In 1927 Babe Ruth was Babe Dugan, a slugger for the minor league LA Angels (not of Anaheim). He chewed a lot of tobacco, and then fell in love with the proprietress of the Snow White Laundry, who was miffed by all the tobacco stains she had to clean off his uniform. So he quit chewing to win her heart. It sent him straight into a slump. When his laundress finally appeared in the bottom of the ninth of a crucial game, she threw him a wad of tobacco. Home Run with wedding bells!
The next year Ruth was Ruth again. He was picked up by a cab. He needed to get to Yankee Stadium and on the double. The cab driver was Speedy, portrayed by bespectacled silent film star Harold Lloyd. Ruth did what he often did in films. He smiled, and he looked like he could eat anything. In 1942 Ruth toyed with Lou Gehrig, the Pride of the Yankees. At a restaurant Ruth saw a steak. He said, “I’ll take one of those.” A man of appetites.
In 1985, Hank Aaron dropped in to help a friend’s team with batting practice, but he strangely struck out against a lowly pitcher. Then Angus MacGyver, portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson, arrived at the field to talk to the manager, Aaron’s friend. The manager happened to be in the witness protection program, and because of his surging baseball team, the mob saw his picture in the paper. Later MacGyver threw a spear at a boiler causing it to blow steam directly at the mobsters. Aaron performed no such MacGyverism.
Much later, in the 31st century, Aaron was Hank Aaron XXIV, who lived in a museum because he was the worst blernsball player in history. Blernsball was a space-aged form of baseball on the animated “Futurama.” Aaron tried to prevent Turanga Leela, a one-eyed woman, from surpassing his achievement. He couldn’t do it, though. He couldn’t even stay the worst. Poor Aaron.
Although he was never home run king, it’s worth noting that Hideki Matsui, also known as Gojira or Godzilla, was showing some kids how to hit home runs in 2002 when a huge monster emerged on the horizon. Matsui decided to hit one more home run before taking the kids to safety.
In 1996 Barry Bonds was a famous baseball player named Rondell with a superstitious attachment to his Ford Pinto. When his girlfriend stole the Pinto, he hired Joe Dominguez, portrayed by Cheech Marin, and Nash Bridges (Don Johnson), to help him find it. Bridges had his own attachments to a car, but ultimately he blew up the Pinto. Meanwhile, Pinto-less Rondell broke out of a slump and learned to trust his own ability. A year earlier Bonds had spent a lot of time with another sentimental crime-fighting hunk, Vince Black, the bounty hunter brought to life by Lorenzo Lamas on “Renegade.” This was after Black had brought down an illegal steroid ring, but Bonds had nothing to do with that.
Bonds’ true sentimental education, though, came in 1994 on the teen drama, ‘Beverly Hills 90210.’ He was a baseball player named Barry Larson. He and his father were archrivals of Steve Sanders, played by Ian Ziering, and Sanders’ father, Rush. They faced off in a golf match, but the young Sanders quickly discovered that his father was cheating by heating his balls in a special contraption that made them travel father. Sanders brooded and whined until his father gave up the underhanded tactics. In the end, Sanders won on a sudden-death putt. Larson left defeated. Perhaps, this empty, saccharine moralism drove Bonds to the dark side. Or maybe it inspired him to become the greatest slugger of all time. A misunderstood hero, like Renegade or Nash Bridges or even Steve Sanders.