So you're watching your favorite show. It might be romance, or supernatural, or anything at all. The characters are not shown to participate in sports, and it doesn't really matter in context. Then, the next episode comes up and... wait a minute, why are they playing baseball?
Enter the Baseball Episode, in which for some reason, the heroes participate in a baseball game. It might be in order to save the world, save the town or just waste time. Whatever the reason, it's common, and shows up in all kinds of works...
... at least coming from the United States or Japan. Most other countries don't even care about this "baseball" thing. Other sports occasionally used include types of football such as soccer or American football, while the standard British or Australian equivalent would be a Cricket episode.
For some reason, this happens a lot in Speculative Fiction.
Also can apply to softball, an equivalent sport played with a larger ball, a smaller playfield.
Haruhi Suzumiya had one. And since Haruhi is involved, they have to win the game in order to save the world. At the end of the episode Haruhi is trying to decide whether they should enter the local soccer or American football tournament next.
Pokémon has a baseball Fangirl named Casey with whom Ash and the group meet up from time to time. She even has a Day in the Limelight episode in the Pokemon Chronicles spin-off series involving a Charizard that lost its firepower (literally) and a washed up baseball pitcher.
Fittingly, Casey's first episode aired in Japan shortly before the beginning of that country's baseball championship, and first aired in America the day of Game 1 of the 2000 World Series.
Yu-Gi-Oh! GX showed in one episode that the kids play baseball (card games may be Serious Business, but at least they can apparently have other hobbies). Dr. Chronos ended up hit in the eye with a fly ball, but it didn't end there...
There was also another episode where Judai was playing tennis in gym class (which he didn't like) and Chronos got hit in the eye again (clearly, Chronos has very bad luck with sports equipment). This led to Chronos punishing Judai by making him take tennis lessons from an Obelisk snob, which led to a duel over Asuka, who the guy had a crush on. (fortunately, like most opponents from the Obelisk Dorm, the guy was Small Name, Big Ego.)
The Midori no Hibi manga has a chapter where a baseball game is used to settle a gang conflict.
The Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars (season 5) episode "The Power of a Shining Star! ChibiChibi's Transformation" had a softball game as its focus.
While playing baseball out of nowhere is surprising in any series, it's double surprising in Eyeshield 21, which is already about American football. However, this is one of the cases where it's justified; Banba used the baseball game as a way to train Kurita and the other Devil Bats for the upcoming game with the Hakushuu Dinosaurs.
It wasn't the actual sport that was important either, they just needed to get used to playing sports inside a dome rather than outside, due to the difference in air pressure. A baseball dome was chosen because Hiruma had dirt on the night guards watching the place.
Sora Wo Kakeru Shoujo's ninth episode plucks up the entirety of its main cast and sets them in a modern day world that tells a baseball story instead of the colony warfare one that had been playing out up until then. QT powers are still present despite this.
One of the One Piece movies opens with a short featuring the crew playing baseball against some villains, complete with Zoro wielding three bats. In another short, they play soccer.
Hell Girl features one of these - though not too unexpected since every episode revolves around a different set of characters. This time, it just happens to be someone who gets away with murder since he's such a great ballplayer.
Parodied in an episode of Excel♥Saga. The girls are sent to Excel's old high school to find out what today's youth are interested in, and up coaching the school's baseball team, a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits that are the worst team in the city.
Episode 9 of Maburaho - playing against a team from hell.
Samurai Champloo also had a baseball game between purported Americans (including Abner Doubleday) and a local team that includes Mugen, Jin, and Fuu. Guess who wins. Well, okay, technically nobody, but whatever.
CLAMP School Detectives features a baseball game between Nokoru and Suoh. Nokoru has a full team of girls from the CLAMP School's kindergarten division, while Suoh covers the entire field himself and uses 'Ghost Runners'.
In the Comic Party anime, characters formed two teams to play against each other; the game was eventually called a tie due to some complicated exigent circumstances.
For some reason or other this comes up fairly frequently in Keroro Gunsou, which has had several episodes in which characters play various sports against each other. These include a soccer episode, a swimming episode, a tennis episode, and an Olympic-style winter sports episode.
Several chapters of the gag manga Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku when it involves baseball fanboy Namida setting up a game. The Ganso sequel series has a bonus color chapter about the kids playing baseball, playing it straight.
This also happened in an issue of Young Justice, which played out very much like the Samurai Champloo episode, only here, the invaders were aliens. (The justification, such as it was, was that the aliens had once been led by Doiby Dickles, so their culture was largely based on 1930s New York City.)
The justification for the planet Myrg resembling 1930s New York was indeed because they had been led by Doiby Dickles. However, that has nothing to do with the baseball. Apparently the aliens that were invading Myrg simply learned the game from Earth TV, and found it convenient as method of Trial by Combat and began to use it on their own. Young Justice was very often somewhat bizarre or slapstick and this storyline pushed it even farther than usual, prompting one character to say "That's it, I'm joining the [Teen] Titans."
Incredible Hulk incognito, got a gig playing outfield for a minor league team. The gig ended when he had a fight with the Rhino, who was playing catcher for a rival minor league team. Foul-tempered, mutated superbehemoths playing baseball? Shocking.
The Justice League had a baseball game against the Injustice Gang in Strange Sport Stories. The writers even wrote and included a box score for the game.
Similarly, there was a Titans/Villains baseball game in an issue of Teen Titans Go!.
The X-Men have a long history of this (perhaps unsurprising given that the school is in New York). An X-Men baseball game will always start with the rule "no powers". And it will always be broken. That gray stuff in the above picture, that's the guy's skin!
They also played basketball once with similar results.
Way back when Marvel's Avengers were only split up between East Coast and West Coast, the two teams would meet up for an annual game of baseball. One of these games was interrupted by a cosmic being called the Grandmaster (who, as it happens, is obsessed with sports and games), but that's a long story.
And way way back in the earliest years of the Fantastic Four, the issue after the storyline of the very first introduction of the Black Panther, it opens with them playing baseball. Hilarity Ensues, due to the fact that the Thing is the pitcher.
Bart Allen's adventures in Impulse are normal superheroic fare— bank robberies, time travel, speeding cars, megalomania— which makes it all the odder that Impulse #20 is just 22 pages of Bart playing baseball (and losing badly).
The first issue of New Men opened with the titular team relaxing with a game of basketball - the use of powers encouraged.
The inmates of Arkham Asylum have even played against Blackgate prisoners. It didn't go well.
Nearly an entire issue of Power Pack took place in or around Shea Stadium, dealing with a slightly-crazy former baseball player who was willing to blow up the stadium to prevent his seven-home-runs-in-seven-games record from being tied.
Calvin and Hobbes had an early arc featuring Calvin's ill-fated attempt at joining his school's baseball team. In other strips, he and Hobbes play baseball against each other, but those inevitably result in either a Big Ball of Violence between the two or the game turning into Calvinball. Or both.
Marvel's Laff-A-Lympics book had "Take Me Out To The Brawl Game," in which the Really Rottens used a remote-controlled baseball and kidnapped the Scoobies' star hitter, Captain Caveman.
An old issue of Captain America had the hero and Bucky take to the field as players in order to catch a murderer who was killing pitchers in order to rig games.
In the fourth The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novel, cricket suddenly becomes pivotal to the plot, and the story begins with a cricket game. Of course, it turns out that cricket is actually linked to an alien plot to kill everything everywhere.
If you consider each book in the P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith series to be an 'episode', then the first book Enter Smith is the cricket episode. It's the only book to focus on Mike's cricketing prowess, and has detailed descriptions of the matches.
Live Action TV
Deep Space Nine: "Take Me out to the Holosuite" is a light Breather Episode in the heart of the Dominion War arc. In it, Sisko ropes his crew into helping settle a score with his rival from Academy days: the obnoxious Captain Solok, and his all-Vulcan team, The Logicians. It's the usual Ragtag Bunch of Misfits baseball story, albeit one that includes Worf's idea of baseline chatter: "Death to the opposition!" Solok is baffled by The Niners' delight that they managed to score a single run.
In fact, it's surprising that DS9 didn't have a Baseball Episode sooner, because Sisko's obsession with baseball goes back to the pilot, where Sisko uses baseball to explain the concept of linear time to the wormhole aliens. The only real in-universe reasoning is that by the 24th century, baseball has almost died out and is only kept alive by enthusiasts like Sisko and on a few distant colony worlds, so it's not as mainstream as in other examples.
Happens in Power Rangers far too many times to list. any time one of the heroes or one of his/her young friends shows an interest in a sport, it's almost a given that it will inspire the Big Bad to come up with a Monster of the Week based on it. They even did it with soccer once.
The X-Files: In "The Unnatural", Mulder goes to talk an agent who started to investigate mysterious cases and basically founded the X-Files division at the FBI. However, he ends up talking to his brother who used to be a cop who warms up to Mulder when he finds out that he likes and knows a lot about baseball. He tells Mulder a story about a baseball-loving alien. Then Mulder and Scully have a cute date, playing baseball, Hands-On Approach style.
Wiseguy had "Player To Be Named Now" in which the mad Arms Dealer Mel Profitt decides to live out his childhood fantasy of becoming a baseball star, by buying an NBL team and forcing them to accept him as a player. He even forces the current owner's company into bankruptcy so he can buy at a cheaper price. The closest we see to an actual game though is Mel batting with the protagonist Vinnie pitching (Mel turns out to be a lousy batter compared to Vince). In the end the NBL rejects Mel based on his reputation, resulting in an aesop that Money, Power, And A Gang of Mooks Isn't Everything.
An episode of Galactica 1980 has a baseball game central to its plot.
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: "Traveling All-Stars". The whole town becomes obsessed with the game, and women have to fight for their right to play as well.
An episode of Dad's Army had the Home Guard playing a Cricket match against the ARP wardens (guest starring Fred Trueman!) The Home Guard win when Godfrey, of all people, hits a six.
Freaks and Geeks. In "The Diary", the geeks' plot centres around playing baseball in gym class.
Bones didn't have an actual baseball episode, but "The Rocker in the Rinse Cycle" features Arastoo Vaziri using baseball metaphors incessantly in anticipation of the baseball season starting. The other characters end up telling him to shut up.
They didn't play baseball, but the MythBusters did a whole episode on baseball myths.
Little House on the Prairie had an episode, "In the Big Inning", which has the residents of Plum Creek play a game against a team from Sleepy Eye. In typical Little House fashion, the opposing team is full of cheats and bad sports.
British example: Doctor Who had a cricket episode, in "Black Orchid".
Just Shoot Me!: Maya, who played softball in college, joins the Blush softball team after it's revealed that she has a hell of a pitching arm. She gets too competitive, however, just as she did in college, and the others try to get her to quit.
Man v. Food has Adam Richman touring three minor league parks showing the food they serve. One park's challenge involves Adam having to finish a giant burger in between the seventh-inning stretch and the game's final out, which meant that he didn't know how long he had to finish since each game's outcome varies. But he did managed to finish it off only because the final batter fouled off an 0-2 pitch.
Babylon 5 doesn't have a whole episode, but there are a few scenes where Sheridan and Garibaldi are discussing station issues while facing a pitching machine with a digital umpire.
Corner Gas has an episode with a slow-pitch softball game.
Grey's Anatomy invented an annual hospital-vs-press softball tradition just to have a softball episode. No one even pretends the doctors have the slightest chance of winning; the entire on-field action consists of acting out of thinly-veiled personal issues.
Leverage features this in "The Three Strikes Job" with Eliot becoming a catcher for part of the con so that they can steal the ballpark and the team.
Another episode had Eliot become a hockey player, trying to protect a punch-drunk enforcer who could die if he gets another concussion. And in yet another episode, he was an underground MMA fighter.
Australian show My Place has a cricket episode early on.
CSI NY: The episode "The Closer" had the victim was a baseball fan found dead, and the team investigates. The episode let Carmine Giovinazzo show off his real life pitching skills-both the actor and his character Danny Messer wanted to be pro baseball players but had careers cut short by injury.
The regular CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had an episode in season 12 with an intermural game between the CSIs and police department. Cue fangirl squees about the guys in uniform.
The detectives in Midsomer Murders join in a cricket match in "Secrets and Spies" (series 11).
"Dead Man's Eleven" is also centred around a cricket match.
Red Eye With Greg Gutfeld was challenged to a softball match by a strip club. Greg, Bill, Andy, Courtney Friel and Professor Marc Lamont Hill of Columbia University and the strippers divided up and faced off. As one might expect with Red Eye, the game was riddled with oddness and stupidity, from Bill's pathetic headfirst slide/stumble into home plate, Andy's observation that most of the strippers are from "Russia, which I think is somewhere in Africa", and Greg's "stripper injury" from a stripper tackling instead of tagging him.
Happy Endings has a kickball episode, "Kickball 2: The Kickening".
Studio 3 has yearly Australia Day 'Smackdown' specials featuring a comically dramatised game of sport. They have included the Cricket Smackdown (2011), the Tennis Smackdown (2012), and the Soccer Smackdown (2013).
Dance Academy had an episode where Tara and Christian rekindle their relationship by playing a game of beach cricket.
Murdoch Mysteries: Station House 4 prepares for a baseball match with another station house in a two-parter "Stroll on the Wild Side". They share a long-lasting rivalry, and Inspector Brackenreid is determined to win this year, and both he and the other inspector don't hesitate to act a bit dirty. Badass Bookworm Murdoch reads a book about it, and uses science to find out how to hit the ball. George Crabtree and other constables look dashing in their baseball shirts and caps.
Frasier: "The Unnatural", which has Frasier attempting to play on the KACL softball team at the behest of Freddy. We don't see the match itself but judging from Frasier's "training" by Martin, he didn't do too well.
The Cosby Show had a rare American instance of a cricket episode, when Cliff got into an argument with his West Indian friends about whether cricket or baseball was the better sport, which ended up with the three of them playing an impromptu cricket match in the living room.
"Balls 'n Bats" from Obsession Pinball is all about the Great American Pasttime, and even includes a jingoistic American flag on the playfield.
Adventures in Odyssey has featured episodes centered on baseball, usually with some kind of moral in mind.
Michael Jordan is well known for a short baseball career in between his threepeats.
The musical Let 'Em Eat Cake (sequel to Of Thee I Sing) had the Supreme Court, reconstituted as a baseball team after Wintergreen became dictator, playing against the League of Nations, with Throttlebottom as umpire. The United States loses, blames Throttlebottom for calling a foul ball fair, and sentences him to the guillotine.
Played with in Disgaea. In one chapter, a bunch of rogue Prinnies challenge Laharl and company to a baseball game out in Blair Forest, but Laharl and Etna have a different game plan on their minds (i.e. "kill 'em all"). This is made easy by the fact that prinnies explode when thrown, providing a quick match if you are underleveled.
Makai Kingdom, on the other hand, had a fight as a (association) football match. You're caught in the middle, while the enemies are split into two teams and can and will attack each other.
The Super Mario 'verse deals with baseball in Mario Superstar Baseball and Mario Super Sluggers.
Mega Man 10 invokes this with Strike Man's stage. Of course, Mega Man (or whoever you're playing as) doesn't deviate from what he usually does, and there are just general sports references, but baseball is the strongest theme (even the Robot Master himself looks like a baseball).
The Kunio-kun baseball game Downtown Nekketsu Baseball Monogatari.
On The Boondocks, Huey was forced to participate in a baseball— er... Kickball game... against China. To save the town? This episode was transparently a metaphor for current economics, and an homage to the Samurai Champloo episode.
In the South Park episode "The Losing Edge", the kids try to lose at baseball so they won't waste their whole summer playing it — a strategy that proves difficult, as every other team is trying to do the same. It's also one of the few episodes in which Kenny's face is shown.
One episode of The Real Ghostbusters saw two groups of Native American spirits (one good, the other evil) awaken to do battle, as they have done every thousand years. Since their burial ground had become a baseball stadium, they chose for their modern-day battle to take the form of a baseball game. The Ghostbusters' interest in the game is due to Winston getting drafted to the Good team, and therefore risking the loss of his soul if the Evil team wins. After the game is over, Winston reveals that it wasn't his soul at stake, but Peter's.
And then there's Futurama, which has its own blernsball episode, "A Leela of Her Own''. It starts with the more typical expression of this trope (a friendly game between friends and neighbors), but soon Leela becomes an actual Major Leaguer.
They then did a half-baseballbasketball episode in 'Time Keeps on Slipping', in which the Harlem Globetrotters (they're aliens) challenge Earth to a game "with absolutely no consequence of any kind."
In the King of the Hill episode "Take Me out of the Ball Game," Hank coaches the company softball team and has problems dealing with putting his wife in the team who is an ace pitcher.
Not to mention "You Gotta Believe (In Moderation)" which features Hank and the gang attempting to win against a Harlem Globetrotters-style team of clownish all-stars.
Another episode from season 13, "Bad News Bill" when Hank realizes that a little league coach's encouragement techniques were giving Bobby false hope and ulitmately humiliating him.
DuckTales: Stodgy butler Duckworth has to play substitute coach to Huey, Dewey and Louie's Little League team despite having no working knowledge of the game.
The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" featured Homer becoming a star player on the company softball team, and Mr. Burns hiring a team of Major League all-stars (Roger Clemens, Mike Scioscia, Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Darryl Strawberry) to play the final game to win a bet.
In a case of Hilarious in Hindsight a running gag in the episode has Burns getting mad at Mattingly for failing to cut his sideburns (even after he shaves off most of his hair). After getting cut from the team Don is heard saying "I still like him better than Steinbrenner." A few weeks after the episode was produced, but before it was aired, Mattingly would be suspended from the Yankees for failing to cut his long hair as per team owner George Steinbrenner's policy.
In another episode, Homer is the mascot for the Isotopes.
In yet another episode, Bart is a player on the Isotots and Lisa is the numbers-crunching manager.
As well as the infamous "The Boys Of Bummer", in which the Isotots enter the Little Leauge Championship, but Bart fumbles the ball and costs Springfield the game, making him the most hated person in town.
On that note, "Bart Star" casts Bart as a pee-wee football player, with Homer as his coach. Bart really sucks, especially compared to Nelson.
Gee, this comes up a lot, huh? In "Lisa on Ice", Lisa becomes the star goalie of a pee wee hockey team. Bart joins a rival team when he feels upstaged.
Fairly OddParents did it. Timmy wishes Chester was the best baseball player in the world (since he's very bad and unfortunately named McBadbat, so bad, in fact, his father has to hide his face in shame with a paper bag) to make their little league team, the Losers, stop losing against all the other teams... one of which consisted of toddlers.
Norm the Genie once came under Chester's possession and granted his wish to make Bucky an all-star ballplayer. Insanity ensued.
Later episodes reiterate the same plot: one has Timmy wish to be a basketball champ on Dimmsdale's Ball Hogs, while another brings back every element of the Baseball Episode, except this time, it's soccer, Timmy's the hapless team member, and Poof lends a hand.
Jimmy Neutron: Jimmy and the gang successfully cheated with science to make their Retroville team, consisting of him and his friends, to win so utterly and remarkably they appear to be the greatest baseball players ever known, and end up catching attention overseas to stake it out in the World Championship in Japan. Unfortunately, Jimmy's underhanded secret is revealed and the team gives into morality, feeling they should rely on their own skills... which are severely lacking. The big game takes place offscreen- mercifully- Japan completely thrashed Retroville.
Another episode took Arnold's reputable beaning skills Up to Eleven, where he unintentionally nailed every single teammate who stepped up to bat!!Hilarity Ensues as Arnold looks for a cure to end his hazardous hitting streak- much to the dismay of friends. While bunting!
While The Mighty Ducks played hockey in nearly every episode (they were a professional hockey team, after all), "Mad Quacks Beyond Hockeydome" had the the ducks kidnapped by an Evil Overlord from another galaxy and forced into a tournament of space hockey where the losing team gets disintegrated.
The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy had a baseball episode featuring Billy's team versus Mindy's. Mandy wanted in but Billy was sexist on that regards (and too stupid to notice the other team wasn't all-male either). Mandy then put on a Paper-Thin Disguise (namely covered her hair with a baseball cap). Billy never realized "Manfred" wasn't a real boy.
Johnny Bravo once tried to help his mother's little league team to win a game for an all-girls championship. The Opposing Sports Team, the "Bad Girls", were cheating and Johnny decided to disguise himself to enter his mother's team. When the Bad Girls' coach unmasked him, Little Suzy did the same to the Bad Girls and the umpire disqualified both teams.
The Mr. Bogus episode "Baseball Bogus" dealt with Tommy embarrassed at the aspect of his father, Mr.Anybody, playing in the Little League against his team. Fortunately, with a little help from Bogus, Mr. Anybody manages to score a few hits during the game.
Tex Avery did a short for MGM called "Batty Baseball."
The Flintstones had a few the tv specials "Little Big League" in which Fred and Barney competed against each other coaching Pebbles and Bam Bam's teams, and "Windup Wilma" in which Wilma becomes a baseball pitcher.
Rocko's Modern Life had one called "Spitballs", where Rocko and Heffer go to a baseball game in an effort to catch a foul ball.
From Warner Bros.: Porky's Baseball Broadcast, Boulevardier From The Bronx, Baseball Bugs and Gone Batty.
An episode of The Alvin Show had Alvin dividing his time between babysitting a neighbor's toddler and playing a baseball game. A Clyde Crashcup segment of the show had Clyde "inventing" the sport.
A "Wing Dings" segment of Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines had the Vulture Squadron playing baseball. Muttley tees off on a Zilly pitch and is rounding third base. Just as he slides into home, Dick Dastardly (as catcher) pulls home plate off the ground and tags Muttley out.
In the CatDog episode, "The Unnatural," CatDog competes in a baseball game. Cat is a terrible player, but Dog isn't. Cat eventually gets the idea to pretend he is Dog and vice-versa so he'll look like a better player. In the end, he takes off his mask and tries to hit the ball himself... but he fails. However, Cat realizes that he's good at other things and decides that he doesn't need to be a good baseball player after all.