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.
Last time, I introduced you to “Strange Sports Stories”, the on-and-off anthology of DC Comics’ Science-Fiction and/or Fantasy tales involving sports. That past installment was from the 1960s Brave and The Bold run of SSS, but this time, we’re looking at the Strange Sports Stories stand-alone series, from 1973. It only lasted six issues, but it’s first issue prominently featured baseball (amazingly, it wasn’t in any of the other five issues, and as far as I can tell no sport was featured more than once) in a tale called “To Beat The Devil!”
Written by Frank Robbins (who was primarily an artist, most notable for having helped create the character of the Man-Bat for DC Comics), penciled by Curt Swan (who is best known for his work on Superman comics) and inked by Dick Giordano (best known for his partnership with artist Neal Adams on Batman and the socially-conscious Green Lantern/Green Arrow book), this tale, as the cover (done by Nick Cardy, who according to Wikipedia is best known for his work with Aquaman and the Teen Titans) indicates, is about a face-off between a baseball team and the devil himself. The Devil, of course, is no stranger to baseball, primarily known for his involvement in baseball-themed musicals, but this is the first appearance by Satan in Bizarre Baseball Culture. Well, unless you count this weird guy from the second AAA Baseball/Marvel comic. I don’t.
Anyway, go below the jump for more:
We begin, as we often do, with a splash page that introduces our tale:
So, we begin with the champion “Meteors” (also the name of the Metropolis baseball team in most media, perhaps indicating this takes place in the DC Comics universe) on their way to the World Series, or something like that. They are sure they are going to win, since they won their league by 15 games. Their manager, Skip Wilson, will have none of that though:
After realizing that there are no stewardesses around and some rather unexpected turbulence that occurs despite the sky being “as clear as the Shea Stadium outfield on a sunny day”, Wilson goes and talks to the pilot. Well, you know how they say God is your co-pilot? Well, there’s just one pilot on this plane, and it it sure as HELL (see what I did there) isn’t God:
Oh, crap, the Devil! And what does he want? WHAT DOES HE WANT? Does he want to have a fiddle contest? What about an exchange of souls in exchange for infinite wealth and knowledge? Maybe a game of chess? No, wait, that’s the Grim Reaper….
Well, given what blog and what feature you are reading, you can probably guess what the Devil wants: a game of baseball! How… DIABOLIC (haha) of a plan!
A few snaps of his fingers later, and the Meteors are at a stone stadium filled with various demons there to watch the game. Still, there are a few things that they still need. Like umpires:
And, of course, line-ups!
Or not. Well, there you go folks, the Metropolis Meteors are going to lose their souls. And they didn’t even use steroids, cheat on their wives or cork their bats. Bad breaks. Unless…. maybe… the devil is a bad hitter!
However, Skip Wilson has a plan!
STEP 1: Intentionally walk the Devil
But about that ending, what rule was used to beat the Devil?
At first I thought it was something like Rule 6.02:
(c) If the batter refuses to take his position in the batters box during his time at bat, the umpire shall call a strike on the batter. The ball is dead, and no runners may advance. After the penalty, the batter may take his proper position and the regular ball and strike count shall continue. If the batter does not take his proper position before three strikes have been called, the batter shall be declared out.
But as you can see, that doesn’t do anything like what happened in the comic. In fact, it’d help the Devil, because it would get the inning over with and have him back on the mound sooner.
Instead, it’s probably somewhere in Rule 4.15:
I’m personally guessing it’s some sort of interpretation of Rule 4.15E. After all, the demon-ump was giving a warning that the Devil was breaking the rules by not having somebody at the plate. I don’t know if it really counts as “willfully and persistently”, but I’m not going to argue with a demon umpire.
However, no matter what, it is correct that a forfeited game is 9-0.
NEXT TIME IN BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: The Radio.
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
41. “The Beat The Devil!” (you are here)