BASEBALL CD-ROMS THAT MAY EASE THE PAIN
It's the dog days of August, and the boys of summer are (sigh) on strike. What's a certifiable baseball fanatic to do? Fans with a multimedia computer may be able to get over the blues faster than most. Total Baseball from Creative Multimedia, Microsoft's Complete Baseball, and Baseball's Greatest Hits from Voyager Software chronicle the sport's storied past on CD-ROM. Fans can pore through statistics and vintage photographs. All three disks include memorable radio broadcasts, and two of them pack video highlights.
Complete Baseball ($60) is one of the best CD-ROMs of any kind to exploit multimedia. Fine, subtle touches include random sound bites and an opening menu of baseball card-like buttons: Clicking on Almanac lets you access a season-by-season summary dating back to 1901. By choosing Players, you can call up stats on everyone who performed in the majors. Chronicle covers such subjects as African Americans in baseball and collecting. Other choices let junkies peruse team histories or try trivia. Microsoft has set up an on-line link that lets people with a modem dial up summaries and box scores, though much of what's there is available in the morning paper. The service costs $1.25 per day in the U.S., $2.25 in Canada. Microsoft is waiving the fee during the strike and serving up labor updates.
I fancy myself a knowledgeable fan. But browsing past a photo of Brooklyn Stars pitcher Candy Cummings, I learned that he was credited with inventing the curveball. Cross-linked text makes it simple to jump among topics. When reading about home-run king Hank Aaron, you can click on the name of previous record holder, Babe Ruth, to move to the Bambino's biography.
Included among the dozen videos are Toronto Blue Jay Joe Carter's World Series-winning home run against the Philadelphia Phillies last fall and Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski's 1960 Series-winning blast against the New York Yankees. I enjoyed footage of Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder of the St. Louis Browns, and New York Giant Bobby Thomson's 1951 shot-heard-round-the-world.
Microsoft doesn't offer everything on this nitpicker's wish list. I wanted a list of trades under each player's stats. And the disk doesn't include the kind of search functions that would quickly settle barroom arguments.
Creative Multimedia's Total Baseball ($30, Macintosh and MS-DOS) does offer search capabilities, and as a reference work with 2,300 pages of statistics and articles, it'll provide grist for diehards. Like Microsoft's product, Total Baseball includes stats on every player to don big-league duds. But the nongraphical screens won't satisfy multimedia snobs, and there's no hyperlinked text that lets you scamper to a related topic.
Total Baseball doesn't include videos, and its audio clips are riddled with inappropriate pictures. For example, you can hear Chris Chambliss' 1976 homer against the Kansas City Royals that propelled the Yanks into the Series. But the accompanying photo shows Chambliss in a Cleveland Indians uniform.
MYSTERY REMAINS. Voyager's Baseball's Greatest Hits ($50, Mac and Windows) balks at an encyclopedic approach. There are stats on many--but not all--players. The latest version, available in September, does a splendid job of recreating the game's glory. Sportscaster Mel Allen provides commentary, and fans can read accounts of players and events from scribes such as Red Smith and Grantland Rice. As with Complete Baseball, a trivia game is included.
Where the disk comes alive is in the voices of Yogi Berra, Ty Cobb, Casey Stengel, and other Hall of Famers. The videos are also impressive. As a Mets fan, I gravitated toward Tommie Agee's great catches in the '69 World Series and the ball crawling through the legs of Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in the Fall Classic of '86. The best gem may be the home-movie footage of Ruth's controversial "called shot" at Wrigley Field during the 1932 Series. Although the Babe appears to be pointing at the spot where he homered a moment later, even the computer can't conclusively settle one of baseball's most lingering mysteries.Edward Baig