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.
Wolverine of the X-Men has a habit of appearing in comics he technically isn’t supposed to be in, simply because he’s popular. Well, Cal Ripken is the Wolverine of Baseball Comic Books. He’s joined forces with Batman, led the Shortstop Squad, and been the subject of a bio-comic. Also, like Wolverine, Cal Ripken seemed to be able to recover from any injury, no matter how severe. But, it’s the first similarity that I’m focusing on, because, in the comic I will be looking at today, Cal Ripken appears in a story about the 2001 New York Yankees being Superheroes.
Let that sink in. The New York Yankees, in a comic that they themselves ordered and gave away, still had Cal Ripken in their comic and had him on the cover too.
Entitled “Championship Challenge” and given out September 28, 2001, it stars, as you can see, four of the greatest stars the Yankees had that season. Mariano Rivera! Tino Martinez! Jorge Posada! And, of course, the Once and Future Captain, Derek Jeter himself. But, of course, we also see Cal RIpken on the cover, letting everybody know that the Iron Man will be there! With such Ultimate Sports Force stalwarts as Rick Licht writing and Brian Kong doing the art, this was partially made as part of the Ripken farewell celebration, and it becomes even more obvious when you realize that originally Ripken’s final series would have been at Yankee Stadium if not for the schedule reshuffling that MLB did after the 9/11 attacks.
Anyway, go below the jump to read about the story:
We begin with professors Monohan and Donohue looking at the sky from their telescopes on top of the Statue of Liberty. Yes, you read that right, the Statue of Liberty. When, suddenly, they see that a small asteroid is headed straight towards the Bronx!
Wait a second, that image looks a bit familiar… let’s go back to Cosmic Slam‘s first page:
Anyway, the next page has the scientists arriving at the site, at which point a monster emerges from the crater and a friendly little alien surprises them. Wait, hang on, that’s also from Cosmic Slam. Next thing you know, they’ll probably cut to MLB stars hanging out with little leaguers…
Yup. However, in one of the few differences from the original story, the helicopter doesn’t just have a general, but Cal Ripken too, who’s very presence can be recognized even when he is in a helicopter overhead:
So, what is the Iron Man of Baseball doing on a Bronx sandlot? Why, to give the Yankees an important mission, of course! As we know from Shortstop Squad, Cal is a bigwig in the world of crime-fighting ballplayers, what he says, goes. Leading to this immortal panel that somebody really should have Cal Ripken himself read aloud. If the MLB Fancave, TBS, or anyone else with access to Cal Ripken reads this… HAVE HIM READ THIS MONOLOGUE ALOUD AND POST IT ON THE INTERNET:
That is a lot to take in, but the best part is definitely when he says he’ll have more time to fight for justice once he retires. Really, this may be one of the great panels in the history of Bizarre Baseball Culture. Go back and read it again. Now again. Again. AGAIN!
Anywho, since Cal no-doubt knows full-well that going on a mission when you are days from retirement is a death-sentence, he tasks the Yankees to deal with this. Much like Cosmic Slam, the Yankees meet a alien defector and then are given super-suits. Super-suits that look like this:
Actually, If you’ve read Cosmic Slam or my write-up on it, the rest of the story is almost entirely the same. Even including the dialogue in most places, much like in the above. Take, for example, this scene:
Well, not entirely, I mean, Michael Kay and John Sterling show up:
But, for the most part, it’s just like Cosmic Slam. Look at some of these, er… homages:
But, of course, the ending is ultimately about Cal Ripken, because Cal Ripken:
And now, here’s something kind of funny about this story. You know how Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have had these big farewell tours that put Cal Ripken’s tour to shame? Well, oddly enough, they seem to be the less-included Yankees in the story, taking the Jeff Bagwell and David Justice roles from Cosmic Slam. Most of the main action focuses on Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada, who take on the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa roles. Can you imagine that? If this was written today, they’d be the stars and Tino and Jorge would be lucky if they got any lines!
Oh, and Cal Ripken did not have that much hair at the end of his career.
So, there you go: “Championship Challenge”, the Yankees version of Cosmic Slam which also has gratuitous Cal Ripken. There are worse things to be.
NEXT TIME IN BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Another Comic!
Previously on BIzarre Baseball Culture:
Prologue: “Rockets on the Mound” (short story)
20. Shortstop Squad
21. Cosmic Slam
23. Mariners Mojo
32. Mr. Go
36. Dick Cole
37. The 2001 NY Yankees (and Cal Ripken) in “Championship Challenge” (YOU ARE HERE)