Baseball Analytics

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Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Hardball 3 – 4 – 5 – 6

This is the seventeenth 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.

Hardball 3
Hardball 3 main display

Hardball 3

Publisher – Accolade

Release Year – 1992

Platforms – IBM PC

Credits

Programming & DesignMike Benna, Jeff Sember
ProducerPam Levins, Pam Davis
ArtJohn Boechler
MusicAlistair Hirst
SoundMike Benna, Russell Shiffer
ManualRichard Moran, Jeff Wagner
Creative ServicesLisa Marino, Shirley Sellers
PlaytestingRobert V. Daly, James Kucera
Game AnnouncerAl Michaels

Hardball 4
Hardball 4 main display

Hardball 4

Publisher – Accolade

Release Year – 1994

Platforms – IBM PC

Credits

ProgrammingMike Benna, Jeff Sember
ArtJohn Boechler, Dale Mauk, Karen Hinds, Shawn Monroe
MusicBrian Shaw
Executive ProducerPam Levins
Developed byMindSpan
Audio DigitizingWayne Stewart
HB4SER ProgrammingDavid Kirsch
TestersMichael Person, Tomi McNaughton, Randall Hauser, Brian Nelson
Audio DriverH.M.I.
AnnouncerAl Michaels

Hardball 5
Hardball 5 main display

Hardball 5

Publisher – Accolade

Release Year – 1995

Platforms – IBM PC

Credits

Developed byMindSpan
ProgrammingJeff Sember, Mike Benna
ArtJohn Boechler, Dale Mauk, Molly McLeod, Shawn Monroe, Karen Hinds, Juan Ortiz, James Johnson, Patricia Pearson, Chris Eckardt
Executive ProducerPam Levins
Assistant ProducerMichael Person
MusicBrian Shaw
GuitarAndrew Duncan
Mixing EngineerJohn Shepp
Audio MasteringGeorge Leger
AnnouncerAl Michaels
Voice EditingWayne Stewart
Sound DriverAll the guys at HMI
Additional Audio ToolsDavid Houston
Video PlaybackSmacker
HB5SER ProgrammingDavid Kirsch
Sound EffectsMike Benna
TestersTomi McNaughton, Richard Gangwish, Scott Barnes
Manual WritingJim Carr
Special ThanksDon Felice, Alex V. Cabal, Peter Pavich
Statistical and Ratings ResearchRandall Hauser
Product Marketing ManagerSteven M. Allison
Manual EditingShirley Sellers, William D. Robinson

Hardball 6
Hardball 6 main display

Hardball 6

Publisher – Accolade

Release Year – 1998

Platforms – IBM PC

Credits

DesignMike Benna, Jeff Sember, John Boechler
ProgrammingMike Benna, Jeff Sember, Joel Dinolt
Art and 3D MiraclesJohn Boechler
Composer and ProducerBrian Shaw
GuitaristAndrew Duncan
Synthesizer SolosJoe Bashourun
Bass GuitarGary Janzen
Studio provided byHenri Brown
Recorded and Mixed atMeshra Studios, Surrey B.C.
Sound EffectsTommy Tallarico
Announcer EditingBrian Shaw
Executive ProducerPam Levins
Associate ProducerRandall Hauser
Assistant ProducersDaniel Tyrrell, Richard Gangwish
DesignPam Levins
Lead ArtistMolly Windsor
IllustratorsDavid Gustlin, Karen Hinds, James Johnson, Tracey Madden, Heather Merrill, Juan Ortiz, Kelley Pinson, Frank Robbins, Mayumi Suzuki, Molly Windsor, Peter Wong, John Xu, Patricia Pearson
Interface Art DesignPatricia Pearson
Art DirectorDale Mauk
Intro Sequence Producer /   Product Marketing ManagerSteven M. Allison
Intro Sequence DirectorPhil Paternite
ToolsBobby Tait
Technical Pinch HitterLuis Rivas
Quality Assurance ManagerAlex V. Cabal
Quality Assurance LeadArnold Galano
CompatibilityDavid Abrams
TestersScott Barnes, Stefano Canu, Donald T. Clay, Jason Cordero, Erik Johnson, Alex Jones, Ben MacAskill, Sam Newman, Marie Person, Paul Rodriguez, Noe Sarmiento, Arif Sinan, Adam Stokke, James Strawn
Documentation / Online HelpMark L. Cohen
Documentation LayoutWilliam D. Robinson
Voice OverGreg Papa
LicensingGabrielle Benham
Public RelationsErica Krishnamurthy, Jack Symon
Website DesignLaddie Ervin, Ray Massa
Technical / Customer Support ManagerDavid Costello
Special Thanks ToMatt Abrams, Jim Barnett, Ken Caminiti, Roy Cooler, Mark Daag, Jill Dos Santos, Pete Enfield, David Foster, Mark Glover, David P. Grenewetzki, Cecilia Munoz, Neil Johnston, Berry Kane, John Koronaios, Rachel Kram, Wayne Leonard (Kenwood Group), Rusty Levins, Bill Linn, Michael Luscher, Laurie Mendez, Roger Nelson, Dave Paterson, Michael Person, Stan Roach, Rick Sabaag, Brad Schlachter, Kathie Tompkins, Rhoda Wawrzynski, Brent Wilkinson, Emily Williams, ST Labs
Product ManagerDarryl Still
European DocumentationIan McClelland
Translation CoordinationPetrina Wallace, Clare Parkes
Documentation LayoutLouise Bristow, John Falkus
Quality AssuranceFabio Mastrangioli, Ben Jackson
Studio OperationSteve Fitton, Dan Holman

Review

This entry will focus on the later iterations of the Hardball series (editions three through six) as the original Hardball! along with the sequel  (Hardball II) were purely built around the arcade aspects of baseball with no tactical (manage-only) mode to speak of.

Hardball 3

Hardball III incorporates the capacity to import teams from Tony La Russa’s Ultimate Baseball or Earl Weaver Baseball II. I opted to import the All-Time Teams from TLUB and found that they were missing players who were still active when the product was released. I updated those rosters in order to include those players, objectively selecting their best seasons (through 1990). After making a backup copy of my revised league file and selecting the appropriate stadium for each team (initially all teams defaulted to Dodger Stadium), I chose the Schedule option and decided to “Simulate” the first week of the season. Every game took about 7 to 10 seconds to complete. You can simulate one week’s worth of games at a time so each week finished in about 15 minutes. The simulated contests are displayed as an in-progress box score. However I don’t see an option to view the box scores (or league leaders) after the games are over. You can only check the standings and it’s necessary to edit rosters and click on individual players to view their simulated stats. When setting up the rosters, you are limited to one lineup. I did not see any bench players utilized in the American League given the presence of the designated hitter and no option to enable injuries. In spite of the lack of a DH in the National League, the managers all conspired against the use of pinch-hitters and defensive substitutes as well. At the season’s halfway point, the computer selected players for the “Stars” game. The 25-man rosters were chock full of all-time greats. No relievers were chosen for either squad. I opted to manage the American League entry (the “Accolade” team) while the computer handled the National League crew (the “Mindspan” team). As I reviewed the options for full-game mode, I realized that “one pitch mode” was omitted. There is no way to swap defensive positions during a game and you receive no warning when a defender is playing out of position.

Steve Carlton (12-3, 2.37) took the mound for the Senior Circuit. He yielded consecutive singles to Rod Carew and Harry Heilmann and then whiffed Al “Bucketfoot” Simmons for the first out. Hank Greenberg laced a liner to right to load the bases. George Brett smacked one over Bill Terry’s head to plate Carew with the first run of the contest. “Joltin’” Joe DiMaggio followed with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Heilmann. Al Kaline delivered an opposite-field safety to reload the bases with two outs. Rudy York lofted a lazy fly ball to center as “Lefty” escaped with merely a two-run deficit. Mickey Lolich (13-2, 2.61) strolled to the hill and promptly retired 3 Hall of Famers (Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby and Bill Terry) in succession. Lolich breezed through four innings with relative ease before encountering trouble in the fifth. He allowed four consecutive singles as Wagner drove in the first run for the National League squad. After retiring Hornsby on a liner back to the pitcher, Terry delivered a two-run base knock up the gap in right-center. Wagner swiped third base but Lolich got out of the jam when he snared Chuck Klein’s liner.  Rudy York and Cal Ripken, Jr. supplied back-to-back hits to mount a threat in the top of the sixth. However pinch-runner Nap Lajoie was caught napping when Carew’s hot smash was snared by Hornsby, who turned and fired to second to complete the double play. Roger Clemens replaced Lolich with one away in the bottom of the sixth. Hack Wilson greeted the “Rocket Man” with an opposite-field single. Clemens caught Joe Torre’s liner back to the box and nearly doubled Wilson off first base. He got Joe Medwick on a fly ball to right to end the frame. Wilbur Cooper relieved Carlton to commence the top of the seventh. Simmons, Greenberg and Brett slashed successive safeties. “The Yankee Clipper” strolled to the dish and scalded a hot smash towards Wagner. “The Flying Dutchman” snatched it on the fly and flipped to Hornsby for a double play. Babe Ruth batted for Kaline with two outs and runners at the corners. “The Bambino” came up short, as his line drive was easily grabbed by Klein in shallow right. Ruth trotted out to the mound to face the National Leaguers in the home half of the seventh. He set down the side in order. Earl Battey led off the eighth with a solid single to center. Carew coaxed a base on balls with one out. Heilmann hammered his fourth safety of the game to load the bases. Wagner handled Simmons’ grounder to short and fired home for the second out. The bases remained juiced for Greenberg. Cooper induced “Hammerin’ Hank” to loft a high fly to center field for the final out of the inning. “The Sultan of Swat” sliced through the heart of the Senior Circuit’s batting order like a hot knife through butter. Cooper remained on the mound as Brett, DiMaggio and Ruth were due to bat for the American Leaguers in the top of the ninth. “Mullet” and DiMaggio rapped base hits to right-center field. The fans were on their feet as Ruth sauntered to the plate. Ruth worked the count full before drawing a base on balls. No outs, bases loaded, top of the ninth… and Cooper is still on the mound.  Al Rosen pinch-hit for Battey and hit a slow roller to the right side. It skipped under a diving Hornsby into right field as Brett crossed the plate with the tying run! A walk to Ripken forced home the go-ahead run. Carew hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Ruth as the American League increased their advantage to 5-3. Wagner left his feet to snag a hot liner by Heilmann. Simmons launched a three-run blast into the left-center field bleachers, giving his club a five-run cushion. Greenberg ripped a single down the left field line and Brett followed with another base knock. Hornsby booted a grounder off the bat of DiMaggio to register another tally. Ruth mercifully sliced a foul pop to third to end the rally. Bob Feller jogged in from the bullpen and set down Wilson, Torre and Medwick to close out the contest as the Americans defeated the Nationals with a final score of 9-3.

Standings at the All-Star Break HB3

Hardball 3 - Mid-Season Standings

I proceeded to simulate the remaining regular season games. The Tigers topped the Majors with a record of 108-54 to outpace the Yankees by a five-game margin. The Twins secured a division crown by three games over the Athletics. In a pair of tightly contested divisions, the Phillies squeaked past the Cardinals by a single game while the Giants survived challenges from the Reds and the Dodgers.

Final Standings – Regular Season HB3

Hardball 3 - Final Standings

I scanned each team’s roster to check out the simulated stats for individuals since the League Leaders option is omitted from Hardball III. Here are some noteworthy numbers. As far as I could tell, none of the bench players were utilized at all and some relievers were barely used.

Ty Cobb (DET).394/29/91/100 SB
Harry Heilmann (DET).361/37/142
Hank Greenberg (DET).324/29/107
Sam Crawford (DET).363/0/61/47 SB
Al Kaline (DET).333/29/98
Mickey Lolich (DET)24-3, 2.59
Denny McLain (DET)19-8, 2.51
Mickey Mantle (NYY) Joe DiMaggio (NYY).322/32/96/40 SB .359/37/106
Babe Ruth (NYY).322/22/100/49 SB
Lou Gehrig (NYY).321/31/108
Jack Chesbro (NYY)23-5, 1.99
Whitey Ford (NYY)18-9, 2.94
Joe Jackson (CLE).372/0/53/59 SB
Nap Lajoie (CLE).331/0/72/52 SB
Tris Speaker (CLE).323/28/120
Al Rosen (CLE).334/26/106
Joe Sewell (CLE).341/0/63
Larry Doby (CLE).332/27/92
Bob Feller (CLE)17-12, 2.54
Bob Lemon (CLE)20-8, 3.34
Ted Williams (BOS).347/22/83
Babe Ruth (BOS)17-8, 2.28
George Sisler (BAL).374/29/87
Wally Bunker (BAL)20-11, 2.63
Cecil Cooper (MIL).326/19/74
Lloyd Moseby (TOR).264/22/58/39 SB
Rod Carew (MIN).340/31/85
Kirby Puckett (MIN).304/32/97
Al Simmons (OAK).380/35/104
Alex Johnson (CAL).309/17/52/43 SB
Carl Reynolds (CHW).351/33/93
Willie Wilson (KCR).286/0/31/106 SB
George Brett (KCR).385/36/113
Richie Ashburn (PHI).340/0/49/61 SB
Chuck Klein (PHI).360/37/130
Lefty O’Doul (PHI).342/22/104
Steve Carlton (PHI)21-7, 3.05
Pete Alexander (PHI)17-11, 2.56
Robin Roberts (PHI)21-7, 2.96
Rogers Hornsby (STL).360/31/75
Joe Torre (STL).315/27/90
Stan Musial (STL).338/35/104
Howie Pollet (STL)18-10, 2.98
John Tudor (STL)19-7, 2.86
Barry Bonds (PIT).257/19/60/72 SB
Honus Wagner (PIT).353/26/67/82 SB
Pie Traynor (PIT).338/14/63
Wilbur Cooper (PIT)18-15, 2.71
Steve Blass (PIT)18-9, 3.53
Bob Veale (PIT)17-8, 2.43
Fergie Jenkins (CHC)17-10, 2.77
Tim Raines (MON).282/27/63/67 SB
Dwight Gooden (NYM)17-10, 2.29
Bill Terry (SFG).347/31/100
Freddy Lindstrom (SFG).355/31/79
Carl Hubbell (SFG)18-8, 2.81
Joe L. Morgan (CIN).262/24/68/75 SB
Eric Davis (CIN).252/19/71/62 SB
Maury Wills (LAD).256/0/23/82 SB
Jackie Robinson (LAD).284/24/84/47 SB
Duke Snider (LAD).279/30/91
Zack Wheat (LAD).357/14/53
Don Drysdale (LAD)18-13, 2.52
Orel Hershiser (LAD)19-9, 2.73
Johnny Sain (ATL)11-11, 2.68
Tony Gwynn (SDP).316/0/36/55 SB
Dave Winfield (SDP).287/24/101
Cesar Cedeno (HOU).287/24/79/38 SB

Playoff results –

Detroit defeated Minnesota, 4 games to 3. San Francisco defeated Philadelphia, 3 games to 2. I elected to manage the underdog Giants while Hughie Jennings was tabbed to skipper the Tigers.

The World Series commenced in the Motor City with the visiting Giants batting against the Tigers’ ace, southpaw Mickey Lolich. Willie Mays coaxed a two-out walk in the first frame and advanced to third on a solid single to right off the bat of Willie McCovey. Mel Ott drilled a hot grounder up the middle but Charlie Gehringer gloved it and flipped to Alan Trammell covering the bag at second to retire the side. Juan Marichal set down the Tigers in order in the home half of the first. Hank Greenberg led off the bottom of the second with a ringing single to center field. Sam Crawford ripped a one-hopper to “Laughing” Larry Doyle, who lunged forward to tag Greenberg as he attempted to advance to second, then tossed over to first baseman Bill Terry to complete the double play. Gehringer pummeled an offering from Marichal over the left-center field fence leading off the bottom of the fourth to plate the first run of the Series. Detroit loaded the bases in the fifth against the “Dominican Dandy” on a pair of singles sandwiched around an error by Doyle. Harry Heilmann clubbed a two-out grand slam into the upper deck and the crowd roared in approval! Mel Ott got the Giants on the board with a solo blast that nearly landed on the roof with two down in the top of the sixth, ending Lolich’s bid for a shutout. Marichal cruised through the sixth inning but he was replaced by left-hander Gary Lavelle following a leadoff double in the seventh by Rudy York (his second two-base hit of the game). The southpaw got out of the jam when Freddie Lindstrom made a leaping grab behind third base of an opposite-field liner by Cobb and Gehringer flew out to “Stretch” in left-center field. The “Say-Hey Kid” crushed a mammoth home run deep into the upper tank in center field with one out in the top of the eighth, cutting the Tigers’ margin to 5-2. Lolich rebounded to finish the frame with successive line drive outs by McCovey and Ott.  “Toothpick” Sam Jones entered the match to face the middle of the Detroit batting order. Greenberg greeted him with a sharp single to center but he was immediately erased when Bill Terry snared a foul liner off Crawford’s bat and then stepped on the bag to complete the twin-killing. Lolich sauntered to the mound in the top of the ninth to face Frankie Frisch, batting for Walker Cooper. Hoping to spark a rally, “The Fordham Flash” laced a liner over Gehringer’s outstretched glove for a base hit to right field. Lindstrom stroked a 1-0 pitch from Lolich towards the left field seats.. the ball barely cleared the wall for a two-run blast. The home team clinged to a 5-4 lead and the fans went silent.  Mark Fidrych replaced Lolich and Roger Bresnahan stepped to the dish, batting for Travis Jackson. The fleet-footed backstop ripped a double up the left-center field gap on the first offering from the “Bird”. Kevin Mitchell grounded to short and Alan Trammell tried to cut down Bresnahan when he broke for third. The runner reversed course and both runners were safe. The count ran full to Doyle before he whiffed. Terry cuffed a single that fell just in front of Crawford but the runners played it safe to make sure the ball wasn’t going to be caught, so Bresnahan had to stop at third base. The bases were loaded with one out in the ninth as Mays settled into the batter’s box. Mays rapped a base hit over Trammell’s head, scoring Bresnahan. Tie ballgame! Cobb quickly retrieved the ball and fired it home as the Giants’ third-base coach wisely held Mitchell up at third. Crawford made a shoestring catch of McCovey’s liner for the second out, with Mitchell again staying anchored to third. Jennings finally decided to bring John Hiller into the contest to relieve Fidrych with Ott at the plate with a 2-1 count. Ott fought off several tough pitches before lining out to Greenberg. Al Kaline delivered a base hit to right field to start the ninth against Jones as Giants’ closer Frank Linzy heated up in the ‘pen. George Kell rapped a two-hopper to Lindstrom, who fired to Doyle to force Kaline at second. Kell beat the relay to first. York supplied his third hit of the day, a frozen rope to right that almost allowed Ott to gun down Kell at second base. Manager Bain signaled to the bullpen and Linzy jogged to the mound. Trammell responded with a base knock into right field but Ott gathered it quickly and fired home as Detroit’s coach opted to hold the runner Kell at third. One out in the bottom of the ninth, bases full of Tigers with Cobb (0-for-4) coming to bat. San Francisco brought their infield in, respecting Cobb’s speed. After fouling off several pitches, Linzy stuck an inside fastball past the “Georgia Peach” for a rare and much-needed strikeout! Gehringer grounded out to first and the game advanced into extra innings. Frisch drew a base on balls to begin the tenth frame and then promptly pilfered second. Hiller struck out Lindstrom and retired the next two batsmen. Greenberg rapped a one-out safety to right against Linzy in the home half of the tenth. Lefty Johnny Antonelli came in to face Crawford, who grounded up the middle for a force out at second. “Wahoo Sam” took off on Antonelli’s first pitch to Kaline and easily swiped the bag. Kaline connected on the next pitch, sending Mays back towards the warning track in center. The ball glanced off his glove and Crawford steamed home with the winning run!

Christy Mathewson and Denny McLain opposed each other in Game 2. Larry Doyle kicked off the affair with a ringing two-bagger into the right field corner. Bill Terry sliced a base hit to left but Doyle had to hold up at second to ensure that the low liner evaded the third baseman, so he only advanced one base. McLain struck out Willie Mays on three pitches. Willie McCovey plated Doyle with a solid base hit to left. With a 2-2 count on Mel Ott, McLain made consecutive attempts to pick Terry off at second, to no avail. The right-hander whiffed “Master Melvin” on the next pitch and got Freddie Lindstrom on a bounding ball to first baseman Hank Greenberg to escape further damage. Mathewson allowed a two-out single to Harry Heilmann and generated a trio of line-drive outs in the bottom of the first. McLain served up a solo shot to Walker Cooper with one out in the second to give San Francisco a two-run cushion. Al Kaline and George Kell delivered back-to-back safeties, placing runners on first and third with one down in the home half of the second inning. “Big Six” retired Rudy York on a shallow fly but Alan Trammell plated the run with a base knock that landed in front of Ott. Ty Cobb remained hitless in the Series after lining out to Doyle and the Tigers trailed 2-1 after two. San Francisco extended their lead with three successive one-out base hits in the top of the third. Travis Jackson’s slow roller squirted under Charlie Gehringer’s glove and Will Clark steamed home from second base. Doyle delivered a base knock up the middle to load the bases for Terry. McLain induced a grounder to Trammell who flipped to the “Mechanical Man” for the force out at second base, but Detroit now trailed 3-1. Crawford tried to ignite the Tigers’ offense with a walk and a stolen base leading off the home half of the fourth. Kaline drilled a single past Jackson and into center fielder. Crawford froze initially, assuming the liner would be caught, so he advanced only one base. Jackson booted Kell’s bouncer to short, allowing Crawford to breeze home as the Tigers closed the margin to 3-2. With runners on first and second and no one out, Mathewson took a deep breath and a slow walk behind the mound to compose himself. “Stonewall” Jackson made up for his miscue when he made a diving stab of Rudy York’s low liner and quickly fired to Doyle to complete the double play! Mathewson grooved a fastball to Trammell, who deposited the ball into the right-field seats for a two-run dinger. Detroit assumed the lead, 4-3, as Mathewson kicked the dirt in disbelief. Cobb finally ended his slump with an opposite-field two-bagger up the gap in left-center field. San Francisco’s bullpen began to stir. Terry prevented further damage when he dove headlong into foul territory to snare a looping liner off Gehringer’s bat. Ott and Lindstrom strung together consecutive two-out hits in the fifth, but Cobb snared a sinking liner by Clark to close out the frame. Mathewson yielded three consecutive base hits with two outs in the fifth, prompting the manager to emerge from the dugout and signal to the bullpen. Johnny Antonelli extinguished the blaze when Lindstrom scooped up a two-hopper off the bat of York and stepped on third base. Detroit took a 5-3 lead in the sixth on a two-out double by Gehringer followed by a single to center by Heilmann. Sam Jones relieved Antonelli and swiftly retired Greenberg on a liner back to the mound. McLain found his mojo and carved up the Giants’ lineup through eight innings. Trammell drew a free pass to start the ninth against Jones. Successive singles by Gehringer and Heilmann brought Greenberg to the dish. “Hammerin’ Hank” delivered a solid single to left as Trammell trotted home with an insurance run. Mike F. McCormick entered to oppose the left-handed hitting Crawford. “Wahoo Sam” ripped a one-hopper to Doyle who fired home to nail Gehringer for the second out. Kaline slashed an opposite-field knock between first and second, scoring Heilmann as the Tigers opened up a four-run advantage. Kell lofted a long fly ball to center which Mays flagged down for the final out of the frame. McLain headed for the showers and Mark Fidrych took his warmup tosses. Frankie Frisch batted for Doyle and coaxed a walk on four pitches. Terry nearly grounded into a double play as he barely outran the relay to first. Mays rapped into a force out at second. “The Bird” flummoxed McCovey as the slugger was caught looking at a change-up on a full count. The teams headed to the “City by the Bay” to resume the Series with San Francisco trailing, two games to none.

The winds were swirling at Candlestick Park as “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity prepared to square off against “Wabash” George Mullin. In the bottom of the first, Mullin got himself into hot water when he loaded the bases with a pair of walks sandwiched around a Willie Mays single. Orlando Cepeda delivered a base hit to right field to plate Bill Terry with the first run of the contest. Freddie Lindstrom had similar ideas and sliced a Mullin offering towards the right side but a leaping grab by first baseman Hank Greenberg extinguished the Giants’ rally. San Francisco threatened again in the second inning as Walker Cooper and Bill Terry supplied base knocks and the “Say Hey Kid” coaxed a base on balls with two away. A diving catch in foul territory by George Kell saved Mullin’s bacon as Willie McCovey could only stare down the third base line in disbelief. Lindstrom lunged into foul ground to snare a liner off the bat of Ty Cobb with two gone in the top of the third, whipping “The Georgia Peach” into a frenzy. Mel Ott coaxed a walk and “Lindy” ripped a one-out double down the left field line. Cooper lofted a long sacrifice fly to center as Ott tagged up and easily trotted home. Mullin punched out Travis Jackson for the final out of the frame, again limiting the damage to a lone tally. “Laughing” Larry Doyle led off the fourth with a base on balls. Terry and Mays followed with successive safeties, placing ducks on the pond for McCovey. Mullin was holding on by a thread but Detroit’s manager Jennings remained confident in his right-hander as no one stirred in the bullpen. “Stretch” slapped a screaming liner right at Harry Heilmann for the first out and Doyle bluffed but decided to stay at third. Ott knocked in the run with a ringing opposite field single. Kell booted a potential double-play ball off the bat of Cepeda, allowing Terry to cross home plate with the fourth run for San Fran. In yet another Houdini act, Mullin retired Lindstrom and Cooper to keep the Tigers within striking distance. McGinnity worked around a couple of two-out safeties by Alan Trammell and Cobb to maintain a shutout through five frames. Mark Fidrych began to stretch and toss a few pitches down in the Detroit ‘pen. Mullin’s struggles continued as he issued a free pass to Doyle and yielded a single to Terry with one away. The rally was snuffed out when Mays lined to Greenberg for an unassisted double play. Jennings finally relieved Mullin when Fidrych took the mound for the third straight game in the home half of the sixth. “The Bird” walked Cepeda with two outs in the inning and gave up successive singles to Lindstrom and Cooper as the Giants added to their advantage. Batting for Jackson, Kevin “World” Mitchell slapped a base hit to right but Heilmann hastily fired to the catcher to hold the runners at bay. Doyle strolled to the plate with the sacks juiced. “Laughing Larry” fouled off a couple of inside fastballs and then stroked the next offering into left field for a single, with all of the baserunners moving up ninety feet. Terry drilled his fourth hit of the day just in front of Heilmann and San Francisco extended the lead to 7-0. The crowd roared in approval as Mays stepped up to the plate. Jennings called down to the bullpen and Dizzy Trout sprang up from his seat to start warming up. Fidrych snared a line drive back through the box to mercifully douse the fire as Mays stranded three runners on base. McGinnity gave up back-to-back hits with two outs in the visitor’s seventh but he got Charlie Gehringer on a grounder to Doyle. Trout came on in relief of Fidrych to commence the bottom of the seventh. Heilmann smoked a double into the right field corner leading off the eighth. Greenberg laced a line drive through the hole between short and third but Heilmann inexplicably dove back into second, perhaps thinking that Lindstrom would make an amazing play to his left to trap the sinking liner. San Francisco’s bullpen stirred and Rube Marquard began to play catch with Roger Bresnahan. Detroit finally plated a runner when “Wahoo” Sam Crawford punched a two-bagger up the left-center field gap. McGinnity received a rousing ovation and he doffed his cap as he exited in favor of Marquard. Al Kaline worked the count full before striking out. Kell flew out just shy of the warning track in right field, but Greenberg elected not to challenge Ott’s arm. Rudy York’s two-out single brought “Hammerin’ Hank” home and the Tigers continued to chip away at the Giants’ lead. McCovey raced in and grabbed a soft liner off the bat of Trammell for the third out. Frank Linzy worked around a Gehringer safety to record the last 3 outs of the contest including a strikeout of “Hammerin’ Hank”. Final score: Giants 7, Tigers 2. San Francisco would look to even up the Series the following day at Candlestick Park.

Southpaws Carl Hubbell and Hal Newhouser received the starting nods for their respective ball clubs in Game 4. The Giants ripped three straight singles with two outs in the bottom of the first but “Prince Hal” eluded harm when Orlando Cepeda grounded into a force play at second base. Freddie Lindstrom and Walker Cooper delivered consecutive base knocks in the second inning and Travis Jackson successfully sacrificed to move both runners into scoring position. Frankie Frisch, substituting for Larry Doyle against the left-handed Newhouser, lined an opposite-field single to right to plate “Lindy” with the first tally of the match. Bill Terry followed with a slap hit that curled underneath George Kell’s glove for another hit, scoring Cooper. Willie Mays got jammed with a Newhouser fastball and rolled over to shortstop where Alan Trammell scooped and fired to Kell to force the lead runner. Willie McCovey whiffed but the home team had a 2-0 advantage. Travis Jackson swatted a three-run blast over the chain-link fence in left field with two down in the third to extend San Fran’s lead to 5-0. The G-Men continued to bash Newhouser’s offerings an inning later as Terry and McCovey thumped a pair of base knocks. Terry darted home and McCovey bolted to third when Mel Ott’s single scooted underneath Harry Heilmann’s glove for an error. Cepeda sliced another hit towards the right field line to deliver “Stretch” and move Ott up to second. Despite a fully-rested bullpen with the exception of Mark Fidrych, Detroit’s skipper Hughie Jennings elected to permit the pummeling to proceed. At this point Newhouser had surrendered 7 runs and allowed the opposition to rack up 13 safeties. Lindstrom flared a single into shallow center to load the bases. Mercifully Cooper rapped into a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play and the Tigers jogged back to their dugout only behind by seven runs. Hubbell got into hot water in the fifth, putting ducks on the pond after serving up a pair of singles to Sam Crawford and Al Kaline followed by a one-out walk to Rudy York. Trammell drove in the Tigers’ first run with a line-drive single into right field. Ty Cobb slapped a worm-burner towards Frisch who fired home to force out Kaline. Charlie Gehringer lashed a one-hopper to Lindstrom who took three steps to his right and stepped on third base for the last out of the inning. The Giants’ lumber crew licked their chops when Newhouser ambled to the mound for the bottom of the fifth. Jackson and Frisch whacked back-to-back hits but Jackson got a little overconfident and was nearly doubled off the bag at second when Cobb raced in to snare a liner off Terry’s bat. Mays and McCovey rapped into fielder’s choices as Newhouser notched his second goose egg of the day. Jackson absolutely obliterated an inside fastball from “Prince Hal” for a three-run wallop into the upper deck in left as the Giants padded their lead. Obviously the algorithm for the computer AI to consider removing the current pitcher is flawed as the bullpen remained idle in spite of 10 runs and 18 hits produced by the home club. Frisch sliced one to the opposite field with Heilmann and Cobb converging in deep right-center but the ball bounded off the warning track and the wall before Heilmann corralled it. Frisch pulled into second base with a stand-up double. Newhouser wanted to hide but Jennings wouldn’t budge from his perch in the visitors’ dugout. Terry lofted a lazy long fly to center and “The Georgia Peach” camped underneath it to record the third out of the inning. Jack Morris relieved Newhouser to begin the bottom of the eighth and he contributed a goose egg to the scoreboard. Detroit was unable to muster any offense as the “Meal Ticket” was in complete command. “King Carl” whiffed Kaline to complete a masterful four-hit, one-run effort to knot the series at two games apiece.

The aces returned to the mound in Game 5 as Denny McLain matched up against Christy Mathewson. McLain put a pair of runners aboard in the home half of the first but he wriggled out of trouble when Mel Ott grounded into a force play, shortstop to second base. “Wahoo” Sam Crawford laced a double to the opposite-field up the left-center field gap to start the visitor’s second. Al Kaline’s shallow single to right placed runners at the corners with nobody out. Freddie Lindstrom made a brilliant diving stab of George Kell’s line drive in foul territory for the first out, nearly doubling off Crawford in the process! Detroit struck first as Rudy York delivered a clean hit to left field as Crawford jogged home. “Matty” was clearly struggling with his control as Alan Trammell worked the count full before drawing a walk to load the bases. Ty Cobb smashed a liner directly at Larry Doyle, who snared it and fired over to Travis Jackson covering second base to double York off the bag. Crawford coaxed a leadoff walk in the fourth and stole second with one out. He got a little bit greedy and broke for third two pitches later. Walker Cooper fired a perfect peg and Lindstrom applied the tag. The botched stolen base attempt proved costly when Kell drove the next pitch to the right-center field wall for a two-base knock. York slapped a safety to right, barely over the outstretched glove of Doyle, advancing Kell to third. The Tigers failed to capitalize when Ott made a shoestring catch of Trammell’s sinking line drive. In the subsequent inning Detroit made another crucial mistake on the base paths. Cobb spanked a single to right field to start the fifth and promptly pilfered second base. “The Georgia Peach” broke for third and Cooper’s throw was right on the money. Heilmann followed with a single up the gap in left which would have easily scored Cobb. Instead, “Big Six” escaped unscathed when Jackson went up the ladder to snare a sizzling line drive off the bat of Hank Greenberg. San Francisco finally mounted a rally against McLain in the bottom of the fifth, putting ducks on the pond with a walk and a pair of singles. Doyle went down on strikes. Bill Terry got a hold of an inside fastball but it hooked foul at the last moment. He drove the next pitch into right-center for a base hit, plating Lindstrom and Cooper as the Giants took a 2-1 lead. The pitchers remained locked in a duel into the eighth. Ott stroked a two-out base hit and pinch-runner Roger Bresnahan stole second in broad daylight. McLain struck out Lindstrom on three pitches to send the game into the ninth. “Matty” strolled to the hill while the Giants got Gary Lavelle and Frank Linzy ready down in the ‘pen. On a 2-0 delivery, Kaline drilled the ball off the top of the chain-link fence in left for a leadoff double. Kell swung over the top of a 2-2 curveball for the first out. York rapped a bullet back through the box which deflected off Mathewson’s glove and rolled behind the mound for an infield hit as Kaline held up at second. Linzy entered to face Trammell with two on and one away. The shortstop hacked at an 0-1 fastball and poked a looping liner towards right fielder Ross Youngs, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement. Youngs dashed in and made a running catch to preserve the game for San Fran. Cobb pounced on the next offering from Linzy and slapped it into right for a base hit. Kaline got a late jump and had to hold up at third. The Giants’ skipper leapt from his perch in the dugout and sprinted to the mound where he proceeded to signal for the left-hander, Lavelle, to face Charlie Gehringer. Lindstrom nearly ended the contest with another fielding gem but the foul fly by “The Mechanical Man” landed just out of his reach. With the count 2-1, Lavelle threw one low and outside. Gehringer reached out and slashed a low liner towards third. Lindstrom gloved it cleanly for the final out as the home crowd cheered wildly. The Giants were heading back to Motown ahead 3 games to 2.

Detroit players and fans remained upbeat in spite of the San Francisco sweep as Mickey Lolich prepared to even the Series while Giants’ right-hander Juan Marichal attempted to put the finishing touches on a World Championship season. Both pitchers traded zeroes for the first three frames. Willie Mays blasted an opposite-field wallop into the upper deck in right-center leading off the fourth inning. San Francisco extended their lead to 2-0 when Freddie Lindstrom deposited a fastball from Lolich in the vicinity of May’s big fly to commence the top of the fifth. Two outs later, Frankie Frisch turned on an off-speed delivery and crushed it into the upper tank in left-center. Hank Greenberg lined a clean single to left to break up Marichal’s no-hit bid leading off the home half of the fifth. “Wahoo” Sam Crawford followed with a base hit up the middle. The Tigers’ faithful started to make some noise to spur on the hometown team. Al Kaline went down on strikes but George Kell scratched out an infield hit to load the bases. Greenberg tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly to right off the bat of Rudy York, cutting the visitor’s advantage to 3-1. Alan Trammell lined out to his counterpart as the “Dominican Dandy” escaped the jam. Ty Cobb and Charlie Gehringer supplied back-to-back base knocks to start the sixth. Greenberg ripped a one-out single through the left side of the infield. Cobb had to hold up briefly at second and he had to scamper to third as Willie McCovey quickly retrieved the ball. Bases loaded and only one away for Crawford as the Giants’ bullpen began to stir. The left fielder hit a dying quail to center which dropped in front of Mays for a base hit, plating Cobb. Marichal whiffed Kaline for the second out and Kell lined out to “Lindy” at third to quell the rally. Gary Lavelle relieved Marichal in the bottom of the seventh after Detroit began the inning with successive singles by York and Trammell. Cobb delivered a base hit to right but York slammed on the brakes after making the turn at third. On a full count with ducks on the pond, Gehringer watched as Lavelle’s offering was called a ball to force home the tying run! Sam Jones jogged in from the bullpen and promptly struck out Harry Heilmann for the first out. The Tigers took the lead when “Hammerin’ Hank” lofted a medium-deep fly ball to left, which allowed Trammell to score easily. “The Georgia Peach” was gunned down attempting to pilfer third base but the Giants now trailed, 4-3. Jones yielded a pair of safeties along with a walk but Mike F. McCormick got “The Georgia Peach” on a fly ball just in front of the warning track in left to retire the side. Lolich sauntered to the mound to face the heart of the San Francisco batting order in the top of the ninth. He snared a hot liner off the bat of the “Say Hey Kid” for out #1. “Stretch” stroked a single to center and Roger Bresnahan entered the game as a pinch-runner. In a daring move, Bresnahan broke for second and slid safely under the tag for a stolen base. Greenberg dove into foul territory to snare a line drive by Ott for the second out. Lolich sat Orlando Cepeda down on three pitches to complete the Tigers’ comeback victory and force a seventh game, winner-take-all matchup on the following day.

The stage was set for an epic battle at Tiger Stadium as George Mullin and “Iron Man” Joe McGinnity drew the starting assignment for their respective teams. San Francisco threatened almost immediately as Bill Terry rocked a long one-out single to right and Mullin walked Willie Mays on four straight pitches. Consecutive strikeouts by Willie McCovey and Mel Ott elicited cheers from the hometown fanatics. Pitching carefully to Ty Cobb, McGinnity issued a leadoff walk.  After Charlie Gehringer went down on strikes, Harry Heilmann split the gap in left-center for a two-base knock. Cobb had ideas but wisely held up at third. Hank Greenberg grounded out weakly to second baseman Larry Doyle. Cobb bluffed towards home but did not advance. Sam Crawford was retired on a one-hopper to third, so both clubs failed to score in the first despite placing runners in scoring position. The pitcher’s duel raged into the fifth frame. Will Clark delivered a one-out single to right and Frankie Frisch pinch-ran for him. “The Fordham Flash” wasted no time, taking off for second on Mullin’s next offering to Walker Cooper. The umpire flashed the “safe” sign and Frisch dusted himself off. Cooper laced a base hit to left which dropped right in front of Crawford but the ferocious liner prevented Frisch from advancing. Travis Jackson whiffed but Doyle came through with a clutch single to center, scoring Frisch for the first run of the game. Terry followed with a ground ball base hit between first and second. Cooper took a wide turn but reluctantly returned to the third base bag. The “Say Hey Kid” dumped a bases-loaded single in front of Heilmann in shallow right to drive in Cooper with the second tally of the inning for the visitors. “Stretch” had an opportunity to blow the game wide open, but he bounced weakly into a 6-4 force out. The Tigers rallied in the home half of the fifth. Rudy York and Alan Trammell supplied successive singles. York scored and Trammell advanced to third when Trammell’s hit deflected off Mays’ glove for a two-base error. McGinnity caught Cobb looking at an off-speed offering for strike three. “The Mechanical Man” rapped a line drive into center field, sending Trammell home with the tying run. Greenberg hammered a two-out single to left which prompted action in the Giants’ bullpen. Doyle gloved a hot liner off Crawford’s bar to keep the game even. George Kell put Detroit ahead with an opposite-field screaming line drive that just cleared the top of the fence in right-center. The Tigers’ faithful roared in approval! Cooper led off the top of the seventh with a booming single that landed between Cobb and Heilmann. Roger Bresnahan substituted for Cooper on the base paths and immediately nabbed second base on a straight steal. Jackson lined into a 4-6 double play as Bresnahan was caught too far off the bag. Carl Hubbell replaced McGinnity on the mound to oppose the top of the lineup. Cobb nearly beat out a two-hopper to the third baseman. Gehringer got a hold of Hubbell’s screwball and deposited the ball into the right-center field bleachers to extend the Tigers’ lead to 4-2. Dizzy Trout entered the match in relief of Mullin to commence the top of the eighth. After Terry struck out looking, Mays absolutely demolished Trout’s slider and broke into a slow home run trot as the ball settled into the upper deck. Detroit maintained a one-run advantage as “Stretch” took a couple of practice cuts in the on-deck circle before proceeding to the plate. McCovey worked the count full before taking a base on balls. Orlando Cepeda sprinted down to first as San Fran brought another pinch-runner into the game. Ott launched a rocket off the left-field wall but Cepeda tripped as he rounded the bag and had to hold up at second. Freddie Lindstrom ripped a hard grounder towards third. Kell smothered the ball, sprang to his feet and then couldn’t decide where to throw it. All of the runners were safe and the Giants had the bases loaded with only one out! On a 3-2 pitch, Frisch lined back to Trout and Ott was nearly doubled off second base. Bresnahan smashed one up the middle but Trout lept and grabbed it for the final out of the frame. Trammell supplied an insurance run when he singled to right with two on and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. John Hiller inherited a two-run lead as he trotted to the mound in the top of the ninth. Matt D. Williams, batting for Jackson, flew out to Cobb for the first out. Doyle lofted a routine fly to center and Cobb corralled it. The Tigers’ fans were on their feet. Terry looked at a called strike three over the outer half of the plate. Bedlam ensued as the players met in a dogpile near the mound and the stadium security was overwhelmed by spectators. The home team emerged victorious in every Series matchup!

Hardball 4

Hardball 4 only permits importing and exporting of Hardball 4 team files, so there is no method to bring in leagues or teams from Hardball 3 or competitor’s products. This edition is similar to its predecessor with the addition of the League Leaders option being among the few product enhancements to speak of, at least in terms of the simulation aspects. The manager is still unable to create more than one lineup or swap defensive positions and the game is missing a “one-pitch” option so the manage-only mode can be a bit tedious. Utilizing the 1994 MLBPA Players Disk, I set out to re-create the ’94 campaign without all of the acrimony surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Electing to use the default lineups and starting rotations, I simulated the first half of the schedule (one week at a time).

Standings at the All-Star Break HB4

Hardball 4 - Mid-Season Standings

The All-Star Break appeared on the calendar and I chose to manage the American League in the Mid-Summer Classic. The algorithm to select the All-Star batters and lineups functioned as expected. However I found that both AL and NL pitching staffs did not include any relievers. While managing the All-Star contest, I noted several differences between Hardball 3 and Hardball 4. When the players ran out to the field, the umpires followed suit. As the running on/off the field takes about 30 seconds every half-inning, you can press the SPACE bar after Al Michaels wraps up the post-inning scoring update to skip ahead to the start of the next inning. Depending on the batter’s handedness, the center fielder moves slightly towards left or right field. After a strikeout, I noticed that the infielders threw the ball “around the horn” left-handed (?!) That doesn’t speak well for the QA testing – any casual baseball fan should know that it’s an extremely rare occurrence for an infielder (other than a first baseman) to throw lefty. Not to mention that I’m playing with patch #2 installed… nobody noticed this? Another issue that should have been addressed – an at-bat should not be charged when a batter hits a sacrifice fly. While managing against the computer in the All-Star Game and World Series, I noted that the AI often replaced a pitcher during the middle of an at-bat. This situation is a very rare occurrence in the Majors and usually limited to substitution of an injured hurler. On a brighter note, kudos to Brian Shaw for the funky soundtrack!

Ramon Martinez (12-7, 3.42) squared off against Dennis Martinez (14-0, 4.05). Ramon struck out the side in the top of the first.  Dennis walked the bases loaded in the first but escaped without yielding a run after striking out Darren “Dutch” Daulton. The computer appeared to adjust his management style specific to the All-Star Game as he warmed up relief pitchers in the third inning of a scoreless match. John Dettmer relieved Dennis Martinez and got the final out of the frame and then David Cone entered the contest in the fourth. “Coney” issued free passes to Moises Alou and Kevin Mitchell. Subsequently he plunked Daulton to put ducks on the pond with nobody out. Randy D. Johnson and Steve Karsay began to stir down in the ‘pen. Ken Caminiti coaxed a base on balls after working the count full. Cone kicked the mound in disgust as Alou jogged home with the first run of the game. Shawon Dunston, the free-swinging never-walking shortstop, drew a walk and the carousel continued. That was the end of Cone’s disastrous outing as Karsay strolled in from the bullpen. Wally Joyner made a leaping stab of a Bip Roberts’ liner to prevent a hit and Marquis Grissom lined out to shortstop to retire the side. Somehow the National Leaguers notched a couple of runs while remaining hitless through four frames.  Consecutive safeties by Roberto Alomar, Robin Ventura and Mike Stanley in the top of the fifth provided the first tally of the day for the Junior Circuit. Karsay got into trouble in the fifth, allowing back-to-back singles to Tony Gwynn and Jeff Bagwell followed by a base on balls to Alou. Kevin Mitchell took a couple of practice cuts in the on-deck circle and then calmly walked up to the plate as the American League skipper raised his left arm to signal for the southpaw, Randy D. Johnson. “World” took four straight pitches off the plate to force in another run. Daulton flew out to shallow right field in foul ground and the runners were unable to advance. Caminiti whiffed but Dunston delivered a pair with a single down the left field line. Roberts lifted a can of corn to left which Albert Belle settled under for the final out, but the Senior Circuit now held a 5-1 advantage after five frames. Belle crushed a two-out, two-run jack into the right-center field bleachers to close the margin to 5-3. One inning later, Chili Davis laced an opposite-field safety to deep left field and John Valentin tripled up the right-center field gap to drive home the fourth run for the AL squad. Lofton’s sacrifice fly to left-center scored Valentin with the tying run. Roger Clemens relieved the “Big Unit” to commence the bottom of the seventh and he retired the side in order. Joey Hamilton relieved Ramon Martinez in the top of the eighth after Wally Joyner sliced an opposite-field double that bounced off the left-center field wall. Alomar grounded out to short to end the threat. Grissom led off the home eighth with a booming double in the left field corner and he swiped third with one away and Bagwell at the dish. Scott Kamieniecki relieved Clemens and got Bagwell on a medium fly to left. Grissom inexplicably failed to challenge Belle’s arm and stayed glue to the third base bag. Alou lined a two-out single to deep left, scoring Grissom with the go-ahead run. Mitchell hammered a two-base knock which Belle briefly bobbled, allowing Alou to cruise home with an insurance tally. Jimmy Key entered the contest and struck out Daulton to prevent further damage but the NL held a 7-5 lead heading to the top of the ninth. Hamilton set the American Leaguers down in order, inducing a two-hopper to shortstop by pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga to finish the game.

Reviewing the league leaders at the All-Star Break, it was curious to note such “speedsters” as J.T. Snow (49), Spike Owen (45) and Dave Clark (42) among the stolen base leaders. The regular season leaders upon the conclusion of the season featured the usual suspects (Otis Nixon, Barry Bonds, Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson, etc.) but the team totals were blown way out of proportion. Every team in the league pilfered more than 350 bases and San Francisco claimed the crown with 527 successful swipes! For the sake of comparison, Kansas City projected to lead the Majors with 197 stolen bases using the actual statistics from 1994 (pro-rated to 162 games) while the Mets would have finished with a paltry 35!

The pennant races in the six divisions gave many teams hope for a playoff run as all the second place teams were within three wins of the divisional leaders. The Orioles edged the Yankees by one game to win the American League East. The Indians finished with the best record in the Junior Circuit with 97 victories while the Athletics secured the Western Division title while barely finishing over .500 at 82-80. Over in the Senior Circuit, Montreal and Houston seized their division titles with 93 wins apiece. The Dodgers reached the 90-win mark to outpace the Padres by a five-game margin. The Yankees and Reds secured playoff berths as the Wild Cards in their respective leagues.  Oakland outlasted Baltimore, 3 games to 2 while the Bronx Bombers upended the Tribe in 5 games to advance to the Championship Series. In the National League, Montreal swept Los Angeles and Cincinnati took 3 of 4 from the ‘Stros. The Yankees and A’s split a pair in the Big Apple and then the Pinstripers outpitched the Green and Gold back in Oaktown. The Expos lost two contests in the Queen City but stormed back to triumph in four straight, punching their ticket to the World Series.

Final Standings – Regular Season HB4

Hardball 4 - Final Standings

Yankee Stadium was filled to capacity as Scott Kamieniecki took his warm-up tosses. Marquis Grissom ignited the Expos’ offense with a base hit followed by a pair of stolen bases. Cliff Floyd grounded out to shortstop but Montreal notched their first tally when Moises Alou hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field. New York answered back in the home half of the first against Pedro J. Martinez. Luis Polonia singled, advanced to second on a liner to center off the bat of Don Mattingly, and scored when Danny Tartabull lifted a wind-blown pop fly that evaded Sean Berry’s glove just beyond the cut of the infield behind third base. Tartabull wandered too far off the first base bag on Paul O’Neill’s line drive to right and he was doubled off when Larry Walker fired a perfect laser to Floyd. “Pedro el Grande” served up a couple of solo shots by Mike Stanley and Mike Gallego in the bottom of the second as the Bronx Bombers seized a 3-1 lead. New York kept Martinez on the ropes as Pat F. Kelly laced a single to left and Polonia roped a two-bagger into the right field corner. Wade Boggs lined out to right for the second out, but Mattingly mashed a three-run opposite-field tater. The Yankee fanatics were jubilant as Tartabull and O’Neill produced back-to-back safeties, knocking Pedro from the game in favor of long reliever Gil Heredia. Stanley collected his second hit of the inning to drive in Tartabull. Bernie Williams flied out to right to close out the rally with the New York squad ahead by 6. Polonia slapped another two-base hit into the left field corner with two outs in the third and Boggs blasted a two-run dinger into the right field bleachers. Behind 9-1 with two away in the home half of the fifth, southpaw Kirk Rueter was called upon to face the top of the order. The pesky Polonia drilled a hot smash under Mike Lansing’s outstretched glove for his fourth hit of the game. Rueter plunked Boggs in the shoulder and both benches jawed at each other. “Donnie Baseball” hammered another single to increase the Yankees’ advantage to 10-1. Buck Showalter sent Kamieniecki to the showers after pitching 5 innings of 1-run ball. Sterling Hitchcock entered the contest and promptly set down the ‘Spos in order. Tim Scott poured gasoline on the fire in the seventh as the Yankees loaded the bases, tallied a run on a base hit by Mattingly, and brought the house down with a Tartabull grand salami. Jeff Shaw got torched in the eighth inning for three runs as the scoreboard displayed 18 runs for the hometown team. Kamieniecki and Hitchcock scattered seven hits over nine frames as the Expos were outplayed and overmatched in the opener.

Veteran left-hander Jimmy Key squared off against Ken Hill in Game 2. New York picked up right where they left off in the previous contest, battering Hill with four base knocks in the first five at-bats to take a 1-0 lead. Mike Stanley stepped to the dish and deposited an 0-1 curveball well beyond the fence in left for a grand slammer! Hill pawed at the mound while the Yankees batted around. Bernie Williams singled and Pat F. Kelly belted a two-out double to bring Luis Polonia to the plate for the second time in the first inning. Gil Heredia and Kirk Rueter hurriedly fired warm-up tosses down in the Expos bullpen. Polonia slapped a two-run single to right and the rout was officially on as the Bombers went ahead by seven. Wade Boggs lined out to first-sacker Randy Milligan as a dejected Hill headed slowly towards the visitor’s bench. Gil Heredia relieved Hill to commence the bottom of the second. He yielded four hits over 1 2/3 innings but did not allow a run. Kirk Rueter trotted in from the bullpen and retired Boggs on a grounder to first baseman Randy Milligan. Montreal attempted to rally in the visitor’s fourth as Key allowed base hits by Wil Cordero and Larry Walker. Lenny Webster broke the ice with a two-out single to right field as Cordero raced around and slid under Stanley’s tag. Rondell White lined out to shortstop but the Expos were on the board, trailing 7-1. Don Mattingly singled to right leading off the home half of the fourth inning and the Montreal manager leapt from his perch in the corner of the dugout, sprinted to the pitcher’s mound and waved his right arm. The outfield gates swung open and Tim Scott sprinted in to become the fourth Expos hurler to partake in the contest. Danny Tartabull hit a bullet to left which Moises Alou corralled on the first bounce. After Paul O’Neill lined out to deep right, Stanley dialed long-distance and connected on a blast that landed halfway up the left-center field bleachers. Williams belted a low change-up into the right field seats as the Pinstripe squad extended their advantage to 11-1. Key finally tired a bit in the eighth. He gave up back-to-back singles to Milligan and Mike Lansing. Polonia dropped a routine fly to left-center off the bat of Marquis Grissom, allowing Milligan to cross home plate and placing runners on second and third with nobody out. Moises Alou lashed a one-out base hit to right field, driving in Lansing with the Expos’ third run of the day. Key whiffed Walker and got Sean Berry to ground into a 6-4 force play to end the inning. Montreal mounted another rally with three consecutive hits to start the top of the ninth. Lansing’s laser to shortstop was caught by Randy Velarde. Grissom’s base knock to right landed directly in front of defensive replacement Daryl Boston, scoring the Expos backstop, Lenny Webster. Cordero bounced back to the box and Key fired home to initiate a 1-2-3 game-ending double play. The Bombers secured the 11-4 victory and both teams prepared to fly North of the Border to continue the Series.

Olympic Stadium was filled to capacity as the visiting Yankees enlisted Melido Perez in their quest for a third straight victory while Montreal countered with left-hander Jeff Fassero. In the bottom of the third, Perez got into a bases-loaded jam after yielding a couple of hits along with a walk to Cliff Floyd. Expos’ left fielder Moises Alou rapped a two-base hit that eluded Danny Tartabull, normally the Bombers’ DH, as two runs crossed the dish. Larry Walker followed with a three-run rocket that just cleared the right field fence. After getting absolutely demolished in the Big Apple, Montreal finally had something to cheer about! Wil Cordero drilled a two-base knock off the left-field wall and Darrin Fletcher knocked him in with an opposite-field single as the Expos opened up a 6-run cushion. Steve Howe entered the game with no outs in the third after Marquis Grissom led off the inning with a double to deep left. Alou walked and Cordero hammered a two-out single to left field to drive Grissom home. Fassero left the game after four innings having allowed three hits and no runs. Tim Scott, appearing in his third straight contest, yielded a run when pinch-hitter Luis Polonia blooped a base hit into center to knock in Randy Velarde. Bernie Williams delivered a solid single to left to put ducks on the pond and Wade Boggs drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run. Mel Rojas replaced Scott and extinguished the threat when Don Mattingly smoked one to right that Walker snagged in front of the warning track. Yankees’ skipper Buck Showalter called upon left-hander Sterling Hitchcock to hold the Expos in check. Mike Lansing greeted him with a single and Rojas slapped a base knock over the shortstop’s glove and into shallow left field. Grissom hit a scalding liner past Boggs but Lansing was only able to advance one base. The sacks were juiced and Lenny Webster was announced as the pinch-hitter. The belting backstop blasted a base hit between Velarde and Boggs. The ball ticked off Tartabull’s glove for an error and Montreal’s third base coach waved Rojas around. The two-run safety pushed the Expos’ advantage to 9-2. Velarde made a diving stop and potentially saved at least one run on a grounder by Alou. However Walker connected on a long drive into the right-field bleachers to give the home team a 10-run lead! Cordero cranked the next pitch just inside the left field foul pole as New York was in full meltdown mode. Tartabull’s misadventures in left field continued as he turned a Berry base hit into a two-bagger. Lansing flew out to left field to finally conclude the frame but the Pinstripe crew now trailed 13-2. Rojas endured control problems as he plunked a pair of Bombers including pinch-hitter Daryl Boston with the sacks full. Jeff Shaw strolled in from the pen and swiftly induced a double-play grounder and a harmless fly ball to right to prevent any further damage. Showalter summoned Bob Wickman to the mound as both managers inserted reserves into the lineup. Montreal tacked on a run in the bottom of the sixth when Rondell White’s single to left plated Juan Bell. The combination of Shaw, Butch Henry, Gil Heredia and John Wetteland shut New York down in the final frames as the Expos closed out a 14-3 victory.

Jim Abbott took his turn on the mound while Montreal brought Pedro J. Martinez back on three day’s rest for Game 4. The Yankees were eager to get on the scoreboard following their Game 3 debacle. The visitors rapped four base hits in their first five at-bats against “Petey” to take an early 1-0 lead. Abbott worked in and out of a bases-loaded jam in the home half of the first. Paul O’Neill knocked in a run with a single in the visitor’s third. Moises Alou turned on an inside cut fastball and sent a high drive into the left field bleachers with two out and no one aboard in the home third to cut the Yankees’ advantage in half. Larry Walker hammered a single up the middle and then New York’s outfield adventures continued as Luis Polonia misplayed Wil Cordero’s fly ball to left into a two-bagger as Walker raced all the way around from first to knot the scoring at 2-2. Lenny Webster reached on an error when his hot smash deflected off third baseman Wade Boggs’ glove. Martinez was lifted for pinch-hitter Juan Bell after yielding nine hits in three innings. Bell responded with a single down the left field line but Abbott pulled another Houdini act and the game remained tied at 2. Gil Heredia got the nod in long relief and entered in time to face the heart of the Bronx Bombers’ batting order. Don Mattingly laced a single to center but he was gunned down on a broken hit-and-run play. Sterling Hitchcock replaced Jim Abbott as the home team prepared to bat in the bottom of the fourth.  The hometown team responded with three straight singles. Sean Berry struck out but Lenny Webster cleared the bases with a deep drive into the upper deck in left, staking the ‘Spos to a 6-2 lead. One inning later, Moises Alou tattooed a Steve Howe heater into the left-center field seats for a two-run job. The lower half of the lineup scratched out three hits against the portsider. Showalter called on Bob Wickman to staunch the bleeding but Mike Lansing drilled a base hit into left to plate another run. Lou Frazier, batting for Kirk Rueter, got drilled by an inside fastball by Wickman to force home another run. Marquis Grissom put a charge into the next pitch but Polonia flagged it down at the warning track for the final out. Montreal fans were on their feet as their team took the field in the seventh inning, eight runs ahead of the vaunted Yankees squad. The Expos’ skipper signaled for Jeff Shaw. Bernie Williams lashed an RBI single on a hit-and-run play with two outs in the frame. Alou absolutely annihilated a Wickman offering with one away in the home half of the seventh, sending a rocket down the left field line just inside the foul pole for his third round-tripper and fifth base knock of the contest! Walker subsequently slashed a double up the right-center field gap for his fourth hit of the game. Polonia picked up his teammate with a fine sliding catch of a line drive off the bat of Freddie Benavides and he caught Walker too far off second base for an inning-ending double play. Shaw served up an opposite-field wallop to Mike Gallego with one down in the eighth. Tim Scott twirled a scoreless ninth as the Expos triumphed 11-4 and evened the series at two games apiece.

The momentum has swung in Montreal’s direction and Yankees were feeling the pressure to turn things around as Game 5 got underway. Ken Hill cruised through the top of the first and his teammates spotted him a two-run cushion when Wil Cordero delivered a bases-loaded single to left field. Scott Kamieniecki suffered control issues, plunking a pair of batters and yielding an RBI base hit to Sean Berry in the home half of the second inning. Hill turned in a defensive gem when he caught Mike Stanley’s line drive back to the box, whirled and fired to first to double off Paul O’Neill in the top of the third. Darrin Fletcher’s sky-high pop-up inexplicably landed just beyond the line delineating the back of the infield (perhaps Wade Boggs lost it in the lights?) Sean Berry turned on a Kamieniecki breaking ball and swatted it deep into the left-field seats for a two-run shot to extend Montreal’s advantage to 5-0 in the bottom of the third. Buck Showalter made the call to the bullpen and selected Sterling Hitchcock to relieve Kamieniecki as the home team prepared to take their hacks in the bottom of the fourth. The Yankees’ skipper was conferring with his coaches in the corner of the visitor’s dugout when Marquis Grissom belted the lefty’s first offering into the left field seats. Moises Alou drilled a one-out double, pilfered third base and tallied another run on a Larry Walker’s single to right field. Hill ran into some trouble with two outs in the fifth as he served up a hard-hit two-bagger into the left field corner by Stanley followed by a pair of walks to Mike Gallego and Pat F. Kelly. Matt Nokes, pinch-hitting for Hitchcock, hammered a two-run base knock that dropped in front of Walker. Luis Polonia’s subsequent single drove in Kelly and precipitated another relief outing for Gil Heredia as Hill was sent to the showers. Boggs lined out to the pitcher to kill the rally but the Yankees were within striking distance at 7-3. The Expos loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning against Pinstripers’ reliever Bob Wickman. Mike Lansing looped a safety that landed just in front of Polonia and everyone moved up 90 feet. Juan Bell, batting for Heredia, ripped a single down the right field line. O’Neill swiftly corralled it to prevent two runs from scoring, but the ‘Spos now led 9-3 and Wickman had yet to retire a batter in the frame. Showalter’s pitching coach finally placed a call down to the ‘pen and Paul Gibson quickly began to warm up. Wickman found his mojo as he settled down and escaped the inning without further incident. Montreal tacked on a run in the home eighth when Walker greeted Gibson with a titanic blast into the upper deck in right field for the Expos’ twentieth hit of the game. Tim Spehr raked a two-bagger into the left field corner with one away and he came around on a single to left by Lansing. Tim Scott relieved Butch Henry to start the top of the ninth as his club held a comfortable lead, 11-3. He allowed three straight singles and then the Expos gifted the Bombers a run when Alou dropped Stanley’s routine fly ball to left. Gallego smacked a base hit down the line in left to plate O’Neill. Scott issued a bases-loaded walk to Kelly as New York moved within striking distance at 11-6. The exasperated Expos’ skipper relieved Scott of his duties as Mel Rojas jogged in from the ‘pen. John Wetteland was waiting in the wings. Still no one out as Danny Tartabull was announced as the pinch hitter. Another bases-loaded walk forced home the Yankees’ seventh run of the contest. Rojas finally got the first out of the inning on a shallow fly to left by Polonia. Boggs bounced one to Cordero who fired home to get the second out. Mattingly cut the Expos’ lead to 11-8 with an opposite-field knock. John Wetteland was summoned in a save situation, two outs and the sacks full. Paul O’Neill silenced the crowd when he crushed Wetteland’s first pitch over the center field fence for a grand slam! Suddenly New York was on top, 12-11. The Yanks scratched out three successive singles to precipitate the Expos’ fourth pitching change of the inning. Jeff Shaw got the final out when Kelly lined out to Lansing. Showalter handed the ball to Xavier Hernandez with his ball club ahead, 12-11 in the bottom of the ninth and facing the top of the Montreal batting order. Boggs snared a line drive off Grissom’s bat and Cliff Floyd lofted a can of corn to O’Neill. Down to their final out after holding an eight-run lead, Alou sent a long drive to left but Polonia collected it at the warning track. New York players and coaches gathered near the mound to high-five each other while the Montreal players and fans alike sat in stunned disbelief. The Series returned to the Big Apple with the Yankees in control, 3 games to 2.

A couple of southpaws were slated to start Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. Jimmy Key took his warmup tosses for the hometown team while his opponent, Jeff Fassero, began to throw lightly in the visitor’s bullpen. The Expos recorded the first tally of the day when Mike Lansing and Moises Alou delivered back-to-back opposite-field doubles with one out in the opening frame. Alou curiously broke for third on Key’s first pitch to Larry Walker and a strong peg from Mike Stanley cut him down for the second out. This proved costly when “Booger” ripped a base hit to right on the subsequent offering. Wil Cordero lined out to the pitcher and the ‘Spos had an early lead. Bernie Williams was stranded on first following a leadoff knock in the bottom of the first. Key and Fassero dueled into the fourth when Montreal’s bats came to life. Alou rocked a leadoff double off the right field wall and Cordero laced a one-out single which was swiftly retrieved by Paul O’Neill. Sean Berry drove in Alou with a base knock. The Yankees answered in the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back walks by Don Mattingly and Stanley followed by an O’Neill single down the right field line. Jim Leyritz coaxed a base on balls to put ducks on the pond. Fassero plunked Gerald “Ice” Williams on the left hand to force home the tying run. The Expos’ manager made the call to the bullpen and Jeff Shaw jogged in to take his warm-up tosses. Randy Velarde worked the count to 2-2, and then drilled the ball towards third base. Berry made a leaping attempt but just missed snagging the hard-hit liner. O’Neill scampered home with the Bombers’ third tally of the frame. Pat F. Kelly turned on an inside heater and smacked it down the left field line for another RBI single. Mattingly stepped up to the plate and laced a two-out, two-run single to right and Stanley’s looping fly to center plated another run. Danny Tartabull lined out to mercifully end the inning, but Yankees sent twelve men to the plate and turned a 2-0 deficit into a 7-2 advantage. Lou Frazier and Marquis Grissom slashed successive singles against Key to start the fifth. Lansing grounded into a fielder’s choice but Alou clubbed a one-out double up the right-center field gap to cut the Yanks’ lead to 7-4. Leyritz swatted a two-run big-fly into the bullpen in the bottom of the seventh off Butch Henry. “Ice” hit a frozen rope into the same spot for back-to-back blasts, effectively putting the icing on the cake and whipping the hometown fans into a frenzy. Mel Rojas poured gasoline on the fire when he served up a three-run gopher ball off the bat of Bernie Williams that landed 25 rows into the right field seats. The crowd went absolutely bonkers as the Yankees padded their lead and were only six outs away from another trophy! “Ice” blasted his second round-tripper of the match in the eighth off Kirk Rueter. This one sailed over the bullpen and into the left-center field bleachers. Down to their final three outs, the Expos sent rookie outfielder Rondell White to the plate to pinch-hit for Randy Milligan. White slashed a single to center which prompted Buck Showalter to emerge from the dugout. He signaled for the left-handed veteran Steve Howe, allowing his ace Jimmy Key to walk off the field to a standing ovation. Frazier took an inside change-up on a full count to draw a base on balls. Grissom bounced into a fielder’s choice as Kevin Elster threw to third in time to eliminate the lead runner. The hometown fans let out a collective groan as Lansing and Alou coaxed back-to-back walks to force in a run. Montreal wasn’t going down without a fight. Walker made his way to home plate after Sterling Hitchcock was pressed into action to face the Expos’ cleanup hitter. “Booger” drove the ball to the base of the wall near the 399-foot designation in left-center field. Two runs crossed the dish as the Yankees lead was sliced to 14-7. Cordero lined out to Hitchcock for out # 2. Berry ripped an 0-1 offering towards third base but Leyritz timed his leap perfectly and snared the hot liner. The Yankees dog-piled near the back of the mound and Showalter pumped his fist in the air triumphantly as the Bronx Bombers added more hardware to the trophy case!

Hardball 5

I launched Hardball 5, selected the League Play menu and immediately noticed several upgrades to the product. The manager has the option to create lineups vs. RHP and LHP along with the ability to propose trades and sign players off the waiver wire. I’m running version 5.13 and have the 1996 MLBPA Players Disk installed which utilized 1997 Opening Day lineups. The graphics engine remains essentially unchanged from HB4 (the facelift would come in the next release). Perusing the team rosters, lineups, etc., I made a few minor corrections and opted to sim the entire season. You can choose to simulate the entire season or one week at a time. I enjoy checking the League Leaders and Standings every month, so I clicked Simulate Week. The box scores flashed hurriedly across the display and the entire week’s worth of contests completed in less than ten seconds!  Repeating this process until I reached the All-Star break, I reviewed the results to that point prior to playing the “Stars” game. In terms of realism, the majority of the leaderboards and statistics appeared to fall within the realm of possibility with two exceptions – stolen bases and reliever’s innings pitched. Andres Galarraga had 44 stolen bases at the halfway point (the top 10 base-stealers all had 40+ steals) and multiple closers pitched more than 75 innings. Managing the Mid-Summer Classic, I instantly noted several improvements: one pitch mode, the ability to proceed to the next half-inning without watching the defensive run off the field, and the infielders were now throwing with their right arms. The current pitcher displays a stamina bar instead of the pitch count. However the bullpen screen shows the number of pitches thrown. The baserunner window(s) received an upgrade as the runner’s last name and speed rating are shown.

Standings at the All-Star Break HB5

Hardball 5 - Mid-Season Standings

Bret Saberhagen earned the starting assignment for the American League while Greg Maddux got the nod for the National League squad. Both pitchers cruised through their first inning of work. Mike Piazza put the Senior Circuit on the board with a titanic blast into the upper tank at Camden Yards. “Sabes” yielded a gopher ball to Greg Vaughn in the fifth frame as Roger Clemens began to get loose down in the bullpen. “Rocket” entered the contest in the top of the sixth with his ballclub behind 2-0. He allowed a single to Jeff Bagwell but induced Henry Rodriguez to hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. Maddux was masterful, twirling a perfect game through 7 2/3 innings before Jim Thome clubbed a solo shot over the “Hit It Here” sign in center field. That was the only blemish against “Mad Dog” as he cruised to victory, 2-1.

Seattle dominated the American League with 108 victories to finish 29 games ahead of Texas in the Western Division. Cleveland and Boston claimed their divisions by healthy margins while Baltimore earned the Wild Card with the only remaining record over .500 in the Junior Circuit. Cincinnati tallied 104 wins to top the National League as Atlanta and Los Angeles paced their divisions with slimmer margins. Florida attained Wild Card status with 89 triumphs. Harold Baines collected the AL batting title by a single point over Brian S. Giles (.330 to .329) while Cubs’ backstop Tyler Houston grabbed the NL crown with a .324 mark. Jim Edmonds rapped 65 doubles to lead the Majors. Dante Bichette (Rockies) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (Mariners) tied for the big league home run title with 47 circuit clouts apiece. All-Star starters Greg Maddux (19-4, 1.85) and Bret Saberhagen (19-3, 1.75) paced their respective leagues in victories while Rick Aguilera and Billy Wagner notched 47 saves. The teams with the most wins were ousted in the playoffs as the Orioles bested the Mariners and the Marlins outlasted the Reds. The Braves and Indians were also eliminated in the divisional round by the Dodgers and Red Sox, respectively. In the championship round, Florida upset Los Angeles in 6 games while Boston prevailed, 4 games to 1 in their tilt with Baltimore to set the stage for the World Series.

Final Standings – Regular Season HB5

Hardball 5 - Final Standings

Fenway Park was filled to capacity as Game 1 got underway with Bret Saberhagen slated to start against Kevin J. Brown. The Red Sox drew first blood as Shane Mack doubled off the Green Monster to knock in Reggie Jefferson in the bottom of the second. In the third frame, Mike Stanley rapped one just over the outstretched glove of Moises Alou. The ball clanked off the top of the scoreboard and John Valentin scooted home with the Sox’ second tally. “Sabes” baffled the Marlins into the sixth when Gary Sheffield crushed a long ball into the center field bleachers to cut the BoSox lead in half. The Marlins mounted a threat in the top of the eighth when pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd slapped a single to center and Luis A. Castillo bunted for a hit. Saberhagen managed to escape without allowing the tying run to score, inducing a pop-fly to shortstop, a fielder’s choice and a shallow fly out to right. He allowed a two-out single to Alou in the ninth, but John Valentin snared Jim Eisenreich’s low liner to shortstop for the final out as Boston held on for the 2-1 victory.

Right-handers Tom Gordon and Alex Fernandez received the starting assignment for their respective clubs in Game 2. Each hurler posted zeroes through three innings. Jeff Conine connected on a long fly to left-center that cleared the Green Monster leading off the visitor’s fourth. Mike Stanley knotted the scoring at 1-1 with a mammoth blast over the left field wall in the bottom of the sixth. Gordon pitched eight solid innings while Fernandez lasted nine before turning the game over to the bullpen. Multiple relievers held the opposition in check until the bottom of the 14th inning, when Reggie Jefferson sent the fans into a frenzy with a deep drive into the right-center field bleachers off Pat Rapp. The Red Sox achieved their second straight 2-1 win and hopped on their flight to South Florida up 2 games to none.

Southpaw Al Leiter took the mound for the Marlins while knuckleballer Tim Wakefield got the nod for the Sox. Rudy Pemberton launched a long ball over the left field scoreboard to put Boston ahead 1-0 in the top of the second inning. Wakefield perplexed the Fish, holding them hitless until Gregg Zaun led off the sixth with a bloop single down the right field line. In the bottom of the seventh, Gary Sheffield roped a two-base hit up the left-center field gap and advanced to third on Bobby Bonilla’s base hit. Jeff Conine knotted the scoring at 1-1 when he lined a single that barely evaded a leaping attempt by shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Cliff Floyd, batting for Zaun, slashed a safety to center and Conine dove headfirst to record the go-ahead run. Luis A. Castillo connected on a knuckleball that failed to break and deposited the pitch over the center field wall for a three-run jack. Leiter left the game after finishing the eighth inning. Mark Hutton fired a scoreless ninth to secure the “W” for Florida.

Bret Saberhagen and Kevin J. Brown came back on three days’ rest to compete for their respective clubs in Game 4. Tim Naehring initiated the scoring with a line-drive single down the left field line which drove Mo Vaughn home with two out in the third. The aces battled each other until the eighth when Brown tired, yielded back-to-back singles and exited in favor of Jay Powell. Wil Cordero drilled a base hit to left that skipped under Moises Alou’s glove, allowing Vaughn to lumber around third and slide safely across home plate. “Sabes” was cruising along with a four-hit shutout through eight frames but he was lifted for pinch-hitter Reggie Jefferson in the top of the ninth. Heathcliff Slocumb nailed down the 2-0 victory and the BoSox regained command of the Series, up 3 games to 1.

Boston and Florida traded zeroes into the fifth inning in Game 6. Darren Bragg lined a solo shot to right off Alex Fernandez to put the Red Sox ahead, 1-0. Tom Gordon stymied the Marlins, taking a one-hitter into the seventh until Gary Sheffield uncorked an opposite-field blast into the bleachers in right-center. Bobby Bonilla stepped up to the plate and belted a long ball into the same location as “Flash” turned and watched in disbelief. Mark Hutton relieved Fernandez in the top of the eighth with the Fish leading 2-1. Mo Vaughn ripped a two-out single into right field but Hutton got Reggie Jefferson on a line out to the second baseman to retire the side. Robb Nen started to get loose in the bullpen as Gordon remained in the game to face the bottom of the Marlins’ batting order. Florida was unable to get the ball out of the infield, so Nen jogged in to take the mound in the ninth. The Marlins’ fans were on edge, hoping their ballclub would be able to hang on and force a return to Beantown. Tim Naehring flied out to left but Troy O’Leary grounded a hard single to right past a diving Luis A. Castillo. Bragg, who had homered earlier in the contest, drilled a line shot to the exact same spot but the second-sacker picked it clean this time. Mike Stanley grabbed a bat off the rack and strolled to the dish to pinch-hit for fellow backstop, Bill Haselman. O’Leary swiped second but Stanley was now in the hole with a count of no balls, two strikes. Nen looked in for the sign, reared back and threw a high heater. Stanley’s eyes lit up.. he swung and connected, took a few steps towards first and watched the ball sail over the left field scoreboard. The Red Sox dugout went ballistic as Stanley circled the bases. Boston reclaimed the advantage, 3-2! Pinch-hitter Jeff Frye and Nomar Garciaparra reached on consecutive singles but John Valentin popped up to shortstop to end the frame. Heathcliff Slocumb took over on the mound as the Marlins were three outs from defeat. The top of the order came up to bat. Devon White hammered a fastball into the left-center field gap and slid safely into second for a two-base hit. Edgar Renteria legged out an infield hit to shortstop but White wisely held up at second. “Sheff” lofted a harmless pop fly to shortstop for out # 1. Bonilla laced a base hit to left that landed right in front of Jefferson. Both runners were only able to advance ninety feet. Florida fans were now on the feet, the fate of their season in the hands of their first baseman, Jeff Conine. “Mr. Marlin” calmly took a few practice swings and then stepped into the batters’ box. He hit Slocumb’s 1-0 offering on the ground towards second. Running from first base, Bonilla crossed in front of John Valentin. The ball skipped under his glove and into right field. White scored and Renteria streaked around third and scored without a throw to give the Marlins a 4-3 comeback victory!

Flutterballer Tim Wakefield and veteran left-hander Al Leiter prepared for their Game 6 starts down in the Fenway Park bullpens. The managers huddled with the umpires at home plate exchanging lineup cards and the festivities commenced. Both pitchers twirled a clean first inning and Jeff Conine collected the first hit of the day on a sharp single up the middle. In the home half of the second, Mike Stanley coaxed a base on balls. Inexplicably Stanley attempted to steal but Gregg Zaun’s peg was on the money and Stanley was out by a wide margin. The boneheaded move cost his club a run when Wil Cordero clanked a long single off the Green Monster and Reggie Jefferson swatted a two-out, two-run big fly later in the frame. Wil Cordero lofted a towering drive that cleared the Monster in left-center with two down in the fourth to extend the Sox advantage to 3-0. Wakefield was spinning a three-hit shutout through 7 2/3 innings and just posted back-to-back strikeouts when Boston skipper Jimy Williams emerged from the dugout. He reached the mound, signaled for his closer Heathcliff Slocumb, patted Wakefield on the back and sent him off the field to a standing ovation. Zaun lined out softly to the shortstop. Pat Rapp relieved Leiter in the bottom of the eighth inning to oppose the lower third of the Red Sox batting order. He whiffed Nomar Garciaparra with a runner in scoring position to keep Florida within striking distance. The Marlins failed miserably in their final at-bats, dribbling three consecutive weak grounders that were gobbled up by the Boston tandem of Garciaparra and John Valentin. The Beantown faithful stormed the field when Valentin flipped to Mo Vaughn for the last out of the Series as the Sox outlasted the Fish, 4 games to 2!

Hardball 6

Using modern hardware I was able to install and run Hardball 6 on a Windows 98 virtual machine in VirtualBox. The audio and visual enhancements were welcome but long overdue. Greg Papa replaced Al Michaels in the broadcast booth. New league play options included toggling whether injuries can occur and the ability to create manager profiles. This version came with 1998 MLB rosters utilizing statistics from 1997. I started a new season in League Play and simulated games (one week at a time) through the All-Star Break. Each week’s worth of contests resolved in under five seconds. Stolen base frequency remained problematic. Craig Biggio topped the Majors with 62 stolen bases which would be expected given his speed rating of 99! Fifteen players swiped at least 45 bags in the first half of the simulated season. The box scores never evolved from the bare minimum in terms of statistics. In fact the game fails to denote the winning and losing pitchers (or saves for that matter) nor does it log extra base hits, stolen bases, caught stealing or errors by individual fielders. 

Standings at the All-Star Break HB6

Hardball 6 - Mid-Season Standings

The Mid-Summer Classic pitted Randy Johnson against Darryl Kile at Coors Field. Roberto Alomar led off the contest with a double down the right field line but he was stranded without advancing further. Craig Biggio pounded a two-base hit up the left-center field alley and moved to third on a single between first and second off the bat of Henry Rodriguez. The “Big Unit” got Ellis Burks on a shallow fly to center which pinned Biggio to the bag at third. Andres Galarraga’s hard grounder up the middle plated the runner and moved “Oh Henry” up ninety feet. The third Rockies’ All-Star to bat in the frame, Larry Walker, roped a two-base hit into the right field corner. Rodriguez scored to give the Senior Circuit the 2-0 lead with only one out. Chipper Jones’ long sacrifice fly to center allowed the “Big Cat” to trot home with the third run of the inning. Johnson paced around the mound, angrily fired the rosin bag into the area behind the mound and then returned to the rubber to glare in at the next batter, Jeff Reed. Consecutive hits by Reed and Royce Clayton tallied another score as the American League’s bullpen began to stir. Johnson retired Kile on a lazy fly ball to left field but the National League held a 4-0 advantage after one inning. Dan Naulty relieved Johnson and pitched a scoreless frame in the bottom of the second. Dave Justice laced a two-out double in the third, sending Ivan Rodriguez to third. Kile buckled down and got Ken Griffey Jr. on a can of corn to his counterpart, Burks. The National Leaguers load the bases against Jaret Wright in the home half of the third, but Kile bounced weakly into a fielder’s choice at second for the last out. Alex Rodriguez followed successive singles by Matt Stairs and Cal Ripken with a booming double that one-hopped the fence in left-center, driving in the first run for the AL squad. Wright was lifted for a pinch-hitter so Bret Saberhagen assumed pitching duties in the bottom of the fourth. Walker drilled a two-base knock and Jones delivered a single into left-center field to increase the NL advantage to 5-1 against southpaw Arthur Rhodes in the seventh. Jon Nunnally added an RBI single in the eighth and Mark Wohlers set the American Leaguers down in order to secure the 6-1 victory.

Atlanta broke away from the pack to claim the National League Eastern division title with 112 victories as the second-place Mets finished 26 games behind. Colorado hit the century mark in wins to secure the NL West while St. Louis edged Houston for the crown in the NL Central. The Astros seized the NL Wild Card spot. The Junior Circuit divisional winners (Baltimore, Cleveland and Seattle) tallied 90+ victories. The Yankees and Blue Jays triumphed in 90 contests apiece, tying for the AL Wild Card but the playoff schedule listed New York as Baltimore’s opponent in the Division Series. I’m not sure how Hardball 6 broke the tie (sorry Toronto fans!) In a best-of-five series, the Yankees bested the Orioles 3-2 while the Mariners defeated the Indians, 3 games to 1. The Braves advanced with a sweep of the Astros and the Rockies survived their matchup with the Cardinals, 3 games to 2. In the League Championship Series, the Yankees prevailed in six games over the Mariners while the Braves outlasted the Rockies in seven to set the stage for a rematch of the 1996 World Series.

Final Standings – Regular Season HB6

Hardball 6 - Final Standings

I signed on as the Braves’ skipper to match wits against Joe Torre and the Bronx Bombers. Setting my lineup for Game 1 at fabled Yankee Stadium, I settled in the virtual visitor’s dugout as David Cone took his warmup tosses for New York. John Smoltz sat next to pitching coach Leo Mazzone, absorbing some last-minute counsel as the Series got underway. The pair of aces dueled in the early innings, matching zeroes on the scoreboard through the second frame. Keith Lockhart legged out a triple when the right fielder Paul O’Neill missed a diving attempt at his low liner. Chipper Jones followed with a two-bagger into the right field corner, plating Lockhart with the first run of the Series. “Coney” whiffed Ryan Klesko but Smoltz took a 1-0 lead to the hill. Michael Tucker played Jorge Posada’s routine fly ball down the right field line into a triple with one out in the bottom of the third. “Smoltzie” got out of the jam when Lockhart snared a line drive off the bat of Scott Brosius and Derek Jeter hit a can of corn to the center fielder, Andruw Jones. Chuck Knoblauch laced a triple up the left-center field gap to lead off the fourth but the Pinstripers failed to capitalize as Smoltz induced a couple of line-outs and a ground ball to first. Atlanta loaded the bases against Cone with two down in the visitor’s fifth but Andres Galarraga popped up to Posada. New York knotted the score at 1-1 on consecutive singles by Tim Raines and Posada followed by a Brosius double up the gap that rolled to the wall in left-center.  After an intentional pass to Jeter, Smoltz extracted himself with a shallow fly to center and a fielder’s choice ground ball to Lockhart. Tucker crushed an opposite-field three-base hit beyond the outstretched glove of Raines with one away in the sixth. Cone jammed Andruw Jones, who skied a foul pop fly that Brosius gathered as he brushed up against the tarp near the third-base seats. Former Yankees’ outfielder Gerald “Ice” Williams lifted a routine fly to left and the score remained tied. Tino Martinez smoked a Smoltz offering that one-hopped the center field wall for a two-base hit. O’Neill singled and Chili Davis followed with a double to right-center, scoring Martinez with the go-ahead run. Smoltz exited and Alan Embree escaped the frame on a shallow fly ball and a double play grounder. The Yankees padded their lead in the bottom of the seventh. Embree yielded three hits and gave way to right-hander Mike Cather. Davis rapped a single to right-center to plate Bernie Williams. “Rock” Raines supplied a bloop double that eluded Andruw Jones. Posada grounded out to first but the Bombers now held a 5-1 advantage. Galarraga ripped a rocket over Bernie Williams’ head and lumbered into third base with the leadoff triple to begin the eighth inning. Unfortunately his teammates stranded him at third base. Cone retired the Braves in order to close out the contest as New York prevailed.

Joe Torre awarded the Game 2 starting assignment to southpaw Andy Pettitte while Atlanta countered with Greg Maddux. Both aces held the opposition scoreless through three frames. Chipper Jones led off the visitor’s fourth with a solo blast into the bullpen. Ryan Klesko teed off against Pettitte in the top of the fifth, crushing a 484-foot circuit clout into the center field bleachers. In the bottom of the seventh, Andruw Jones dove and came up empty on a Bernie Williams’ liner down the line. The ball rolled to the warning track and Williams ended up on third base with a stand-up triple. “Mad Dog” induced a ground ball to shortstop, an infield fly and a pop-up to right field to maintain a 2-0 lead. Scott Brosius finally got the Bombers on the board with a wallop into the left-field seats but New York still trailed Atlanta, 2-1 with two outs in the eighth. Maddux whiffed Derek Jeter to send the game to the ninth with the starting pitchers remaining on the hill. After Pettitte sliced through the heart of the Braves’ batting order, the Braves’ skipper called upon Mark Wohlers to lock down the game. Wohlers complied with his manager’s wishes, retiring Tino Martinez on a sky-high pop-up to end the contest. The series shifted to Hotlanta tied at one game apiece.

Atlanta claimed an early lead in Game 3. After Tom Glavine posted a scoreless frame in the top of the first, the Braves’ offense went to work against fellow left-hander David Wells. “Boomer” yielded a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to Andruw Jones. Ryan Klesko followed with a base hit to center to place ducks on the pond again. Gerald “Ice” Williams drilled a comebacker through the box and into center field to plate Chipper Jones. A fielder’s choice ended the threat but the Yankees trailed 2-0 after one inning. Glavine laced a double to center leading off the bottom of the second. Javy Lopez crushed a two-bagger to deep center beyond the reach of Bernie Williams with two away in the third, extending Atlanta’s advantage to 3-0. Chuck Knoblauch broke up Glavine’s shutout with a solo jack down the left field line to commence the top of the fourth inning. Gerald Williams delivered a long single to center in the fifth, driving home Javy Lopez to give the Braves a three-run cushion again. Graeme Lloyd relieved Wells to start the sixth and supplied two scoreless innings. Derek Jeter belted a long fly into the left-field seats to cut the Braves’ lead to 4-2 with two down in the eighth. The Yankees called on Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the eighth and Curtis Pride entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Glavine. Pride whiffed and Keith Lockhart popped out to third base. Chipper Jones took “Mo” deep with a line shot over the fence in right-center. The hometown fans went wild as Atlanta increased their advantage to 5-2 while closer Mark Wohlers warmed up in the ‘pen. The Yankees went down in order against Wohlers in the ninth with Lockhart gloving Paul O’Neill’s soft liner for the last out.

New York skipper Joe Torre brought David Cone back on short rest while Atlanta opted for portsider Denny Neagle in Game 4. The Yankees took the lead in the top of the second on three consecutive hits by Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius and Tim Raines. A two-out double by Derek Jeter plated Brosius and then Chuck Knoblauch produced a base hit to deep center to drive home a pair. Neagle regrouped and struck out Bernie Williams but when the dust settled, the Braves trailed by four tallies. The Bombers continued to pummel Neagle in the following frame and Dennis Martinez was summoned from the bullpen after a Brosius’ single plated the fifth run. In the visitor’s fourth, Jeter and Knoblauch clubbed back-to-back two-base hits to increase the NY advantage to 6-0. Pinch-hitter Eddie Perez ripped a two-run triple that split the defenders in the left-center field gap to break up “Coney’s” shutout with one down in the bottom of the fifth. “Rock” beat out a potential double-play grounder in the seventh with the sacks full, pushing across another tally for the Yanks. Tony Graffanino made things interesting with a pinch-hit RBI double in the ninth, but Cone retired Gerald Williams on a liner to Jeter to secure the 7-3 victory.

John Smoltz and Andy Pettitte squared off in Game 5. Pettitte extracted himself from a no-out, bases loaded jam in the second inning. Gerald Williams hit into a force play at home plate for the first out.  Rafael Belliard’s fly ball to left was too shallow to allow Javy Lopez to tag up and score. “Smoltzie” grounded out to second to end the frame. Belliard injured himself running the bases when he singled in the fourth following a two-bagger off the bat of Ryan Klesko. The game paused after prompting “Injury – Belliard” then launched the lineup screen so I could insert a replacement (Walt Weiss). Derek Jeter stepped to the dish with ducks on the pond and two outs in the seventh. He got ahold of an inside breaking ball from Smoltz and curled it just inside the left field foul pole for a grand salami! New York tacked on a run in the eighth against relievers Alan Embree and Kevin Millwood. The Pinstripers blew the game open with three in the visitor’s ninth, courtesy of a Tino Martinez double and a two-run single by Tim Raines off Millwood. Pettitte retired the Braves in order to close out an 8-hit shutout as the Yankees wrapped up the 8-0 victory and headed home with a 3-2 advantage in the World Series.

The New York faithful packed Yankee Stadium to watch their beloved Bombers as the ball club attempted to seize yet another World Series trophy. David Wells was on the bump for the Yankees while the Braves countered with “The Professor”, Greg Maddux. The Yanks placed runners on second and third in the home half of the second on a single by Paul O’Neill and a two-bagger up the right-center field gap off the bat of designated hitter Chili Davis. Maddux somehow escaped without allowing a run when Tim Raines flew out to shallow right, Jorge Posada whiffed and Scott Brosius popped up to short. Wells worked himself into a similar situation in the top of the fourth. Javy Lopez led off the frame with a safety and Ryan Klesko blasted a double that one-hopped the wall in right-center, putting runners on second and third. Torre ordered an intentional walk to Gerald Williams, loading the bases for the Braves’ backup backstop, Eddie Perez (Lopez was in the lineup as the DH today). A short fly ball to right was not deep enough to allow Lopez to tag up. Managing in a must-win game, Atlanta’s skipper summoned Danny Bautista off the bench to bat for Rafael Belliard. No dice – Bautista popped up weakly to the third baseman Brosius for the final out of the inning and the contest remained scoreless.  O’Neill took care of that with a two-run clout deep into the right field seats, giving the Yankees an early lead against the “Mad Dog”. Atlanta battled back with a leadoff hit by Klesko in the sixth followed by a long double by “Ice” Williams. “Boomer” was up to the task, retiring Perez on a soft fly to center, Walt Weiss on a foul fly to third and Tony Graffanino on a line drive to short. The Yankees were only nine outs away from a World Series championship. Chuck Knoblauch and Bernie Williams rapped back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the eighth to extend New York’s advantage to 3-0. That was all for Maddux, as Alan Embree was called upon to face the lefties in the middle of the Yankees’ batting order. The southpaw was up to the task, inducing a couple of fielder’s choices and whiffing Chili Davis. Wells took a shutout into the ninth and faced the top of the Braves’ lineup. The Yankees’ faithful were on their feet. The crowd roared when Jeter fielded a two-hopper and threw out Tony Graffanino for the first out. Chipper Jones lined one back to Wells for out # 2. Bernie Williams glided into right-center to snag Andres Galarraga’s liner and the Yankees’ bench and bullpen emptied onto the field to join the celebration as New York secured another World Championship! Scott Brosius (.455/1/4) was awarded the World Series MVP trophy.

Ratings

Note – ratings below for Hardball 6 – deduct 1 point for Park Factors and 4 points for Statistics in Hardball 3; deduct 1 point for Rosters and Commentary and 2 points for Sound and Injuries in Hardball 3 and 4; deduct 1 point for Sound in Hardball 5

Graphics – [5]Ballparks are beautifully rendered throughout the series and the player animations are relatively smooth, aside from the aforementioned left-handed throwing middle infielders and third basemen that went uncorrected for several revisions of the software. The graphics engine remained unchanged for versions 3 through 5 before getting a 3-D makeover in Hardball 6. You can view the instant replay before the next pitch is thrown and save highlights, but your options are restricted to normal, fast speed or frame-by-frame. With the exception of Hardball 6, you cannot view the highlights from different angles. In that version you may select from several batting and fielding camera angles prior to the delivery of a pitch. Batting camera options include behind the mound, behind home plate or “both” (which shows the view from behind the mound while you are pitching and behind home plate when you’re batting). Fielding camera shots consist of normal, press box, ground level, crane shot and random.

Sound – [4]The earlier versions offer some basic sound effects when the batter makes contact or when a fielder catches a ball. You can toggle background music on/off during the game. I found the looping tune to be a distraction; however the lack of crowd noise was perceptible. The programmers corrected this oversight in Hardball 5. Organ music at the appropriate intervals and crowd reactions highlight the aural enhancements in version 6.

Strategy – [4] Granular infield and outfield positioning can be deployed to optimize your defense against the tendencies of the current batter. You can also choose from an array of pre-set defenses such as Outfield In, Outfield Right, Outfield Left, Infield In, Double Play Depth, Guard Lines, and Hold Runner or you may leave the fielders in their standard locations. The user needs to track player substitutions as the game will not warn you when someone is playing out of position. Otherwise your options as the skipper are fairly straightforward. Depending on the current game situation, you can signal to your batter to take a pitch or bunt. If there are runners aboard, you can opt to hit-and-run, steal, double steal or attempt a squeeze play. Defensively, you can issue an intentional walk and if there are baserunners you can call for a pitchout or a pickoff attempt.

Artificial Intelligence – [2] – Managerial moves were handled properly in the games that I played against the computer. However the decisions surrounding base running and throwing to the correct bases left much to be desired. Even in Hardball 6, the computer was caught stealing third at least four times. On defense with a runner on second, the AI opted to go for the lead runner on a ground ball numerous times. 

Box Score – [1] – In-game box scores are fairly limited and you cannot review box scores at a later date. You can’t see extra base hits, stolen bases, caught stealing, hit batsmen or sacrifices for batters while the pitching statistics omit walks, earned runs, hit batsmen, wild pitches, etc. Fielding stats don’t exist on an individual level in the box scores. The omission of standard categories from the box score can only be described as intentional based on the fact that it was never corrected throughout the lifespan of the series. When the game is over, you are unable to review box scores at all.

Rosters – [4] Player movement between teams is non-existent in Hardball 3 and 4, and you are limited to the 25-man active roster (no reserves or injured list). Roster construction is greatly enhanced in later editions of the game. Trades are permitted and free agents can be signed. You can move a player between the active roster and minors. Injured players can be transferred to the disabled list. Player names and ratings can be edited but real-life statistics cannot be changed in version 5 and 6, which is strange because this option was available in the earlier editions. Hardball 6 includes a Draft function.

Statistics – [5]Hardball 3 did not allow users to view League Leaders as the compilation of statistics was completely neglected. However, this omission was rectified in Hardball 4. Versions 4 through 6 offer a plethora of options for viewing and sorting 40 stats based on fielding position, highest/lowest, specific league or team, and individuals/team totals. Split stats such as vs. RHP/LHP, home/away, etc. are logged. Hardball 4 and 5 offer the option to print the results and Hardball 6 adds the ability to export the data to a file.

Usage/Injuries/Ejections – [3]The ability to toggle injuries on/off was included in versions 5 and 6.  Ejections do not exist as far as I can tell. I noticed that pitcher usage was tracked when I played the World Series (usually the starting pitchers required several days off between starts). I did not observe any reference to fatigue for batters.

Ballparks / Park Factors – [3]All of the contemporary stadiums at the time of each game’s release are included and rendered in fine detail. While you are unable to modify stadium dimensions, you may alter a park’s wind, surface, temperature and humidity in Hardball 4 through Hardball 6.

Commentary – [2]Al Michaels anchors the in-game commentary through Hardball 5. As version 6 received a substantial makeover, Greg Papa provided a fresh batch of dialogue. for the sixth edition of the game “PR Echo” is an interesting effect that was included in Hardball 5 and 6 though I’m not sure I would want to listen to an entire game in that mode. The play-by-play includes the ballplayer’s names in versions 5 and 6 whereas the prior issues only identified them by position.  

   

Scale:  Ratings from 1 (worst) to 5 (best)

Hardball 3 – Total Score: 23 out of 50

Hardball 4 – Total Score: 28 out of 50

Hardball 5 – Total Score: 33 out of 50

Hardball 6 – Total Score: 34 out of 50

Enhancements and Features

FeatureHardball 3Hardball 4Hardball 5Hardball 6
Scheduling OptionsShort (11 or 13 games), Half (81 games) or Full (162 games)Short (13 games), Half (81 games) or Full (162 games)Short (13 games), Half (81 games) or Full (162 games)Short (20 games), Half (80 games) or Full (162 games)
Roster Slots25 active25 active25 active, 15 reserve, Disabled List25 active, 15 reserve, Disabled List
Long Relief, Setup, Closer designationNONOYESYES
Park FactorsNONONONO
FastSim ModeYES (one game or one week’s worth of games)YES (one game or one week’s worth of games)YES (one game or one week’s worth of games)YES (one game or one week’s worth of games)
One-Pitch ModeNONOYESYES
DraftNONONOYES
Trade PlayersNOYESYESYES
InjuriesNONOYESYES
Edit Player RatingsBatting – Speed (1-5), Arm (1-5) Pitching – Speed / Throwing (1-5), Accuracy / Control (1-5), Stamina / Durability (1-5)Batting – Speed (1-5), Arm (1-5) Pitching – Speed / Throwing (1-5), Accuracy / Control (1-5), Stamina / Durability (1-5)Batting – Speed (1-99), Arm (1-99), Streak (0-4), Power (0-99), Contact (0-99), Gnd% (0-99), Pull% (0-99), Cl_Late (0-99), ScPos (0-99), Home (0-99), VsLHP (0-99) Pitching – Speed / Throwing (1-5), Accuracy / Control (1-5), Stamina / Durability (1-5)Batting – Speed (1-99), Arm (1-99), Streak (0-4), Power (0-99), Contact (0-99), Gnd% (0-99), Pull% (0-99), Cl_Late (0-99), ScPos (0-99), Home (0-99), VsLHP (0-99) Pitching – Speed / Throwing (1-5), Accuracy / Control (1-5), Stamina / Durability (1-5)
Edit Player Statistics5 batting categories (BA, HR, RBI, SB, E) 6 pitching categories (W-L, ERA, SV, BA, E)6 batting categories (BA, HR, RBI, SB, CS, E) 6 pitching categories (W-L, ERA, SV, BA, E)Not permitted to edit real-life statisticsNot permitted to edit real-life statistics
Manager ProfilesNONOYESYES
Lifetime LeagueNONONOYES
Import TeamHardball 2 or 3, Tony La Russa Ultimate Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball 2Hardball 4Hardball 5Hardball 6
Stadiums26282829

Observations

The Hardball series evolved from strictly arcade fare to a product that accommodated action and simulation / manage-only diehards alike. The end result, particularly Hardball 6, delivers plenty of eye and ear candy but falls short in the simulation department. Quirks that remained unresolved over multiple iterations detract from the overall experience.

Please add a comment below if you spent a significant amount of time and/or have any recollections of Hardball 3 through Hardball 6.

Screenshots

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Articles in the Series

SSI Computer Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – SSI Computer Baseball
Computer Statis Pro Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review –Computer Statis Pro Baseball
MicroLeague Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – MicroLeague Baseball
Avalon Hill Pro Manager / Major League Manager Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Avalon Hill Pro Manager / Major League Manager
Pure-Stat Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Pure-Stat Baseball
Monday Morning Manager Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Monday Morning Manager
Radio Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Radio Baseball
Earl Weaver Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Earl Weaver Baseball
Full Count Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Full Count Baseball
MicroLeague Baseball IV Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – MicroLeague Baseball II – III – IV
Tony La Russa’s Ultimate Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Tony La Russa’s Ultimate Baseball
Earl Weaver Baseball II Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Earl Weaver Baseball II
APBA Baseball Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – APBA Baseball
  Tony La Russa Baseball II Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Tony La Russa Baseball II
  Front Page Sports Baseball '94 - '96 - '98 Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Front Page Sports Baseball ’94 – ’96 – ’98
  ESPN Baseball Tonight Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – ESPN Baseball Tonight
  Hardball 6 Retro Computer Baseball Game Review – Hardball 3-4-5-6

Additional Links

Play Hardball III in your browser -> https://archive.org/details/msdos_HardBall_III_1992

Hardball III Interactive Code Wheel ->https://www.oldgames.sk/codewheel/hardball-3

Hardball 4 patch 2 -> https://archive.org/details/swizzle_demu_HB4

Gindin, Jim. “Double Play: Turn Two With Reviews of Hardball IV and ESPN Baseball Tonight”. Computer Gaming World. April 1995. p132, 134, 136. http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_129.pdf

Gindin, Jim. “Baseball: Diamonds Are A Fan’s Best Friend”. Computer Gaming World. May 1995. p62. http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_130.pdf

Gindin, Jim. “Back to the Bullpen: Accolade’s Hardball 5 is More a Changeup Than a Fastball”. Computer Gaming World. January 1996. p274, 276. http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_138.pdf

Jones, George. “Holiday Top 100: Sports”. Computer Gaming World. December 1995. p110. http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_137.pdf

Kaiafas, Tasos. “Strike Six (HardBall 6 Review)” . Computer Gaming World. August 1998. p208. http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_169.pdf

Rogers, Win. “Sights and Sounds of the Summer Game – Al Michaels Announces Hardball III”. Computer Gaming World. August 1992. p78-79. http://www.cgwmuseum.org/galleries/issues/cgw_97.pdf

https://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/hardball-iii

https://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/hardball-4

https://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/hardball-5

https://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/hardball-6

https://youtu.be/XLblVUzR9p4 Hardball 3 gameplay video by Squakenet

https://youtu.be/nPjraYeR-14 Hardball 4 gameplay video by Squakenet

https://youtu.be/yITytcP20bc Hardball 5 gameplay video by Squakenet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1qu2M4Z38I Hardball 6 gameplay video by Darkhour’s Retro PC Games

Hardball 3 manual (PDF) ->

https://www.gamesdatabase.org/Media/SYSTEM/Microsoft_DOS/manual/Formated/HardBall_III.pdf

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 Architects – Volume 1 (American League)”, published in July 2020, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com.  Hardball Architects examines the trades, free agent acquisitions, draft picks and other transactions for the 30 Major League Baseball franchises, divided into a 2-volume set (American League and National League). All key moves are scrutinized for every team and Sabermetric principles are applied to the roster construction throughout the lifetime of the organization to encapsulate the hits and misses by front office executives.

Hardball Retroactive”, published in June 2018, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com.  Hardball Retroactive is a modest collection of selected articles that I have written for Seamheads.com along with my Baseball Analytics blog since 2010. Exclusive content includes the chapter on “Minors vs. Majors” which assesses every franchise’s minor league successes and failures in relation to their major league operations.

“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. In Hardball Retrospective, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original teams. Using a variety of advanced statistics and methods, I generated revised standings for each season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition. Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the real-time or “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

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. 

Tuatara Software, LLC | Website | + posts

I am a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games who enjoys spending quality time with his family. Visit my Amazon author page to check out my books, promotional videos, and post a review if you're a Hardball Retro fan!

https://www.amazon.com/author/derekbain

My Books:


Hardball Architects – Volume 1 (American League Teams)”, published in July 2020, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. 


Hardball Architects – Volume 2 (National League Teams)”, published in April 2022, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. 

“Hardball Architects” examines the trades, free agent acquisitions, draft picks and other transactions for the 30 Major League Baseball franchises, divided into a 2-volume set (American League and National League). All key moves are scrutinized for every team and Sabermetric principles are applied to the roster construction throughout the lifetime of the organization to encapsulate the hits and misses by front office executives.


Hardball Retroactive”, published in June 2018, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. A cross-section of essays that I penned for Seamheads.com along with my Baseball Analytics blog spanning nearly a decade touching on subjects including "Taking the Extra Base", "General Manager Scorecard", "Worst Trades", "BABIP By Location" and "Baseball Birthplaces and the Retro World Baseball Classic". Rediscover your favorite hardball arcade and simulations in "Play Retro Baseball Video Games In Your Browser" or take a deep dive into every franchise's minor league successes and failures in relation to their major league operations in "Minors vs. Majors".


“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. In Hardball Retrospective, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original teams. Using a variety of advanced statistics and methods, I generated revised standings for each season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition. Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the real-time or “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.


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. 

Tagged:
I am a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games who enjoys spending quality time with his family. Visit my Amazon author page to check out my books, promotional videos, and post a review if you're a Hardball Retro fan! https://www.amazon.com/author/derekbain My Books: Hardball Architects – Volume 1 (American League Teams)”, published in July 2020, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com.  Hardball Architects – Volume 2 (National League Teams)”, published in April 2022, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com.  “Hardball Architects” examines the trades, free agent acquisitions, draft picks and other transactions for the 30 Major League Baseball franchises, divided into a 2-volume set (American League and National League). All key moves are scrutinized for every team and Sabermetric principles are applied to the roster construction throughout the lifetime of the organization to encapsulate the hits and misses by front office executives. Hardball Retroactive”, published in June 2018, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. A cross-section of essays that I penned for Seamheads.com along with my Baseball Analytics blog spanning nearly a decade touching on subjects including "Taking the Extra Base", "General Manager Scorecard", "Worst Trades", "BABIP By Location" and "Baseball Birthplaces and the Retro World Baseball Classic". Rediscover your favorite hardball arcade and simulations in "Play Retro Baseball Video Games In Your Browser" or take a deep dive into every franchise's minor league successes and failures in relation to their major league operations in "Minors vs. Majors". “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. In Hardball Retrospective, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original teams. Using a variety of advanced statistics and methods, I generated revised standings for each season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition. Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the real-time or “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills. 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. 

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