With the World Series’ abrupt ending throwing us into the offseason far too soon, and Halloween upon us, there is no better time to pick up a comic book. And when that comic book happens to feature the history of the National League using a frightening avatar in the form of an awakened 19th century mascot teaming up with a ghost, a witch, and a rich person, well, what choice do you have?
The comic opens with a page highlighting all the fun that’s in store, with things like “TEASERS” and “GRAND SLAM SUPER BASEBALL STORY.” You know, the kind of things the kids just go crazy for. After a quick sea monkeys advertisement, we’re thrown into the first story “Play Ball.”
There, Casper, using ectoplasmic energy, hammers a National League Centennial advertisement to his “baseball tree” while deciding to call the mustachioed chap “Nat.” Apparently, along with heavy pesticide usage, hammering nails into trees was just a thing people did back in 1976.
Sorry, Casper, but you’re dead. And there’s no ligament replacement surgery to rectify that.
While talking to the tree, Casper is then hopelessly ridiculed by his brothers, The Ghostly Trio, for his love of baseball. This also provides the greatest pun panel (or ‘punel”) in the history of comic books. Or anything. Seriously, I think I might have this printed and framed:
Guys, ghosts should play boosball. I think everyone knows that. Now is also a good time to include a quick fact about Fatso from the Ghostly Trio wikipedia:
“In the PlayStation video game Casper, Fatso was supposedly legendary baseball player Babe Ruth (revealed when Casper observed the portrait in the main hall). This is of course impossible - Ruth never had any brothers.”
Yeah, that’s the impossible part.
Casper then plays a quick game with Wendy the Witch who, after she is humiliated by striking out, uses her witchy vibes to not only summon Richie Rich from his mansion, but also brings to life Nat, the National League mascot.
Silly, Wendy, didn’t you know that Nat was trapped in a two-dimensional world because of his penchant for pre-pubescent boys.
Nat soon takes on the pitching duties, tossing one up to Wendy who promptly smashes a home run. Unfortunately, the ball drops into Auntie’s “Nasty Brew” which sends them all back in time. Hey, who hasn’t time traveled after downing some nasty brew?
It also continues to prove that Nat is a horrible influence:
Once they have their bearings, they realize they’re at the first National League game in the history of baseball, the April 22, 1876 matchup between Philadelphia and Boston. After Richie Rich grabs a screaming liner with his new fangled, fancy pants webbed glove, Wendy reveals that she’s not a fan of throwback uniforms:
She must must not read Uni-Watch. What’s more glamorous than a black and white striped pillbox cap? Nothing.
After Wendy breaks her bat on a swinging bunt, one that drains all of the magic power out of the bat, leaving her no more powerful than Nick Punto, she tries to return them back to the modern era, but only gets them to 1892. Fortunately, they’re in luck as this is the date that Wilbert Robinson would go 7-for-7, setting the record for most hits in a nine inning game.
And don’t you know it, this is how they found out:
People always talk like this. To be fair, this is also how the later seasons of Lost operated, too.
And if you still think this comic is for children, you’re clearly not paying attention:
The group once again wishes themselves forward, ever forward, only to wind up in 1951 on the date of Bobby Thomson’s home run that shook the world. Little did we know how close we ended up to mid-century witch burning. I’m guessing this was the true inspiration for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible:
The three once again wish, but instead of heading back home, they wish to see all the great pitchers, outfielders, and their old friends once again. Just like in Ghostbusters, even the best of intentions turn ugly as hundreds of players now swarm a giant baseball field.
Why aren’t you terrified? You should be terrified. Also, Richie Rich is kind of a dick.
After Nat busies himself by getting autographs on his giant baseball and Richie Rich forces Willie Mays to teach him how to make a basket catch, they all return to watch Thomson’s home run. Because they didn’t have things like spoiler tags in the 70s or common courtesy, Wendy accidentally ruins the outcome. It’s enough to turn the spectators into frenzied murderers who have no qualms murdering a child in cold blood:
Again I ask, what makes this suitable reading for children?
Finally, the group gathers up enough magic and everyone is returned home. The familiar dream trope is trotted out, only for…
That’s right! It was all real! And Richie Rich will only have to undergo years of therapy and take mood altering medications to deal with the ramifications. Happy ending, everyone!
Though that ends the story, the comic then offers “Fun Facts for Baseball Fans.” This section features such exciting tidbits like “there are 12 teams in the National League today” and “3 strikes and the batter is out.” I don’t know about you, but I’m on the edge of my seat. Tell me more.
After the quiz section and a two page spread of the 1977 schedule, we’re then treated to beautiful full-page team breakdowns. Like this drawing of Phil Niekro and Hank Aaron’s mace bat:
Is that Hank Aaron’s bat? I dunno, false?
We’re also given a relic like that of the French-speaking Expos. Hopefully this will make its way into Jonah Keri’s book:
French? Anything, literally anything, could be written there. I’m guessing its incantations that will raise the dead or a Communist Manifesto.
So yes, while you may think a comic about baseball featuring a friendly ghost is an acceptable piece of entertainment for your child, please, I beg you to think again. This is the devil at work and we can only hope to destroy the remaining copies before America is forever ruined.
If you’re still in the mood for baseball and Halloween comics, check out Sullivan’s Sluggers (I have an interview with writer Mark Andrew Smith here) and for more comic goodness, click here!
Happy Halloween everybody!