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Early 90′s Computer Game Was Powered By La Russa’s Baseball IQ

Kelly Hatmaker/Brett Blume
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -  Talk about having a mind for baseball — St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa’s mind was downloaded into a computer to fuel the action in a well-received video game in the 1990′s.

“It let people play a computer baseball game against artificial intelligence that was created by Tony La Russa,” Don Daglow, president of Daglow Entertainment, tells KMOX News.

“Tony La Russa’s Ultimate Baseball” was published for PC’s and later for the Sega Genesis throughout much of the 90′s.

Daglow, who created the very first computer baseball sim in the early 1970′s, says he always knew computers, but when it came time to find someone who knew the game of baseball inside and out, then-Oakland A’s manager Tony La Russa was the obvious choice.

“His depth of knowledge, as is so obvious to the world I think, is just so great,” Daglow explains.  “If you’re a baseball fan there are few greater joys in life you can have than to talk strategy with Tony La Russa.”

Daglow says game developers would head out to the ballpark and actually scout La Russa’s teams to try and figure out his strategies.

“Whenever we saw Tony make a managerial decision that the ‘Computer Tony’, the computer imitating Tony, would not have made, we’d write it down,” Daglow says.  “Then the next time we met with Tony we’d ask him ‘Why did you do that?’, and he’d always give us the answer.  That process allowed us to refine the computer Tony La Russa to try and accurately imitate the real one.”

The computer game won several awards and was a big hit with fans and critics alike, especially those who liked statistical realism as much or more than flashy graphics.

“That game was ahead of its time,” says avowed fan Tom Ackerman, KMOX Sports Director.  “Video games today are all about the visual. ‘Tony La Russa’s Ultimate Baseball’ was about the cerebral side of baseball.”

“SSI (the publisher) pops one over the fence with ‘Tony La Russa’s Ultimate Baseball’, an impressive rendition of the national pastime that lives up to its lofty billing” begins a review in Compute! magazine published in 1992.

“We won some sports game of the year awards and various other honors for the game, and we were very, very flattered by those reviews,” Don Daglow says.  “But no computer game designer can ever hope to think of things the way that a real baseball manager does.  So much of what we were able to do was because of that incredible access we had to Tony La Russa.”

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