Day 10: How to Play Baseball (1942)
Setting: A ballpark
Plot: Multiple Goofys, along with a narrator, help to explain the various quirks and idiosyncrasies of baseball.
This is the third of Goofy’s various Instructional shorts and the first to use the How to… naming convention during the Classic Era.
This cartoon was produced at the request of Samuel Goldwyn as to accompany the theatrical release of Pride of the Yankees (1942).
All the characters here are played by Goofy – including each player on both teams and even the umpire.
To add some perspective to how old some of these shorts are, the American Flag they show has only forty-eight stars since this occurs before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted into the union in 1959.
Even more perspective: the sport wasn’t even integrated yet. Major League Baseball wouldn’t allow blacks to play until Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Some of the advertisements on the back fence of the ballpark include ads for Victor’s Diner, Jack’s Garage and the Fud. Bros. Circus which includes a gorilla in a cage.
In a humorous observation, the narrator tells us “the socks are what the team is named after.” This is partly true since three of the sixteen teams in 1942 are named the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
The World Series pits the Blue Sox versus the Gray Sox. In real life 1942, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees in five games.
The pitcher is seen holding a stick of chewing tobacco. While it’s still legal to chew in most Major League ballparks, as of 2016, its use has now been banned in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.
The Blue Sox pitcher would give up a no-hitter with two outs and a full count in the bottom half of the ninth inning – in the deciding game of the World Series no less!!!
Bunting with runners on first and second with two outs is decidedly NOT How to Play Baseball.
The Gray Sox miraculously load up the bases after breaking up 8 and 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball but ultimately run into the final out at home plate while trying to leg out a game winning, three run, inside-the-park, walk-off homerun.
With the benches clearing brawl that breaks out at home plate, the game effectively ends in a 3-3 tie. There is no World Series winner and the half million dollars that were also apparently at stake go unclaimed (no such winner-takes-all, $500,000 pot ever existed in Major League Baseball).
Sitting by the Campfire
While a great cartoon and a lot of fun in a vacuum, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge it as being an early example of the marginalization of Goofy as a character. As is with a lot of his instructional and How to… cartoons, they are filled with multiple Goofys and he has also essentially been rendered a mute (due to Pinto Colvig leaving the company but we will discuss that further in a long-form blog post) with a disembodied voice providing the narration.
Even still… I love baseball and Goofy(s) does a great job of highlighting some of the more ridiculous aspects of the game while putting a humorous spin on them. Plus, what says “summer” more than our National Past Time???