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Remembering 1989 All-Stars via Tiger Electronics handheld game

McGwire is up. Batting average point-two-three-one.

Next week, NBCS is airing all four games of the 1989 World Series, in which the Oakland A’s swept the San Francisco Giants. They’re doing one each night, from Mon-Thu, each at 8 p.m. PT.

That ‘89 squad was the last A’s team to win the title, three decades ago, and its stars are some of the most beloved names in franchise history. Five of them were named to the All-Star team that summer: pitchers Dave Stewart and Mike Moore, catcher Terry Steinbach, first baseman Mark McGwire, and outfielder Jose Canseco, with manager Tony La Russa and a couple of his coaches leading the way after winning the 1988 AL pennant. Everyone but Moore was slated to start, though Canseco had to sit out due to injury.

The American League won the game 5-3, despite a mediocre showing by the A’s contingent. McGwire and Steinbach both went 1-for-3, and Steinbach caught one base stealer out of four tries. Stewart allowed two runs in the 1st inning, but Moore pitched a perfect 5th, retiring Mike Scioscia, Ozzie Smith, and Tony Gwynn. Some bigger contributions came from future A’s — Harold Baines and Ruben Sierra each drove in runs, and Doug Jones earned the save.

However, I don’t really remember this game personally. I was only four years old at the time, so my memories of the 1989 All-Stars mostly come from the Tiger Electronics LCD handheld game.


This week’s theme on SB Nation is video games, which is a tough one for me. My family didn’t get much into video games when I was growing up, leaving me with little experience on the subject. We had a Game Boy in the early-90s, and a couple other archaic handheld devices, but never any kind of console. For whatever reason, we just never got into it.

But I do have fond memories of that old Tiger baseball game. It was clunky, almost comically so by today’s standards, and the monotone, robotic-sounding narration was probably enough to drive any parent up the wall who was unfortunate enough to be in the room (much less the car) during its operation.

STRIIIKE. Strike One. Oh-and-One.

McGwire is up. Batting average point-two-three-one.

SAFE! Ripken singles. Ripken on first, Puckett on second, Boggs on third, and one out. Sierra is up.

We kept that game over the years, in storage with some other old childhood toys, and we even had the foresight to remove the batteries first so they didn’t corrode inside. I retrieved it from my parents’ house this week, excited to give it another whirl two decades later. I slotted in four new Double-A batteries, pressed the On button, and ... nothing. Despite our best efforts at preservation, the old cat has been lost to time.

Fortunately, we have YouTube to make up for it. Here’s a seven-minute video that does a great job showing the gameplay and many of the possible results, while running almost all the way through both lineups (unfortunately it cuts off before Steinbach and Stewart can bat). Watch below or click here to see it on YouTube.

For whatever reason, the game ignored the designated hitters, leaving out Baines and Pedro Guerrero. Instead, pitchers Stewart and Rick Reuschel batted ninth in their respective lineups. In the video above, I also noticed that they didn’t get detailed enough to differentiate a fielder’s choice from a single. And, perhaps lost in translation, they refer to the sides as the American Team and the National Team, rather than leagues.

NL lineup: Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Eric Davis, Howard Johnson, Ryne Sandberg, Benito Santiago, Rick Reuschel

AL lineup: Bo Jackson, Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, Julio Franco, Cal Ripken Jr, Ruben Sierra, Mark McGwire, Terry Steinbach, Dave Stewart

The Giants were well-represented in this game, between Clark, Mitchell, and Reuschel. That makes sense, though, as they did reach the World Series (where they lost (to the A’s (in a sweep))).

My video game journey didn’t extend far beyond this old handheld classic, though I do remember enjoying Game Boy’s baseball offering and figuring out all the tricks to ensure victory. But, in much the same way as baseball cards, the Tiger Electronics game helped me get to know the names of some of the stars of my early childhood, and it stands as one of the many small factors that made me the fan I am today.

Extra note: These old Tiger handhelds are making a nostalgia comeback this fall, though there’s no baseball game on the list of initial releases.