Due to a mix of the WBC, Out of the Park Baseball (review next Friday!) and Zelda, I’ve been slacking a bit on the Bizarre Baseball Culture front, so…
In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.
In honor of the Power Rangers reboot we didn’t ask for (which I also haven’t seen yet), the Baseball Continuum is going through the baseball episodes of the Power Rangers franchise. Previously, we looked at episodes from the original Mighty Morphin series and the Zeo series. This time, we are looking at an episode from the series that followed Zeo: Power Rangers Turbo. Adapted from the Sentai series Gekisou Sentai Carranger, the series first aired in 1997, well after I had stopped watching Power Rangers. In fact, this will be the first Power Rangers series entry for Bizarre Baseball Culture where my knowledge is almost entirely from what I find on the internet.
The theme song, however, remains catchy:
So, head below the jump for more on the Turbo episode “The Curve Ball”.
First, a quick primer: the Zeo Rangers had to change to new “Turbo” powers for some reason (mostly doing with merchandising and footage available, I’d imagine), but then midseason had to leave, forcing a new group of Power Rangers to take over. Those Rangers are…
- T.J. Johnson, AKA the Red Ranger. Played by Selwyn Ward, he was the first African-American Red Ranger and thus by definition the first African-American leader of the Power Rangers.
- Justin Stewart, AKA the Blue Ranger. A kid who transforms into the adult Blue Ranger, played by Blake Foster. Foster would later play Peter Brady in a Brady Bunch TV movie.
- Carlos Vallerte, AKA the Green Ranger. Portrayed by Roger Velasco.
- Ashley Hammond, AKA the Yellow Ranger (not color-coding because yellow is hard to read). Portrayed by Tracy Lynn Cruz.
- Cassie Chan, AKA the Pink Ranger. Portrayed by Patricia Ja Lee, who has since gone on to do some voicework in video games and cartoons.
Together, they fight the evil intergalactic queen Divatox, as one does. The only remaining cast members from the first season are Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy as Bulk and Skull.
So anyway, time for “The Curve Ball”:
We begin, of course, at a diamond:
T.J.’s team has the game tied, but after giving some advice to one player to use an aluminum bat because it’s lighter and to choke up a bit, he is rudely interrupted. He and Carlos get a trouble alert on their morphers and have to leave the team in their moment of need! To the show’s credit, they actually point out how effing weird this is and one of their teammates immediately calls them out on it as they leave to take the call.
Also, it should be noted that whatever league T.J. and Carlos play in is pretty lax as far as uniform policy:
So… basically… all you need is a red hat, and you can wear whatever else you want. That is convenient for allowing the Rangers to use their assigned colors, but it isn’t very professional for anything above a beer league. And before you go saying that maybe this is a beer league, consider A) that these are “teenagers with attitude” who shouldn’t be having beer and B) LOOK BEHIND THEM.
BASEBALL LEAGUE SCHEDULE. That suggests this is somewhat organized. So obviously this league is pretty sloppily run or… you know what? Who cares! This is the Power Rangers, and not even one of the more “adult” seasons (which I am told do exist). Maybe we should just think to ourselves “it’s just a show” and really just relax.
Anyway, it turns out that the other Rangers are getting attacked by Rygog and Piranahtrons. Rygog is Divatox’s second-in-command, while the Piranahtrons are this year’s cannon-fodder henchmen. After a brief and generally underwhelming fight, Rygog runs off while doing the standard “You haven’t seen the last of me!” cry. It turns out they were after Storm Blaster, the blue sentient alien car that hangs out with the Rangers. Yes, that is a actual sentence I just typed, and I think my IQ just dropped 10 points typing it.
Oh, T.J. and Carlos then run off to finish their game while the rest of the Rangers just wave goodbye and everything:
And, yes, that is Storm Blaster, the…. no I’m not going to type that sentence again.
By coincidence, T.J. is up at that moment. Now, a quick Google search reveals that Selwyn Ward actually did play baseball in college, so when he comes to the plate, he actually doesn’t have that bad of a stance, if a little goofy because of the shorts, loose uniform, etc.:
The swing he gives when he hits a home run immediately after arriving, while obviously edited and cut to make it look like a colossal dinger, is also pretty good. This is in stark contrast to Shawn-the-asshole-boyfriend back in the Zeo episode.
It is after the home run that a new kid arrives to play for the Rangers’ blue-capped opponents. His name is Heath. The immediate impression of him is that he’s a dick. I mean, he doesn’t even shake hands, he just gives a sarcastic “I heard you were good” and then hands the ball all challenge-like to T.J. He then insults the rest of T.J.’s “sorry team” and laughs bully-like with the rest of his team. And… well… look at him:By the way, the name of the actor who played Heath has been lost to history (or at least IMDB). Do you know who Heath was? Let us (and IMDB) know.
For…. reasons… they then more-or-less stop the game and instead have a one-on-one showdown between T.J. and Heath. And the showdown doesn’t go well for “Teej”, as Heath knows how to throw a curveball. And, I have to give Selwyn Ward some credit here, his face during this sequence really gives off the concern and doubt at suddenly facing somebody who can throw something he can’t hit. The screenshot below doesn’t really do it justice:
In motion, that looks like T.J. is trying as hard as he can to still give off an air of determination while internally screaming “OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP.”
T.J. of course, strikes out. The blue-hats crowd around Heath like they just won the game when in actuality that home run T.J. hit off the previous pitcher should still stand and the Rangers should still be ahead, but, again, this is Power Rangers, and one of its more stupid seasons to boot.
Later, at the Juice Bar, T.J. tells the others he won’t be going to the movies, since he has to got to the batting cages. He also has decided to hit the books:
As far as I can tell, this book is fake. I guess having him look at Ted Williams’ Science of Hitting would have been too “inside baseball” for the kids. Still, I want this book on my shelf just because of its sheer… genericness.
Anyway, after some trash talk from the blue-hats and T.J. declaring he will figure out how to hit that pitch, we cut to Bulk and Skull- who honestly are the best characters in this damn franchise- doing groundskeeping duties:
They screw up magnificently and get baseline chalk all over themselves:
After what would have been a commercial break back in the nineties, we return to another game and another showdown between T.J. and Heath. Also, it should be noted that we are by this point over halfway through the episode and there has been no Power Rangers action beyond a lame fight over a blue sentient alien car and OH GOD DID I JUST TYPE THAT AGAIN!
T.J. again strikes out, and dejectedly he hangs his head in defeat:
That shot is composed way better than it has any right to be.
BUT WAIT! Watching all of this is a PERISCOPE COMING OUT OF A GATORADE WATER COOLER:
Who could be behind this? Why, Divatox, of course!
Divatox is played by Hilary Shepard(-Turner), who played the villainess in the Turbo introduction movie but then missed the early part of the season on maternity leave (hence why if you watch the intro at top you’ll see somebody else credited for playing Divatox). She is by no means a big name whatsoever, but she did make appearances on Full House, CSI, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (once as an alien, twice as a human), so you might have seen her before.
Inspired by T.J.’s inability to hit a curve, Divatox calls up Porto- her technical advisor/monster-maker. He introduces his newest monster, Strike Out:
Strike Out, it should be noted, has a southern-fried voice that makes you think he’s going to go “aw shucks”.
As can be expected, Divatox tells Strike Out he’ll be sending his “explosive pitch” against the Power Rangers. Maniacal laughs then ensue. Also, absolutely no explanation is given to how she got a periscope into the water cooler, so I’m just going to guess… wormholes? Yeah, we’ll go with wormholes.
Alpha (who got an annoying new voice when he upgraded from Alpha 5 to Alpha 6) contacts T.J. and Carlos to tell them that a monster is attacking a nearby park. The monster, of course, is Strike Out.
The top of this costume, by the way, clearly was not made for close-ups. Look at the seam you can see.
We now come to that point in every Power Rangers episode involving baseball where they start doing baseball phrases:
Now, you can clearly tell that this was footage originally shot in Japan for the Sentai show. Why? Because the Blue Ranger’s batting stance is incredibly Japanese:
As is Strike Out’s delivery:
Now, a few things about Strike Out’s curveball. First, it curves in a way that no real pitch probably could. Serious cartoon drop. Second, it explodes at the batter if they don’t hit it. And third and most importantly: SAID EXPLOSION BRINGS UP THE IMAGE OF A BASEBALL WITH A THUNDERBOLT WEARING SUNGLASSES.
And… guess what? THE ACTUAL BALL LOOKS LIKE THAT:
Strike Out mocks everybody at their inability to hit his curveball, singling out the Red Ranger in particular.
Strike Out then declares he’ll throw something easier. Why? Because reasons. The Red Ranger (now inexplicably right-handed) hits it right back at Strike Out, seemingly knocking him back. This is just a temporary victory, though, as Strike Out then takes out the rangers with a flurry of fiery curves. The only reason he can’t finish them off is that he runs out of baseballs. That is one of the issues of using exploding baseballs as your weapon, isn’t it?
After the fight, T.J. and Carlos go to the ballfield, where they find Heath practicing his curve. Dejected, T.J. goes off for a bike ride while Carlos goes to the youth center to hang out.
It is then that T.J. is joined on his bike ride by… HEATH:
Heath challenges T.J. to a race, and while T.J. wants nothing to do with it, Heath keeps teasing him and mocking him… so much that he doesn’t even see a cliff ahead that he promptly goes over.
T.J., needless to say, has to save him:
Given what show this is, he does.
After the commercial, Heath repays T.J.’s kindness by teaching him how to hit his curveball. In essence, Heath gives away that he tips where he is throwing the ball based on his arm and wrist movements and the like, which sounds just plausible enough to not sound like total BS but also isn’t exactly something that should automatically make T.J. a curve-hitting machine. I mean, there isn’t some sort of mantra you can put in your head and then all the sudden you are on a cheat code that causes you to hit curveballs. Heck, it could hurt you. I remember reading stories about how catchers would sometimes mess with Tony Gwynn by telling him exactly what was about to be thrown, but it would mess up Tony because he’d be thinking about it too much instead of going with his instincts.
Also, y’know, this is a TV show.
As T.J. is schooled on how to hit the curve, Carlos gets called off to help the rest of the team fight Strike Out. It doesn’t go well. T.J., meanwhile, just keeps on practicing against the curve, because, sure… why not? Finally, he does get the call to go help the team. And he arrives… with a red bat:
And then, he HITS THE EXPLODING BALL INTO SPACE:
The last few minutes of the episode are just like the last few minutes of 98% of all episodes on this show: Strike Out grows, the Power Rangers call their Zords, the Rangers win, the monster blows up, and then they make a joke:
This post first appeared on The Baseball Continuum | A Look At Baseball (and O, please read the originial post: here