BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Baseball with Galactus in Marvel Adventures Avengers #26

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.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! Avengers: Endgame is breaking all of the box office records, so now is as good of a time as any to bring you a Bizarre Baseball Culture look at a truly bizarre Avengers tale: 2008’s Marvel Adventures The Avengers Volume 1 #26, in which baseball helps our heroes save a planet from Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds.

Well, sort of. It’s more of a non-sequitur thrown in to justify this awesome cover:

Image of cover of magazine, featuring Galactus looking down at the Silver Surfer, Hulk and Spider-Man playing baseball.

And… I’m totally fine with that! It is available to read for Marvel Unlimited subscribers here. Head below the jump for more of this piece:

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Bizarre Baseball Culture: What does “The White Killer” have to do with Baseball?

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.

Way back in the ninth installment of this series, I mentioned how one of the archtypes of superheroes is the patriotic hero. The most notable, of course, is Captain America, but there have been others: The Shield (who starred in that comic), Uncle Sam, Miss America, the Fighting Yank, etc.

This time in Bizarre Baseball Culture, we look at a comic involving one of the lesser patriotic heroes, one relegated (probably with good reason) to the dustbin of comic book history: U.S. Jones. He got his powers- whatever they are (they aren’t really expanded upon) from a scientist, and he fights enemies of America during WWII, as one does. This is what he looks like on the cover of the comic that contained this story, called “The White Killer”:

Wow, what a horrible costume. It’s somebody ate an American flag and then vomited upon Jones’ skin. And then there’s the U and S upon his chest. You know, in case you didn’t get that he was themed for the United States of America by the fact that his costume looks like he did stuff to a flag forbidden by the US Flag Code.

Anyway, the comic, from Wonderworld Comics #33, can be found here. It is in the public domain.

Go below the jump for more.

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BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Strange Tales #36 “The Discovery”

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.

Yeah, so that Power Rangers series I promised I’d finish two years ago? You’re going to keep waiting. Today, we’re going to the 1950s to read a story from Marvel’s Strange Tales #36, circa 1955. Well, sort of, you see, this is actually a story from Atlas Comics, which is what Marvel was called at the time. It’s a short, four-page story in the middle of an issue full of them, and calls to mind later stories like the Sidd Finch hoax… and how it could go horribly wrong, especially if he wasn’t used right.

Go below the jump for more:

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Bizarre Baseball Culture returns in the coming days

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.

And in the coming days, it returns from nearly a two year hiatus with a comic-book tale from the 1950s…

Stay tuned.

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Take “The Human Target” Out To The Ballgame

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.

Comic Book universes are huge and diverse, going through countless genres and containing both nitty-gritty realism and utterly fantastic science fiction or fantasy. And yet, they all take place in the same universe, no matter how different they seem. You can get a idea of just how crazy this is by looking at Marvel’s movie/TV empire, where Daredevil and Guardians of the Galaxy are both taking place in the same universe despite the fact that one of them is about a guy beating up mob bosses (and the occasional ninja) while the other one has both a talking raccoon and a talking tree.

However, as a result of this, sometimes characters get lost in the shuffle. They are technically part of the universe, but they rarely interact with it. Maybe it’s because their adventures are on the more mature side, maybe they are stuck in another dimension that the usual heroes don’t go to so often, or maybe, they aren’t seen because that’s just the way they want it…

Such is the case of Christopher Chance, AKA the Human Target. He’s not a completely unknown character- he’s been the subject of two short-lived shows based on his comics (the most notable being a two-season FOX series starring Mark Valley and James Earle Haley), but he’s firmly in the D-list of DC Comics. And those were both pretty different from the comics and had little indication of taking place in a world of DC Comics. In fact, when it was announced that the Human Target would be coming to Arrow, some people were surprised to find out that he even was a DC character. That’s probably because he doesn’t interact with the rest of the DC Universe all that much. Or maybe he does, but we just don’t know it.

Because, you see, the Human Target is a master of disguise. He becomes the would-be assassination victim using heavy prosthetic-work and a knack for copying voices and body language. And in this installment of Bizarre Baseball Culture, Christopher Chance figuratively steps up to the plate:

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 10.29.36 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 10.30.43 AMGO BELOW THE JUMP FOR MORE:

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(Blogathon ’16) The Author of @OldHossRadbourn: Three Catches

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

I would have enjoyed seeing Game 6 of the 1947 World Series.  It was yet another Dodgers/Yankees affair, when both the event and the outcome seemed inevitable.  It had been a hell of a Series, including a stunner in Game 4: the Yanks’ Bill Bevens pitched a ten-walk no-hitter into the ninth when, with two outs and two runners on in a 2-1 game, Cookie Lavagetto smacked a game-winning double to right — the last hit of his career! — that Tommy Henrich could not reach. Game to the Dodgers.

By Game 6 the Yanks were up 3 games to 2 with Allie Reynolds, in his first year in the Bronx, on the mound. He had nothing, and was done in the third.  Relief ace Joe Page also got lit, though the Yankees slowly crept back. Down 8-5 in the 6th, Joe DiMaggio came up to bat with 2 on and 2 out. He crushed Joe Hatten’s pitch to left center. Left fielder Al Gionfriddo raced toward the visitors’ bullpen, over 400 feet from home plate, and managed to jjuusstt make the catch. DiMaggio, sure he’d just lost at least a double, did something extremely rare: he showed emotion, and kicked a patch of dirt between first and second. Inning over.  The Yankees would go on to lose 8-6.

This catch has been on my mind after a recent bit of baseball reading.  What stands out after looking at three works — Roger Kahn’s The Era 1947-1957; David Halberstam’s Summer of ‘49; and Richard Ben Cramer’s Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life, — is how differently they portray this one catch, DiMaggio’s reaction, and the man himself.

I have mixed feelings about Kahn.  I’m the father of a special needs son, and reading his description in The Boys of Summer of Carl Erskine raising a “Mongoloid” is a nice reminder that, despite Kahn’s desire, the glory days of the past have no place in my present.  But, goddammit, the man can tell a story.  He describes the catch over several pages, focusing on Gionfriddo’s reaction, including (according to Gionfriddo) comments made by DiMaggio about the man who stole his hit: “…[he] never gave up and he made the greatest catch that anybody ever made in the whole history of baseball.”

It’s not hard to imagine DiMaggio, even then aware of his aura, describe the catch this way.  Only the greatest catch of all time denies the Yankee Clipper his glory.  DiMaggio would return to this topic years later: asked to evaluate Willie Mays’ catch off Vic Wertz in the ‘54 Series (a catch, one scribe noted, that would “have left any other park than the Polo Grounds, including Yellowstone”), DiMaggio invoked his past, telling Kahn “…Mays had plenty of room. Running back, all he had to worry about was the ball. On my drive, Gionfriddo had to worry about the ball and those iron gates. He had to worry about running out of room, about getting hurt. With all that, I say he made the greater catch.”

DiMaggio, as Kahn portrays him, is aware of his image, proud of it, and ceaselessly builds on it. Not so in Cramer, who describes the catch as follows:

As DiMaggio rounded first, he could see the outfielder Al Gionfriddo dancing a spirited tarantella — unsure where to run, which way to turn, how to get under the ball. Joe was digging for second base when Gionfriddo, in an act of God, stumbled under the ball, stuck his glove over the wire fence and — Cazzo! Figlio di putana! — stole the home run away from DiMaggio.

This . . . well, this is different.  It’s not a good catch.  It’s a lucky grab by a fool who stumbled to just the right place to become a part of history.  The tone here is also different.  Cramer’s DiMaggio is a miserable figure, aloof and alone, proud only of his legacy, and a prisoner of it.  After the game, in the locker room, came the following:

“The Catch” might not have burned Joe up, if Gionfriddo hadn’t been out of position, clueless in that outfield, and a busher in the first place . . . after the game, he didn’t answer questions, and told the photographers: no pictures. The next day, when one cameraman asked Joe to autograph a picture of that home run theft, DiMaggio snarled him away: “Whyn’cha get the other guy? He made the catch.”

Two takes, two tones.  There’s overlap, sure, but Cramer’s DiMaggio comes across again and again as just a colossal son of a bitch.  This version of DiMaggio will not compliment the bush-league Gionfriddo on his catch. It’s unlikely he saw it as superior to Mays’.

And then there’s Halberstam, who has a pretty significant deviation:

During the 1947 World Series, in a rare burst of emotion, he kicked the ground near second base after a Brooklyn player named Al Gionfriddo made a spectacular catch, robbing him of a three-run home run. The net day while he was dressing, a photographer who had taken a picture of him kicking the ground asked him to sign a blowup of it. At first DiMaggio demurred and suggested that the photographer get Gionfriddo’s signature. “He’s the guy who made the play,” DiMaggio said. But the photographer persisted, and so reluctantly DiMaggio signed it. Then he turned to a small group of reporters sitting by him. “Don’t write this in the paper,” he said. “but the truth is, if he had been playing me right, he would have made it look easy.”

Again a different take.  This is a bad catch once again – DiMaggio would have effortlessly made it – but this time, you’ll note, he signs the photo.  This DiMaggio is graceful.  Halberstam is writing about a man in his early thirties, but it’s hard not to see the silver-haired, immaculately dressed gentleman of DiMaggio’s later years leaning over to reporters with a conspiratorial wink and telling them how he really felt about that catch.  The legend is strong here.

Does any of this matter?  I don’t know.  We have one catch, three stories, and three somewhat different men featured in each.  I am reminded, however, of what is so fascinating and frustrating about history: at the end of the day, I have no idea what DiMaggio thought about that catch.  I know what our authors thought of it, and of the man himself.  Cramer gives us a DiMaggio fierce in his misanthropy, alone with nothing except the memory of his greatness.  I’m not sure Kahn or Halberstam get us closer to the truth.  Kahn, like all old men, wants us to remember an era better than our own, when giants walked the land.  So, too does Halberstam, though he understands baseball – as Bill James reminds us – perhaps the least of these three authors.   In the end we’re left with three sources describing a catch made under an October sky, a man so shrouded by a legacy that his thoughts are lost, the mentalités of three historians imposed upon the past, and the recession of an event from history to myth.

The Author of @OldHossRadbourn is the individual behind the @OldHossRadbourn Twitter account.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) CLASSIC CONTINUUM- BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: COSMIC SLAM

This piece from the blog’s archives is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

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.

Originally posted Nov. 19, 2013

I’m coming to you from the Auxiliary Headquarters of the Continuum… AKA a Living Room instead of my usual Family Room or Bedroom writing area, due to the great Wi-Fi Crisis of 2013. The reason I have braved such perils is simple: Cosmic Slam. The sequel to Shortstop Squad, and another great epic from the folks at Ultimate Sports Entertainment (AKA “Ultimate Sports Force”). Just as Shortstop Squad brought us late-90s shortstops fighting monsters and aliens, Cosmic Slam does the same with late 1990s sluggers. Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, David Justice and Mark McGwire all grace the cover, and Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla and Frank Thomas all show up in the story as well.

It also involves Bagwell complaining about missing a fishing trip, Sosa making a corked bat joke, Greg Maddux‘s fastball being insulted, and of course, the making of a baseball bat out of the body of your defeated foes.

No, I’m not joking about the last one. Seriously, that really happens.

So, place your tongue firmly in cheek and go below the jump for Cosmic Slam.

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