Mad Dog and Big Hurt

The Chomp’s been neglected due to my inactivity, but in light of some recent events I had to at least get this post up. As I typed much of this between last night and this morning, the Cubs were en route to a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies in a 16-inning matchup, the longest game played in the history of both franchises. It was a bright spot in season of rough edges, as both the Cubs and their South Side rivals, the White Sox, have struggled with losing records this year.

However, there was some big news this past Sunday which likely made fans of both teams proud. On that day, former Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux and former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas both entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. “Mad Dog” and “Big Hurt” spent their early years in the majors with the Cubs and Sox respectively, and as a kid it was a pleasure to watch them both turn into the legends they’ve now become. Congrats to Maddux, Thomas, and the rest of the 2014 HOF inductees!

From L to R: Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Joe Torre. Photo comes from CBSMiami.com. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

The Cubs have been my favorite baseball team for all of my life, and Greg Maddux was a big reason for that. A player of slight build, many colleges passed on Maddux initially and once he declared for the Major League Baseball draft, some teams questioned his potential. Fortunately, Cubs scout Doug Mapson saw potential in the young pitcher, and the team would draft Maddux in June of 1984 (the year I came into this wacky world). Maddux would make his Cubs debut two years later in September.

Despite winning only eight games in 36 appearances throughout his first two seasons, Maddux got it together his third season in the league, winning 18 games. This began a streak of 17 straight seasons in which Maddux won at least 15 games. A pitcher with impeccable command, Maddux used his superior baseball IQ and pitching mechanics to overwhelm batters despite not possessing consistently powerful stuff. Over his 23 years in the league–which included stints with the Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres– Maddux would tally 355 wins (8th all-time) 18 Gold Gloves (the most of any position player), 4 Cy Young Awards, a World Series Championship (with the Braves), and a career 3.16 earned run average.

Despite all of the pleasantries about sports, this indeed is a video game blog. Over the course of their prolific careers, Maddux and Thomas appeared in several baseball video games, and Thomas even had his own title (more on that later). As a child, I spent much of my attention towards baseball on Cubs fandom, and despite having some good players– among them Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson, the latter two are also in the Hall– the Cubs were just not championship bound. The team did make it to the National League Champion Series once during Maddux’s initial years with the team (in 1989) but lost 4-1. So what’s a boy to do when his team doesn’t win yet he wants them to? No, he doesn’t switch teams, he plays as his favorite team in a video game!

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Eighty-three MPH strike. Mad Dog did that a lot. Picture is of Super R.B.I. Baseball and comes from wn.com

Whenever I played baseball video games I almost always started out playing as the Cubs, no matter how bad they were (and they were often bad). Rarely did I find the patience to tackle a 162 game regular season in a video game, but I did manage to get the Cubs to a World Series victory in one title, 1995’s Hardball 5, released by former game studio Accolade. It took a lot of simulated games and a ton of fixed stats (the game allowed one to push every player’s stats to the max if he or she chose) but it happened! Of course, Maddux was on Atlanta’s roster in HB5, but IT HAPPENED!

You probably think me pathetic right now. You would not be alone, so it’s all good.

My feelings towards the White Sox have shifted over time, going from a fringe supporter to fanatic detractor. However, I’ve been mostly consistent in my respect for former South Side Hitman Frank Thomas.

Drafted by the White Sox in the 1989 amateur draft, Thomas made his big league debut for the team the following year in August. A massive man at 6’5″ 240 pounds, Thomas possessed biceps that seemed sculpted out of marble. One of the game’s premier power hitters, Thomas lived up to his “Big Hurt” moniker by belting 521 homers, which is 18th all-time. Thomas wasn’t all about power, though. A capable contact hitter, the two-time American League MVP finished his pro tenure with a 1997 AL Batting Title and a career .301 batting average. During his 19-year career, Thomas played with the White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Oakland Athletics.

During the 1990s, Big Frank’s popularity was great enough that he was able to get his own video game. In 1995, Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball was published by now defunct Acclaim Entertainment and developed by Iguana. A baseball simulator, BHB emphasizes recreating some of the actual mechanics of baseball and features some of the first usage of motion capture technology in a baseball video game. Initially released on Sega’s Genesis and Game Gear systems as well as Nintendo’s Super NES and Game Boy, the game was later released on DOS, the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn the following year.

Yeah it’s loading… loading up some hurt! Picture comes from mobygames.com

Like many baseball games of its era, BHB carries a license from the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA), allowing it to recreate over 700 real baseball players of its time. The game features a number of gameplay modes– among them Exhibition, an All-Star game matchup, Home Run Derby and Season– and all 28 baseball teams and their home stadiums. Since BHB was not licensed by MLB itself, the game only features generic teams known by their city instead of their actual team titles.

In the DOS, Saturn, and PlayStation versions of the game, the stadiums are rendered in 3D graphics, making it one of the first baseball games ever to utilize 3D graphics technology. Some footage of the PlayStation version of the game (uploaded by YouTube user VideoGameQuickClips) is embedded below.

I actually never owned a copy of BHB, but I did have a demo of it on DOS at one time. It wasn’t a spectacular game by any means, but I don’t remember it being terrible either. For the sake of the old school, I may see if I can pick up a copy of it on eBay.

That does it for this segment. Again, congrats to all that made it to the Hall this year! Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: Added some info on Thomas’ draft history.

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