Read This Comic: Baseball Comics #1 by Will Eisner

(Previous Read This Comic installments with Bo Jackson and Ken Griffey Jr can be found here and here)

Will Eisner, the legendary comic book writer and artist whose legacy was sadly trashed by The Spirit, once tried to revolutionize the industry by creating a baseball comic around the character of Rube Rooky, an iceman turned pitching star. It’s an airtight premise. 

If you’re expecting high literature in the vein of The Art of Fielding, well buddy, you’re in the right place.

From the first page, you know you’re in for a treat with references to “ice-wagons” and coincidental names like Rube Rooky and Pop Flye. Honestly, what other lines of work would employ those men if not for baseball? 

When Pop Flye’s boys play the local icemen team, something very common for the day, they’re shutout by Mr. Rooky who was snagged off the street moments before. In a fit of rage, team owner Lana Lash fires Pop Flye, who treats us to some classic misogyny. It’s the stuff that has made Mad Men a bonafide hit:

Pop Flye, now freed from Lana Lash’s outrageous Steinbrennian expectations of victory, hunts down Rube Rooky and starts his working on turning the thrower into a pitcher.

If you’re planning on attending Spring Training next month, you’ll probably see plenty of these activities:

Aww, I remember the good ole days when I’d sling clam shells through a fence post while wearing a blind fold. Though that was more as a punishment tool when I’d forget to take out the garbage.

As Lana Lash hears word of Pop’s plan to sell Rube to the highest bidder, she goes to all the owners and buys them out, ensuring that no one will sign Mr. Rooky. It’s Andre Dawson ‘86 all over again.

After finally finding a team, the Badgers, willing to take on the Sidd Finchian character, Lana Lash stays one step ahead. This is the team Pop Flye is expected to field:

More great names with Slab Angler, Grapple Vance, Mike McCoy Hinge McCoy and Cleat Biggers all reporting for duty. What’s a fella to do? If you’re Pop Flye, you give an impassioned speech: 

Oh, hey, it’s Ron Gardenhire making a cameo. This will be the grittiest, most free swingiest team in the union!

With the team on an amazing streak behind the right arm of Rube Rooky, Lana Lash knows she has no choice but to go all The Natural on his ass.

Ten dollars to cripple a man? I tell ya, I can’t find a guy willing to cripple someone for less than $50.

Because Rube is, well, a rube, he still believes that Lana is his friend, even after she tries to have him crippled and drives him all over town, forcing him to miss a game. When confronted about his possible crush on the woman by a member of the Boilers, Rube punches the player through a window the day before the big game. Even a baseball comic needs men being punched through windows.

Naturally, the Boilers respond, not by throwing a brushback pitch, but by calling up a whole new roster:

It’s like watching the player introductions before a football game.

The crowd gets into the act too, bringing rotten eggs, tomatoes, clubs, and blackjacks into the stadium— it’s all shaping up to be a real Joe Medwick situation. Just then, the crowd really brings the bedlam:

Well gee, now the wave doesn’t look so bad.

Naturally shaken over the “Rube Loves Lana” allegations like the man-child that he is, Rube Rooky has trouble settling in. With a few men on base, Rube snares a hard hit liner and starts a triple play. Finding his control after that, Rube keeps the teams deadlocked at 0 until the top of the ninth. With the score tied at zero, Rube comes to the plate.

Like all sports movies though, Rube ends it with one mighty…bunt.

And with two strikes no less. You certainly can’t say Eisner was afraid of courting high drama.

Sadly, Americans were too busy making babies after World War II to purchase the book, so even though there was a promise of issue #2, it was never meant to be:

But perhaps it’s for the best. Now we can blissfully live our lives, never having to witness Rube’s eventual affair with Lana Lash, nor having to be confronted with the messy contract disputes, his designer drug addiction, or the loss of his beautiful fastball after a rotator cuff injury that crude 1950s medical science is powerless to save.

Instead, we can remember Rube for who he really was, a big dumb jock who doesn’t really know what he’s doing even while doing it. And isn’t that what sports are really about?

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