It was pointed out on the web last week (kottke.org is where I first saw it) that, if the film Back to the Future was released today, Marty would travel back in time all the way to the year 1980. Not only did that observation cause a whole generation (or two) to feel ridiculously old, but it also helped to start a conversation or two about one of the greatest film trilogies there is.
In reading those conversations, I was reminded of something interesting shown in Back to the Future II. When Marty arrives in Hilldale in 2015, he’s inundated with the technology of the future, including a “realistic” hologram of the shark in Jaws 19. He also sees a newsreel highlighting the news that the Cubs have won the World Series over Miami – a team that didn’t exist in 1985, and whose mascot, apparently, is a gator with a bat. The news prompts Marty to go buy the Gray’s Sports Almanac, and adventures ensue…
But what I love about it is the prediction for the 2015 World Series, between the “lovable losers” (who have yet to win a World Series) and the completely invented Miami squad. This is old news, of course, and urban legend that Back to the Future predicted the Marlins’ World Series victories has been going around the net for years. It’s still fun to see, though.
And it got me thinking about other movies or tv shows set in the future that have tried their hand at predicting baseball’s future. I don’t mean the Rookie of the Year or Major League or Air Bud type movies, where the whole point of the movie is what happens to a fictional ballclub. Instead, I mean the movies or shows that are set in the future and only casually mention baseball as a way to anchor their reality in something we might be familiar with. I think you’ll see what I mean.
The list below are just a few of the movies and shows that I could think of off the top of my head. I know I’ve missed one or two or ten, so feel free to leave any examples in the comments.
(click “Read More” to continue reading.)
Maybe this is a bad idea because this exercise is bound to show just how much of a geek I am. This is the first and best example. In 1993, the show “seaQuest” debuted as a sort of “Star Trek of the sea”. It followed a submarine crew 25 years in the future – all the way to the year 2018 – as they explored “the last unexplored region on Earth.” You might remember it for the teenie-bopper status that it levied on Jonathan Brandis, the teenage genius on board.
Anyhow, in various episodes of the series, Brandis is seen wearing a Florida Marlins jersey. That’s kind of neat in and of itself, since the Marlins debuted that same year. But Brandis’s jersey is unique because written across the back are the words “World Series 2010″. I remember watching this as a young kid and making some kind of smart remark to my older brother. Somehow, that’s stay with me for 15 years.
There’s at least one other reference to future baseball in “seaQuest”. In one episode, one of the characters tells the story of the 2009 World Series: “October 19, 2009. Game 7 of the World Series. Seattle was chasing Havana with two on, bottom of the ninth, down by 1…”
More geekdom. I never really got into “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” itself, but I’ve seen plenty of episodes and I know enough about it. The captain on DS9 was Benjamin Sisko. Among other things, Sisko is a fan of the American pastime, and even keeps a ball on his desk. His love for the game comes up on a regular basis, but it’s really explored in a couple of episodes.
In one episode, we learn the tale of Buck Bokai, baseball’s last great superstar. Bokai began his career in the Planetary Baseball League with the Crenshaw Monarchs. He plays a few seasons with the Gotham City Bats, Tanis, and Seibu before ending up on the London Kings. In 2026, his twelfth year in the league, he broke Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak. In 2042, the Kings played in the final World Series. Bokai hit a home run to win the Series, but there were only 300 people in attendance. Professional baseball died out soon after.
One of the best and most underrated shows of the 1990s, Newsradio was great stuff. Dave Foley, Stephen Root, pre-“Fear Factor” Joe Rogan, Maura Tierney, and the incomparable Phil Hartman made for one of the best casts you could find. The Season 3 episode “Space” takes place in some imaginary future, where some of the news that is read over the air includes a report on Lord Vader’s Death Star getting blown up. In the scene below (gotta love Hulu!), Joe wakes up from his 83 year hibernation and asks to know who won the World Series while he was asleep:
It’s a completely off-the-wall episode, but, man, is it funny.
Finally, I have to mention “Futurama”. One thousand years in the future, in a world of drunk robots, alien broadcasters, and Bob Uecker’s head in a jar, baseball is no longer a celebrated sport. It “was as boring as Mom and apple pie”, after all. In it’s place, there is Blernsball, a spiced up and confusing game. We don’t know when baseball was replaced, but we do know that there was an old Robots League that starred the likes of Wireless Joe Jackson and Pitchomat 5000 (who was a merely a modified Howitzer). We also know that Hank Aaron XXIV is the worst player ever to play the game.
I’ve shown this before, but enjoy this blernsball clip:
The general theme of these predictions, besides utter wackiness, is expansion and “surprise teams” winning it all. In the late-80s, Back to the Future was predicting expansion into Miami and a Cubs World Series win after 108 years of futility. In 1993, “seaQuest” was predicting a Marlins World Series within 20 years (which my 12 year old self found hilarious, for some reason) and an expansion team in Havana. I guess that was also a prediction for the death of Castro and the end of Communism too. Those “seaQuest” guys were visionaries.
“Star Trek” couldn’t let them get by with that, though, instead opting to predict teams in England, Japan, and wherever Batman calls home. The death of the sport in 2042 was also pretty bold.
Like I said before, I know I’ve missed a few good examples of baseball’s future’s past – maybe something in The Running Man or Total Recall – so please feel free to add any in the comments. Comments about my geekdom can be left unsaid, though. I mean, I just quoted episdoes of “seaQuest” and “Star Trek”… what more needs to be said?