In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.
Today in Bizarre Baseball Culture, we are looking at Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger in “The Kid That Could”.
Yes, Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger. And I don’t mean Tiger as in “Detroit Tigers”. I mean… THIS:
Yes, this is an actual thing. There was an actual comic book published by DC in 1992 in which Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger teamed up. Have your attention yet? Go below the jump for more:
There is little information available on this comic- I couldn’t find any credits inside for writers or artists, and I can’t even find for sure how this was distributed, although some places say it was through a promotion with Frosted Flakes (hence Tony), to go along with similar promotions featuring Nolan Ryan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The reason why there are no credits (at least that I could find) is puzzling and brings up a few questions. Such as…
- Were those involved too embarrassed to admit it?
- Was it designed by a committee, and there wasn’t enough room to put everyone in so they decided to put nobody in?
- Am I just blind and missing the credits somewhere?
- Or, finally, could it be because these REALLY HAPPENED?!?!?
Crazy, you say? Well, look at how the Wizard of Oz himself vouches for the authenticity of the events:
Yes, see, Ozzie Smith himself says it’s true! Sure, he doesn’t actually say “true” and the average age of people who would probably have been the intended audience for this comic may have been about six or seven, but, still, are you going to doubt a wizard? No, wait, not a wizard, but THE wizard? As in, of Oz?
I thought not.
Anyway, we start, as all great stories do*, at breakfast over a balanced breakfast that includes Frosted Flakes (TM)! Our heroes, Peter (with the yellowy hair) and his-brother-who-doesn’t-show-up-again, see a group of kids getting ready to play a ballgame. Peter wants to go play in the game, but his brother tells him that the kid don’t even know him. Meanwhile, Ozzie Smith is on the TV, because it’s his comic.
*Note: To the best of my knowledge very few great stories begin this way.
Mom, of course, lets Peter go, and tells him to “hit a home run for me” as he leaves. This, on it’s surface, seems innocuous. But, as Ozzie told us in his opening statement, this is the first indication of the “plot” of this comic. You see, this is the first sign of how much everyone loves the home run, ignoring other ways a player can help a team win. We see this again when Peter is told to leave by the pick-up game players because he is too small. And this makes Peter glum. How glum? So glum that Tony the Tiger appears out of nowhere JUST to notice this:
Now, if a tiger showed up out of nowhere, I’d first soil myself, then scream, and then probably be ferociously mauled to death. Thankfully, Tony is a friendly tiger, so Peter and the others have nothing to worry about.
Anyway, Tony says he knows of a player who doesn’t hit home runs who is one of the best in the game, and that he’ll bring them to meet him. That player, of course, is Ozzie Smith. And the comic even gives a full explanation as to why he is such a big deal:
Not surprisingly, Tony is a long-time friend of Ozzie, because Tony is a friend to all living things. Well, except for antelope, boar and deer. Tigers eat those. Then again, Tigers also occasionally eat people, but, spoiler alert, Tony doesn’t eat anybody in this comic. Sorry.
Oh, am I digressing again? Sorry. Anyway, in order to prove that Peter is good enough to play, Tony convinces Ozzie to play in a game with them, for some reason, so that Peter can show his skills. The pitcher (Andrew) is a jerk, but Peter shows that, as this story is meant to show us, you don’t need to be big and strong to be a good ballplayer, merely have good fundamentals. Also: Grit. Always grit. Sure, they never actually say grit, but you can read it between the lines.
NOT! You see, Andrew still isn’t sure if he should be allowed to play, since he’s so small. So, uhm, Tony invites them to come to a Cardinals game.
Okay, fine, here it is: This doesn’t really have a plot at all. It’s just a loose string of incidents meant to tell people things about Ozzie Smith, baseball, and the value of GRIT and giving it your all no matter what your size. Like, really, once they get into Busch Stadium, we just get a lesson on stuff like how to turn a double play or what you see below, in which Tony tells us what the signal for home run is:
As you can see by Andrew’s quote here, this story ends with him realizing that you don’t have to be a big hitter to be a good baseball player. And now you know! And knowing, as G.I. Joe once said, is half the battle!
Prologue: “Rockets on the Mound” (short story)
20. Shortstop Squad
21. Cosmic Slam
23. Mariners Mojo
24. Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger (you are here)