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.
Previously, we covered a Golden Age adventure featuring Captain America, but now it’s time to look at one that takes place in post WWII. This time, we take a look a comic book in which Captain America must protect a high school baseball player from the great threat of… DRUGS!
Yes, drugs. And I don’t mean the performance-enhancing kind, I’m talking cocaine and other fun stuff like that. And, before you ask, yes, this was a comic made specifically to give an anti-drug message, specially in cooperation with the FBI and New York State Life Underwriters. It’s right on the cover:
So, anyway, go below the jump for a look at the 1990 Anti-Drug comic, “High Heat”.
(Get it? High Heat? Because of drugs and because it’s about a baseball player? Oh, nevermind.)
We begin (after a letter about the dangers of drugs) with an unseen alien (named Tzin, but I somehow wasn’t able to pick that up when I read it) observing Captain America, as he prepares to “perform some serious breakage” upon some thugs. We also see the credits for this issue:
(Notable names in the credits: Peter David is a longtime and well-regarded comic book writer, best known for a 12-year run on The Incredible Hulk, which he was writing when this was made. Sal Velluto has done stuff like Black Panther and Justice League Task Force.)
We then get a scene where Cap beats up some drug dealers, all while telling them about how he’s constantly being taunted about being old, being just one guy, and having the lower-end of the superpower stick, etc. etc. Apparently, this was all meant to show the alien’s underling the power of the human spirit and their will to fight, which is much like some other alien world they invaded that they ended up having to destroy instead of enslave (“oops”).
Of course, this is the Marvel Universe, so you’d presume maybe they could have learned of humanity’s resilience by asking the Skrulls. Or the Kree. Or Thanos. Or Galactus. Or… oh you get the idea. Maybe this alien overlord isn’t very social.
But, wait! He has a plan! You see, the humans have a fatal flaw: they throw away their lives through drugs!
I’m not going to go into about how determining whether you should invade or not based on a sample size of four people you push drugs on is a horrible plan, but remember, this invader also seems to be ignoring the fact that Earth is defended not just by Captain America, but also the rest of the Avengers. And the Fantastic Four. And the X-Men. And… oh you get the idea.
So, anyway, on to the reason why we have this on this blog: the baseball connection! In this case, it’s who one of those targets that Tzin has put down for Operation Let’s-Determine-Humanity’s-Resiliency-By-Offering-Some-Of-Them-Drugs. His name is Mitch Baskin, and he, we are told by his friend Keith Wilson in an e-mail (which was super-advanced back in the early 90s) to Captain America, he is a top prospect, “Major League for sure.”
Wait, the star pitcher is acting strange? Well, I guess NFL Superpro can handle HYDRA …it’s time for Captain America to throw his mighty shield!
So, after a scene where Mitch is accosted by a drug dealer, we cut to some game action, where a certain Steve Rogers is watching the game in the audience. However, Mitch is having a rough day, giving up a big homer and getting his teammates pissed off at him:
So, “bear down”, bear down… alright, time for Mitch to bear down! Give him the heater, the cheese, the fastball express….
right into the head of the opponent, knocking him out with a mighty “krunch”!
Woah, the major league prospect almost killed a guy. This looks like a job for Captain America… if only from keeping the teammates of the HBP victim from killing him:
And then he gets freaked out by his face-knocking-off power (it was an oddly-ceramic mask for the alien, by the way), and runs away some more, at which point he runs into the opposing team, which has now taken to walking around looking for Mitch so they can inflict some breakage upon him.
So they beat him up, which, uhm, is kind of harsh. I mean, we have a law system and such, and I’m reasonably sure that beating a kid to death on purpose is even worse than accidentally killing a guy while pitching while high on, what I presume, was cocaine. I mean, killing a guy with a fastball to the head while coked out of your mind is bad, but I have to think beating a kid to death while not-coked-out-of-your-mind is even worse.
Thankfully, Cap shows up to save the day:
After that, Cap gives a talk to Mitch about how he isn’t alone, and how he shouldn’t throw his great talent away on drugs, and how there are plenty of places he can go for help. Mitch tells him about the whole “alien with breakable mask” thing, and Cap, of course, totally believes him. After all, he’s hung out with a Norse God, traveled through time, and gotten involved in probably several space-wars, so why wouldn’t he believe him?
Or not- “Space monster drug pushers What an imagination.”
(He does see the smashed mask and the issue ends on a cliffhanger that I’m going to presume never was resolved, but to heck with that).
So, that ends High Heat. But NEXT TIME ON BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE:
Prologue: “Rockets on the Mound” (short story)
20. Shortstop Squad
21. Cosmic Slam
23. Mariners Mojo
28. Captain America in “High Heat” (you are here)