For people who know me well, there are few things that are more obvious to them about me and my personality than my love for the comic strip Peanuts and my kinship with Charlie Brown himself. I realize that this is a fairly geeky thing to admit to, to say the least, but I’m not ashamed of it.
Growing up, there was always something familiar and endearing about the personality of Charlie Brown and the tone of the strip itself that drew me in. I won’t say that I learned a lot of life’s lessons from Peanuts because one has to actually live life to learn those particular lessons. But, the way those lessons have been expressed in the four panels of a Peanuts comic strip… it’s pretty difficult to find someone or something that did it better.
With that said, it’s undeniable that Charlie Brown’s love for baseball and the way baseball is always around helped me to connect with the comic strip, and it’s one of the main reasons that I have gone back to the comic strips over and over again in my life. One of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received was when my brother found me a copy of Sandlot Peanuts at some used book shop – a 200-page hardcover book featuring nothing but baseball-themed Peanuts comics is pretty great.
It’s Christmas-time now and, with the Yankees’ signing of Mark Teixeira yesterday, I thought nothing seemed more appropriate going into the holiday than a few words about the sport – what it’s like to win, what it’s like to lose, and what it’s like to be a fan – from Charlie Brown and company.
Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
(I’m leaving the strips small because I don’t want to get anyone angry. That’s why I’ve included transcripts of the comics below each one. Click on the image to make it slightly more readable.)
There’s actually not a whole lot in the Peanuts oeuvre about winning, as Charlie Brown was rarely lucky enough to be on that side of the field. Still, there are some good bits if you look.
Charlie Brown lies in bed, clearly happy
Charlie Brown: We won our first game of the season… I can’t believe it!
He starts tossing and turning
CB: I wonder how the other team feels…
He sits up, with a look of sadness
CB: I don’t know… when we lose, I’m miserable… When we win, I feel guilty!
Lucy walks up to Charlie Brown on the mound.
Lucy: What’s the sense in playing when we know we’re going to lose? If there was even a million-to-one chance we might win, it would make some sense…
Charlie Brown: Well, there may not be a million-to-one chance, but I’m sure there’s a billion-to-one chance…
Lucy: There is? PLAY BALL!
As you can imagine, there’s are quite a number of strips dealing with losing. Charlie Brown, after all, was the consummate loser. His eternal optimism in spite of that was what made him so endearing.
Linus is looking through some papers with Charlie Brown looking on
Linus: I’ve been going over our team records, Charlie Brown… We lost every game this season!
Charlie Brown (after looking for himself): Maybe we’re building character
Charlie Brown is on the mound, lamenting another loss, as Lucy strolls up.
Charlie Brown: One hundred and twenty-three to nothing! No one should ever have to lose the first game of the season by a score of 123-0! It just not right… Besides, how could we possibly lose a game 123 to 0?
Lucy: We never got any breaks!
Peppermint Patty, the athlete, is very upset as Linus, Snoopy, and Charlie Brown look on.
Peppermint Patty: THIS IS RIDICULOUS! I’ve hit five home runs and pitched a no-hit game, and we’re behind thirty-seven to five! Whoever heard of thirty-seven unearned runs? This is ridiculous! I thought I could help your team, Chuck. But it’s hopeless! I’m going back where I came from!
Charlie Brown: That must be a nice thing to be able to do…
On Being a Fan
Charlie Brown was very famously a fan of Joe Shlabotnik, quite possibly the worst player in baseball history. His devotion was complete, though, despite all that his hero had to endure. If only we could all be so devoted…
Linus, Charlie Brown, and Snoopy are all seated at a table, waiting for Joe Shlabotnik to arrive to the sports banquet they paid to attend.
Linus: Where’s Joe Shlatbonik?
Charlie Brown: He’ll be here! When Joe Shlabotnik says he’s going to do something, he does it! I remember one game last year… He came up to bat in the ninth inning, and said he was going to hit a home run…
Linus: Did he?
Charlie Brown: No, he popped up… But he ran it out!
Linus: I’m glad you have faith in your hero, Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown: He’ll be here… He probably stopped to fix a flat tire on some elderly person’s car…
Charlie Brown is reading the paper with Schroeder nearby.
Charlie Brown: Oh, no! My favorite player, Joe Shlabotnik, has been sent down to the minors again! He’s going to play for Stumptown in the Green Grass League… I hope the fans appreciate what a great player they’re getting. I bet he’ll lead Stumptown to its first pennant!
Schroeder: With a .004 batting average?
A depressed Charlie Brown sits under a tree.
Charlie Brown: Well, it was another bad baseball year for me..
He walks to the front porch and picks up the paper
CB: Maybe my hero, Joe Shlabotnik, is having a better time… I’ll see how he’s doing…
Reading the paper
CB: “Joe Shlabotnik struck out last night in the bottom of the ninth as Stumptown of the Green Grass League sank deeper into the cellar.”
CB, writing a letter: Dear Joe, Don’t be discouraged. Someone understands.
Bonus: On Statistics
At one point, Linus, the brainy one, became enamored with statistics and went around telling everyone what he discovered. I don’t know exactly when these were published, but it was likely before Bill James and his Abstracts…
Linus and Charlie Brown, sitting at their brick wall.
Linus: Do you want to hear some baseball statistics, Charlie Brown? According to my figures, as our pitcher, you had an earned run average this year of eighty runs per game. Statistics don’t lie, Charlie Brown.
Charlie Brown: No, but they sure shoot off their mouth a lot!
Charlie Brown, addressing his team as a smug Linus looks on.
Charlie Brown: All right. We’ve heard the report from our statistician. Both our hitting and our fielding averages were down this year. So you all know what we have to do next season
Team, together: GET A NEW STATISTICIAN!!!