Baseball Stars, a peak in many ways…

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Merry Christmas.

It’s nice to be able to write that and know that a few thousand people might read it.  Or at least glance over it.  I hope you all had a safe and fun holiday.

I used to love Christmas.  I guess I still do, but I used to really love it. Presents. Presents. Presents.  It was all about waking up early and tearing into presents.

My family has never been overly wealthy.  My mother and stepfather are both educators and the most elaborate gift I received as a child was an original Nintendo Entertainment System with 12 games, including Tecmo Superbowl, Duck Hunt, Contra and the almighty Baseball Stars.  That was in 1998, 15 years after the NES came out and close 10 years after most of those games were first released.

But I didn’t care.  I was 11 years old and it was my first video game system.  I absolutely loved it.

You could create teams from scratch in Baseball Stars and run an entire club just like a real-life general manager, hiring and firing at will.  My older brothers Ryan and Evan kind of ran things back then and usually hogged the two controllers that we had with little fight from me.  They created the ’97 Braves, the ’97 Indians, the ’97 Orioles and the ’97 Mariners.  We had just moved to St. Louis, Missouri, so they probably made the ’97 Cardinals as well.  I don’t know, I don’t really remember.

What I do remember is playing game after game until our parents demanded that it was time for bed.  Then I remember sneaking out of bed and continuing the fun.  It wasn’t PlayStation, or Nintendo 64 or any of those other modern systems that my friends at school were playing, but it was a blast.

Now it’s 2010, almost 2011.  I still play video games all the time with friends and I love few things more than my PlayStation 3.  The graphics are stunning, Sony’s MLB: The Show features 120-year dynasties and you no longer have to spend a whole day creating accurate rosters.  The 2010 Cardinals are provided — with spot-on batting stances, stunningly lifelike pitching deliveries and even a deep farm system.

It’s great.  But it’s not the same.

My brother Evan lives in Chicago now (he writes for ProFootballTalk and Rotoworld) and my brother Ryan has called Kansas City home for the last few years.  We talk regularly and get together plenty, but I can’t remember the last time we all crammed on a two-man couch and beat the piss out of the Ninja Blacksox.

I heard Bobby Bowden suggest recently that ‘the good old days’ probably weren’t all that good.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe this nostalgia nonsense is, well, nonsense.

Whatever the case, I’m glad I’ll always have those memories and I’m glad that the holidays force us to reunite at least once a year.  Now if I could just find that old NES…

Bellinger lifts Dodgers over Brewers 2-1 in 13

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Cody Bellinger singled home the winning run in the 13th inning, lifting the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday night and tying the NL Championship Series at two games apiece.

Bellinger grounded a 3-2 pitch from Junior Guerra into right field, scoring Manny Machado, who slid home and touched the plate with his left hand to beat the tag and end a thriller that took 5 hours, 15 minutes.

The Dodgers struck out 17 times; the Brewers 15.

Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, with Wade Miley going for the Brewers against fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw. The teams return to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Friday.

With one out in the 13th, Machado had a broken-bat single to left field and went to second on Guerra’s wild pitch. With first base open and slumping Yasmani Grandal on deck, the Brewers chose to pitch to Bellinger – and it cost them.

Bellinger, who entered as a pinch hitter in the sixth, also had the defensive play of the game. He made a diving catch on his belly of a ball hit by Lorenzo Cain leading off the 10th, spreading his arms out and sliding like a snow angel in right field.

Both teams used all their position players and wasted numerous chances.

Dodgers starter Rich Hill allowed one run and three hits in five innings. The left-hander struck out six and walked three.

The Brewers tied the game 1-all in the fifth on pinch-hitter Domingo Santana‘s RBI double that took one hop against the right-field wall with Yasiel Puig scrambling in pursuit.

The Dodgers led 1-0 on Brian Dozier‘s RBI single in the first off Gio Gonzalez, who left after twisting his ankle while fielding an infield single by Puig in the second.

The sellout crowd of 53,764 was considerably noisier than on Monday, when Enrique Hernandez criticized Dodgers fans for being too quiet. Joc Pederson and Bellinger waved blue rally towels in the dugout.

But the Dodgers again struggled offensively after going 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in a 4-0 loss in Game 3.

The Brewers had the potential go-ahead run at third in the seventh. Manny Pina doubled against Kenta Maeda leading off, thrusting his hips and waving his arms in a display that drew boos. Orlando Arcia flied out to left, with Chris Taylor and Bellinger nearly colliding before Taylor made a sliding catch.

Pina took third on pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson‘s flyout to center before Cain grounded out to second against Dylan Floro to end the inning.

The Dodgers had runners on the corners in the bottom of the eighth against hard-throwing Josh Hader, who pitched for the second consecutive day.

Pinch-hitter Matt Kemp struck out to end the threat.

The Brewers had a chance in the ninth. Pina drew a one-out walk from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. With fans on their feet, Arcia grounded out, moving pinch-runner Hernan Perez to third. Pinch-hitter Travis Shaw struck out swinging on four pitches.

Corey Knebel allowed a two-out walk to Taylor in the bottom of the ninth but Justin Turner flied out to center.

In the 10th, Ryan Braun singled with two outs and stole second against Jansen, who struck out Jesus Aguilar to end the inning.

MANNY’S MOVE

Machado allowed his left leg to clip the lower right leg of Aguilar at first base while getting thrown out on a routine play in the 10th. Aguilar appeared upset and the two exchanged words. Both benches and bullpens emptied, but no punches were thrown.

MANNY’S CUP OF TEA

Machado says there’s “no excuse” for his lack of effort while running the bases.

It was especially notable in Game 2 when he failed to run out a grounder hit to Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia with no score.

“There’s no excuse for it, honestly,” Machado said in an interview aired on Fox Sports 1 before Game 4.

However, Machado says he has no plan to change his style.

“I’m not the type of player that’s going to be `Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base,” he said. “That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.”

Machado can become a free agent after the season.

TICKETS ANYBODY?

The Dodgers say tickets are still available for Game 5, which begins at 2:05 p.m. PDT.

UP NEXT

Brewers: Miley makes his third postseason start in Game 5 on Wednesday. He pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the NLCS, allowing two hits while striking out three and walking none. His other start came in Game 3 of the NLDS at Colorado. He didn’t factor in the decision either time.

Dodgers: Kershaw took the loss in Game 1 against the Brewers. Kershaw had the best postseason outing of his career in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves, allowing two hits over eight shutout innings.

More AP MLB: http://www.apnews.com/tag/MLB and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports