Simpson’s ‘Homer at the Bat’ 20 Years Old
The iconic “Homer at the Bat” episode of The Simpsons aired two decades ago.
Deadspin (The Making Of “Homer At The Bat,” The Episode That Conquered Prime Time 20 Years Ago Tonight):
On Feb. 20, 1992, more American homes tuned into The Simpsons than they did The Cosby Show or the Winter Olympics from Albertville, France. A foul-mouthed cartoon on a fourth-place network bested the Huxtables and the world’s best amateur athletes. Fox over NBC and CBS—its first-ever victory in prime time. New over old.
Why the shift? Well, the Olympic programming that night featured no marquee events, and Cosby was just two months away from ending its eight-season run. Meanwhile, The Simpsons, airing just its 52nd episode out of 500 (and counting), had put forth its most ambitious effort to date, an episode called “Homer at the Bat.” Months of work went into corralling nine baseball players, a cross-section of young stars and established veterans, to guest-star as members of a rec-league softball team.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the episode, the premise was relatively simple: Mr. Burns’s company softball team, having lost 28 of 30 games the previous season, goes on an incredible run when Homer starts hitting, well, homers with his WonderBat, carved from the fallen branch of a lightning-struck tree. (Sound familiar?) As the season winds down, it becomes a two-team race for the pennant: Springfield vs. Shelbyville. While dining at the Millionaires’ Club with the owner of the Shelbyville Power Plant, a cocky Burns agrees to a handshake bet worth (you guessed it) $1 million.
To fix the game and secure his victory, Burns orders Smithers to enlist ballplayers like Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, and Jim Creighton. (Swartzwelder’s choice of Creighton was particularly inspired. The ace pitcher for the Brooklyn Excelsiors in the 1850s and ’60s, Creighton supposedly didn’t strike out once while batting during the 20 games of the 1860 season. Creighton died two years later. He was 21.) Upon learning that his entire suggested lineup is dead, Burns instructs Smithers to come back with real ballplayers. And so he sets off across the country: nabbing Jose Canseco at a card convention, accosting a Graceland-touring Ozzie Smith, nearly getting shot in the woods by Mike Scioscia, and stopping by Don Mattingly’s pink suburban house to interrupt his dish-washing.
The article is quite in-depth on the making of the episode, the effect it had on various players who appeared in it, and the cultural impact of The Simpsons itself.
via Dan Drezner