(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.

Continue reading

(Blogathon ’16) CLASSIC CONTINUUM- Bizarre Baseball Culture’s “SHORTSTOP SQUAD”

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.

Originally published October 25, 2013

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:

SHORTSTOPSQUADcover

Your mind is now blown.

So, let’s get started with Shortstop Squad #1 from 1999… after the jump, of course:

Continue reading

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Bartolo, C.C., and the rest of the 2002 Indians rotation in INDIANS STRIKEFORCE VS. THE SCATMAN

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.

Ultimate Sports Force. It’s the beloved and now-defunct comic book company that gave us such classics as the Cal Ripken-led Shortstop Squad, the power-filled Cosmic Slam, the Sasquatch-filled Mariners Mojo, and the Yankee retelling (with gratuitous Cal Ripken appearance) of Cosmic Slam entitled Championship Challenge. Today, we look at a Ultimate Sports giveaway comic featuring the 2002 Indians, as we read Indians Strikeforce Versus the Scatman:

StrikeforcecovYes, this is a comic in which C.C. Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Danys Baez, and Ryan Drese have to protect Cleveland from somebody called the Scatman. It also has Bob Feller, now-retired clubhouse manager Cy Buynak, and MONKEYS MADE OUT OF MUSIC. Go below the jump to see some of the glories it brings:

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Bizarre Baseball Culture: Cal Ripken orders the 2001 Yankees to Save The World

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.

YanksCalCover

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:

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Bizarre Baseball Culture: McGwire, Sosa and Friends fight Tree Monsters in “Cosmic Slam”

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.

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.

Continue reading

Bizarre Baseball Culture: SHORTSTOP SQUAD (AKA “Ripken, Larkin, Jeter and A-Rod fight Faux-Godzilla”)

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:

SHORTSTOPSQUADcover

Your mind is now blown.

So, let’s get started with Shortstop Squad #1 from 1999… after the jump, of course:

Continue reading