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What is a wren?

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You know how people have certain events burned into their minds? They know exactly where they were, and what they were doing when something amazing happened? Something that really got to them? Of course you do.

My personal set of memories include Finley's grand slam in '98 and watching game 7 of the 2001 World Series live at the BOB. Both are pretty good memories and I'm glad I have them. My list also, for some weird reason, includes the very first time I heard Hotel California by the Eagles and I thought to myself, "This is the greatest song ever". I used to be a little embarrassed about that for a while and I'd play it off as me being young and dumb. I mean, you know. Cause it's the Eagles. And as the Dude says, "I hate the f--kin' Eagles." But now that I'm a little older, I can admit that I really do enjoy the Eagles... and Linda Ronstadt as well. And that's OK.

Anyways, enough about the Eagles. What I meant to be talking about was this:



The very first time I saw that screen: It was June of 1990. I was spending the night at my best pal Trevor's house. We had just finished 8th grade. Next year? High school. We were 13 year old kings of the world. Trevor broke out his NES and I was thinking we'd play us some Contra or maybe some Castlevania, but that screen came on.

Intrigued, I said, "What's this?"

Trevor said, "You've never played Baseball Stars?"

Embarrassed, I admitted I hadn't. He told me I'd have to create a team. Trevor's team was based on real life guys at the time. So he had Rickey at leadoff. Canseco was in there. McGwire. Gwynn. I didn't want to copy him, so I put in made up names and I created my first Baseball Stars team: Dex's Dudes.

Dex's Dudes needed a starting pitcher. Chuck's a good name, I decided. I got plenty of roster spots and no time to think of great names so I figured, I'll name the next pitcher "E.". And the pitcher after that will go by the name of Cheese. Other names were similar. For giggles I had a guy named Poop and another guy named Urine. Poop never amounted to much, but Urine became a solid power hitter.

By the end I was putting random characters in for names. The best of these random guys - Actually, the best player on the team - was Jiga. Later, if I was creating a new team, I'd use Jiga as a name just to keep him with me. Much later, when Jay-Z became popular and everything became jigga this and jigga that, I remember wondering if somehow Jay-Z had heard about my team and decided to copy it.

We played our first game. I don't remember who won. Trevor probably killed me. But then he showed me how you could have the game simulate matchups. We created a league. We started simulating games. I started checking the stats. Chuck was turning into the ace. Urine led in batting average. And Jiga, to my amazement, without much in the way of improving his stats, was a triple crown candidate. I was hooked.

So hooked was I, and so integral to my youth was Baseball Stars, that I even remember that it was the Kay-Bee's at the Plaza Bonita Shopping Center where I talked my mom into buying Baseball Stars for me and my brother. Neither of us could get enough. My brother, Dar, had two teams. Dar's Cars (everybody was named after a car) and Dar's Stars. He was a weird little kid and very fascinated with things that rhymed with his name.

Our neighbors got hooked (including reader bktabinga who grew up down the street from us). For the next 5 years, Baseball Stars was a staple on our block.

One summer in '93 or so, we held a tournament where everybody started with brand new teams. We made trades. We held drafts. We built our teams up. We checked stats and league leaders. Generations before us had APBA and Strat-O-Matic. We had Baseball Stars.

During that particular tournament, for some weird reason, bktabinga's team somehow got erased. None of the other teams were touched. Bktabinga still thinks there was something underhanded going on, but weeks of wheeling and dealing were gone. I still remember the song he sang. It was sung to the tune of What's Up by Four Non Blondes.

I turn on the Nintendo and I look inside
And I take a deep breath cause my team has died
And I scream from the top of my lungs
WHAT'S GOING ON!?


Such good times.

Now they got all these fancy pants games with all the stats to recreate all the subtleties of the game. And everything's a competition to see who can get the most realistic player models and who can get the most authentic ballparks. After each year, last year's edition goes by the wayside. Meanwhile, I keep waiting for one of these retro discs to come along for my Gamecube or PS2 that has Baseball Stars on it. Right off I'll bring Dex's Dudes back to life and I'll call my brother up and he'll probably recreate Dar's Cars, and we'll both try to earn extra money playing exhibition games against the Lovely Ladies. And we'll be happy as clams.

When isn't it?

When it is.

What is a wren?

A bird.