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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.
In the last years of the 20th century and the first years of the 21st, there existed a company called “Ultimate Sports Force”. It is gone now, existing only in old websites and undeleted news items, but in it’s day, it was a staple advertisement in things like Sports Illustrated for Kids.
What was “Ultimate Sports Force”, you ask?
Ultimate Sports Force was a comic company that made books in which professional athletes were superheroes, that’s what! They had licenses with MLB, NBA, NFL and others, and they made comics that involved them saving the world. And then, like a shooting star across the sky, they were gone.
But, oh, man, the stuff they left behind. I’ve come into possession of many of their great products, and while their quality varies from “surprisingly good” to “OH-DEAR-GOD-KILL-IT-WITH-FIRE”, they all represent a special point in our history, a time when we could think of our sports heroes as actual superheroes, and not individuals who got into arguments, used PEDs, had tumultuous love lives, politics we disagree with or other flaws. No, Ultimate Sports Force was the last Golden Age before we all became so jaded.
Perhaps the crown jewel of Ultimate Sports Force’s non-team-affiliated content was Shortstop Squad. Truly a marvel of the Bizarre Baseball Culture arts, it paid tribute to those that went before and followed in their traditions, as Cal Ripken led his team of Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez against a fish-monster that basically is meant to be fish-Godzilla.
You may think I’m being sarcastic, and you are probably right, but, well, this is SHORTSTOP SQUAD, so your logic is irrelevant.
After all, just LOOK at this cover:
So, let’s get started with Shortstop Squad #1 from 1999… after the jump, of course: