June 15, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

The onset of summer in Oregon meant many things.

It meant trips to the river, whiffle ball games in the park and of course the aforementioned church softball league. But to a select few of Roseburg's finest teens, the onset of summer meant one thing — MicroLeague baseball.

I'm sure the uninitiated are now asking themselves just what in the world is MicroLeague baseball? Well, I will tell you. MicroLeague baseball was a computer game played on the old Commodore 64 computers. It billed itself as the finest baseball simulation money could buy. To me and my friends, it was more addictive than cocaine.

For its day I suppose MicroLeague baseball was cutting edge. Compared to today's baseball video games it is probably about as progressive as a stone wheel. There were no high-tech graphics and joysticks were not required. Each player would select an option from the keyboard and then watch the screen to see a semi-accurate depiction of what was supposedly happening.


No, the allure of the game was certainly not anything aesthetic. Our love for this game was due mostly to the fact that you could create your own teams and use real player stats to do so. I guess in a way it was like fantasy baseball, yet in most ways it was nothing like fantasy baseball.

Perhaps I'm getting a bit too technical and MicroLeague was hardly about anything technical. After being discovered by a couple guys our sophomore year of high school, the game quickly became a summertime institution. Each year during the last week of school we would gather at someone's house to conduct our draft. Some would show up with pages upon pages of ranked players while others would arrive with nothing. I usually had a bit of a list, but nothing too in depth. The drafts seemed to take forever, but none of us ever cared as there was little else to do in Roseburg during a typical summer day.

After draft day the season would quickly begin … well, just as quickly as we could enter all the players stats into the computer. This usually took days or we would get it all done in one really long night, spent with one of us typing while the others tried their best to distract the person. Once the teams were entered we would embark on an ambitious journey that, quite frankly, never ended.

Each season we would start with six to eight teams and each year, after about two or three weeks of play, there would only be four of us left playing. I guess you can't blame the other guys for dropping out. They mostly left because they had girlfriends who didn't like them spending all their time in front of a computer. The four of us who remained each year became legendary, if for nothing more than our deep commitment to that game and the numbers it produced.

With each passing MicroLeague game, the four diehard players began to take on traits that defined them. First there was Jon Bullock. He was the master of the pitchers. He won most of his games by scores of 2-1 and usually gave the rest of us fits. Then there was Jeff Duncan. Truth be told, I can't remember what Jeff's specialty was, well other than pissing off Jon, but Jeff usually won and I guess that was enough. I was in that mix somewhere.

My teams were usually powerful, modeled after the late '80s Red Sox teams. I guess at best we were a .500 club and as far as a specialty went, I think my finest moment was when I had John Kruk and somehow he stole 30 bases in a season.

Then there was Wynston. Wynston was usually the one with the 100-page draft list and he certainly was the one who wanted to win the most. Wynston's competitive fire led him to kick the plug on the old Commodore 64 out of the wall on more than one occasion.

And so it was that this fine quartet of young men would set out each year to try to play an entire season. Usually it was just for bragging rights, sometimes there might be $5 on the whole thing. Mostly, I think it was an attempt to stay amused during Oregon summers that usually went on much too long.

Looking back, I'm not really sure what the game's allure was. Perhaps it was different for each of us … camaraderie, competition, the chance to escape our parents, I'm sure there were many reasons each of us dedicated such a great part of our summer to MicroLeague baseball, just as I'm sure there are just as many reasons why each and every one of us would love for one more chance to press the number five on the C-64's old keyboard and call for the pitchout … just to see if the Krukster is running again.

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