BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Strange Sports Stories #1… “TO BEAT THE DEVIL!”

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!”

DevilBallcover

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:

DevilBall1Oh, did I not mention that the Devil plays all the positions, like he’s Bugs Bunny? Well, he does.

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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.30.55 PMAfter 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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.45.35 PMOh, 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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.56.34 PM

Still probably better than Joe West’s crew.

And uniforms!

Snazzy, if non-descript other than the color.

Snazzy, if nondescript other than the color.

And, of course, line-ups!

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.01.28 PMOh, Devil, how very clever, using the various incarnations of yourself to fill out the line-up.

Anyway, game-time:

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.07.51 PMAh, teleportation. That throws off even the best hitters, of course. Still, maybe they can hit the ball hard enough that it won’t make a difference.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.13.42 PMOr 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!

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.17.59 PMYeah, the Meteors have no DAMN (wordplay!) chance.

However, Skip Wilson has a plan!

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.22.24 PMAnd, I have to admit, Skip Wilson’s plan is pretty clever. Here’s how it works:

STEP 1: Intentionally walk the Devil

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.24.27 PMSTEP 2: Have the ump point out that the Devil needs to have a batter at the plate

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.25.56 PMSTEP 3: Seemingly let the Devil get tagged out

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.31.49 PMSTEP 4: Have umps show that the Devil is safe because his tail is still on the bag

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.35.32 PM STEP 5: VICTORY BY FORFEIT!

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.42.30 PMOh, and then Skip Wilson wakes up on the plane, thinking it was a dream, until he gets a signed copy of the Devil’s lineup card that a stewardess finds at his feet!

The end.

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 batter’s 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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.36.58 PMI’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.

Fun story.

NEXT TIME IN BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: The Radio.

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

4: Tony Stark- Baseball Fan

5: The Other Guys

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

14. “Pinky at the Bat”

15. How To Play Baseball 

16. Action Comics #50

17. Superman Adventures #13

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

25. 25th Installment!

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

30. Green Arrow and Elongated Man

31. Hideki Matsui’s Godzilla Cameo

32. Mr. Go

33. Captain Marvel, Tawky Tawny, and the Tigers

34. Cal Ripken Jr. Bio-Comic

35. Simpsons Comics #120 

36. Dick Cole

37. The 2001 NY Yankees (and Cal Ripken) in “Championship Challenge”

38. “It’s Tokyo, Charlie Brown!”

39. Stan Musial Bio-Comic

40. “Challenge of the Headless Baseball Team!” 

41. “The Beat The Devil!” (you are here)

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