Mehring Monday: The Baseball Episode

MacGyver had a baseball episode? Yes. Just about everyone has a baseball episode. (Television)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | November 5, 2012 7:53 AM ET

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In case you missed the last several years of this column or the blog or games on the radio, I watch a lot of television.  I freely admit this fact before you all.

This morning, before I left for the office, the pilot episode of MacGyver was on cable. You can tell it's the pilot because Mac fires off a couple of rounds from a rifle while trying to escape during the cold open.  Plus, Dana Elcar plays a character who is not Pete Dawson and not-Pete thinks that MacGyver is a bit of an idiot. 

By the time the series started for real, the only time MacGyver touched a gun was when he kicked it out of the hand of the bad guy.  Plus, Pete Dawson was more of a Dr. John Watson, "ZOUNDS! HOLMES! THAT'S GENIUS!" type bureaucrat in the show.

I seriously thought about taking a vacation day.

However, going over the minutiae of all seven seasons - and two television movies - on a show that I obsessed about during its original run is something that I can do later.  Like at Christmas break or during that 14-day road trip during May, 2013.

The thing that sprang to mind as I watched the first twenty minutes of the pilot was MacGyver's The Baseball Episode.

It was an awesome piece of television.  As I wrote in this post at the old Rattler Radio blogspot site:

Back From The Dead, a third season episode that features the great Joe Santos (aka Dennis Becker on The Rockford Files) as a former mobster who is in the witness protection as a baseball clubhouse manager. His cover is blown because his picture winds up in the paper and Mac it there is put it right.

Oh, and there is an appearance by the even greater Hank Aaron in this episode as well. Yes, that Hank Aaron.

Punctuation is way off in that opening paragraph, but you get the idea.

MacGyver wasn't the first show to use baseball as setting for a plot.  There is an entire page at the indispensable TV Tropes devoted to The Baseball Episode.

They hit the high points.  The Greatest American Hero (Superhero throws 200mph fastball), Wiseguy (Kevin Spacey explains that the Yankees wear pinstripes because Babe Ruth got fat), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Vulcans playing baseball), and The X-Files.

If you haven't seen the baseball episode of The X-Files, which is titled The Unnatural, do so now.  See it, if only to catch the ending of Mulder and Scully taking batting practice.

TV Tropes did miss a few.  There was a Law & Order episode that is based on the Steve Bartman incident.  I say based on because it was set in New York and involved the Bartman
-expy getting murdered by someone.

Also, how did that page miss The Baseball Episode of The Beverly Hillbillies?  Jethro has a major league fastball, but needs Possum Fat to throw it so he doesn't get signed by Leo Durocher and the Dodgers.  Durocher discovers that Ellie Mae throws harder than Jethro and doesn't need Possum Fat, but still doesn't get signed by Leo Durocher and the Dodgers because...well, she's a girl.

You've got 25 minutes and you're not doing anything.
 Just watch it.

Psych, which is set in Sacramento, had an episode about a minor league team in that city, but did not use the River Cats.  The team was named the Seabirds and had Danny Glover as the manager.  Which takes the baseball episode to a new level since Danny Glover was the manager in Angels in the Outfield.

Life, a show that starred Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi and ended way, way too early, used hats of California League teams as a plot point in an episode.  Ben Hill
wrote about that episode on his blog and again in this column about product placement for minor league teams

They also missed Highlander: The Series.  Not only did Highlander win the Oscar for Best Movie Ever Made, the series won the Emmy for Best TV Series Ever Made.  So, of course, there was an episode that used baseball. 

Immortals with swords and baseball...
How did they miss this one?  This is the episode Broadway should use when it eventually gets around to Highlander: The Musical.

Correction:  The one with swords and baseball is this Season Five episode Manhunt. The link up top takes you to the episode that introduces Carl Robinson to the viewers.

Most of these shows are a little foggy on how baseball in general and minor league baseball in particular works.  But it's worth it in the Baseball Episode of Leverage for the line: I think we lost Eliot until the playoffs.

Why shows as diverse as these use baseball?  It's an easy way to get characters to interact in a different setting.

Wings did it by getting Roy to sing the National Anthem at a Red Sox game.  King of Queens had Doug run on to the field at Shea Stadium to get Arthur a baseball.   WKRP played a softball game against WPIG and Les Nessman was the dang hero!

The best recent use of baseball in a show was when NCIS put its own spin on the ending to Field of Dreams with
Ziva and Gibbs playing catch. 

That happened.  That was awesome.  That is baseball.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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