This inspires two questions:
1. Why is this on May 30th and not on May 4th? You know, May 4th, May the 4th, May the 4th be with you? Everyone who knows anything about Star Wars knows that May 4th is Star Wars Day! Seriously, how did they miss the mark on this one?
2. What does Jabba the Hutt have to do with baseball?
What you may not know is that it’s perfectly reasonable to put Jabba the Hutt on a baseball jersey because at one time, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Jabba the Hutt was the owner of a baseball team in the Inter-Galactic Baseball League (IGBL).
In the Milky Way Division, the Starfleet Alphas emerged as the division leader after a three-team race came down to the final weekend. While the Alphas were easily taking care of the last place Thermians, the other two contending teams, the Yautja Predators and the Acheron Aliens, had an epic battle that wiped out both teams, giving the Starfleet Alphas a playoff spot. The Alphas then advanced to the Universe series by defeating the Angel Grove Power Rangers.
The Tatooine Podracers and Starfleet Alphas swapped wins for the first six games of the Universe Series and the championship came down to a gripping Game Seven that would feature each team’s top pitcher in an exciting battle for the Emperor’s Trophy. Both teams had become successful by embracing advanced statistical analysis and eschewing the “old school” methods that many of the other teams in the IGBL still used. The Podracers were managed by C3PO, who would match wits with Data, manager of the Alphas.
Starfleet Alphas Lineup
CF Geordi La Forge
3B Montgomery Scott
SS James T. Kirk
RF William Riker
SP Jean-Luc Picard
LF Seven of Nine
C Hikaru Sulu
2B Wesley Crusher
Tatooine Podracers Lineup
SS Luke Skywalker
RF Han Solo
CF Boba Fett
3B Obi-Wan Kenobi
C Darth Vader
SP Lando Calrissian
LF Leia Organa
The team scouting reports were provided before the game by the announcing team of Joel Robinson, Tom Servo, and Crow T. Robot, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame.
· CF—Geordi La Forge--La Forge had an uncanny ability to track a fly ball to the far reaches of the outfield, almost as if he had a sixth sense and could just “feel” where the ball would end up, rather than using his eyes. Because of this ability, he was one of the best defensive center fielders in the league. He also had a surprisingly good batting eye and made a good leadoff hitter.
· 3B—Montgomery “Scotty” Scott--“Scotty” wasn’t the most coordinated player on the team. He was the scrappy type of player who looked unconventional at the plate, running the bases, and in the field, but somehow found a way to make it work. At the plate, he constantly tinkered with his swing; trying different things here and there, but ultimately had success using his creativity.
· SS—James Tiberius Kirk--The team captain, James Tiberius Kirk was a shortstop with good hands but limited range. Before making it to the IGBL, Kirk had played for a number of teams in his home state of Iowa, including the Dyersville Dennycranes, whose ballpark was cut out of a field of corn near an Iowa farmhouse in Dubuque County. He also spent some time as a sergeant on the LCPD but, to hide his identity, he went by the initials "T.J.", which was the reverse of his actual initials. Kirk was one of the best players on the Alphas but he often played contrary to conventional wisdom if he thought it would help the team.
· RF— William “Number One” Riker--Riker was a cocky, swashbuckling player who was known to be quite popular with the ladies. In fact, the original left fielder for the Alphas was Deanna Troi, but an on-again, off-again relationship with Riker caused problems in the clubhouse and Troi was traded away mid-season. When the team brought up Seven of Nine from the minor leagues, they put her in left field and told center fielder Geordi La Forge to keep right fielder Riker away from her. Pitcher Jean-Luc Picard often referred to him as “Number One.”
· 1B—Worf--Notorious around the league for his constant scowl, possibly due to Resting Bitch Face Syndrome, Worf was the no-nonsense enforcer on the team and also the team’s best power hitter (who scared the heck out of rookie second baseman Wesley Crusher). In his younger years, Worf played ball in Minsk, homeland of his parents. While there, he was in a serious relationship with Rochelle, a young girl who had made a strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk. Alas, Rochelle came down with food poisoning after eating a tainted chunnel sandwich in a sack lunch. Worf rushed to the hospital and asked the doctor how she was and received the sad news, “Prognosis negative.” It would have been a death blow to a mere mortal but Wolf was able to overcome the tragedy, although he did cry, cry again while dealing with his grief. Some say he never really got over her and that was the reason for his angry demeanor.
· SP— Jean-Luc Picard--A veteran hurler with years of experience, Picard could mix and match pitches with the best of them. He was masterful hurler who was very adept at manipulating balls. Some thought he may have been doctoring the baseball, similar to Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who was known for his spitball. An investigation of Picard’s locker revealed a surprising amount of K-Y Jelly, but the evidence was considered circumstantial and he was never caught with a foreign substance while on the mound. He had a strong connection with his primary receiver, Hikaru Sulu.
· LF—Seven of Nine--Called up from the minor leagues to replace Deanna Troi, who had been traded away mid-season, Seven of Nine was the most athletic player on the team but didn’t seem to have much passion for the game. She was very even-keeled, not getting too excited when things went well and not too upset when things went wrong. It was almost as if she had difficulties expressing human emotions.
· C— Hikaru Sulu--Small for a catcher, Sulu was quick and agile behind the plate. He particularly liked being on the receiving end of Picard‘s tosses. The two seemed to have a real connection between them. Sulu had great speed for a catcher on the base paths and was a creative signal-caller behind the dish, but did have a tendency to call for the backdoor slider a little too often.
· 2B—Wesley Crusher--After being unable to establish himself in two previous attempts with the Alphas, Crusher was finally starting for the Alphas in his third season, but still had rookie eligibility. He struggled at times with immaturity. Early on in the season, he was not well liked by the team’s ace, Jean-Luc Picard, who had no use for rookies.
· Closer—Spock--Spock had a supernatural calm about him even in the most high-leverage of situations. Whether closing out the game by striking out the side or giving up a walk-off homer, his demeanor never changed. He was best known for a devastating Vulcan Grip split-fingered fastball.
· Manager—Data--Data was an artificial intelligence and synthetic life form with a positronic brain that gave him incredible computational capabilities. Without the hindrances of human emotions, Data was able to make moves from the dugout that gave his team the best probability of victory. The only drawback was Data's willingness to let Picard overrule his recommendations.
· 2B—R2D2--The Podracers leadoff hitter, R2 was a compact and scrappy little second baseman in the mold of Phil Garner of the 1979 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Garner, appropriately enough, was known as “Scrap Iron.” To the Sand People in the right field bleachers, R2D2 was, literally, scrap iron. With his diminutive strike zone, R2 was great at taking a walk. He was also known for routinely taking shots to the body, leading the league in Hits By Pitch every year of his career. R2 communicated well with his shortstop partner Luke Skywalker, but others on the team often couldn’t understand him at all. He was very good buddies with manager C3PO. Some called them the “Bert and Ernie” of the IGBL.
· SS—Luke Skywalker--Skywalker was a young, slick-fielding shortstop who started out as a right-handed hitter but learned to switch-hit after injuring his right hand in a fight with this father. Luke was discovered on Tatooine by the veteran Kenobi and immediately rushed to the big leagues without spending any time in the minors. It would prove to be a mistake, as young Luke was overmatched in his first exposure to major league talent. He was sent down to the minors to play in Dagobah under the tutelage of a seasoned old player-manager that everyone simply called Yoda. With Yoda’s help, young Luke sharpened his skills on offense and defense. Yoda then joined Skywalker on the Podracers and was the team’s veteran closer this season (see below).
· RF—Han Solo--Han Solo was a bit of a renegade on the baseball diamond. At the plate, he showed disdain for any manager that gave him the bunt sign. He would often ignore it and swing away. On the bases, he gave himself a green light and would steal whenever he felt like it. In right field, he would, at times, make wild, diving attempts to make a play when it would have been prudent to be a little more conservative, and he often overthrew the cutoff man on throws to the bases. Still, he was so talented that you had to put up with his flaws.
· 1B—Chewbacca--Chewbacca was Solo’s best friend on the team and his regular drinking buddy. He won the Wookie of the Year award in his first season and had matured into a veteran slugger with power to all fields who also struck out often. He was known for occasional bouts of frustration and his angry roar could be heard throughout the stands. During the season, he had finished second in the league in ejections behind teammate Solo and torn the arms off of six umpires. Manager C3PO strategically placed Chewbacca between Han Solo and Boba Fett in the batting order after the latter pair had a few scuffles during the season.
· CF—Boba Fett--Fett was probably the best athlete on the team. He had an amazing ability to levitate when going after fly balls in center field and led the league in robbing opposing hitters of home runs. At the plate, he was one of the top hitters in the league, slapping laser-sharp hits to all fields. Longtime baseball fans said he was the spitting image of his father, Jango, who had starred in the IGBL many years before.
· C—Darth Vader--In the mold of Johnny Bench, Vader was a great-fielding catcher with a big bat. In fact, Vader had such strong hands that he eschewed the traditional catcher’s mitt in favor of simple black gloves. He was one of the first catchers in league history to wear a mask behind the plate. He also had the uncanny ability to influence the umpire’s ball-strike calls in his favor.
· 3B—Obi-Wan Kenobi--In his prime, Kenobi had been an All-Star shortstop and one of the league’s top players but when Skywalker came up from the minors, Kenobi saw the potential in the youngster and moved over to third base so Skywalker could play short. He had a calming, veteran presence on the team.
· SP— Lando Calrissian—Hutt had spotted Calrissian pitching for the Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings and signed him to a big free agent contract before the season. Calrissian was a bit of a mercenary. He routinely went where the money was. On the mound, he was a very good pitcher, if sometimes a bit cocky.
· LF—Leia Organa--Leia was a young player getting her first start of the year in the season’s most important game. She had been the primary backup outfielder on the team during the year but was pressed into action because of the bizarre disappearance of the team’s regular left fielder, Biggs Darklighter (see below).
· Closer—Yoda--When the Podracers needed a shut-down guy out of the bullpen at the end of a close ballgame, Yoda was their guy. He was the Mariano Rivera of his time, with an amazing amount of movement on his pitches. It was almost as if he would throw the ball, then wave it left, right, up, or down with his mind.
The biggest concern for the Podracers was left fielder Leia Organa, who was talented but unproven. She would not have started this game if not for the sudden disappearance of starting left fielder Biggs Darklighter. Biggs was on the field during warm-ups, then never seen again. No one’s really sure what happened to him, kind of like Chuckie Cunningham from the Happy Days TV show. Because Jabba the Hutt was too cheap to bring a full team to the series (he didn’t want to pay their salaries for the post-season), the team only had three back ups, Leia Organa, Padme Amidala, and Jar Jar Binks. Amidala was an unproven rookie and Binks had shown up to the stadium speaking incoherently, so C3PO went with Organa in left.
Manager—C3PO--A humanoid robot, C3PO had excellent computational abilities and his knowledge of over six million forms of communication made him a good manager of a team with players speaking different languages. His biggest weakness was a tendency to worry and fret too much, which greatly annoyed right fielder Han Solo.
With the lineups set and the fans done filing in to Palpatine Park in Theed on the planet Naboo, it was time for the Universe Anthem by Diva Plavalaguna. The Diva was on point with her singing, delivering one of the most haunting renditions of the Universe Anthem ever heard. It’s sad to remember that she ultimately died some years later during a performance on Fholston, but at least she was able to give the stones to Korben, before her death, which helped Korben and Leeloo save the planet Earth from the great evil just seconds before it would be destroyed.
The Game Begins
Finally, the game starts. In the early going, Lando Calrissian and Jean-Luc Picard are dominating on the mound. Neither team could even muster a base runner through the first three innings. In the top of the fourth, Calrissian gets cocky. With two outs and James T. Kirk up, Lando attempts to pull a stunt he had been known to do while pitching for his previous team, the Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings. He turned to his fielders and instructed them to come in so he could pitch to Kirk with no fielders. Upon seeing this, the fans started cheering but catcher Darth Vader would have none of it. He stormed out to the mound and picked up Lando by his neck saying, “Don’t make me destroy you.” Lando got the idea and the fielders returned to their positions.
Perhaps rattled by the visit from Vader, Lando gives up a two-out double to Kirk. Cleanup hitter William Riker then steps up to the plate looking to give the Alphas an early lead. He lines a clean single into left-center, driving in Kirk. As Riker nears first base, Picard yells from the dugout, “Take two, number one!” and Riker heads to second but is gunned down on a great play by Boba Fett. Still, the Alphas take a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the inning.
The Podracers finally get a base runner of their own in the bottom of the fourth when R2D2 leads off with a walk. Then it was time for a figurative chess match between Podracers’ manager C3PO and Alphas’ skipper Data. To bunt or not to bunt? Let Skywalker swing away? Hit-and-run or run-and-hit? Each manager had the mathematical abilities to determine the move that would yield the best probability of success but each also knew that the other knew that he knew. It quickly became a “Princess Bride” battle of wits, only without the Iocaine powder. Eventually, Skywalker singled to left to put runners on first-and-second. Han Solo then stepped to the plate and ripped a sizzling ground ball to third base. It bounced of Scotty’s leg and ricocheted over to Kirk, who flipped it to Crusher, who threw to Worf for the double play.
After the play, Kirk says to Scotty, “Well . . . that was . . . unconventional . . . but . . . it worked.”
Scotty responded, “I’m giving it all I’ve got, Captain!”
With two outs and a runner on third, Chewbacca strikes out to end the inning and releases an angry roar. Up in the stands, Alf lets out a loud, “Ha!” and Beldar once again yells, “Unacceptable!”
Both pitchers continue to dominate over the next two innings, with neither team putting together any sort of rally. Finally, Starfleet gets something going in the top of the 7th when Kirk leads off with a single for his second hit of the game. Riker and Worf then struck out, with Kirk stealing second on the strikeout pitch to Worf. Jean-Luc Picard works a walk off Calrissian and Seven of Nine steps to the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, she lifts an easy fly ball to right and Solo camps under it but in his nonchalance he drops the ball and Kirk comes around to score with Picard and Seven of Nine ending up on second and third.
With two outs and runners on second and third, and Sulu stepping to the plate, C3PO comes out of the Podracers’ dugout to talk to Calrissian and Vader. Weak-hitting rookie Wesley Crusher is on deck. C3PO says to Calrissian, “Sir, although the run expectancy matrix suggests that intentionally walking Mr. Sulu in this situation would increase the expected runs scored from .570 to .736, the batter on deck, Wesley Crusher, is a much inferior batter so I would suggest the appropriate move in this situation would be to walk Mr. Sulu and pitch to Mr. Crusher.” Lando looks at C3PO, then at Vader, and says, “Here goes nothing” and they walk Sulu to load the bases.
Seventh Inning Stretch
For the seventh inning stretch, Jabba the Hutt has hired Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, commonly known as the Cantina Band. Once they complete the traditional “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, they launch into a song that everyone in the stadium instantly recognizes: “Look at what’s happening to me, I can’t believe it myself, suddenly I’m up on top of the world, it should’ve been somebody else.” With that, the crowd joins in, “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air, I never thought I could feel so free--…” and flying in from center field is a guy in a red superhero suit and a 1980s white guy afro with all the grace of Bartolo Colon swinging at a slider low and away. The red-suited guy crashes down on home plate while flailing his limbs about and the crowd roars in laughter. Slapping Mork and Alf on the back with joy, Beldar yells, “Acceptable!”
Through six innings, Starfleet pitcher Jean-Luc Picard had allowed only a hit and a walk and, because of a double-play, had faced just one over the minimum number of hitters. Still, he only had three strikeouts so Data knew that his Batting Average on Balls In Play for the game was an unsustainable .059. Data also knew Picard was about to face the heart of the Podracers’ lineup for the third time, so he had Spock and his Vulcan Grip split-fingered fastball getting loose in the pen.
Luke Skywalker leads off the home half of the seventh with his second hit of the game, a ringing single past a diving Kirk at short. After rounding the bag and returning to first, Skywalker lets out a yell and claps his hands, cheering on Solo, who responds, “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.”
With two down, Boba Fett steps to the dish and absolutely destroys Picard’s first offering, depositing the ball far over the center field wall for a game-tying home run. Up in the owner’s box, Jabba the Hutt shoves a handful of paddy frog nachos in his mouth and chuckles happily, “Huh, huh, huh-huh-huh.”
The next batter is the ever-dangerous Darth Vader. With the score tied, Data is calculating the best possible move and decides it’s time to bring in Spock. Data heads out to the mound to remove Picard but Picard would have none of it, passionately refusing to be removed from the game. Data doesn’t understand Picard’s behavior. The best possible move is to bring in Spock, why would Picard refuse to come out of the game? With Picard standing firm, Data returns to the dugout. In the bullpen, Spock turns to backup catcher Leonard H. McCoy, who everyone just calls “Bones” and says, “Humans make illogical decisions.” Bones mutters under his breath, “Logic? My God, the man’s talking about logic…”
Darth Vader steps up to the plate and they play Jay Buhner’s ominous walk-up music as the crowd cheers. The count goes to 2-and-2. On the ensuing pitch, Vader launches one deep to left but Seven of Nine tracks it down at the warning track and the game remains tied going into the eighth inning. As Starfleet returns to the dugout, Kirk and Riker battle each other to be the first to give Seven of Nine a congratulatory pat on the butt.
With the top of the order due up in the eighth and about to face Calrissian for the fourth time, C3PO goes to his closer, Yoda, to keep the game in check. Yoda dazzles the crowd with a Luis Tiant-esque display of pitching, delivering the ball from every possible angle as he strikes out the side on nine pitches.
While Starfleet is batting in the eight, Data continues to contemplate a pitching change. Sitting next to Geordi La Forge, he says, “The safest and most logical decision in this situation is to remove Captain Picard and bring in Mr. Spock. However, based on past experience, I project only a seventeen percent chance Captain Picard will choose that alternative.” Sure enough, Picard heads out to the mound in the bottom of the eight despite Data’s recommendation.
Yoda responds, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Kenobi glares at him.
Yoda steps into the batter’s box and lashes a ball over the first base bag and into the right field corner. Riker fields it and fires to Crusher, who relays it to Scotty, but Yoda’s wheels get him a stand-up triple. Data heads out to the pitcher’s mound to, once again, attempt to remove Picard from the game. “Captain, by my calculations, Starfleet’s win expectancy would increase if you were removed from the game and replaced by Mr. Spock.”
This time Picard agrees, saying, “Make it so.” He walks off the mound to a round of applause as Spock trots in from the bullpen. Data instructs the Starfleet infielders to play in to cut off the run at the plate while Leia looks down at third base coach Wicket the Ewok, who is gesturing wildly.
Spock comes to the set position, then fires to home as Yoda takes off from third. The pitch comes in fast and hard but Leia is able to get the squeeze bunt down to score Yoda and give the Podracers a 3-2 lead. R2D2 follows with a ground out to short to end the inning.
As the game goes into the ninth inning with the Podracers leading 3-2, Jabba is very happy up in the owner’s booth at the possibility of winning the Universe Series. He turns to the Kowakian monkey-lizard, Salacious B. Crumb, and says, “Ches kop o kuta x’esta klenko ya ooska.” (I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time)
Seven of Nine saunters up to the batter’s box, looking to keep the rally going. Unfortunately for her, Yoda spins a succession of sliders, each just a bit more off the plate, and Seven of Nine strikes out swinging for out number one. Hikaru Sulu steps up and Yoda sticks with his slider to get two quick strikes but then makes the mistake of trying to get Sulu to chase a high fastball. Instead of swinging through it, Sulu connects and sends a fly ball to Solo in right field. The runners tag up as Solo makes the catch and comes firing home. The ball sails over the cut-off man’s head as Riker scores easily, with both runners moving up a base on the over-throw. It was a reckless play by Solo and C3PO let him know, calling from the dugout, “Sir, the possibility of successfully throwing out the runner on that play is approximately . . . “
Before he could finish, Solo angrily cuts him off with, “Never tell me the odds!”
This brings leadoff man Geordi La Forge to the plate with a chance to put Starfleet ahead. On a 2-2 count, La Forge hits a sharp ground ball up the middle. Shortstop Skywalker makes a diving stop as R2D2 covers second, but Skywalker ignores the force at second and throws to first . . . not in time! La Forge beats it out and Starfleet takes a 4-3 lead! Dejected, Skywalker picks himself up and heads back to his position at short. Kenobi comes over and pats him on the back and says, “Next time don’t throw the ball to first. Use the force, Luke.” Montgomery “Scotty” Scott then pops out to end the inning, but Starfleet has a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
With Spock on the mound and a one-run lead, Starfleet is just three outs away from being Universe Series champions. Luke Skywalker leads it off with a sharp grounder just to the right of second. New second baseman Hugh the Borg smoothly glides to his right and makes a backhanded grab, turns and fires to first for out number one. Up next is Han Solo, who’s having a rough game. He’s struck out twice, grounded into a double play, dropped a fly ball that led to a run, and sailed a throw over the cut-off man’s head that allowed two runners to move up.
Boba Fett takes his place in the batter’s box, waving his bat menacingly, the number A0050 on the back of his jersey. Spock looks in, cool as Hoth. The first pitch is a ball, just off the outside corner. The next pitch comes in tight for ball two. Spock does not seem perturbed and fires in a nasty split-fingered fastball for strike one. On the next pitch, Amidala takes off for second. Fett swings through another nasty split for strike two as Sulu receives the pitch and fires down to Hugh the Borg . . . but it’s too late, Amidala is safe at second with the tying run. Starfleet manager Data then calls time out to talk to Spock as the catcher Sulu comes out to the mound from behind the plate. Data goes over the win expectancy calculations based on pitching to Fett or walking him to pitch to Vader and Spock nods. Sulu then leans in and whispers something to both of them. The ump breaks them up and Data heads back to the dugout.
With the count two-and-two and the tying run on second with two out, Sulu stands up with his hand out indicating an intentional walk. Spock throws the ball high and outside for ball three while Fett considers pulling a “Kelly Leak” and taking a hack at the pitch. He holds back so the count is full. Again Sulu stands up to indicate an intentional walk but as Spock delivers the pitch Sulu squats back down behind the plate. Unlike Johnny Bench in the 1972 World Series, Fett is ready for it and takes a mighty swing and connects, sending the ball deep to center field. Catcher Sulu yells, “Ohhhhhhhhhh Myyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!” as centerfielder La Forge races back to the wall, leaps . . . and comes up empty! Fett’s second homer of the game is the game-winning blast and the Tatooine Podracers win the Universe Series!
And that is why it makes perfect sense for Jabba the Hutt to be on a baseball jersey for the Altoona Curve’s Star Wars Night.