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September 15, 1997|NANCY CHURNIN

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: Backyard Baseball for the 5-10 set, coming Oct. 1 from Humongous Entertainment ($39.95 Win 95/Mac).

The baseball playoffs and World Series are coming up. And while you're wondering about possible matchups (Mike Piazza vs. Greg Maddux, Rafael Palmeiro vs. Randy Johnson?), the Little Leaguers in your own dugout (i.e., your kids) can play fantasy games with characters their own age.

It's called Backyard Baseball, a new interactive computer game for the 5-10 set, coming Oct. 1 from Humongous Entertainment.

Backyard Baseball sports 30 players--girls and boys--all with personality quirks to spare; the youngest is 4-year-old Luanne Lui, who likes to play T-ball holding her teddy bear (in the no-lose T-ball mode, kids get to swing until they get a hit).

It's the plethora of choices and quality graphics that make the game special. Kids can hand-pick their team or have the computer pick it for them. They can play with or without errors (with errors, you really get to know the characters; someone may throw a tantrum in the outfield). They can play a pickup game from one of of seven fields, including a parking lot, or head straight into a 14-game season and go for Backyard Baseball's World Championships.

Kids can also choose the team name and uniform color (Maria Luna, nickname Pinky, plays best in pink). They can pick field positions and batting lineups, seven types of bat swings (there's even a distinction between bunt and crazy bunt), 12 distinct pitches and open, closed or square batting stances.

And for stat nuts in the making, statistics are updated every time a character plays.

My Little Leaguers loved it.

(At retail stores or call Humongous Entertainment, 800-499-8386,

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