The Bad News Millers/Merchants/Mulligans/Heavenly Hosts
– In Which the Studly Bearded Stranger’s True Identity is Finally Revealed!
(a recap by Will Kaiser)
Title: In the Big Inning
Airdate: October 1, 1975
Written by B.W. Sandefur
Directed by William F. Claxton
SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: A baseball game.
RECAP: This strange episode was likely a tie-in to the 1975 World Series, which would be broadcast the following week on the same network, NBC, and in which the Cincinnati Reds would play and beat the Boston Red Sox, four games to three.
I hope you don’t expect much baseball trivia from me. Sorry to anyone who hoped the game would get the kind of picking-over I’ve given things like the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 or David Rose’s use of harpsichord in the score.
I’m sure there’s just a ton of crossover between MLB fans and Walnut Groovy readers, which is why I’ve been worrying about this.
But I was kicked out of Little League for making dandelion crowns on the field in 1983, and ever since then I just don’t have much interest in the sport.
I do enjoy going to a baseball game from time to time. The vibe reminds me how my dad would put Milwaukee Brewers games on TV, turn the sound all the way down, then put the radio on because he preferred Bob Uecker’s commentary to the TV announcers’. It was the sound of summertime in my parents’ house, plus I did like Uecker on Mr. Belvedere.
And I think baseball fans generally seem pretty nice, compared to some other sports anyways, my parents certainly included.
But that’s enough of my opening monologue, let’s get to the story. (The kids were busy this week, so it’s just me and Dags.)
We open to Laura running home to some loping easygoing music. (And we see that, like “Four Eyes,” this story is another Sandefur/Claxton collaboration.)
In the barn, Pa is using the pedal-operated lathe we saw previously in “The Lord is My Shepherd,” Part One. (Don’t worry, it’s not an ill omen. This one’s 100-percent dead-baby-free, I promise.)
Pa asks where Mary is, and Laura says she’s been caught once again in the Whip’s snare.
We can’t really see what Charles is working on, but Laura reveals it’s a baseball bat, in case anybody just came in from the privy or simply missed the title of this one.
(Speaking of the title, I assume it’s a Biblical pun, right?)
In a highly expository conversation, Pa and Laura tells us that every year there’s a baseball tournament, or maybe just a single game, in which Walnut Grove plays against Sleepy Eye. The Sleepy Eye team apparently boasts a terrifying pitcher called “Slick McBurney” who throws so hard and fast he breaks players’ bats.
While some have argued a community like this more likely would have played an early version of the game called “town ball,” in fact the term baseball was in use already. (It was usually called “base ball” at that time, but for the benefit of the modern reader I’m going to use the compound noun in this recap.)
Indeed, it seems the 1870s was about the time teams began to form professional organizations nationally.
I know, that’s already more baseball trivia than I said I’d share, so I’ll try to hustle things along now.
Anyways, Pa says, “Unless we can find a pitcher that pitches as hard as McBurney, I’m afraid we’re going to be in for a very long day.” I can’t say I have firsthand knowledge, but I assume there’s more to winning baseball games than just throwing the ball hard.
Then again, I also assume there’s more to going blind than just finishing tests slowly, so whatever. Little House rules, everybody!
Pa picks up a huge saw to put the finishing touches on the bat. He should bring that up to the house, so Caroline can use it to cut off her leg later this season.
Pa and Laura head in to the common room.
DAGNY: Whoa! This is a totally different camera angle.
WILL: I know, it’s the Fourth Wall.
DAGNY: You can see the ceiling!
WILL: Yes, and has that butter-churn always been there by the door?
DAGNY: It’s like in a dream, where it’s your house but everything’s different than it really is.
We learn this wasn’t just fun-lathin’ for Pa. He also made a rocking chair for somebody called “Miss Mumfort.”
But of course, he’s happiest about his baseball bat.
“Can Carrie play baseball too, Pa?” slurps Carrie.
“Couldn’t be any worse than the rest of the team,” says Ma. Jesus, what a thing to say! Talk about devastating both husband and child in one swift jab.
Clearly something is bringing out savage bitterness in Ma today; if I were Charles I’d pick up Carrie and quietly slink out until she was feeling better.
Ma goes on to complain about the profanity the baseball players use at these games. I’m sure we won’t hear any, unfortunately.
Ma then adds that there’s usually “brawling” after (or during?) these games. “It’s not a fit spectacle for children!” she adds, briefly mutating back into her uptight larval Caroline form from the Pilot.
Pa says she’s being ridiculous.
Ma says the Sleepy Eye team, the “Green Eyes,” are dreadful people. Laura corrects her that it’s the “Green Stockings” – a nice period touch, since both the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox were formed under the name “Red Stockings”!
Ma goes on to say she doesn’t know why the Grovesters bother playing, since they always lose, often by disastrous margins.
Pa says it’s a friendly contest and nobody really cares about the outcome.
Then Ma shows him she’s sewing letters onto a jersey for him.
DAGNY: That’s not even centered! Where are the rest of the letters going to go, down the sleeve?
WILL: Maybe it’ll be hyphenated, with the “NUT” right under the “WAL.”
DAGNY: And it’s pink, of course.
Pa invites Laura out to help him practice; and Carrie slurps, “Carrie play baseball too!”
WILL: Carrie talks about herself in the third person in this one, like Poirot.
DAGNY: They forgot to brush the back of her hair.
Cut to an older woman feeding chickens in a farmyard.
DAGNY: Is that Grace? When did she get so old?
WILL: Time rift.
Actually, it isn’t Grace. The actor, June Dayton, does have a familiar look to me; but I don’t know her from anything.
Another Huge Old Man emerges from somewhere. The woman addresses him as “Jebediah,” but it’s not clear if she’s his wife or his mother.
DAGNY: He might be her imaginary friend, like Snuffleupagus.
Then they get into a stupid argument about whether or not he likes rhubarb, so maybe they are married.
As the Ingallswagon suddenly appears, we hear him address her as “Margaret,” so I guess she’s not his mom, no more debate.
Charles, with Laura in tow, is dropping off the rocking chair – so these are the Mumforts.
At this point, what looks like a golden eagle swoops down into the farmyard.
Actually, from its plumage, I’m prepared to call it a Harris’s hawk – a species not found in the wild in Minnesota, but often used for falconry. (I admit I’m no expert.)
The bird, which you can actually see eating bait as it moves to its marks, hops down on a fencepost.
Laura sounds the alert about a “chickenhawk” in the yard.
Jebediah comes rushing out of the house, looks at the hawk, and starts chucking rocks at it.
He doesn’t hit the bird, but the stones smash into the chicken coop and knock holes into it.
He brags to the others that he usually hits the birds.
DAGNY: He kills them?
WILL: Yeah, he’s got a whole trophy room full of ’em.
Long story short, Charles witnesses this ghastly incident and realizes Jeb is their salvation and the perfect new pitcher for the team.
Meanwhile, back to town, Mr. Edwards is “Old Dan Tucker”-ing it down the thoroughfare.
He comes upon Doc Baker, who’s dressed in an old-time baseball uniform with an M on the breast.
Doc is excited about the big baseball game, saying this was the uniform he wore on his college team.
As others have pointed out, this is pretty unlikely. Kevin Hagen was 47 years old at this point, and I’ve argued in the past the character of Doc may be even older. Even if he isn’t, that means Young Hiram would have been in school around the 1850s, when baseball was really new stuff.
The very first college baseball game was held in Massachusetts in 1859 – Amherst College vs. Williams College. Is this a clue to Doc’s alma mater? We actually have a list of the players, and there isn’t a Baker among them; but perhaps he didn’t play in that particular game.
Anyways, Mr. Ed mocks Doc’s outfit, though I’m not sure it would have been all that funny at the time. This is hard to gauge, of course.
Meanwhile, some townsmen are assembling for baseball practice. Mr. Hanson hands Nels some sort of beanbag or something. Hanson isn’t playing, he’s just team manager.
Nels, apparently the team’s pitcher, says he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to use the beanbag.
Hanson says he’s saving the real balls for game day, and says the way Nels pitches it won’t matter.
Then there’s a strange joke:
NELS: I did my best last year.
HANSON: I know you did. And if you hadn’t, we’d have something to look forward to this year.
I think I get it, but epigrammatic dialogue isn’t really a mode this show works well in. Just FYI, B.W. Sandefur.
Doc and Mr. Edwards arrive. Doc stands tall right next to Hanson, like the old days, but who knows what that means. (He also appears to have had his hair cut recently.)
Charles arrives in the wagon, having brought Laura and Jebediah Mumfort with him.
Laura says he’s to be their new star pitcher, but Jebediah just looks bashful. (The actor, Karl Lukas, was in a million things, often playing policemen, mail carriers and the like.)
Mumfort also foreshadows things a bit, saying “Margaret ain’t taken much with games.”
They drag poor Jeb back to the field, where Nels is fooling around with Mr. Edwards. Hanson says Nels, you’re out.
Nels, despite looking like he’d rather spend the afternoon letting Harriet catalogue his faults than this, protests he’s always been the pitcher.
Who else is on this team, you ask? Well, it’s an interesting mix, without many of the usual suspects.
The first guy we recognize is the Studly Bearded Stranger, who briefly dated Mrs. Foster last season.
There’s a man to his right who I’d put money on being (in real life) Bob Hoy, who played one of Mr. Edwards’s poker buddies in “To See the World.” Hoy isn’t credited in this story, but he pops up several times this season so I bet it’s him.
We shall assume for tracking purposes he’s playing the same character, Ben Slick, and that Ben has now relocated to Walnut Grove, possibly because he’s seen the good effects doing so had on his pal Mr. Edwards.
Then there’s a younger blond guy we’ve never seen before.
Finally, there’s Carl the Flunky.
Now, whether this constitutes the whole team or just those who could make it to this practice remains to be seen.
Anyways, Charles says they’ll just have tryouts to pick the pitcher. Nels doesn’t look happy at this. If in your professional life you’ve ever suddenly and unexpectedly had to compete to keep your existing job, you perhaps know how he feels.
The tryouts start immediately, with Doc up to bat and Mr. Edwards catching.
Nels does a shitty job, but Jebediah not only strikes Doc out, he hits Edwards in the face with the beanbag and knocks him over.
At home, Pa and Laura come in burbling over Jeb’s talents. Carrie is playing with a rather delicate-looking carved toy wagon and horsey.
Laura says Pa called Jeb “a blue darter,” a term I had to look up. Originally it was a nickname for a type of hawk, just like “chickenhawk.” (Interestingly, the Cooper’s hawk, which does exist in Minnesota, has been called by both nicknames.)
Anyways, the term eventually became associated with baseball, though not until the mid-Twentieth Century. And it seems it refers to a particular type of hit rather than a pitch.
In the early 1970s, a prize for young ballplayers was named the Blue Darter Trophy, which may be why B.W. Sandefur was so excited to press the name into service for this story.
The Urban Dictionary also offers the following definition:
BLUE DARTER: an ignited fart with substantial methane content
example: “God dang! Jim Bob lit off another blue darter in the movie theater!”
Unfortunately, I expect this isn’t the intended meaning here. (Maybe if Mr. Edwards said it.)
Pa says Jebediah is “the answer to Walnut Grove’s prayers.” Ma sniffs that God wouldn’t likely interest Himself in baseball; but if they expected him to intervene in the Sad Affair of the Overdue Mercantile Bill I don’t see why He’d simply stop there.
Pa, who was obviously using a metaphor, throws out another one, saying Jeb’s pitching is “heaven-sent.” (A phrase that goes back to the Seventeenth Century, apparently.)
Pa seems really genuinely excited about the team’s prospects. We’ve rarely seen this kind of sustained enthusiasm from him, except when Mrs. Oleson smashed the eggs over Nels’s head.
Pa says not a single Grovester could get a hit off Mumfort, and Ma says, “What is unusual about that?” (Again, a funny line not quite nailed in its delivery.)
She then shows Charles she’s finished his jersey.
DAGNY: That is NOT the same shirt.
Cut to the church exterior on Sunday. The Midsommar Kid, Not-Quincy Fusspot and some pals are running around . . . and the Slender-and-Stacked bloc of the Women’s League (Caroline, Grace Snider, and the Bead) are coming down the stairs together. (The SAS is a subgroup of the larger Sticks-Up-Our-Asses faction.)
Mrs. Oleson comes rushing out to catch up with the other ladies, which is funny.
We see Laura is telling Not-Quincy and the others about how fantastic Mr. Mumfort’s pitching is. She actually acts it out, throwing a rock into the side of the privy.
Willie of course emerges in his Edgar Allan Poe outfit (with his jacket off – ha!).
Then we see the core group of male Townies coming down the stairs. I think it’s the first time all six have been together in one shot!
Mumfort and his wife come out next, and Chuck and the gang all cheer him.
Now we get a scene in which the men argue about what the team’s mascot should be. You know, this episode would rightly be famous, if people found nonsensical idiocy more memorable than things like Laura being psychologically tortured by a madwoman.
Mr. Hanson says the team name should be the Millers, since Hanson Universal is sponsoring the team. (A reasonable argument, if you take the sort of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century approach of naming things after their rich male patrons.)
But Reverend Alden immediately puts in his oar, suggesting they call themselves the “Heavenly Hosts” instead.
Doc says they should be the “Mulligans,” since that was his supposed college team’s name.
Nels meekly says Mrs. Oleson suggested they be the Merchants.
“If it ain’t gonna be the Millers, it ain’t gonna be the Merchants!” shouts Hanson angrily.
Charles has no interest in matters of nomenclature, so he pushes off.
Then Mr. Hanson says, “See you later, Doctor” – and I swear to God, pats Doc Baker on the ass!
So I guess things are back on with them? (What a relief!)
Hanson exits, and Doc, who had been in the middle of explaining the origin of the Mulligan name, is obviously flustered at this unexpected display of concupiscence from his old boyfriend, and trails off.
Everyone else having left, Nels asks who Mulligan was, and Doc says, “My old coach.”
“Oh,” says Nels without interest and walks away.
In a wonderful cut, we then see Charles and Caroline in bed eating popcorn. Charles is giggling crazily AND reading The Home Mechanic. (Does popcorn plus giggling plus The Home Mechanic equal a hat trick? Are there hat tricks in baseball?)
Charles recounts the ludicrous conversation about the team names. He can be quite a bully when he’s in the privacy of his bedroom, can’t he? Here he gleefully makes fun of his friends and their stupid ideas. (I suppose that’s a crime we’re all guilty of, though, when you get down to it.)
Caroline says she thinks Rev. Alden’s suggestion was “sacrilegious” – an accusation she’s made before. I’m not sure she has a really sound grasp of what it means.
The next shot shows us a man, whose mustache is the grandest one we’ve seen so far on this show (though it pales in comparison to the real facial hair styles of the time), riding into town on a horse.
Before he’s even named, we suspect this is Slick McBurney the famous Sleepy Eye ballplayer, and when he arrives at the Mercantile, Nels confirms it for us.
As he ties his horse up, McBurney immediately begins goofing on Nels, saying no man who sweeps a broom will ever make a ballplayer. And oh no, it seems we’re in for yet another godawful fake-Irish accent. McBurney’s is loud and theatrical, as if he’s playing a circus ringmaster or something.
The actor is named Gregory Walcott, and he had an extremely long and distinguished career in movies and TV. But he was forever associated with the infamous Ed Wood after playing the lead in that director’s most celebrated (?) movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Anyways, Mrs. Oleson comes out, and McBurney, who’s sort of a big broad-shouldered hunk, immediately starts flirting with her.
DAGNY: That guy has no ass. It looks like somebody walked by and chopped it off.
McBurney says he’s come to town to see if anybody would like to place a bet on this year’s game. If the team is as bad as everybody says and has never won a single game, I shouldn’t think he’d get many takers.
But Mrs. O says since the “Merchants” are doing so well this year, she’ll happily place a bet. Isn’t it a conflict of interest if the players themselves are organizing the gaming?
At any rate, McBurney amiably wanders the town collecting wagers.
Charles takes Mr. Hanson aside and asks what that guy’s doing in town, but all Hanson can do is sputter about how the team is the Millers, and that the Merchants is a “fool woman’s name.”
Hanson, who really has better business sense than this, says he’s not going to be outdone by the Olesons, and has made an even bigger wager than they did.
DAGNY: No wonder he’s always having to close the mill.
He also says he put down a bet of a day’s pay for Edwards (without his consent). He tells Charles he didn’t do the same thing for him, since he knows he objects to gambling.
Mr. Edwards wanders up and at first is angry about this, but when Charles reminds him about Jeb Mumfort’s pitching abilities, Mr. Ed tells Hanson to change the bet to two days’ pay.
Everybody sees where this is going, right?
Meanwhile, at the Mercantile, Harriet and Caroline are sniping at each other about eggs again.
This is another testament to Caroline’s foul mood, since Mrs. Oleson just raised the rates two weeks ago.
Enter Margaret Mumfort, who tells Caroline she loves the rocker Charles fixed up for her.
Caroline says complimentary things about Jebediah’s pitching abilities, but stupid Mrs. Oleson butts in and says they all have such confidence in him they’ve placed big bets on the game.
Mrs. Mumfort is shocked the wholesome Grovesters would be participating in such a sinful thing as gambling, and announces she’s pulling her husband from the team, effective immediately.
Mrs. Oleson, horrified, starts yelling at Mrs. M, but she screams back, “Harriet Oleson, it’s you who doesn’t understand! Jebediah will not play! I will not allow it!”
Mrs. Mum calms herself, says she’s going to go talk to Jeb right now, and, as if to smooth things over, adds that she’ll see Caroline and Harriet at the regularly scheduled Women’s League’s meeting on Saturday.
You know, just yesterday I read a great short story by Ruth Rendell in which an older lady steals a fancy clock from a village art gallery, and then, when a friend says she’s familiar with the artist and however did she get such a rare thing, pushes that friend into the street in front of a speeding car!
Well, Mrs. Oleson looks like she wants to give Peggy Mumfort the same treatment right now.
And I’m sure Mr. Nelson the Gray-Haired Dude is passing by right about now, too.
Meanwhile, at the mill, Mr. Edwards is eating beef jerky and an apple for lunch – Red Delicious, the absolute worst apple ever bred for human consumption.
Mr. Ed proceeds to try to fashion a baseball glove out of the canvas sack he brought his lunch in.
We then see the Mumforts in the thoroughfare, with Margaret yelling at Jebediah to go tell his friends he can’t play anymore.
Charles offers to use his magical powers to change her mind.
But even he thinks better of it when Peg screams from the wagon for Jeb to come along.
Charles, Edwards and Hanson are devastated of course, and the lower brass booms “Old Dan Tucker” in a minor key to drive the point home.
This whole bit is kind of like Waiting for Guffman, except without a Corky St. Clair to graciously cover when a cast member bows out.
Then we do see the Gray-Haired Dude driving across the bridge.
Charles and Caroline are sitting by the mill unpacking the situation. Caroline bashes baseball generally, the Walnut Grove team specifically, and says the problem’s everyone’s own fault for allowing betting in the first place. She says they should just cancel the (damn) game and never do it again.
(Karen Grassle smiles and underplays this rant, but Caroline is very crankily written in this one, in my view.)
Charles says it’s too bad they lost Jeb, because if they won the game, he’s sure the Walnut Grovesters would have agreed to stop the annual contest. That doesn’t make much sense to me (even less so if people stand to make money on them winning).
But I suppose this comment is meant to prevent the TV audience from being heartbroken when we don’t get another baseball episode every year for the rest of the series.
Anyways, we then cut to the promised Women’s League meeting. The Rev is there as male chaperone to keep their ideas from getting too crazy.
Despite us never having seen the Mumforts before, it’s clear on this occasion, anyways, Margaret is the leader of her own faction in the town. She’s sitting with two other ladies we’ve also never seen before.
WILL: Those are very wacky bonnets. The one on the right looks like Paul Revere.
DAGNY: And the one on the left looks like a bra.
Oh, and Mrs. Foster is also there.
Grace Snider, presumably the Secretary, is reading hilariously from the last meeting’s minutes:
The motion was made by Mrs. Oleson that we make curtains for the church. Following the discussion of the price of yard goods at the Mercantile, the motion was tabled for want of a second.
I wondered if meeting protocol had evolved to this point by then, but looks like Robert’s Rules came out in 1876, so that’s fine.
Miss Beadle, apparently the League Chair, opens the meeting. That’s good, because she doesn’t get much else to do in this one.
Caroline brings up the topic of the Sleepy Eye game.
DAGNY: Her boobs are so period-inappropriate it’s brutal.
WILL: Too perky?
DAGNY: Too perky.
Before Caroline can even make her point Mrs. Mum starts screaming, “Gambling is an abomination for any community! It profits no one but the Devil!”
Miz Mum turns to Aldi for support, but he just sputters weakly.
DAGNY: He hasn’t shaved.
WILL: And he’s sweating.
DAGNY: Do you think he was out drinking last night?
WILL: Yeah, at Amy Hearn‘s house I bet.
Caroline then proposes everyone donate their winnings to the church, which would make the whole business more “charitable fundraiser” than “abomination.” She points out it’d be no different than their annual turkey raffle; and she does have a point.
Aldi very enthusiastically endorses this idea. Mrs. Oleson says it’s hardly for them to make decisions for what everybody in town will do with their winnings, but Ma says without Jebediah there won’t be any winnings at all.
Ultimately, Peggy relents.
Outside the church, Charles picks up Caroline, who tells him the good news.
Charles immediately compliments Aldi for achieving this miracle.
The Rev very nicely throws all the credit to Caroline, who did earn it, after all.
A happy man either way, Charles kissy-noises the Chonkies, and away they go.
Now it’s game day, and oh good grief, the marching band is back.
DAGNY: Where is this band from?
WILL: Sleepy Eye, I guess? They’re sitting on that side.
DAGNY: Who was the band on Founder’s Day, then?
There’s also a handsome young man on the sidelines (he makes the Studly Bearded Stranger look like Nels Oleson, frankly), and he’s laughing and making “jerk-off” motions with a bat that are so blatant I can’t believe they used the footage.
The Green Stockings are warming up. They all wear nice uniforms, and their stockings are indeed green, though the style varies from player to player.
Big Slick McBurney is chewing a cheroot and drinking beer on the field. In other words, you can tell the Sleepy Eyesters are fucking assholes.
Meanwhile, we see the Walnut Grove team and fans watching nervously at the sidelines. There are a couple additional Huge Old Men we’ve never seen; and Willie Oleson, hilariously, is holding a sign that reads Go Merchants.
I was starting to think Mary wouldn’t be in this one, but no, here she is. She, Laura, Jack, and Not-Quincy are all sitting near Rev. Alden.
Nels sheepishly starts handing out red caps to his teammates. He said it was Harriet’s idea to have them made, and they’re being provided to the players “at cost.”
Each red hat is emblazoned with an M.
WILL: Are they MAGA hats?
DAGNY: Naw, looks more like the Wonder Woman logo.
The Ms get the guys arguing about the team name again. But Charles points out it just says M, so they can all pretend it’s whatever name they want.
WILL: It would be funny if Jebediah suggested “the Mumforts.”
DAGNY: Or “the Margarets”!
The Reverend, who apparently will be umpire (and remember, he probably serves both communities as minister, even if he seems to be rooting for the Grovesters), steps out to do a prayer before the game.
McBurney, the level of whose beer varies between shots, holds off on his drinking, but does make goofy faces during the prayer.
Then Alden tells McBurney this year they’ll be playing three-out innings rather than four-out ones. A number of people who know more about baseball than I do have posted some interesting complaints and corrections about the technical aspects of this game at the IMDb, including about this detail.
We also see there’s a nice big refreshment table laden with pies and the like.
Slick McBurney steps up to bat, cheroot still in his mouth.
Jebediah Mumfort throws out his first pitch – a strike.
We see the Walnut Grove cheering section again – apart from Sweet Colleen and a Nondescript Helen or two, they’re mostly strangers this time.
To his shock, McBurney finds himself struck out. The next batter too! In fact, the Green Stockings don’t get a single hit in the first inning.
The Grovesters are up to bat next, and the Studly Bearded Stranger steps up to the plate first.
McBurney hits him in the leg with a pitch, and Studly takes his base.
Doc gets a hit next, but the Sleepy Eyesters play very rough, knocking both Doc and Studly down for a double play. Jack goes running out onto the field.
DAGNY: I hate Jack.
Mr. Ed gets a home run next, which is accompanied loudly on the soundtrack by a school-fight-song arrangement of You Know What.
Laura and Mary are keeping score on a chalkboard.
DAGNY: I like that they’re wearing their Sunday blues.
Grace throws her arms around Mr. Ed, whilst in the stands, Sweet Colleen and Nondescript Helen bounce up and down on the bench, trampoline-style.
Then Lefty Charles steps up.
We get another brief look at the Sleepy Eye cheering section, which includes a guy you might recognize as one of the tourists from the Alamo scene in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
At the encouragement of the dishonest Sleepy Eyesters, McBurney soaks the ball in water whilst taking a drink.
When Charles hits his pitch, his bat breaks in half. Is this a real thing?
Rev. Alden examines the ball, but McBurney says it’s just wet with “perspiration,” so the Rev lets it go.
But when they get back up to bat, the Sleepy Eyesters still can’t hit Jebediah’s pitches.
McBurney calls the next batter, “Slovak,” over to him and whispers an evil plan in his ear.
Slovak bunts, and when Jeb tries to tag him, he gets trampled in the . . . lane, or whatever the path between bases is called.
Oddly, Grace Snider seems to laugh her head off at this.
But Peg Mumfort doesn’t think it’s funny, and goes running out onto the field.
“Ruffians! Hooligans!” screams Mrs. Oleson from the stands.
Then, in a piece of idiocy, the next Sleepy Eye batter somehow manages to get a hit right into a pile of spare balls behind Alden, resulting in chaos in the outfield and a home run for the Green Stockings.
Realizing this story is getting stupider and stupider, David Rose gives us some apt jug-band-type hillbilly music on the soundtrack.
His mojo perhaps affected by being trampled, Jebediah starts pitching badly. (“Nah, I think they stomped on his shoulder,” said Dags.) Nobody suggests putting Nels in, though.
The Green Stockings come back quickly, and soon even Miz Mum is screaming at Aldi for his bad calls.
It was at about this point in this story that I made a shocking discovery. Are you sitting down?
I think both the Studly Bearded Stranger and fan favorite Mustache Man are played by the same actor.
Studly is shouting encouragement from the bench, and we notice a distinctive gap in between his front teeth . . . and just week, when Mustache Man was yelling at Ebenezer Sprague, we saw he had the exact same gap!
(Though it can be difficult to dig up the real names of the minor Grovesters, this actor is Jack Lilley.)
I’m not sure what to make of this development. I’m finding it surprisingly upsetting, actually.
My duty means I must press on, but I don’t think I’ll tell the kids.
Now it’s the final inning, with the Grovesters down 5-8. Nels is up, and Mary turns to Laura and basically says they’re fucked.
But Nels surprises everyone by getting a base hit.
Mr. Edwards is up next to bat, but where is he? Running from the privy, of course!
McBurney throws another pitch right into Edwards, and he takes his base.
DAGNY: Edwards is also a lefty, huh?
Then Doc gets a hit, so the bases are loaded.
Charles steps up to bat next, of course. (Others have noted the batting order is completely different in this inning than in the first one – a no-no, I guess?)
He hits what seems to be a home run, but McBurney manages to get the ball to home plate before Charles makes it there – and Charles simply plows the guy over.
A bunch of Green Stockings leap onto Charles and start beating him, and the whole game degenerates into a melee.
Somebody then picks up Charles and throws him into the refreshment table.
I hate to say it, but I think in this “melee” scene, Mr. Edwards is ALSO at times played by Mustache Man.
Edwards smashes an Eyester into the beer keg, which explodes.
Rev. Alden screams that McBurney dropped the ball, meaning the Grovesters win.
Then there’s an epilogue where Caroline tells Charles in bed that she and Margaret Mumfort have agreed next year they should sell tickets.
WILL: Look at her twirling her hair. She clearly wants sex tonight, but Stupid Charles doesn’t even realize it.
DAGNY: They might do it anyway.
And I suppose they might. Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!
STYLE WATCH: Charles appears to go commando again. (And he’s not the only one this time.)
THE VERDICT: This one’s incredibly stupid, but harmless.
It’s even kind of funny, if you catch it in the right mood.
UP NEXT: Haunted House