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.
(Note: This article may have spoilers to Amazing Spider-Man 2, since I reference a major storyline that I’m going to guess shows up in the movie. It’s in the second-to-final paragraph before the jump, if you want to know what to skip to avoid the spoiler.)
As the sequel to the reboot of Spider-Man comes out, entitled The Amazing Spider-Man 2, now is as good as any to do a Bizarre Baseball Culture on a comic entirely about Spider-Man and his baseball fandom. Now, ole’ Web-Head is no stranger to Bizarre Baseball Culture, having shown up in the past on at least three occasions (most recently fighting Doctor Doom alongside Billy the Marlin), but those were promotional comics that happened to feature Spider-Man. This time, we are looking at an honest-to-goodness Spider-Man comic: Peter Parker Spider-Man (Volume 2) #33. This issue from 2001 is about Peter Parker’s relation with his late Uncle Ben, and how baseball was a bond between them.
Now, before we begin, I’d like to write a bit about Spider-Man in general. What made the Marvel characters different when they first started appearing in the 1960s was that they were, in general, more relatable and flawed than the DC counterparts and the Marvel superheroes that had been created in the 30s and 40s. The Fantastic Four was often bickering with each other (like an family does), the X-Men were shunned by most of society (Stan Lee has said that being a mutant is basically meant to be a stand-in for being a minority), the Hulk was shunned by basically all of society… and Spider-Man, for lack of a better term, was a loser.
Okay, maybe not a loser, but definitely the closest thing there had been up to that point: an unpopular kid with no parents, only one family member of any sort (Aunt May) and little money. To make matters worse, when supervillains weren’t coming after him, the press and/or the police were. If things could go wrong for Peter Parker, they probably have. Parents? Dead. Uncle? Dead. Aunt? Perpetually sick. First true love (Gwen Stacy)? Murdered (and, amazingly, never came back to life). Second true love (Mary Jane)? Marriage magically annulled in a story far too stupid to talk about. Heck, while I haven’t read it, apparently most recently poor Peter Parker saw his body body-snatched by Doctor Ocopus while he was forced to die in “Doc Ock’s” cancer-ridden body (don’t worry, he got better). But all of this pales in comparison to the greatest, most horrible fate to ever fall upon Spider-Man:
Being a fan of the New York Mets.
This story was written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Mark Buckingham. Jenkins got his start in the 1980s as an editor for Mirage Comics, where he edited and helped negotiate licensing deals for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before moving to the Big 2, where we wrote horror comics, the “Marvel Knights” imprint of Marvel, and an Eisner-Award winning mini-series about Marvel’s Inhumans (who are like the X-Men, only weirder). Since this issue, the most notable thing he’s done was likely Origin, which was the first comic to finally tell the full origin of Wolverine.
Buckingham, meanwhile, is best known for his work outside of the Superhero genre, although he has also done plenty of superhero stuff as well. Among his works (both before and after this issue) include Fables, The Sandman and Miracleman.
What’s amazing, given the subject matter of the book, is that both of them are British.
We begin with Spidey hanging around New York on top of the Chrysler Building, reminiscing about his Uncle Ben, since today is the toughest day of the year for him: the day his Uncle Ben died.
After a brief reminder about that day, great power/great responsibility, and a brief scene of Aunt May laying a flower at Ben’s grave, we see Peter prepare for his own special tribute: going to a Mets game.
Peter, while taking the subway, talks about sights and sounds of a strip to the ballpark, and reminsces about how Bill Buckner‘s error and the Mets victory in 1986 was just a blip on the radar and that they still stink most of the time, which in some ways is okay, since it makes them more rank and file, unlike a certain team that Peter says more represents the the rich part of town….
But then, we go back in time to Peter Parker’s first big-league game, and how he fell in love watching the Mets play what appears to be the Braves (presumably- for trademark reasons a lot of the uniforms and logos are different, and the opponent at Peter’s first game just has a “b” on their hat). He remembers being indoctrinated into the superstitions, being thrilled as the Mets took a big lead…
And having his soul crushed as the Braves hit a 9th inning grand slam to pull ahead and win it. By the way, if anybody knows if something like this ever happened, let me know, and I’ll put a link to it’s retrosheet page here.
Thankfully, Uncle Ben has a lesson for Peter about how you can’t win them all:
So, we then cut through the years, as he and his Uncle Ben engage in the “Annual Kiss of Death Tour”, as the Mets lose every single game they go to. One year, the Mets would give up nine runs in the first inning and never come back, another time, the closer blows it to a pinch hitter. But then, there is… “The Mascot Incident”.
What is “The Mascot Incident”? Well, it all began with the Mets down by 24 runs (something I do not believe has ever happened) when a foul ball bopped Peter on the head, and then, as he lay unconcious, an unusually talkative and just-different-enough-for-copyright-reasons Mister Met came over to calm things down. This then happened:
So, yeah, after being bonked on the head by a foul ball, scared half-to-death by Mister Met, and having the Mets lose in such a utterly humiliating fashion that I am going to just link to what the comic says, Peter, come the year after that, isn’t up for much more of Mets baseball. He doesn’t want to go, and he definitely doesn’t want to hear Uncle Ben’s speech about how losing builds character and every season has wins and losses.
So, of course, this happens:
But, of course, this is Spider-Man, so there is a big “but” here:
Jeez, the Mets finally win for Peter and it’s THREE DAYS BEFORE UNCLE BEN DIES.
Great going, Mets.
Back in 2001, the Mets have lost, although Pete takes solace in knowing that they have an all-star catcher (Mike Piazza, presumably), and the fact that, as everyone knows….
Next time on Bizarre Baseball Culture: Green Arrow and Elongated Man!
Previously on Bizarre Baseball Culture:
Prologue: “Rockets on the Mound” (short story)
1: Captain Marvel teaches baseball to Martians
2: Fantom of the Fair and exploding baseballs
3: Doll Man fights the Baseball Bandits
6: The Little Wise Guys and the Absent-Minded Natural
7. Pokémon: “The Double Trouble Header”
8. Dash Dartwell’s PED use for justice
9. The Shield and the Ballpark Murders
10. 2007′s Triple-A Baseball Heroes
11. 2008′s Triple-A Baseball Heroes
12. The Batman and Cal Ripken join forces
13. Sub-Zero and Blasted Bulbs
18. Billy the Marlin (guest-starring Spider-Man)
19. Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop
20. Shortstop Squad
21. Cosmic Slam
22. Thanksgiving Doubleheader (Dick Blaze and Franklin Richards)
23. Mariners Mojo
24. Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger
26. Stuart Taylor travels through time
27. Captain America in “Death Loads the Bases”
28. Captain America in “High Heat”
29. Spider-Man, Uncle Ben, and the Mets (You are here)
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