It’s been a little over 18 years since Backyard Baseball: 2003 was released. A PC only game, Backyard Baseball served as an early memory of the sport for an entire generation of fans. The game is actually my earliest memory of getting familiarized with the MLB.
In addition to classic fictional characters such as the power hitting Pablo Sanchez or the speedy Pete Wheeler, Backyard Baseball: 2003 featured 30 animated, younger versions of real life MLB players. Each team was represented by a player, with almost every representative making multiple All Star games over their MLB careers.
Remarkably, Backyard Baseball: 2003 already has nine Hall of Fame alumni just 18 years after release.
The list includes:
Frank Thomas, inducted 2014 (first ballot)
Randy Johnson, inducted 2015 (first ballot)
Mike Piazza, inducted 2016
Ken Griffey Jr., inducted 2016 (first ballot)
Jeff Bagwell, inducted 2017
Jim Thome, inducted 2018 (first ballot)
Chipper Jones, inducted 2018 (first ballot)
Vladimir Guerrero, inducted 2018
Derek Jeter, inducted 2020 (first ballot)
In addition to the nine Backyard Baseball: 2003 players who are already members of the Hall of Fame, the recently retired Ichiro is a lock for the tenth. Ichiro of course retired following a season opening series in Japan. He was givena standing ovation as he walked off the field and with his retirement, Albert Pujols became the only active player remaining from Backyard Baseball: 2003. Pujols is also a lock for the Hall of Fame, which brings the game’s HOF floor to 11.
The game also featured Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, who will likely get in eventually, one way or another. Bonds has increased his Hall of Fame voting percentage in six consecutive seasons of eligibility. He last received 60.7% of the vote this past election, so things are trending in the right direction. If Bonds gets in, A-Rod will get in as well.
There are also multiple bubble candidates among the game’s alumni. Jimmy Rollins has an outside chance of getting in and can point to Barry Larkin as an encouraging sign. Rockies legend Todd Helton also increased his voting share from 16.5% in his first year of eligibility to 29.2% in year two. It would probably take multiple years for both of these guys to get in, but they are undoubtedly among the best of their era and we’ve seen players get in after multiple years of eligibility.
In addition to 15 potential Hall of Fame alumni, Backyard Baseball: 2003 had several players who qualify for the “Hall of very good.”
Carlos Delgado, Tim Hudson, Sammy Sosa, Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd are just a few names from the 30 player roster who certainly had their moments at the MLB level.
Ultimately though, it’s just hard to believe that this game has a floor of 11 Hall of Famers. It really did give the youngest demographic of fans – which included me at the time – a positive representation of the league during the steroid era.