As long as FOX still holds the rights to broadcast the World Series, that unfortunately means a hiatus for “The Simpsons” in late October. Getting in some passive-aggressive digs at the parent company’s schedule bumping (or perhaps just as irritated as the rest of us by their sub-standard sports coverage), this cold open from 2005’s “Treehouse of Horror XVI” highlights the slower side of America’s national pasttime. This clip ends before extraterrestrials Kang and Kodos use their particle accelerator to speed up the game and unwittingly destroy the universe.
Homer’s Pinch Plate Appearance Beats Shelbyville
By it’s third season, “The Simpsons” was the hottest property on television, and despite its ornery reputation, it had the clout to attract huge guest stars. When nuclear power impresario Mr. Burns wagers one million dollars that his plant’s softball team can beat that of rival town Shelbyville, he stacks the odds in his favor by signing up nine Major League ringers for the game. The main plot of “Homer at the Bat” involves the intrasquad rivalry between outfielders Darryl Strawberry and Homer; here the writers have cleverly cast Strawberry as the consummate team player (three years before his redemption in pinstripes). Of all these late ’80s/early ’90s stars, only Roger Clemens and Ken Griffey Jr. are still playing; a few more have basically been confined to the dustbins of baseball history (or VH1 reality shows).
Isotopes Win Pennant
Season Ten episode “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” opens with some of the best jokes on baseball fandom in recent television history. Homer is Springfield’s biggest fairweather fan – and who can blame him for doubting the hapless Isotopes? But when the local team is in the championship game, he makes like a Red Sox fan circa 2004. One of the episode writers even cops to being exactly such a bandwagon hopper during Boston’s championship run. The post-game celebration is one for the ages too – can you spot the non-combustible item that inexplicably bursts into flames?
When my friends and I found out that Mark McGwire was going to be on “The Simpsons”, it was a huge deal. “He’s on pace for 65 homers again this year? Who cares?! He’s gonna meet Homer!” Knowing what we do now about the 1998 home race, this scene from Season Eleven’s “Brother’s Little Helper” has a bittersweet quaintness to it; there’s also plenty of eerie symbolism in the way the Springfield mob are so easily distracted by the longball. I love that they got Big Mac to read the line “Yoink!”; and a nice touch having Vin Scully (impersonated by Harry Shearer) as the voice of the satellite.
What’s that? It’s mid-August? Oh, well I guess I know what that means…