Humongous Entertainment existed from 1992 until 2006. During that time they made many, many games in the edutainment genre, helping kids with all sorts of developmental skills, like reading, writing, math, and science. HOWEVER, the most enduring relic from the company?s existence is its Backyard Sports series, particularly the first in the line, 1997?s Backyard Baseball.
I?m fairly certain I received my copy of Backyard Baseball in a box of Wheaties. It?s a fully playable game ? you can take on a friend in versus mode, or put together a roster to go through a season. There are a ton of fun little nuances to the game, such as creative team names like the Mighty Melonheads or the classic schoolyard taunts like ?we want a pitcher, not a belly itcher!?
Of course, the majority of the action takes place on the field. Though you can choose anyone right from the get-go, it quickly becomes apparent that certain players are better than others. Future iterations of Backyard Sports games allow you to pick athletes to play with the kids, but Backyard Baseball has none of that nonsense. I don?t want my nine-year-old kid playing with Barry Bonds. I want him playing with other nine-year-olds (yes, I know all of the professional athletes are ?kid? versions of themselves, but I don?t care).
The OG game had 30 kid athletes just itching to be on your squad. We don?t have time for chumps here ? you want the best players suiting up for you. Let?s dive in.
Outside of #1, this is the easiest choice on this list. Jorge brings absolutely nothing to the table. He?s got 2 ratings across the board, he?s pompous as hell for how terrible he is (?pick me if you want a know-it-all criticizing your every move?), and his theme music is trash. He also swings straight down, which is more appropriate for a whack-a-mole extravaganza, not a baseball game. Only choose him if you want a challenge. An annoying challenge.
29. Billy Jean Blackwood
A character so forgettable I barely remembered she was in this game. She?s a slightly better hitter than Jorge, so she?s got that going for her. Unfortunately, that?s about it. She?s not even the best player with a ponytail in the game.
28. Kimmy Eckman
Despite having a worse speed than Billy Jean, I at least remember this pigtailed kiddo. Kimmy?s got a lil? pop in her swing, but she is SO SLOW. Let me tell you, there?s nothing more frustrating than rocketing what should easily be a double to left field, only to be easily thrown out because you can barely put one foot in front of the other. Kimmy does that in spades.
27. Lisa Crockett
BOOOOORRRRRRIIIINNNNNNG. Lisa seems to get irritated every time you talk to her. It?s like, ?oh, you don?t want to play for my team? Good. I never picked you before and I never will.? Her music also makes me sound like a sad sack walking into a bar and ordering a gin and tonic while drinking the juice directly from the jar of pickled eggs. Woof.
26. Reese Worthington
Reese is only this high up because I like his music. It?s got a bit of Peter Gabriel exploration to it. Catchy tune aside, though, Reese is pretty worthless. He?s fast but tires easily, probably because he?s coddled all the time at home. I wouldn?t waste a roster spot on him, and neither should you.
25. Sally Dobbs
Sally?s nickname is ?The Boss,? but a more accurate one would be ?Please Kindly Shut the Hell Up.? This girl probably racked up a $1700 phone bill per month. Her brother Ronny (we?ll get to him soon enough) is shy and barely speaks, and it?s probably because his sister won?t let him get a word in edgewise.
24. Marky Dubois
One of two country bumpkins in the game (Pete Wheeler being the other), Marky is the far inferior one. Really, the only main difference is their speed. While Wheeler could give Usain Bolt a run for his money, Marky is the slowest thing in the world. It?s probably because he?s only wearing overalls. I couldn?t run in ?em, either. Those things chafe like crazy. On the plus side, Marky has a pet frog, and that?s a pretty solid bonus. Too bad the frog can?t pinch run for him.
23. Ronny Dobbs
This poor kid has to live with his talkative, bossy sister. I?m sure she?s stolen his Halloween candy every year since he was old enough to pronounce ?Kit-Kat.? Shy Ronny has a 3 for batting, but that has to be a typo. I can?t tell you how many times he?d be up with two outs and runners on second and third and he?d just whiff. He?s timid, short, and slow. All of that add up to a spot on the bench.
22. Dmitri Petrovich
If a kid was ever going to tell you how the way you?re standing is bad for your posture via the pythagorean theorem, it would be this guy. I remember Dmitri irritating the hell out of me every time he spoke, but he?s a solid ballplayer. Batting and speed are the two biggest things in this game, and he?s got 3s in both of them. You?ll never put him on the mound, but he?d probably break his protractor and compass, anyway.
21. Gretchen Hasselhoff
Her nickname is Jabberjaw because she talks a lot, but you can only understand about 30 percent of what she?s saying. She?s like a real life Dawn Lazarus. The problem with Gretchen is that she?s so terrible at fielding that it?s a complete coin flip to whether she?ll get an error or not. I would hide her at catcher but you?re doomed if there?s a play at the plate. Probably best to keep her at second base and hope for the best.
20. Amir Khan
Amir looks up to his big brother Achmed, but the talent level just isn?t there. He also doesn?t rock huge headphones and doesn?t treat his bat as an air guitar. Much like the below duo, I think Amir is supposed to be better if Achmed is on the team. Usually I let the younger dude sit out while the big boys play. NOT BASED ON REAL LIFE AT ALL. *silently sobs*
19/18. Ashley and Sidney Webber
These twins allegedly play better if they?re on the same team. Whether that?s true or not is still a mystery, though I can?t ever remember picking one without choosing the other. They seem like they?d be better as a doubles tennis duo, or you can stick them in left and right field and make a Webber sandwich.
17. Ricky Johnson
If you?re playing Backyard Soccer, Ricky is your guy. But for some reason, his soccer skills don?t translate from pitch to field. He?s got solid speed and is an okay pitcher (and a big ol? head!), but he?s not going to blow you away with any other talents. If only he could kick instead of use a bat?
16. Maria Luna
I?ll give Maria credit ? she?s got one of the more festive songs in the game. And she?s also playing in a pink dress that she manages not to get dirty, which is pretty impressive. But for whatever reason, I just never dug her when I was growing up. I think her 3 batting statistic is overblown; she seemed to strike out a lot. Either way, you?ll dance when she steps up to the plate, and that?s a great thing.
15. Luanne Lui
Luanne is a one-trick pony, but it?s a pretty solid trick: bunt and hustle out a single. She?s the youngest player in the game and can barely put a sentence together because she?s so bashful. That?s okay, though: we?re not here to make conversation, we?re here to win some ballgames. Bonus points because Luanne plays while holding a teddy bear at all times. I don?t know about you, but I don?t think I could run very well whilst holding anything, let alone a heavy bear. Luanne is a speedster, though, and a solid selection for the bottom of the batting order.
14. Annie Frazier
Annie is the shout out to the Grateful Dead, and might even be related to Jerry Garcia somehow. She?s got solid 3s for all of her stats (except a 1 for pitching, but you only need 1?2 pitchers per game, so that doesn?t matter), which makes her a very well-rounded player. I also appreciated her positive-but-not-over-the-top attitude. She?s just a great influence in the dugout and can help some of these powder keg kids stay more even-keeled.
13. Ernie Steele
I know Ernie is maybe the best fielder in the game, but I DID NOT like how slow he was. This kid is like 7?4?, he should be getting to first base in three steps. Instead, his wacky Stretch Armstrong-esque body hasn?t yet developed into anything resembling normal human movement, so you get stuck with a subpar hitter and an even worse runner. For fielding, though, you can?t do much better. Stick him at either first or third base and know that side of the field is error-free. He?s also THE GOOFIEST, which will either make him endearing or irritating, depending on how much goof you like in your life.
12. Vicki Kawaguchi
She?s a ballet dancer, which translates incredibly well to the field. You can use her as a pitcher in a pinch, but her real talents lie in speed and fielding. Much like Luanne Lui, the best Vicki strategy is to bunt for a base hit, because she is DREADFUL at hitting. Like, she?s worse than you or I would be against major league pitching, and aside from the occasional pitch that literally freezes when you use a power-up, the best pitches she?s facing are, like, 30 miles per hour. You can do better, Vicki.
11. Angela Delvecchio
Angela nearly cracks the top ten on pitching alone. However, she is atrocious everywhere else. She can?t field her position, she runs slower than molasses, and her 3 rating in batting is a misnomer, as that rating dwindles the more tired she gets from pitching. Once in a game I was playing, Angela was batting in the final inning with the score tied. She was tired from pitching, so even on a ball smashed to left field that rolled all the way to the foul line, complete with hilarious errors from two separate fielders and some awful throws back into the infield, Angela was thrown out at first base by about eight steps. It?s like she has her feet tied together by rope while hopping in a burlap sack.
10. Kiesha Phillips
This might be a controversial selection being so low, but I was just never a Kiesha Phillips fan. She has a 4 rating in both batting and speed, so ideally she?s among the greatest hitters in the game. Yet she seemed to strike out more than anyone else, perhaps because she was always going for the long bombs. You certainly feasted with Kiesha, but you?d get your famines, too. Is that a tradeoff you?re willing to take? Props for her chillllllll theme music, though.
9. Mikey Thomas
This guy basically has two options: home run or ground out on a ball hit to the outfield. There?s no in between. He might be even slower than Angela, which is saying something. But my goodness, can he knock the stitching off the ball. I once heard an opposing pitcher fainted just from the site of Mikey coming up to the plate. Mikey also regularly picks his nose, which, depending how you look at it, is either a positive (not afraid of embarrassing himself) or a negative (gross).
8. Stephanie Morgan
Stephanie is a classic ?kid born into a lucky situation.? Her dad used to play baseball, but then he got shin splints from running the bases so often after home runs. TOUGH LIFE. Either way, Stephanie?s a solid all-around player, and is certainly the one most dressed like a professional. She?s basically Ozzie Smith at shortstop, though her fielding seems to decline if you put her at any other position. I guess that?s fair, since her baseball card warns you she?ll day dream if you stick her in the outfield.
7. Dante Robinson
If we?re going on stats alone, Dante is highly overrated here. But this list is about the player as a person, as well, and Dante is fantastic. For starters, the fact he can get his hat to stay on his massive afro is a minor miracle itself. Couple that with the fact that Dante is always hungry and gulps down a cheeseburger or hot dog before each at bat? I?ve found my inner fat kid. Bonus points that he can run like the wind, which means if you can nail down the timing of his awkward swing, you could likely get a lot of inside-the-park home runs.
6. Tony Delvecchio
Another nostalgic pick, Tony isn?t going to blow you away with any one stat. He?s a solid hitter, and his ?lollipop disguised as a cigarette? look makes him seem extra cool. The best part about Tony, though, his is rocket arm. Years ago, I remember seeing a video of Vlad Guerrero throwing a ball from the third-base foul line over the right field wall. That?s like a 400-foot throw. Tony puts Vlad to shame, though. He can get ANYONE out from anywhere on the field, plus anytime he throws you get the ?rocket? sound effect. Nice.
5. Achmed Khan
Heck yeah, Achmed! This guy has the most rocking theme music, and he?s a super slugger to boot. It?s rare that a player has both good contact and power, but Achmed rarely, if ever strikes out. He can?t hear a damn word you?re saying because his enormous headphones are four times the size of his head, but when he?s routinely knocking extra-base hits into the outfield, you don?t care. Fun fact: Did you know Bluetooth was patented the same year this game came out? Just imagine what stylish headphones Achmed could be rockin? today.
4. Jocinda Smith
One of the best hitter/fielder combos in the game, Jocinda is an absolute beast at the plate. Mammoth home runs are the norm, and she?s a fantastic choice for first base because she can snare any errant throw from the Jorge Garcias and Reese Worthingtons of the world. Jocinda just seems like a generally nice person, to boot. I want her on my squad, and I want to go get ice cream sundaes with her after the game.
3. Kenny Kawaguchi
Kenny is in a wheelchair, but that doesn?t stop him from getting around the basepaths with ease. Aside from Angela, Kenny is the only player in the game with a 4 rating for pitching. That means he?s got a wicked arm (particularly on curveballs) that will result in many, many strikeouts for the opposing team. Kenny isn?t a particularly strong hitter (he?s swinging from a wheelchair, for goodness?s sakes), but his speed and especially his pitching more than make up for it. Plus he?s got a can-do spirit, and I admire that.
2. Pete Wheeler
Pete Wheeler is dumber than a box of rocks and probably about as dense as them, but boy, can this kid fly. I?ve legitimately gotten a double off a bunt because of how speedy he is. If he were just fast and that?s it, he?d only be average (see Lui, Luanne). But he?s great at everything else, too. He?s the most well-rounded player besides the absurdly overpowered #1 pick, with 3s across the board and his 4 on speed should really be a 5,000. His walk up to the plate includes him standing on the wrong side of the batter?s box, but once he gets sorted out, all is well with the world.
1. Pablo Sanchez
This is the most obvious pick in the game. There?s literally no other competition for the greatest of all time. Pablo?s biggest weakness is pitching, where he still sports a 3 rating. That?s the only thing keeping him from being perfect. As it is, he?ll crush any ball headed his way, will outrun you on the basepaths, and will make ridiculous catches and throws wherever you put him in the field. His theme music is perhaps the most epic in the game, which only adds to his legend. If you don?t have Pablo on your team, you?ll physically feel weaker. Pablo exclusively speaks in Spanish, so you don?t have to worry about him mouthing off to a lesser player (at least, not in a way that they can understand). In addition, I used to think he was saying ?Sweet Pablo? instead of ?Soy Pablo.? And you gotta admit, ?Sweet Pablo? is an incredibly fitting nickname. What a champ.
Don?t forget to sign up for my mailing list for more resources and other creative goodies.