The television series Pitch aired on Fox in 2016, and I watched it perhaps a year later. I have been meaning to write about it here ever since, but I think the delay has been largely due to debating how I would approach this thing. When I watched Ken Burns’s Baseball documentary series, I wrote about it one episode at a time. However, each episode of that series is approximately two hours long and crammed full of information. Pitch, meanwhile, is more of a standard television drama. A separate post for each episode seems excessive. However, a really long, single, detailed post also seems excessive, so this is going to be quite the Reader’s Digest summary.
The series revolves around a character named Ginny Baker, who becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball. In the first episode of the show, Ginny makes her Major League debut with the San Diego Padres. Though her first start goes terribly, the team opts not to send her back to the minors because they realize that having the first woman Major Leaguer is quite a draw for crowds (it’s always about the money, right?). Fortunately, Ginny manages to recover from her stumble, and thus, the series takes off.
Ginny’s father, Bill, is the one who not only taught her to pitch, but who also drove her to become good enough to go pro. We learn early on, however, that Bill actually died years ago in a car accident, right around when Ginny was first drafted by the Padres organization. His lessons and his death continue to haunt Ginny throughout the series.
Ginny’s relationship with her father is only one of many conflicts throughout the show. Pitch goes out of its way to try to accurately depict what it would really be like if a woman were to break into the majors. Ginny deals with an immense amount of pressure in this role, not just through her performance on the diamond, but also in being put up on a pedestal as a role model for girl athletes. Through all the publicity, Ginny’s primary goal with the team is to be accepted as one of the guys. We also see drama surrounding the All-Star Game, the trade deadline, the relationships between Ginny and her agent and between Ginny and catcher Mike Lawson, relationships between other players and with their families, and conflicts arising due to Ginny’s brother, Will, trying to capitalize on his sister’s fame.
Once I started watching this series, I was instantly hooked. I rarely binge-watch anything, but I blew through every episode of Pitch in about two days. The show does a tremendous job of drawing viewers into the stories surrounding each of the characters, and it throws in enough baseball to give satisfaction to baseball fans. My only complaint about this show is that it did not get renewed for a second season, leaving so many questions hanging unanswered and the story unfinished.
Here’s a clip from a couple nights ago. Chris Russo’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears, and he talks in circles here, but he also makes some good points. Also, I just enjoy listening to anything that takes a positive view on baseball.
I have a vague memory of seeing this clip in the midst of my Saturday morning cartoon experience growing up. I love the implied conflict of brains versus brawn in this and some of the literal translations of phrases one might hear on a ball field.
I managed to watch PBS’s documentary on Ted Williams last night: American Masters – Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.” I found the documentary fascinating, even learning a couple things along the way.
The episode opens with Ted Williams’s return to civilian life after the Korean War. After seriously considering spending the rest of his life fishing after the war, Williams opted to return to baseball. Ted Williams, the documentary shows, was so obsessed with baseball, and especially with hitting, that his obsession permeated all aspects of his life. He also was infamous for his temper, often getting into it with reporters and refusing to tip his cap. These things combined made him, at times, a difficult man to get along with, even within his family.
The episode covered, briefly, some details of Williams’s youth, including his strained relationship with his parents. It also touches on many of the things you would expect a Ted Williams documentary to cover, including the 1941 season, his service in two wars, comparisons between him and Joe DiMaggio, and the final season — and at-bat — of his career.
Something I learned — which I was glad about, as I’m always happy to learn new things — was that Ted Williams was also quite the fisherman. According to the documentary, Williams is in two fishing halls of fame (which halls of fame was either not mentioned or I missed it). He was so meticulously detailed about this hobby that he would cut fish open to see what they ate in order to create baits that mimicked those foods. He would then keep a log to determine what worked and what did not work. It was the same kind of obsession and attention to detail that contributed to his success as a hitter.
The documentary includes interviews with Williams’s daughter, Claudia, and other family members, as well as with various baseball personalities: writers, historians, broadcasters, and former and current players. If there is a shortcoming, it is that the documentary seems to bounce around quite a bit, which made it feel somewhat scattered. I think part of this was due to the brevity of the show. One hour is hardly long enough to go into any real depth regarding any one man’s life, especially a man like Ted Williams.
The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES) made its debut on March 19, 2002. As a team-owned network, YES would carry Yankees ball games as well as New Jersey Nets NBA games.
Slowly, but surely, I have been continuing my trek through The Simpsons, and I am up to the show’s eighteenth season. In this season, the show highlights the ridiculous levels to which some fans take their obsession even with little league baseball.
The episode starts with Bart Simpson, shortstop for the Springfield Isotots (awesome little league name, by the way), catching a fly ball for the final out of a game, thus earning his team a spot in the championship game. Proud mom Marge Simpson goes out the next day to buy a new dress to wear to the game, bragging to the sales lady about what a star her son is on the field.
The championship game brings a matchup of Springfield against Shelbyville, and Springfield find themselves leading 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Shelbyville, however, has the bases loaded. When their batter hits the ball that could win or lose the game, it heads towards Bart. He drops an easily caught pop up and repeatedly fails to pick it up, kicking it around the field, allowing all four runners to score and giving Shelbyville the victory.
The entire crowd turns on Bart and starts throwing beer at him, but the humiliation doesn’t end there. Bart’s error even makes it into the newspapers, and the town continues to rail on him for losing the game. Bart’s sister Lisa tries to cheer him up by taking to see an old baseball star (Joe La Boot) who dropped a critical fly ball once and still went on to be rich and famous. Unfortunately, it only makes Bart feel worse, even causing a rare burst of tears, after La Boot learns who he is and makes everyone in the building boo Bart yet again.
The next morning Springfield wakes up to find that a self-deprecatory Bart has spray-painted “I HATE BART SIMPSON” all over town. The townspeople gather under the water tower, where Bart is found painting the message yet again. Driven by taunts from the crowd, Bart lets go of the rope he dangles from, in an attempt to commit suicide. La Boot, feeling remorseful, tries to catch him, but trips and misses.
Bart survives the fall, but ends up in the hospital. Still unrelenting, the crowd now starts booing outside of Bart’s hospital window. Finally, Marge snaps, and she storms outside to confront the crowd, telling them they should be ashamed of themselves for treating a child in such a cruel, abusive manner. Furthermore, she calls everybody hypocrites since they themselves probably had similar experiences when they were younger and haven’t gone on to accomplish anything of substance.
Finally, the crowd shows a bit of remorse. Lisa suggests replaying the game (unofficially, but without Bart knowing) to give Bart another opportunity and to help bring his self-esteem back up, and the crowd agrees. Bart is told the game is getting replayed due to the umpire using a non-regulation brush to clean the plate in the first attempt. After 78 tries (with a variety of reasons made up as to why that final inning needed to be replayed), Bart finally catches the ball, “winning” the game.
My journey through The Simpsons continues, and I recently concluded watching the seventeenth season. It’s crazy to think that, even as far into it as I am, I still have about twelve more seasons to go to get completely caught up with the show.
The Springfield Isotopes make a reappearance in the season seventeen finale. This time, the episode gives us the opportunity to get to know one of the team’s players, first baseman Buck Mitchell. Buck is the team’s superstar, and the team is winning games thanks to his presence in the lineup. However, while his life on the diamond seems perfect, we quickly learn that Buck’s personal life isn’t nearly as great, and his play is soon affected.
Buck’s wife, Tabitha, is a well-known pop star, and she’s not just known for her singing. This becomes apparent when Tabitha halts her rendition of the national anthem to launch into one of her own songs, stripping down to lingerie by the end of the tune. Buck is understandably humiliated, and he ends up muffing several easy plays as a result. After seeing Marge and Homer on the stadium Kiss Cam, Buck shows up at their home and offers them season tickets in exchange for marriage counseling.
Homer being Homer, he jumps at the opportunity for tickets and close proximity to a baseball star. The counseling sessions prove somewhat awkward, however. While Marge makes an honest effort at helping Buck and Tabitha work things out, Homer…. well… continues to be Homer. Nevertheless, the sessions are effective enough to help Buck refocus on baseball.
After Buck catches Homer giving Tabitha a neck rub (which she not-so-subtly dupes Homer into doing), Buck slugs Homer and finds his marriage in trouble yet again. As a result, his performance on the field begins to suffer again. Tabitha, meanwhile, declares to Marge that she intends to leave Buck.
Homer decides to take matters into his own hands, and he hijacks the Duff Beer blimp, using it to pretend that Tabitha has delivered a message of “I love you” to Buck. His spirits lifted, Buck hits a high fly ball into the blimp, causing it to crash. Once Buck realizes it was actually Homer, not Tabitha, who sent the message, he starts after Homer with a baseball bat. However, Marge appears on the stadium’s Jumbo Vision screen, pleading with Buck not to hurt Homer. Marge’s display of love for Homer seems to have an effect on Tabitha, who changes her mind and tells Buck that she wishes to stay with him.
Overall, this episode honestly doesn’t rank among my favorites. The character of Tabitha annoys me greatly, and Buck isn’t a whole lot better. Granted, they do seem to fit the stereotypical mold for celebrities, I suppose, so perhaps my annoyance was a calculated expectation by the writers. The ending seemed a little thin, possibly due to the constraints of time. Nevertheless, I look forward to the Isotopes’ next appearance in the series.