enter your own lineup. In both cases you may adjust the defensive positions and/or lineup slots prior to game time. Another interesting feature is the ability to select baserunners who will have the “green light” during today’s contest, allowing them to use their own judgment whether to steal a base. This choice can be modified in-game. Finally you have an option to print scorecards before the contest begins.
Bob Feller took the mound for the “Greats” against the “Stars” ace Sandy Koufax. Mickey Mantle pulled an inside fastball down the left-field line for a two-out double. Koufax whiffed Joe DiMaggio to strike out the side. With one out in the bottom of the third, Jackie Robinson legged out a triple to right-center field. “Rapid Robert” struck out Willie Mays and induced Stan Musial to ground out to Joe Gordon. Koufax struck out the side in order (Ted Williams, Mantle, DiMaggio) to cruise through the fourth frame. Hank Aaron stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the fourth. “Aaron hits the ball deep into left… Chasing back is Williams… GOODBYE!! Aaron hits it over the boards! Hank runs around the bases.” Eddie Mathews tried to follow in “Hammer’s” footsteps. “Mathews takes Feller deep to left. Williams is at the wall… He jumps… Williams makes an incredible catch for the out!” Roy Campanella jumped all over a hanging curve ball from Feller: “Campanella hits it deep into left… Going back is Williams… He’s running out of room… This ball just might get out of here… ADIOS!! Campanella hits it over the boards! Roy runs around the bases.” Joe Morgan coaxed a base on balls, prompting a mound visit. Hoyt Wilhelm started throwing in the Greats bullpen as I strolled to the mound and advised Feller to stop serving up long balls. Feller thanked me sarcastically for my words of wisdom and I returned to the corner of the dugout. Pee Wee Reese hit a two-hopper to Luis Aparicio to end the threat as the Stars led 2-0. Koufax was masterful, striking out 10 Greats through 5 innings and allowing only one hit. In the top of the sixth he encountered a bit of trouble, issuing consecutive walks to Rod Carew and the “Splendid Splinter” after retiring Brooks Robinson and Aparicio on groundouts. The potential go-ahead run at the plate, “The Commerce Comet” went down swinging to close out the frame. Following a base on balls to Aaron with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Sparky Lyle replaced Feller to face Mathews. “Cap’n Eddie” worked the count and eventually drew a walk. “Campy” drove a long fly to center but “Joltin’ Joe” flagged it down. “Little Joe” Morgan laced a hard smash towards third but the “Human Vacuum Cleaner” calmly gathered it in and fired a strike to Carew at first base to retire the side. Yogi Berra tagged a high fly to left in the top of the seventh but Stan Musial caught it with his back against the wall. Rollie Fingers entered the contest in the bottom of the seventh to face Reese, Robinson and Mays. He yielded a single and stolen base to Reese but completed the inning without allowing a run. In the eighth, Aaron led off with a base hit to left against Billy Pierce. The Stars loaded the bases with a pair of walks, then Morgan lofted a fly ball to center that was deep enough to score Aaron with the third run. Ernie Banks, batting for Reese, popped out to short center for the last out of the inning. Koufax climbed the hill in the top of the ninth having posted 12 strikeouts and allowing only Mantle’s double in the first. He squared off against the top of the Greats batting order. Carew led off with a ground-rule double to right. Abner instructed Koufax to walk “Teddy Ballgame” intentionally, a curious move as it brought the tying run (Mantle) to the plate with no outs. Mantle bounced into a fielder’s choice as Banks threw to first with Carew and Williams advancing to third and second base, respectively. Attempting to set up the double play again, Abner ordered another intentional walk to “The Yankee Clipper”. The sacks were juiced with one out and Frank Robinson at the dish. “Robinson nubs the ball just in front of home. Roy Campanella grabs it… Campanella steps on the plate for the forceout at home. Over to first… Double play!!” The Stars emerged with the victory, 3-0.
The second matchup pitted 1961 AL Cy Young winner Whitey Ford against the two-time NL Cy Young honoree Bob “Hoot” Gibson. In the home half of the first, Willie Mays singled with one out and then proceeded to steal second and third with Stan Musial at the plate. “The Donora Greyhound” delivered a sacrifice fly to left to bring Mays home with the first run. The “Say Hey Kid” knocked in Pee Wee Reese to give the Stars a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the third. Musial blasted a two-bagger to right-center field which allowed Mays to score easily from first base. I visited the mound after Ford issued a base on balls to the “Big Cat” Johnny Mize. “Prince” Hal Newhouser began to loosen up in the pen. Successive strikeouts of Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews by “The Chairman of the Board” concluded the frame. Leading off the top of the fourth inning, Ted Williams smacked a liner into the left-center field gap for a two-base hit. Gibson settled down and retired Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson. Reese blooped a single into right and registered the Stars’ fourth tally when Jackie Robinson crushed a double to straightaway center over DiMaggio’s head. Musial launched a moon-shot to right field in the bottom of the fifth to extend the Stars lead to 5-0. Ford hit the showers, replaced on the mound by Newhouser. Mize greeted him with a sharp single to left, then Aaron hammered the next pitch over the left field fence! Later in the frame, the Stars loaded the bases with a hit and a pair of walks. Jackie Robinson slapped a base hit to right which brought home 3 runs when Frank Robinson airmailed the throw home over Yogi Berra’s head. Bob Lemon relieved Newhouser as the game had devolved into a 10-0 blowout. Mays stroked a line drive to left which Williams fielded on one-hop. The throw home was too late to get Robinson. Musial walked but he was cut down on the back-end of a double steal attempt. Mize flew out to right to bring closure to an inning in which the Stars piled on 7 runs on 5 hits, 4 walks and an error. The Greats unloaded their bench in the sixth inning. Carl Yastrzemski batted for Williams and promptly ripped a double to right. Following consecutive strikeouts, Gibson balked “Yaz” over to third. Al Kaline, substituting for Frank Robinson, laced a long drive into the gap in left-center but Musial made a fine running catch for the third out. In the bottom half of the frame, Rod Carew slid over to second base. “Yaz” stayed in the game as the left fielder and Kaline trotted out to right. The revamped defensive alignment included Lou Boudreau (SS), Bill Freehan (C), Harmon Killebrew (1B) and Al Rosen (3B). Lemon courted trouble when he walked the bases loaded. He nearly escaped when Reese tapped back to the box and the throw home nailed Mathews for the force play. With two outs, Jackie Robinson connected on a long drive to center field which ended up as a three-run triple! Hoyt Wilhelm strolled in from the pen as the Stars had pinned 14 tallies on the Greats not-so-great pitching staff. Mays flailed helplessly at a flutterball from “Old Sarge”. Rosen drilled a two-base knock over Mays’ outstretched glove with one down in the seventh. Boudreau lashed a solid single to center which was too shallow to send Rosen home. Carew’s blooper to left field fell softly in front of Musial delivering the first run for the Greats. “Yaz” subsequently stroked a two-run double to center field, plating Boudreau and Carew. Mantle coaxed a base on balls, then DiMaggio zipped a single through the left side of the infield to tally another run for the visitors. Still no bullpen action for the Stars despite the 10 hits and 4 runs allowed by “Gibby” as the Stars retained a 10-run advantage. Kaline skied a lazy fly ball and Mays made his patented basket catch to retire the side. Wilhelm forced in 2 runs with 5 consecutive walks in the bottom of the seventh. Early Wynn came on and yielded a sacrifice fly to Reese, then Jackie Robinson legged out another triple to increase the Stars’ lead to 19-4. The Greats responded with 2 singles and a walk, putting ducks on the pond for Carew in the top of the eighth. Gibson caught Carew looking at a low-and-away heater for the second out of the inning, then “Yaz” strolled to the plate. “Here’s the pitch… Yastrzemski takes Gibson deep to right. See you later!! GRAND-SLAM!! Carl is congratulated by his teammates.” Abner was content to allow Gibson to complete the game despite yielding 13 hits and 8 runs through 8 frames. He inserted Ron Santo into the game as a defensive replacement for Mathews. Running on fumes, “Gibby” gave up a single to DiMaggio followed by walks to Kaline and Killebrew. Rosen lifted a high fly ball to center, scoring “Joltin’ Joe” with the Greats’ ninth run. Boudreau tagged a deep drive to center but Mays hauled it in at the warning track. Final score: Stars 19, Greats 9.
Eager to salvage the third and final match, Jim Palmer climbed the hill for the Greats to square off against Juan Marichal. Rod Carew drew a leadoff walk and Ted Williams ripped a single to right field. Mickey Mantle grounded the next offering to second-sacker Joe Morgan, who flipped to Pee Wee Reese covering second for the force play on Williams. Mantle beat the relay to first, placing runners on the corners with one away. The “Dominican Dandy” walked Joe DiMaggio intentionally. Frank Robinson slowly approached the dish and stared down Marichal. The right-hander induced a high infield pop-up off the bat of “The Judge” for the second out. Yogi Berra hit a bounding ball up the middle. Morgan ranged far to his right and made a diving stop, but he didn’t have a play at any base. Carew scored and the bases remained full for Harmon Killebrew. The “Killer” smoked a hard liner towards Reese who dropped it like a hot potato for an error as Mantle scampered home. “The Little Colonel” redeemed himself on the next ball in play as he snared a line drive off the bat of Brooks Robinson for the final out. In the top of the third, “The Mick” scorched a deep fly ball to center but Willie Mays tracked it down. Roy Campanella connected on a long double leading off the bottom of the third for the Stars after Palmer retired the first 6 batters in order. Reese and Jackie Robinson coaxed one-out walks to load the bases. Palmer’s wild streak continued as he walked Mays, cutting the Greats’ lead in half. Stan Musial missed a golden opportunity when he popped up to the first baseman Killebrew for the second out. Carew fielded Johnny Mize’s grounder and flipped it to Lou Boudreau as the Greats quelled the uprising. “Cakes” found his groove in the fourth as he struck out the side (Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Campanella). The “Splendid Splinter” clubbed a one-out double off Marichal in the fifth. “Campy” dropped the third strike to Mantle, but he hastily grabbed the ball and tagged him out. “Manito” confounded “Joltin’ Joe” with a screwball. DiMaggio’s looping liner settled into third baseman Jackie Robinson’s glove for the third out. Robinson led off the bottom of the fifth with a two-base knock to straightaway center field but his teammates stranded him at second base. One inning later, “Hammer” belted a two-bagger with 2 outs but Palmer whiffed Mathews to close out the frame. “Little Joe” Morgan hooked a Palmer fastball around the right-field foul pole to knot the game at 2-2 with one out in the seventh. Killebrew started the top of the ninth with a clean single to left. Aparicio pinch-ran for “Killer” and Carl Yastrzemski batted for Brooks Robinson. “Little Louie” swiped second base on the first pitch. Marichal struck out “Yaz” and got pinch-hitter Al Rosen on an easy grounder to Morgan. The Stars went down swinging in the bottom of the ninth as Palmer whiffed Mathews, Campanella and pinch-hitter Willie “Pops” Stargell. Marichal and Palmer remained on the mound as the battle persisted into extra innings. Ernie Banks batted for Reese to commence the bottom of the tenth. “Banks drives the ball into deep left… So long, sports fans! That one’s a round-tripper!! Ernie jogs around the bases.” The Stars complete the sweep with a 3-2 victory.
Graphics –  The display window is divided into 3 sections. The upper left contains the scoreboard against a red background with the line score, number of outs, current batter and pitcher, and the name and occupied base for any baserunners. The upper right corner shows the current lineup for both teams against a blue background. The manager’s options are listed in the bottom half of the screen against an orange background. Once the managers make their selections, the play-by-play result is output to the bottom window against a black background.
Sound –  I enabled the sound option before each game but did not hear any music or sound effects. Apparently the sounds are limited to signifying typing mistakes.
Strategy –  With a runner on first base, the defensive options include hold the runner, guard the lines, or issue an intentional walk. Offensively you can elect to sacrifice bunt, hit-and-run, or attempt to steal. With a runner on third, I had the option to bring the infield in. In a bases loaded scenario, the “suicide squeeze” appeared as one of the choices.
Artificial Intelligence –  “Abner” warmed up pitchers at the appropriate times and sat them down at the end of an inning. On 2 occasions he substituted Ernie Banks for Pee Wee Reese as a pinch-hitter in the late innings of a low-scoring game. Abner also replaced Eddie Mathews with Ron Santo for defensive purposes twice.
Box Score –  Post-game options include viewing the box score from today’s contest, printing the game statistics or starting a new game. The first screen includes the line score and visitor’s offensive stats. The lineup order is listed properly but the fielding positions are omitted. Screen 2 displayed the home team’s offensive results. Screen 3 shows the pitching lines for both teams. It includes thirds of an inning along with several statistics omitted from earlier computer baseball simulations such as hit by pitch, balks and wild pitches. The latter half is devoted to a listing of errors, passed balls, game-winning RBI along with the winning and losing pitchers.
Rosters –  – Each team is permitted a 25-man roster (15 batters and 10 pitchers). Separate “Draft” and “Trade” programs are included. To my knowledge you need to utilize the players included in the Team Disks as I could not locate an option to edit existing player data. “Trade” permits 1-for-1 swaps between existing teams within the same Team Set while “Draft” allows you to create new teams from a list of players in a Team Set.
Statistics –  – At the end of the contest, I was asked whether I wished to store the statistics in a disk file in order to compile them with the Stats program. The “Stats” program allows you to view the standings and league leaders along with individual and team totals.
Usage/Injuries/Ejections –  – Injuries and ejections can occur during the game. You may bench injured or fatigued players prior to the start of each contest (such as the computer team’s starting pitcher from the previous game or two). However injuries must be managed manually (the computer does not maintain an injured list.)
Ballparks / Park Factors –  – Radio Baseball does not account for any park factors. The end-user does not have the ability to select a stadium.
Commentary –  – Play results materialize one line at a time in the bottom half of the screen. For example, Johnny Mize is batting for the Stars in the second inning of Game 1.
“Here’s the pitch… Mize grounds the ball through the right side… The ball gets through… Frank Robinson will handle it in right. Johnny stands on first with a single.”
The next 3 batters that are “due up” are announced in the play-by-play commentary upon completion of each half-inning.
Scale: Ratings from 1 (worst) to 5 (best)
Total Score: 24 out of 50
Radio Baseball transports the user back to a time when many people feverishly followed their favorite baseball team through the play-by-play descriptions that were broadcast on the radio. A very accessible interface along with an authentic representation of our National Pastime immerses the end-user in the intricacies of managing a big-league ballgame.
Please add a comment below if you spent a significant amount of time and/or have any recollections of Radio Baseball.
Articles in the Series
Play Radio Baseball in your browser! –
Teverbaugh, Rick. “Sports Scoreboard.” Computer Gaming World. Volume 33, December 1986, p52.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2JFnntLITk (Radio Baseball gameplay video by Squakenet)
About the Author
I am a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games who enjoys spending quality time with his family.
“Hardball Retrospective” is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.
Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.
“Hardball Retrospective – Addendum 2014 to 2016” supplements my research for Hardball Retrospective, providing retroactive standings based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Win Shares (WS) for each “original” team over the past three seasons (2014-2016). Team totals from 2010 – 2013 are included for reference purposes. “Addendum” is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com.