A quarter-century ago, a local businessman made a friendly wager that his company softball team would best their rivals, and Ken Griffey Jr.'s head would never be the same.
The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant nine was undefeated going into the showdown with their hated counterparts from Shelbyville, but when you've got a million bucks on the line against Aristotle Amadopolis, the everyday lineup just ain't going to cut it. Thus, Mr. Burns brought in ringers (sadly, not Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, as he died in 1948) and that full squad of early-90s baseball studs went on to star in one of the all-time great Simpsons episodes.
"Homer at the Bat," of course. The tale of a fat man and his Wonder Bat is now so iconic that it will be feted by the actual Baseball Hall of Fame this year, on May 27. The "Talkin' Softball" celebration will include a round-table discussion with Wade "Pitt the Edler" Boggs and Ozzie "Graceland" Smith, as well as episode executive producers Al Jean and Mike Reiss, director Jim Reardon, executive story editor Jeff Martin, and casting director Bonnie Pietila.
If you're unfamiliar with the 1992 classic (presumably because you're a "young person") and have no clue as to what the Steve Sax Trio is or why Don Mattingly needs to trim those sideburns, start here with this great 2012 retrospective by Erik Malinowski, who is tickled by the whole thing.
"I never would've thought we'd see Homer Simpson in the Hall of Fame before Barry Bonds, but progress is progress," Malinowski told VICE Sports. "It's very cool to see the HOF embrace the fun—and sillier—side of baseball."
His Deadspin piece is filled with all kinds of great tidbits about the remarkable cast of major leaguers. My favorite is how Jose Canseco wasn't allowed to have Bart's teacher serve as his Annie Savoy:
"Aside from the logistics of recording nine separate guest roles, plot lines had to be rewritten on the fly. Jose Canseco's scene originally called for him and Mrs. Krabappel to engage in Bull Durham-inspired extramarital shenanigans. Canseco's wife rejected the scene, and the staff had to do a last-minute Saturday afternoon rewrite when Oakland came south on a mid-August road trip.
Instead of Lothario, Canseco got to play hero, rushing into a woman's burning house to rescue her baby, then cat, followed by a player piano, washer, dryer, couch and recliner combo, high chair, TV, rug, kitchen table and chairs, lamp, and grandfather clock. Requesting the new sequence turned out to be the wiser move. Canseco and his wife had nearly divorced earlier that year before reconciling, and a week before 'Homer at the Bat' aired, Canseco was arrested by Miami police for chasing down and ramming his wife's BMW twice with his red Porsche at 4:30 a.m. After the chase ended, he allegedly got out of his car, came over to his wife's driver-side window, and spit on it."
"Homer at the Bat" is, like Cooperstown itself, both timeless and a time capsule. Let's all stop what we're doing right this second, and watch it. Don't be a chicken like Roger Clemens.