Sunday 20 January 2019

Homer at the Bat: What happened to Mr Burns’ softball ringers?

Many stumbled into trouble in Springfield, but how did they get on in the real world?

A stock image of a baseball bat and ball
A stock image of a baseball bat and ball

By Max McLean, Press Association

Well Mr Burns had done it, the power plant had won it, but whatever happened to the energy mogul’s beloved stars?

In a 1992 episode of The Simpsons – Homer at the Bat – Mr Burns fills his company softball squad with baseball stars in order to win the city championship, and thus, a bet.

But in a series of unfortunate events, all except Darryl Strawberry are ruled out of the championship match. Fans of the show will know what happened to the ringers in the episode, but what happened to them in real life?

Darryl Strawberry

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It might seem an odd way to describe the career of a naturally gifted athlete who won four World Series titles, but Darryl Strawberry, it is widely believed, did not fulfil his potential.

The 6ft 6in slugger, who replaced Homer Simpson in Mr Burns’ team, played for the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees across a 16-year career, winning World Series in 1986, 1996, 1998 and 1999, the final year of his career.

Strawberry struggled with drug problems during his career, receiving multiple drug suspensions, and he spent time in prison in the early 2000s.

He is now a devoted Christian, and recently brought out a book called Don’t Give Up On Me which sheds light on addiction. Strawberry is a cancer survivor, also.

Roger Clemens

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Roger Clemens was ruled out of the final in The Simpsons after a botched hypnosis left him clucking like a chicken, but in the real world he will go down in history as one of the all-time great pitchers.

In a career spanning 23 years, Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards for his incredible pitching, as well as two World Series titles and 11 All-Star nods, but perhaps most worthy of note is his inclusion in the MLB All-Century team in 1999.

Clemens appeared for the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays across his career, as well as coming out of retirement in 2004 with the Houston Astros to win his seventh Cy Young Award in his 40s. He later went on to act as special assistant to the general manager for the Astros.

Wade Boggs

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Wade Boggs managed to pick himself up off Moe’s bar room tiles after an argument about British prime ministers with Barney Gumble to eventually become inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

The third baseman won the World Series with the New York Yankees in 1996, but it’s his personal numbers which are most impressive, reaching base safely in 80% of games played as well as recording a career batting average of .328.

The Boston Red Sox retired Boggs’ number 26 shirt in 2016, and it was towards the end of his career, while with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, that he recorded his 3000th hit.

It’s also worth noting that Boggs is apparently very superstitious. Maybe he should have thought twice about arguing with Barney ahead of the city championship game then.

Steve Sax

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Steve Sax’s success on the field was under threat years before Springfield’s cops threw him in jail in Homer at the Bat, due to a case of the yips.

Sax won rookie of the year in 1982, but in 1983 developed the yips in the field, struggling with his throwing accuracy. He overcame them terrifically, however, to become one of the best fielders in the game, winning two World Series in 1981 and 1988 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sax went on to work as an analyst on MLB radio, and in 2012 made a return to the game as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first-base coach.

Ken Griffey Jr

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Another Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr suffered from gigantism in The Simpsons after drinking a strange tonic given to him by Mr Burns, but the only gigantic thing about his real-world baseball career were his achievements.

Made first pick by the Seattle Mariners in the 1987 draft, KGJ hit 630 home runs over a 22-season career, retiring with 13 All-Star game selections. He also won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 1997 and made the team of the century, too.

At the start of his career, Junior played for the Mariners with his father, becoming the first father-son combination to play in the majors at the same time, while they homered in the same game in 1990 too.

In 2017, the Mariners built KGJ a statue, while he was inducted into the Hall of Fame with a record 99.3% naming him on their ballots.

Ozzie Smith

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The third of three Hall of Famers from Burns’ 1992 side, Ozzie Smith is widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time, his athletic ability making him an excellent fielder.

In The Simpsons, Smith misses the championship game after falling into Springfield’s Mystery Spot, but in the real world the man nicknamed the Wizard of Oz won the World Series in 1982 with the St Louis Cardinals, and was inducted into the HoF in 2002.

After retiring, Smith immediately went into TV, hosting This Week In Baseball, a highlights show produced by MLB.

Mike Scioscia

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Mike Scioscia suffered one of the more tragic fates in Homer at the Bat, succumbing to acute radiation poisoning after working at the plant – but in real life he’s doing rather better.

A former catcher with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Scioscia won the World Series twice in his playing career, but went on to become one of a select few to win it as both player and manager, leading LA Angels to the 2002 World Series as GM.

Still in charge going into the 2018 season, Scioscia is the longest tenured manager in the majors at 18 years. He also won Baseball America Major League manager of the year in 2002 and 2009, and guided the team to the post-season in six of their first 10 seasons.

Don Mattingly

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Don Mattingly spent all 14 seasons of his career with the New York Yankees, retiring a few years after he received a rollicking from Mr Burns for his non-existent sideburns in Homer at the Bat.

The former first baseman enjoyed his golden period between the years of 1984 and 1990, averaging 26 home runs and 114 RBIs a season, but between 1990 and 1995 his numbers suffered.

In 2018, he enters into his third season as manager of the Miami Marlins, and while Mattingly never made it into the Hall of Fame, his number 23 shirt was retired by the Yankees in 1997 and he received a plaque at Monument Park. Now shave off those sideburns, Mattingly!

Jose Canseco

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Jose Canseco made his 1985 MLB debut with the Oakland Athletics before going on to play for numerous teams, winning the World Series with Oakland in 1989 and again with the New York Yankees in 2000, before retiring in 2002.

Oh, and in The Simpsons he rescues a woman’s baby, cat and furniture from a house fire.

Since then Canseco released a book called Juiced, in which he sheds light on steroid use in baseball, something which has apparently made it difficult for him to foster relationships in the sport.

Canseco has also dabbled in boxing and TV analysis since putting his bat away, and accidentally shot himself in the finger while cleaning a gun in 2014.

Press Association

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