At the time the game had been released, The New York Yankees had become one of the most dominant franchises of the century. From 1996 to 2001, they would win the World Series four out of five times, including three in a row. In fact, in their first four appearances, they won 16 out of 17 games. They lost a single game to the New York Mets in the 2000 series. This definitely factored in my and my friend’s decision to choose them. Dante and I had also decided to play as teammates instead of playing as opponents. We would take turns pitching, and we would alternate. Similarly, we had split up the batters; Dante had all of the odd batters, and I would take the even.
As the Nintendo Baseball season progressed, I had the sense this was shaping up to be possibly the greatest summer of my life. It was a privilege of youth, right after college graduation but right before obligations becomes one of the primary life motivators. As the New York Yankees, Dante and I pretty much dominated every other team. We had to have lost some games, though I don’t remember us losing. Sports records that had existed untouched for years were shattered; no record stood a chance.
For example, at the time, the single-season home run record had been 70. It had been set by Mark McGuire in 1998. He and Sammy Sosa had gone back and forth in a tight race before McGuire finally took the lead. Before that, Roger Maris’s record of 61, which had been set in 1961, had stood for 37 years. Barry Bonds would eventually break McGuire’s record by hitting 73 home runs in 2001. Of course, the records set by Sosa, McGuire, and Bonds were tainted during accusations and a Congressional investigation which stipulated they had all taken performance-enhancing drugs.
In my and Dante’s game, designated hitter Chili Davis had already hit close to fifty home runs, and we hadn’t even arrived at the All-Star Break.
It was going to be a great summer full of promise.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The game had a glitch, and we couldn’t save our season. We still had over half the season to go. Aside from the death of loved ones and other tragedies, It may have been the most catastrophic thing to happen in my life up until that point. The funny/sad thing is you probably think I’m kidding.
We tried and failed in all of our repeated attempts to continue playing the game. Dante, my younger brother, and I tried all of the methods we knew: blowing on the cartridge, hitting reset, unplugging the game. There were probably some other unorthodox techniques straight out of an episode of MacGyver, but I think I’ve blocked most of the unpleasantness from my memory. A few weeks later, Dante got a job working in finance, and our summer plans changed.
He could no longer join me for Nintendo 64.
By the end of the month, I too would enter the workforce, and I would have to “put childish things away.” While it may seem hyperbolic, playing All-Star Baseball ’99 was like The Woodstock Rock Festival. For us, All-Star Baseball ’99 symbolized a time with no ulterior motives or compromises; chock full of pure idealism. The glitch in the game was like the Altamont Free Concert which ended in tragedy, and many historians point to it as a symbol for the end of the Woodstock era.
Sometimes, I reflect on this time as a way to keep perspective about the important things, and what that time in my life represented. I also think of the closing words of Henry David Thoreau in his essay Walking. “So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.” Who knows, maybe there will be a game console there too.
Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com