The Making Of “Homer At The Bat”

by Christopher Paul on February 21, 2012

From Deadspin, an article about a special episode of The Simpsons that beat the Olympics and The Cosby Shows ratings and helped propel the show to prime time stardom.

I don’t recall much about this episode (except for Daryl Strawberry’s grin) but after reading the account of how it was made and the events that we look back on (the strike, steroid scandal, etc), it reminds me of how brilliant and prophetic the show was.

The Don Mattingly of “Homer at the Bat” hit even closer to the mark. In August 1991, Yankees management ordered the team captain to cut his hair shorter. He refused, was benched by manager Stump Merrill, and fined $250, including $100 for every subsequent day that he didn’t cut his hair. “I’m overwhelmed by the pettiness of it,” Mattingly told reporters. “To me, long hair is down my back, touching my collar. I don’t feel my hair is messy.”

Six months later, when “Homer at the Bat” aired, Mattingly’s storyline centered around Mr. Burns’s insane interpretation of his first baseman’s “sideburns.” Mattingly is booted from the team, muttering as he walks away, “I still like him better than Steinbrenner.”

Most fans assumed that the show had cribbed from real-life events. In fact, Mr. Burns’s sociopathic infatuation with sideburns was inspired by showrunner Al Jean’s grandfather, who owned a hardware store in the ’70s and would constantly berate his employees for their excessive follicular growth. Mattingly had recorded his dialogue a full month before his dustup with the Yankees.

I often think season 4 and 5 is when the show peaked. That’s not to say it went downhill after them (that happened after season 9 or 10). And this excellent recount of how “Homer At The Bat” shows, in part, how they earned that distinction in my mind.


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