Bram Stoker Vs. Sylvia Plath: The Amazing World Of Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball's Line-Ups
At the height of his playing career, Ken Griffey Jr. was a true crossover star. There were other marquee names in baseball, but when it came to mass appeal, none could match the radiating star power of the Mariners’ center fielder. If you asked someone from that era who didn’t have a whole lot of interest in baseball to name a player, “Griffey” would, more often than not, be the response.
As high profile as Griffey’s media presence was, there were natural limits. Normally his name wouldn’t be associated, even remotely, with Dracula, English poetry, punk, the movies of John Waters, mystery novels, or classic glamour girls, but all of these subjects carry a connection to the smiling slugger: his signature 1994 baseball title for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
While MLB licensing was in place for the game, ensuring the presence of real team names and logos, there was no agreement with the MLBPA, which meant that with the exception of Griffey, player names did not appear in the game. The real life rosters of circa 1993 MLB clubs were, however, represented, with actual stats from the previous season, and uniform numbers. An editing feature allowed players to change the fictional names, but in the meantime, the team rosters sported the fictional names assigned by the game’s programmers. As it turns out, these names were not random or generic, but rather, erudite, often hilarious, and always in depth cultural references.
Each individual roster was focused on a different theme. Some of the themes, like the Presidential roster of the Kansas City Royals (David Cone must have been especially thrilled to be represented by George Bush, whose unflattering, ceremonial, Opening Day pitch was still fresh in the cultural memory when the game was released,) or the New York City geography/pinstripe legends combo for the Yankees, were obvious enough for the game’s young audience to recognize.
Other themes would have been over the heads of the game’s young audience, but recognizable to most adults.
Some examples include the classic horror themed Colorado Rockies, the literary line-ups of Cincinnati and Oakland, the glamor girl Cleveland Indians, the comedy legend St. Louis Cardinals, and the old Hollywood California Angels, which include names like Vincent Price, Richard Pryor, Agatha Christie, Gustave Flaubert (!!), Brigitte Bardot, and Gregory Peck.
Where the game absolutely goes bonkers in the most wonderful possible way is with the rosters that reference things that wouldn’t have just been over the heads of kids, but are so niche or obscure that it is astounding that they have even the remotest connection to a mainstream video game.
Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball boasts a better record collection than most real people have. Icons of punk and alternative music represent no less than four rosters, the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and Montreal Expos. Big names like Joey Ramone, Debbie Harry, Joe Strummer, Billy Idol, Morrissey, Lou Reed, and even Siouxsie Sioux are represented, but seeing the names of Gaye Advert, Alice Bag, Poly Styrene, Lux Interior, Exene Cervenka, Darby Crash, and Pete Shelley (among many others) is just surreal.
Speaking of surreal, the trash-cinema genius icon John Waters gets an entire roster dedicated to his works. Naturally, it’s the Baltimore Orioles, who field the likes of C. Baby, F. Trouble, M. Maniac, and P. Flamingo, alongside the man himself, who fills in for Cal Ripken Jr., in what has to be in the mix for the most incongruous mix of real life player and alter ego in the entire game.
We urge you to check out all the Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball rosters. Maybe you’ll rekindle some old loves, or find some new obsessions.
The Nike Air Griffey Max 1 (Varsity Royal) releases this Tuesday, 5/24 - online at 10am EST on bdgastore.com and in-store at 11am.
Words: Dan Alvarez