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.
The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony doesn’t take place until the end of the month, but if you’re Homer Jay Simpson, you’ve already been honored this year. On May 27, 2017, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrated the 25th anniversary of that iconic Simpsons episode, “Homer At the Bat.” This Simpsons episode featured the voices of Ken Griffey Jr., Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, as well as other baseball personalities, and first aired February 20, 1992.
As part of the event, Homer Simpson himself was “inducted” into the Baseball Hall of Fame with a little ceremony:
Some of Homer’s co-stars in the episode even made a special trip to Cooperstown for the event:
And, as you can see above, Homer even received his own plaque:
As my trek through the Simpsons series continues, I find myself coming across various one-liners that were popular while I was in school. At the time, I had no idea that these lines had originated with the Simpsons, having very little time for television. One classmate, for example, would occasionally burst into the classroom exclaiming, “HELLO, EVERYBODY!!”, and would appear so disappointed when the rest of the room merely looked at him like he was a raving lunatic.
My progress through the series has been slow, but steady, and I currently find myself in the middle of season ten. The episode “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” really isn’t about baseball, but that’s where the plot begins. The Simpson family attends an Isotopes baseball game, which Homer ends up leaving after the first pitch to “warm up the car.” The Isotopes, it seems, had been performing so poorly that he had no interest in hanging out to watch them lose.
Typical fair-weather fan.
A sniper at the All-Star Game, however, apparently makes enough changes to enough lineups that the Isotopes’ luck changes drastically mid-season. Homer walks into Moe’s one night to discover all his friends cheering excitedly at the baseball game on TV. The moment he learns the Isotopes are actually winners now, Homer promptly dons a full outfit of Isotopes gear and makes an ass of himself on a television interview.
Following the Isotopes victory, Homer and his buddies, in a drunken stupor, trash the town. They don’t get caught, however, and law enforcement blames the destruction on local kids. A curfew is established for the younger generation, thus establishing the episode’s primary conflict.
While there’s not a lot of actual baseball in this episode, it does present a bit of commentary on the nature of sports fans. We see it in stadiums all over the country, in all sports. When a team is doing well, the stadium is packed, and few leave the game before it’s through. When a team is struggling, however, attendance drops, and the organization is forced to resort to gimmicks to encourage attendance.
Continuing my journey through The Simpsons episodes, I am a good chunk of the way into season three. Last night, I watched the episode “Homer At the Bat” and was thrilled to recognize a reference to The Natural. Early on in the episode, Homer tells Bart about the time he carved a bat from the wood of a tree that was struck by lightning.
Just like Roy Hobbs, Homer hits like a dream with his special bat. However, with the exception of Mr. Burns trying to cheat his way to winning a bet, the allusion to The Natural largely ends there.
The episode later ends with Terry Cashman’s “Talkin’ Baseball” parody, which he wrote just for this episode, “Talkin’ Softball.”
Growing up, I never paid much attention to The Simpsons. Tragic, yes. I saw an episode here and there over the years, and always enjoyed the ones that I watched, but never made a habit of consistently watching the show. It’s not something that I went out of my way to avoid, so much as I simply did not go out of my way to make the time for it.
Recently, I’ve decided to try to rectify this transgression, and I am currently about halfway through season two of this entertaining series. As with many forms of American pop culture, baseball was bound to find a way to make an appearance, and I didn’t have to wait long for it. The episode “Dancin’ Homer” features the time that Homer Simpson, drunk at a minor league ballgame, started dancing like a fool for the crowd, and thus earned himself a position as the team mascot.
What I did not realize is that the team for which Homer was hired to make a fool of himself, the Springfield Isotopes, became the inspiration for a real life minor league team’s name. The Albuquerque Isotopes are a Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, having been previously affiliated with the Florida Marlins (2003-2008) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2009-2014).
The real world Isotopes play at Isotopes Park, cleverly nicknamed “The Lab,” which seats 11,124. The stadium stands in the same spot as where historic Albuquerque Sports Stadium once stood, until it was almost completely razed in 2002. Some remnants of the old stadium were incorporated into Isotopes Park. The stadium also serves as home to the University of New Mexico baseball team.
The Albuquerque team does not have a real-life Homer Simpson to serve as their mascot, but rather features a yellow, orange, and red alien/dog/bear creature named Orbit.
In 2016, Forbes named the Isotopes the fourteenth most valuable team in Minor League Baseball. They finished the 2016 season with a 71-72 record, which, interestingly, was good enough for second place in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Southern division.
Sung by Terry Cashman, a parody of his own “Talkin’ Baseball,” is this little tune from America’s favorite cartoon, “The Simpsons.”