During the summer of 1988, on the cusp of my senior year of high school, I decided I needed throw a no-hitter and/or perfect game in the Commodore 64 baseball game, Hardball! Essentially, I wanted to do this because I was rather lonely and awkward in high school after being very popular in grade school, and I needed something positive and/or winning to occupy my summer months.
I’ll be sharing excerpts on this blog from the journal I kept for each game I played. These entries have been edited and/or re-written a bit with some “adult” perspective and clarity. A few names have been changed here and there as well.
GAME 35 – AUGUST 18, 1988
What would a summer be with underage drinking shenanigans? It wouldn’t be much of a summer, truth be told…especially if you grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and attended one of the many Catholic high schools in the area. Weekend keggers were a way of life all throughout the school year, but it was a way of life that I (mostly) had zero to do with. It just wasn’t my bag. I never understood the appeal of standing in the woods in the freezing cold just to drink shitty beer out of a plastic cup. And besides, I was rarely ever invited.
I had an on-again-off-again friend who lived just around the corner by the name of Mark Greenberg. Mark was a year older then me and could be a bit of a loner and loose cannon, hence why we were "on-again-off-again" friends. His parents and sister were down the shore for the week (in Wildwood, New Jersey…that hive of scum and villainy where most of NE Philly absconded to during the summer months), so he decided, in true “Risky Business” fashion, to throw a party.
If only it turned out like the infamous party Joel Goodsen threw in that classic, 80s flick. All teenage boys of that era dreamed about hosting a balls-to-the-wall bash of that magnitude. I mean, who wouldn’t want to party with the stunningly gorgeous Rebecca De Mornay and her hooker friends? As long as Guido the Killer Pimp didn’t make an appearance all would be well.
This “party” wasn’t that. At all. In fact, being chased by an irate pimp would have been more exciting on many levels. Since I had to work that night and ended up walking home, I didn’t make it to Mark’s house until a little after 10 PM…just when any good party should be morphing into the “baddest jam in the land” as Prince’s “Housequake” so aptly stated.
But, alas, Mark’s house was deader than Dillinger. The basement door was open and the faint sounds of a baseball game wafted out towards the street. As I glided closer to the door, the distinctive, familial banter of Harry Kalas and “Whitey” Ashburn was a welcome sound to my ears, as it typically was to all Phillies fans throughout the Delaware Valley.
|"Hard to believe no one's here, Harry..."|
The sounds of the game drew me through the door, down the narrow laundry room hallway and into the basement proper. There Mark sat all by his lonesome. The aforementioned Phillies game was playing on a small, 13” color TV against the far wall. There was an open cooler with a case of Budwiser cans (No keg?? Sacrilege!) bobbing about in the half melted ice. About five or six empty cans were littered about Mark on the couch.
“Hey man...join the party,” he slurred, waving towards the empty room.
I grabbed a beer out of the cooler and sat down on a chair adjacent to the couch. “Who’s winning,” I asked. I cared about the game, even though the scuffling Phils were waaaaay out of contention by this point of the season, but this was more small talk until I could get to the bigger question of WHY THE FLYING FUCK WAS NO ONE ELSE HERE???
“Phillies are up one-nothing, but it’s only the second inning out in LA,” Mark said while polishing off another can.
He heaved the can across the room and it struck the far wall with weirdly muted metallic sound. I could tell he was super pissed that I was the only person who bothered to show up. I would have to pick my words carefully here. Mark could be volatile; this guy was well-known for pummeling dudes out on the ice during pick-up hockey games just for breathing on him wrong.
“So,” I began as I cracked my beer and took a healthy swig as if I did this every damn day of my life. It went down easy. Too easy. This could be the beginning of an interesting evening.
“Noah couldn’t make it?”
Noah was Mark’s best friend and a bit of a strange ranger in my books. I didn’t think there could be a guy more awkward and gawky than myself at age 17, but Noah was definitely that guy. At least I was coordinated and good at sports. I’ve always maintained that being sporty saved me from a good deal of ridicule and bullying growing up. Oh, you think it’s fucking stupid that I dig Dungeons & Dragons, video games and comic books? Well, let’s see what you think about that when I school your ass out on the court/field of your choice, motherfucker. I just rolled a natural 20. Kiss my ass. Twice, bitch.
Unfortunately, Noah was neither graceful nor athletically inclined. On top of that, he was just socially inept…constantly telling awkward, unfunny jokes and then laughing like a fool at said jokes. But I mean, realistically, who doesn’t want to party with a guy named Noah out of sheer curiosity? There could be full-blown ark shenanigans involved after all.
“He called,” Mark spat while fishing another can out of the cooler. “Said he wasn’t feeling well or some shit. I don’t know.”
“Well, looks like it’s just you and me then,” was my winning response.
Mark glared at me for a moment. I wasn’t real sure what was going to happen in that bone-chilling moment. I steeled myself for the worst…but then he raised his can in toast fashion, exclaiming: “Here’s to that then!”
We clinked cans and continued to watch a ballgame that was indicative of the Fightin’ Phils ‘88 campaign: Kevin Gross threw a complete game, striking out five Dodger assholes, but the Phils still managed to lose 2-1 basically because Ramon Martinez (older brother of Pedro) was the better hurler that night. And, oh yeah, the Phillies sucked. Real hard.
|This line-up struck fear in to the hearts...of no one.|
As the game ended, Mark flipped off the TV then staggered up the stairs with nary a word of goodbye. He had consumed a good 12 beers by the end of the game to my six, so I wasn’t all that offended by his lapse in end-of-evening etiquette. The time had come to go home and continue on my quest to beat that damn game into submission.
Luckily, my house was almost literally right in front of Mark’s on the neighboring street, so all I had to do was hop a couple fences and I was home. This return trip almost went off without a hitch, but my Jedi- like reflexes had to be brought to bear as I hopped the final fence which put me on the deck of the above ground pool in my yard. When I hit the deck after flipping over the rickety, wooden fence, I teetered a bit being somewhat drunk. My stumble-bum momentum would have carried me right into the pool, but I was able to reach out and steady myself on the pool’s ladder before I took the “Nestea Plunge.”
I quickly laughed this off and within moments I was back in the cool stillness of my basement lair – my inner sanctum. And with two quick motions, my C64 and disc drive were ready to rock. I typed LOAD “*”, 8, 1 without even looking down at the keyboard. Drunk or not, I could type in this command line with my eyes glued shut.
Soon the Hardball! load screen was in front of my face, mocking me once again. I cursed the names of the programmers and designers: Bob Whitehead…what a tool! Ed Bogas…he molests collies! Mimi Doggett…she’s a dirty ho and so is her momma!
|I stared at this damn screen quite in a bit during my teenage years.|
I cackled to myself as these silly insults ran through my mind, and in that moment I really wished I had the foresight to snag a road beer from the cooler before I left Mark’s house. Such is life…
As the torturously slow C64 loading process continued I wondered if Cara was home yet. I snuck a peek at the house neighboring mine out of the row of small windows above my computer desk. The light was still on above the Campozzi’s side door. That meant she was still out and about with whatever asshole that currently wasn’t me. And here it is past 1:30 AM on a Thursday night. What a naughty, naughty minx Cara was this evening. Again, not with me.
Finally, the game booted up and I got down to the brass tacks. I chose my red and white clad All-Stars, set my line-up the way I liked it and thus began the thirty-fifth game of my summer series.
Things were going very well right out of the gate. I crushed a three-run homer in the bottom of the first and was pitching lights out baseball. I was calling all the shots tonight, like a loaded gun…to paraphrase lyrics from Aerosmith’s awesome “Back in the Saddle.”
But in the top of the sixth inning, the game cheated and that dickhead Hank Contos ruined the perfect game I had going with the dreaded “glitch” hit where the game suddenly sped up then slowed down, making the ball nigh impossible to get to before it dropped in for a hit.
I sat in muted silence for a moment with the joystick resting limply in my hands. “Fuck,” I exclaimed while reaching for the computer’s power switch.
“…you,” I finished as I clicked the switch off as forcefully as I could without busting the machine itself.
I went to bed. There was nothing else to do at that point. The damn game had bested me yet again.
I went to sleep that night with flights of Anheuser Busch angels singing me to my rest. I dreamt that Clydesdale horses were dressed in Phillies pinstripes, taking the places of Juan Samuel, Chris James and Darren Daulton out on the diamond.
|Don't drink this. Ever. Just say no, kids.|
I didn’t know horses could play baseball, but they looked like goddamn equine all-stars in my dream. It was like something out of an old-school, Merrie Melodies cartoon come to life in my alcohol addled brain. It was funny, sure, but oddly off-putting all the same.
I awoke the next morning with a very dry mouth, a throbbing skull and the distinct thought that the vile swill that flows in vast rivers from the factories in St. Louis, Missouri was the piss of Satan himself…
…and I never wanted to partake in it again.