Baseball, a.k.a. “America’s Pastime,” is deeply ingrained into American culture (even if its popularity’s waned in recent years), and that extends to comics and animation. Below are a few noteworthy or interesting examples of baseball in cartoons. I note it’d be shorter to make a list of Western cartoons that don’t reference baseball at some point.
Bugs Bunny (“Baseball Bugs”)
This 1946 Bugs Bunny short sees Bugs forced to play a baseball game (as a one-man “team”) against a cheating team of thugs, the “Gas-House Gorillas.” What follows are a lot of classic Bugs antics and (of course) a very loose interpretation of baseball’s rules.
The short is available on HBO Max, as well as the Boomerang streaming service.
DCU baseball teams
DC’s fictional cities also have fictional baseball teams. However, most of these have been inconsistently used, especially in Batman and Superman stories. Thus, there are multiple given teams for many of DC’s cities. Drawing from the DC Comics Wiki (and ignoring spin-off media, such as movies/TV shows, or else this list would be even more massive), the DCU’s fake pro baseball teams include:
- Bludhaven Bloodhounds
- Central City Diamonds
- Central City Stars
- Coast City Angels. Since Coast City is unambiguously in California, I assume the Coast City Angels are in a separate league from the Anaheim Angels?
- Dakota Freebooters. From the Milestone Comics line.
- Fawcett City Lightning. A minor league baseball team.
- Gateway Archers. From Gateway City, Wonder Woman’s hometown in the 90s.
- Keystone City Patriots
- Keystone City Salamanders
- Midway City Chiefs
- Star City Rockets
- Star City Stars
- Gotham City has had multiple teams, as shown below. I assume the “canonical” teams are the Knights and Griffins (and maybe also the Goliaths).
- Gotham Knights. Listed in “Atlas of the DC Universe,” and the most frequently seen Gotham team on this list.
- Gotham Griffins. Listed in 1990’s “Atlas of the DC Universe,” but not used in any stories?
- Gotham Goliaths. Also the name of Gotham’s hockey, basketball and football team in other stories over the decades. The most recent mention of the baseball version of the Goliaths is in a 2013 story. Again, the name comes from a Golden and early Silver Age nickname for Batman (“the Gotham Goliath”).
- Gotham Giants. However, a 1990s story used the “Giants” name for Gotham’s football team.
- Gotham Mammoths
- Like Gotham, Metropolis has also had multiple baseball teams over the years. However, according to Wikipedia, the city’s two official teams are the Monarchs and the Meteors.
- Metropolis Meteors. Listed in “Atlas of the DC Universe.” They also share the same name as the city’s football team, per former football player/Superman cast member Steve Lombard.
- Metropolis Monarchs. Listed in “Atlas of the DC Universe.” Clark’s a fan of the Monarchs.
- Metropolis Metros
- Metropolis Ravens. Only appeared in the Golden Age.
- Metropolis Twins. Probably a reference to stories in which Metropolis and Gotham are treated as twin cities?
DC Super-Stars #10
“DC Super Stars” #10 (December 1976) was part of DC’s “Strange Sports Stories” series, a title that fits here.
The story saw some of the top DC Comics heroes forced into playing a baseball game against a group of villains, all at the behest of the married supervillain couple the Sportsmaster and the Huntress. (Apparently, these were Earth-1 versions of the usual Earth-2 villains?) The game was to determine whether the Huntress should reform.
The good guys team roster:
- Wonder Woman
- Kid Flash
- Green Arrow
- Plastic Man
- Black Canary
- Huntress (playing with the good guys)
The villains’ team roster:
- Lex Luthor
- The Joker
- Dr. Polaris
- The Tattooed Man
- Felix Faust
- The Weather Wizard
- Matter Master
The umpires were Uncle Sam (of the Freedom Fighters) and Amazo, the evil android with the Justice League’s powers. The issue also printed stats on all the players, like a real baseball game.
This particular story was referenced in an episode of “Batman: The Brave and the Bold,” where the heroes also played a baseball game against the villains.
On a semi-related note is the name of the Justice League of America itself. The JLA’s creator, Gardner Fox, was supposedly inspired by the real-world’s Major League Baseball (and National Football League) as a name for the team; “Justice League” sounded more modern as a name versus the Golden Age’s “Justice Society.”
Goofy (“How to Play Baseball”)
“How to Play Baseball” (from 1942) was the first of the “How to” Goofy shorts. Here, two teams of Goofys “demonstrate” how to play baseball.
The short is available on Disney+.
New York’s baseball teams have appeared in Marvel stories. Of particular interest is the New York Mets, Spider-Man’s favorite baseball team. Which seems appropriate, given the Mets’ perennial underdog status.
As far as I can find, Peter’s interest in the Mets first appeared in a “Spidey Super Stories” segment on PBS’ “The Electric Company,” and soon showed up in a spin-off comic. A 2001 story played up Peter’s interest in the Mets for drama; he used to attend games with his Uncle Ben.
The Mets’ original home, Shea Stadium, also has played roles in Spider-Man stories, including as the site of a fight in 1975’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #149… the story that led to the infamous “Spider-Clone Saga” in the 90s. Marvel also staged a live-action version of Peter and Mary Jane’s wedding at Shea Stadium in 1987.
Shea Stadium was torn down to make way for Citi Field, which opened in 2009. Since Marvel is on a floating timeline, any mentions of Shea Stadium are now considered a topical reference.
Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” is famous for its use of baseball. Charlie Brown’s futile efforts at serving as the manager of his terrible baseball team are a running plot in the strip. That said, while there’s the occasional “Charlie Brown’s team wins when he’s absent” joke, the team’s performance isn’t all Charlie Brown’s fault. Lucy misses easy catches and heckles her own manager; Snoopy’s also occasionally seen sleeping in the outfield. Also memorable: the time Linus and Lucy’s little brother, Rerun, played for Charlie Brown’s team (despite being barely old enough to walk).
An August 1973 storyline sees Snoopy compete with Hank Aaron to break baseball’s home run record. In a nod to what Aaron faced, Snoopy starts getting hate mail urging the beagle to quit.
Several “Peanuts” baseball specials were also produced: “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars” (1966), “It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown” (1996), and “Lucy Must be Traded, Charlie Brown” (2003). As far as I can tell, only “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars” is on Apple TV+; however, all of them are available on DVD.
Several “Simpsons” episodes have focused on baseball. The second season episode “Dancin’ Homer” sees the family attend a baseball game featuring Springfield’s minor league team, the Springfield Isotopes. The episode’s title is from Homer becoming the Isotopes’ mascot. In the same episode, Mr. Burns claims (probably falsely) that his pitching as a youth was comparable to Satchel Paige, one of baseball’s all-time greatest pitchers.
The following season’s “Homer at the Bat” features Homer playing softball for the power plant’s team. Despite the team being a success (thanks to Homer), Mr. Burns still brings in major league ringers to ensure he wins a bet he made.
Both of these episodes are available on Disney+.
Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum
“Xavier Riddle” is a PBS Kids series that debuted in 2019; it’s based on a series of children’s books by Brad Meltzer and Chris Eliopoulos. The show sees three kids solve personal problems and learn about history by traveling back in time to meet historical figures when they were children. Oddly, the historical figures as children are drawn like their adult selves, complete with beards, mustaches, etc.
One episode sees the kids meet Jackie Robinson, the first Black player in the modern era of Major League Baseball.
Baseball episodes titled “The Unnatural”
“The Natural” is a 1984 baseball movie (based on a novel) starring Robert Redford. Since then, the movie’s title has been the basis for punny titles for baseball-themed episodes of mostly supernatural/magic-themed cartoons. All of them use the same pun: “The Unnatural.” Below are shows with baseball- (or softball-) themed episodes titled such:
- “Ben 10” (though they went with “The Unnaturals,” plural)
- “Bob’s Burgers”
- “What’s New, Scooby-Doo?”
- “The Ghost and Molly McGee”
Live-action TV shows also got in on this; there are baseball-themed episodes of “Married With Children,” “The X-Files,” and “Frasier” titled “The Unnatural.”
While it’s a good pun, I’d note to Hollywood that “Field of Screams” is sitting right there.
Image by Chris Pastrick from Pixabay