BASEBALL, WARP SPEED AHEAD
"Horsehide Sci-Fi" is the way I classify my frequent excursions from the country of baseball into the Twilight Zone. Last time, I served up Bat Out of Hell from the Notes archives. There is lots more where Bat came from, and soon you can peruse the full Notes Sci-Fi Archive, over twenty short stories, thanks to the cyber-talent of Sean Lahman.
I bailed out of Deep Space Nine late in its rookie year, but I have a Trekkie friend who keeps me posted on all things Sci-Fi, including Doctor Who('s On First?) He alerted me to the DS9 episode last fall that featured baseball (I knew Captain Sisko was a fan), and when I missed it, he loaned me his video.
I suspect for my friend, "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" was like, well, like an episode of DS9 during the seventh inning stretch, would seem to a baseball fan. In other words, like an intrusion, and not a very effective way to recruit new fans.
First, we are asked to believe that baseball, a team sport, is a perfectly logical way to settle an old score, a long grudge between individuals. Yes, a Vulcan suggests this, but his human buddy, Sisko, who should know better, agrees.
Sisko comes off as completely clueless about his chances to win. His opponents: an all-Vulcan team, three times stronger, and also faster (Mr Spock was only half-Vulcan, remember.) His own squad: a very mixed bag of the DS9 cast, which brought to mind, more than anything, Charlie Brown's roster. Snoopy could catch, but the Ferengi in right field had Lucy down pat.
The DS9 crew begin to learn about baseball backward -- by studying the rules. As if memorizing the infield fly rule was essential. Anyone ever see a rule book on the sandlot? Even in Little League, the kids are spared the textbook intro. Captain (I hope I have his rank right) Sisko does insist that the game takes heart -- something he judges lacking in Vulcans -- but he forgets that heart is never enough, once between the lines.
We can see that the writers tried hard. One Niner goes down with a rotator cuff injury in the first practice. Sisko insists on a real person as the umpire, when we know sophisticated stuff is available. (Naturally, Sisko gets tossed when he touches the ump, but so does his Vulcan nemesis.) The Niners' infield is forced to chant the inane "Hey, batter, batter," but you gotta like Worf's line better: "Death to the opposition!"
The Vulcans go up 10-0 without breaking a sweat, and Sisko is forced to find consolation in a circus catch in center, and an unusual force play at home. "That's why I love this game, every situation is different."
The Niners finally score when the most inept Ferengi accidentally bunts his son home (bunting while down 10-0 and with two strikes, no less.) The Niners carry off the hero, cheering their "manufactured triumph," even though there are still no outs in the bottom of the ninth.
At this point, I wanted Captain James T. Kirk to beam down (where is time travel when they really need it?) and slap Sisko around some. "You fool, didn't you learn anything in the academy about playing the odds when you do battle? And bunting with two strikes?" (To be fair, the bunt was not Sisko's idea, but Kirk wasn't paying close attention.)
Kirk would then give an inspirational speech. He would recall the game ("October 12, 1929, Captain, in Philadelphia," Mr. Spock interjects), when Connie Mack's A's scored ten runs in a late inning to overcome a huge deficit and win a World Series game. He would probably recall other examples of late rallies his crew pulled off in the first seasons of Star Trek. Inserting himself and others plucked randomly from the cast of ST and The Next Generation into the lineup, the Niners would then go on to score ten more runs and turn defeat into victory.
Mr. Spock: "I fail to comprehend how a superior group of Vulcans could blow such a lead."
McCoy: "That's because you're being logical, Spock."
Kirk: "Bones is right, Mr. Spock. Baseball is not a logical sport. The physically superior team does not always win."
Spock: "Curious, Captain. That's not what history tells us. It seems that once free-agency was established, the wealthy teams outspent the others and almost always wound up in the post-season. This was a logical outcome."
Kirk: "They did? Here, let me see that log. Hmmm, it appears that you are correct, Mr. Spock. It says here that this imbalance was the reason that baseball self-destructed back in 2002 and -- "
Scotty: "Captain, please, you'll ruin it for the viewers."
Kirk: "Quite right, Scotty. Sulu, get us out of here."
I need to beam out of this review, too. Well, you get the idea. If Sisko learns from his mistakes, he will lose the Ferengi and add a few more of Worf's species (Klingon, I think.) The several women on the Niners played well, but were not ready for prime time. Neither were the DS9 males. Sisko's son pitched well, by the way, but must have felt like he was in Coors Field. Which makes you wonder how Vulcans would perform in Colorado.