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.
When I was growing up, there was only one true cartoon Batman, and that was the Batman voiced by Kevin Conroy in a series of cartoons that started in the early nineties, ended in 2006, and then briefly revived for the occasional video game or DVD movie. The shows that featured Conroy- usually headed by a writer named Paul Dini and an artist named Bruce Timm- were and are masterpieces, regarded by many as the definitive Batman and not just great kids shows, but great shows period.
However, there was the slight problem that having a deep and rather mature Batman in the cartoons meant there wasn’t as much stuff for the very little kiddies, so in 2004, while the Conroy-Batman was in a Justice League cartoon, a new show was created, entitled simply The Batman. While it did have it’s moments (or so I hear, I think I only watched maybe four episodes of it in total), it was not dark, it was not deep, it was not mature and it just in general was an abomination, especially when compared to the Batman cartoons I’d grown up watching. It was created basically just to sell toys to little kids in the run-up to the release of Batman Begins (which, as we all know, was totally kid friendly, right?).
Still, there was one thing that The Batman gave us: a comic book in which Batman joins forces with Cal Ripken Jr. in order to stop the Penguin and hawk Big League Chew. Just as Bob Kane and Bill Finger intended.
(Go below the jump for more)
Anyway, this comic, entitled “A Rare Catch”, came out in 2007 as part of the run-up to Ripken’s induction into the Hall of Fame. It was apparently given out inside various comic books as a advertising supplement, and also was a giveaway at Baltimore-area events like Orioles games and the Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (which is located extremely close to Oriole Park, sharing a building with the Sports Legends at Camden Yards Museum). I, however, have found it in it’s entirety because it’s artist, Christopher Jones, has the whole damn thing (along with various in-progress pages such as those that had only been penciled or inked but not colored) up on his website. Thanks, Chris!
We begin in the suburbs of Gotham, where a young baseball fan named Kevin hears about how the city will be throwing Cal a parade in honor of his work with youth baseball and election to the Hall of Fame. You know, for any other player, I’d think the idea that a city would give a ticker-tape parade for a player that wasn’t from their would be ridiculous, but with Cal Ripken, I’d believe it. I mean, he was and is probably the most universally beloved baseball player since Expansion, if not more so.
However, it should be noted that the idea of Cal Ripken getting a parade in his honor in Gotham is probably the most realistic thing in this comic. For, meanwhile, the Penguin has a fiendish plot in motion:
Anyway, the next day, the Penguin kidnaps Ripken at the parade:
So, little Kevin isn’t going to let that happen without a fight, so he grabs hold of Ripken and yells at the Penguin to let him go and somehow is able to hold on while the Penguin flies away on his helicopter umbrella… thing. Batman, by the way, doesn’t stop the Penguin right here because a parade float goes out of control and he has to stop it with some sort of expanding foam. Read the comic. You’ll understand. I think. Also, allow me to just nitpick the fact that somehow the Penguin is able to fly with a helicopter-umbrella while supporting the weight of a 200 lb. man and a first grader. All that fat the Penguin seems to have is probably actually muscle.
Later, the Penguin tells Ripken and little Kevin his plan:
Yes, his plan is that if he doesn’t get ransom he’s going to stuff Cal Ripken and sell him. He’s threatening to kill and stuff an American icon, and this is a kid’s comic. Also, what sort of plan is this? What good would Ripken be to him dead? I can’t think there’s a big market for taxidermied Hall of Famers, and if there was, somebody probably would have raided the place where Ted Williams is frozen by now.
Thankfully for Cal and Kevin, Batman has already found where the Penguin is, so he and his henchmen run off to find him and try to beat him up and what not…
WHILE LEAVING THE DOOR OF CAL AND KEVIN’S CAGE UNLOCKED….
Why is this Big League Chew significant? Well, you see, Cal Ripken is a Macgyver of chewing gum. So while Batman is picking off the Penguin and his goons (I’m not posting that, because we’ve seen it before), he uses the gum to set up a way where it can be used to stick the cage to a conveniently-placed balcony. Here’s how he explains it:
And there you have it: Cal Ripken makes a pun, Kevin gets an autograph from both Baseball’s Iron Man (wouldn’t it have made more sense to have a Cal Ripken/Iron Man comic book from Marvel?) and DC Comics’ Dark Knight, and Batman reminds us that you don’t need superpowers to be a hero. Oh, and we see that Batman is taller than Cal Ripken, which means that he’s really tall. At least 6’4”. Totally.
Also, remember to buy Big League Chew. Cal Ripken and Batman demand it!
Next time on Bizarre Baseball Culture: A return to the Public Domain.
Previous installments of Bizarre Baseball Culture:
Prologue: “Rockets on the Mound” (short story)
12. The Batman and Cal Ripken join forces (you are here)