With The Man of Steel coming out tonight, returning Krypton’s Last Son to his rightful place in pop culture, it’s time that we look back at Clark Kent, newsanchor and boob around town, as nearly bungles away the Little League town championship in 1982’s Superman Family #215.
The story opens with Clark anchoring the nightly WGBS news. He passes the mic to Steve Lombard for sports who announces that there’s going to be a new member of the Hall of Fame, but first, it’s time for the all-important Little League bulletin:
If you thought the news being filled with human interest pieces was a new phenomena, you clearly weren’t paying attention.
After a breaking down the Metropolis Planeteers’ (Sadly, having nothing to do with Captain Planet) chances in the Little League World Series, Lombard gives us the lowdown on Franklin Pierce Jackson, a .359 hitter in the Negro Leagues, who is finally getting elected to the Hall of Fame. Shame that Buck O’Neill never got the same treatment while he was alive.
Clark Kent then heads home and, proving that he has extremely poor facial recognition skills, doesn’t realize that Frank, his doorman and co-manager of the Little League team, is Franklin Pierce Jackson, the Hall of Famer. I know, a man with X-Ray vision who routinely saves the planet doesn’t recognize his doorman as the Hall of Fame ballplayer that was covered on the news that very evening?
You know, maybe Lex Luthor is right not to trust Superman’s judgement.
With Frank begging out of the World Series game due to a variety of imaginary ailments, Clark Kent is put in charge of managing the team, admitting he doesn’t know the difference between a single and a sacrifice bunt. At least he gives one of the least rousing pep talks ever:
How the hell did this guy get on the Justice League?
Finally, and only after Steve Lombard shows up to interview Frank, does Clark Kent, crack news reporter AND superhero, realize that Frank the Doorman is also Frank the Hall of Fame Baseball Player. Even then, he needs to do some PRISM-level spying to put it all together.
With Kent managing, surely begging the team to “bunt their way to victory”, the Planeteers somehow head to the top of the ninth, clinging to a 4-3 lead as the Comets stage a comeback. Kent, because he can’t be bothered to learn people’s names, faces, or the rules of the game, has no idea what to do.
But then Clark, proving that he’s the king of convoluted plans, decides to, wait for it, give the kids bad advice, hoping that Frank will read his lips and leap from the stands to right the ship.
Insane, right? Seems like it would never work, right? Maybe a better plan would be to, I don’t know, go get Frank?
And that’s why you’re not Superman.
Franklin Pierce Jackson: Hall of Famer and run expectancy chart carrier? Be still my heart. Sadly, my hopes are quickly dashed:
Since this issue came out after the 1981 season, and assuming that Little League baseball follows Major League patterns, and without knowing anything about the Comets lineup or the Planeteers bullpen, it’s actually NOT the percentage play.
Baseball Prospectus’ Run Expectancy charts tell us that in ‘81, a runner at second and third with two outs nets .57 runs while the bases loaded with two outs sees .69 runs come across the plate.
In the end, Jackson’s decision to walk the batter doesn’t matter as the team gets the ground ball and they leap about in celebration as Frank tries to slip away undetected. Clark then tells Frank he knows his secret with Frank admitting that he was ashamed of his fall from grace into his current occupation. Much the way Clark Kent should be ashamed that despite having X-Ray vision and seeing this man every day for years, he had no idea what his true identity was.
The team doesn’t give a hoot about Jackson’s day job though, lifting him on their shoulders and shouting with glee, surely hurting their backs because children shouldn’t carry adults except after plane crashes.
We then flash ahead to after the Cooperstown induction ceremony, getting some great local press coverage from the nearly brain-dead Clark Kent whose anchoring success is surely the result of the teleprompter:
After the ceremony, we find Frank, back to his doorman duties, surely overwhelmed by the amount of attention his induction has drawn:
In the end, everything works out for the best, I guess. Except that Clark Kent really isn’t fit to protect the planet.
And if you want more Superman baseball stories, be sure to check out his stint as a scout, the time he got angry at Little Leaguers, or Steve Howard’s beautiful piece imagining Superman as a Kansas City Royal.
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