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Game of Nerds

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"Played by the dexterous, but only understood by the poindexterous."

You might or might not have noticed this already, but Hollywood tends to lack subtlety. As such, your average nerd will often be depicted as someone who is completely cut off from the more mundane concerns of the average person. More specifically, he won't like sports. At all.

On Super Bowl Sunday, he'll curl up with St. Augustine's Confessions. During March Madness, he'll pass his time at Shakespeare in the Park performances. He sees college athletics as an abomination that completely ruins the academic system, while dismissing professional sport as little more than an especially crass modern-day version of Bread and Circuses. In short, he scoffs at "sportsball", as he may snarkily call it.

However... there's a better-than-even chance that he'll be willing to make an exception for one sport in particular: baseball.

Our nerd (or "seamhead", as he may proudly label himself) adores America's pastime. He can tell you who led the Federal League in on-base percentage in 1915 (Benny Kauff). He can instantly quote Bob Gibson's 1968 ERA (1.12). He can recall, from memory, the entire starting lineup of the 1995 Atlanta Braves team that won the World Series.lineup  He will also be prone to having a massive baseball card collection and surrounding himself with books on the game.

If the writers are especially unsubtle, the nerd will be primarily obsessed with baseball's statistics and have no real passion for the game itself, a disconnect which might be lampshaded with a Gretzky Has the Ball type comment. A more committed nerd, however, will frequently have a game on his radio or television and can speak eloquently and at length to his friends about the sport's aesthetic beauty, its historical minutiae, and the intricacies of its gameplay.

Basically, geniuses love baseball. This is Truth in Television. Just ask baseball fans.

The nature of the game lends itself to easily analyzable statistics (a baseball game being basically a series of discrete, independent events, as opposed to the inter-connected ebb and flow of many other sports), while advances in computing power have made those stats even easier to break down and the rise of the Internet has made them easy to acquire, often at no cost. Even prior to the emergence of sabermetrics — the empirical analysis of baseball statistics — the sport was popular among poets, novelists, and other literary and intellectual types due to its leisurely pace, rich history, and pastoral, agrarian mythos.

If the writer himself isn't that much into baseball, this will be guaranteed to result in a case of Artistic License Sports.

In England, Australia, and many other former British colonies, cricket performs the same function.note  Uncoincidentally, a major part of the original inspiration for the rules of baseball was cricket.

A subtrope of Pastimes Prove Personality. No relation to the Internet trivia game of the same name. Or to nerds playing board games.


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    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Universe, Reed Richards has mused on how the Baseball team that is better statistically (even within one game) doesn't always win.
  • Similarly, Spider-Man, the classic superhero nerd, is a Mets fan. Besides that he's from the Mets' home borough of Queens, there is no way that Spider-Man, champion of the underdog, the struggling survivor, the ne plus ultra of perseverance, would ever root for the Yankees.
  • Kitty Pryde of the X-Men, in addition to being an engineering and computer genius, has characterized her never-give-up attitude several times by saying "I'm a Cubs fan!" (she was born and raised in Deerfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago).

    Comic Strips 
  • Jason of FoxTrot tries to relate to his father and brother by getting into sports. Being a complete nerd, he does this by memorizing pages and pages of baseball stats and history starting from its inception. His father and brother, who enjoy baseball the normal way (watching games), aren't interested.
  • In Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Phoebe is surprised Max is into baseball because "baseball is a sport", but he explains it's "as full of stats and numbers as a good RPG". Since Phoebe got into baseball to rebel against her nerdiness, she's a bit put out by this.

    Fan Works 
  • The Next Frontier: Chief Engineer Scott Kerbley is a huge fan of shepherdball, "a Kerbal team sport that, for reasons probably involving hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings with far too much time on their hands, bears an uncanny resemblance to the game of cricket."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the third Honey, I Shrunk the Kids film, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, Adam finally convinces Wayne to let him go to Baseball camp instead of Science camp, where Wayne discovers he enjoys the statistics of the game.
    Wayne: I had no idea baseball had that much math in it, or that my son would be such a good catcher.
    Adam: Yeah. I bet you were the only dad there that could figure out the whole team's batting average instantly in his head.
  • In the film Moneyball, based on a popular true-story baseball book, Oakland general manager Billy Beane relies on a method devised by baseball nerd Peter Brandt to make a winning team using statistics.
  • In A Few Good Men, Lt. Kaffee is shown watching baseball on TV in two different scenes.
  • Catalina Caper has dorky, bespectacled henchman Larry constantly going on about baseball.
  • In City Slickers, baseball is a big deal for the main characters. It's shown as a major difference between men and women, and a bonding theme for the guys:
    Bonnie: I like baseball. I just never understood how you guys can spend so much time discussing it... Ive been to games, but I dont memorize who played third base for Pittsburgh in 1960...
    Mitch, Ed and Phil, simultaneously: Don Hoak.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Steve Rogers/Captain America is shown to be a fan in a few of the films. Captain America: The First Avenger reveals he used to attend Brooklyn Dodgers games (and he can date a particular baseball game he went to after only hearing a few snippets of the play-by-play on the radio) and Avengers: Age of Ultron has him make a reference to the 1927 New York Yankees.
    • A Freeze-Frame Bonus of the posters and pennants in Peter Parker's bedroom in Spider-Man: Homecoming confirms he's a New York Mets fan like his comic counterpart.
    • In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hank Pym briefly dons a San Francisco Giants cap when he's trying to avoid being recognized in public.


  • Bobby Thomson's pennant-winning home run ball from the 1951 Giants/Dodgers playoff series (when both teams were based in New York) serves as a MacGuffin in Don DeLillo's novel Underworld. DeLillo also wrote an early novel about football, End Zone.
  • The Martian: One of Mark's early log entries states, simply, "I wonder how the Cubs are doing." Much later on, after he's established communications with NASA, he gets to find out. It's not good news.
  • The main character of the short story Baseball Memories is a master of baseball statistics, which he often uses to win trivia contests at bars. When he finally loses one night, he redoubles his efforts to be the worlds' greatest...and floods his mind with so much baseball information he ends up erasing all his other memories AND destroying his short-term memory capabilities; baseball stats are the only information his mind will hold now. And we mean ALL it will hold; when he eats breakfast in this state, every bite is like the first because he forgets the taste as soon as he swallows.

    Live-Action Television 
  • CSI: In one episode, Grissom tells Sara he's a baseball fan. When Sara says, "That makes sense — all those stats," Grissom is quick to disavow the notion that he's just a stats geek, explaining that it's a "beautiful game." William Petersen puts a lot of himself into the role of Gil Grissom, including his own love of baseball He is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, and has sung the 7th inning stretch on at least a couple of occasions, and has thrown out the first pitch at least once. Grissom's love of baseball is referenced when Sara returns in season ten and uses a baseball metaphor, to Catherine's surprise. Sara had apparently picked up some of Grissom's habits after they got married.
  • NUMB3RS:
    • Dr. Larry Fleinhardt is a Dodgers fan. Furthermore, an entire episode deals with sabermetrics.
    • Don was also an accomplished player, although not quite good enough for the pros, before joining the FBI. Charlie also played Little League at one point but wasn't quite as good as his brother.
  • Step by Step has an episode where Mark has his stepsiblings try to corner him with impossible questions about baseball, where he is an expert. Eventually, they get him on "why do they call it an inning?" A later episode has him outright join Al's baseball team and (eventually) prove himself just as good a player as a straigist. Subverted in later seasons where Mark also gains interest in other sports (specifically, karate and basketball).
  • Saturday Night Live parodied George Will (see Real Life below) and his baseball nerddom by having him host a baseball trivia game show where all the questions were floridly pretentious ("The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. For $50, identify the effect of that symmetry.") Celebrity contestants Tommy Lasorda and Mike Schmidt were completely baffled.
  • The X-Files: Fox Mulder is a huge baseball fan. The season 6 episode "The Unnatural" revolves around this, where he tracks down an alien hybrid whose picture he found while perusing old baseball statistics. He reveals that he and his sister used to play baseball when they were children. Chris Carter, incidentally, is a Real Life trope example, to the point that he named the character of Dana Scully after long-time Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, an astrophysicist was a huge fan of baseball, partly because of the statistics—with the way it works, he notes, you can run an entire game in your head.
  • It actually ties into the overarching plot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When the "Prophets" in the wormhole dove inside Ben Sisko's head to try and understand this new life-form, they found two things: his grief over his wife, and baseball. Sisko then used baseball as a way to put corporeal life and linear time in layman's terms; from then on, the Prophets referred to Sisko's life as "the Game." Sisko also had a baseball for his Iconic Item, mentioned taking each member of his senior staff to a holodeck game at least once, fell in love with the 24th Century's other baseball nerd, Kasidy Yates, and eventually had a full-on Baseball Episode where he took on an Academy rival with his senior staff. The opposing team was naturally made up of Vulcans, who are apparently fascinated with the sport.
  • Jason Gideon of Criminal Minds skips a Super Bowl party for a private viewing at the Smithsonian, but is (or was) so dedicated to Nellie Fox that an UnSub once sent him his rookie card as a clue. (Long, long story.)
  • In Kagaku Sentai Dynaman, all the (Texas?) rangers are scientists of some sort. Their costumes are designed to resemble baseball uniforms, though according to background on the series, this is because the show was originally much more sports-themed in the planning stages.
  • Taken: In both "High Hopes" and "Charlie and Lisa", the quiet, bookish Jacob Clarke plays baseball. In the latter, he says that he enjoys it because he can never make assumptions (which is probably important to a psychic). His daughter Lisa assumed that it was because it's impossibly hard and had a lot of useless statistics that he could memorize. Jacob admits that this is part of the reason that he likes it.
  • Inverted on Eureka, where non-nerd Jack Carter is the baseball nut, and his attempt to start a town baseball team is not initially popular. They wind up starting a VR Baseball league instead, apparently just to make the game sufficiently nerdy for the Eurekans.
  • Joan Watson of Elementary is a baseball fan. Sherlock isn't as crazy about it, but enjoys the "statistical analysis" - so when Joan refuses to leave for dinner early at the bottom of the ninth, he does a Sherlock Scan of how it's going to end and waits downstairs. To her annoyance, he's right.
  • One episode of Castle dealt with the murder of a baseball player. Though Beckett (and her father) are baseball fans, their knowledge isn't really required to solve the case, though Beckett does get to meet Joe Torre (someone who Castle, though not a baseball fan himself, has socialized with before).
  • A child prodigy in Law & Order: Criminal Intent was passionate for baseball, keeping track of all the stats and watching games whenever his dad wasn't around. Inverted when it's revealed the child is bright, but no genius, and simply wants to play softball. His genius father thinks it's a waste of time.
  • Averted in Who's the Boss?: Jonathan, the geek, has no clue about baseball (his stint as a ballboy with the Mets lasted one game, after he cost the Mets a game by picking up a fair ball), while Tony, the meathead, is passionate about the game; his backstory, of course, was that he played Major League Baseball for a time.
  • Nerdy Ben Wyatt in Parks and Recreation mentions that he played shortstop for his high school baseball team in one episode.
  • Better Call Saul: The nerdy chemist who hires Mike as a bodyguard is obsessed with his vintage baseball card collection.
  • Played with in the Murdoch Mysteries two-parter "Stroll on the Wild Side", the series' Baseball Episode. Although not a big fan, he uses his usual scientific approach to crime-solving to help his station house's team. Using a book on the game and the the still frames of a film of the opposing team's pitcher throwing a spitball, he coaches his fellow players on how to hit it.

  • Jonathan Coulton did a song about Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was America's first baseball commissioner (and, according to Coulton, a Memetic Badass).
  • Terry Cashman did several baseball-themed songs in the '80s, including "Talkin' Baseball (Willie, Mickey, and the Duke)"note  and "Play-by-Play (I Saw It on the Radio)".
  • One tune by former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman and social justice crusader John Fogerty hits radio stations and ballpark sound systems every baseball season: "Centerfield". In addition to being an upbeat salute to the game, it boasts a few bits of trivia it takes a fan to know.
    I spent some time in the Mudville nine, watchin' it from the bench
    You know I took some lumps when the mighty Casey struck out
    So Say Hey Willie, tell Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio
    Don't say it ain't so, you know your time is now

    Professional Wrestling 
  • JWA splinters All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan have continued the tradition of recruiting new wrestlers from other sports, particularly baseball due to the success of Giant Baba. The Great Muta and Funky weapon Ryusuke Taguchi are other celebrated acquisitions. Kazuchika Okada was found by Toryumon but ranks among them nonetheless.
  • Canadian wrestler Michelle Star is a huge baseball nerd, as if being a Gorgeous George wasn't enough.
  • Tigers Mask and Black Tigers from Osaka Pro, in addition to being pastiches of Tiger Mask, also have the gimmick of being fan boys for the Hanshin Tigers baseball team.

  • Stan the Statistician from The Coodabeen Champions is a cricket fan example.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the New World of Darkness, Chicago has a cabal of mages based out of US Cellular Field called the Game of Geometric Perfection, who believe the game has magical properties.
  • According to the skill description for baseball in After the Bomb, The Game is not only still being played but it's also practically a religion.

    Video Games 
  • Dmitri in Backyard Sports is the embodiment of this trope. He seems to know a lot about soccer as well as baseball, but not much about football, hockey, or basketball, and especially not about skateboarding.
  • David Sarif, CEO of Sarif Industries in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a baseball fan, often playing around with a ball while chatting with others. The TV in his office is always tuned into a game. Although no comment is made on his opinions of other sports.
  • One of Allied soldier in a cutscene from Company of Heroes made small a mention of his "walking baseball encyclopedia" brother back home.
  • Confront Moe Cronin in Fallout 4 on his warped understanding of the rules of pre-war baseball and Curie, the (at least originally) robotic and ever-studious medical scientist in your company, can comment on all the varied statistics of the game.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • The show had an entire episode, "MoneyBART", revolving around Lisa falling in love with baseball because of its statistical bend (she runs Bart's little league team on sabermetric principles). During the episode it is also shown that Professor Frink is a fan, him saying that the game is "Played by the dexterous, but only understood by the poindexterous." The writer, statistician and (essentially) founder of sabermetrics, Bill James, gets a cameo on this episode, where he says, "I made baseball as much fun as doing your taxes!"
    • In another episode, when the kids at Springfield Elementary are signing up for gym classes, the nerdy Milhouse goes out for baseball.
    • Many episodes, particularly "The Dad-Feelings Limited", mention that Comic Book Guy is a big fan of baseball.
  • The Magic School Bus: Baseball is the sport of choice of Dorothy Ann, the resident bookworm. She's dismissive of surfing and is the only girl in the class who doesn't play soccer. With baseball, however, she appreciates how much the laws of physics come into play, and she's quite the slugger when she wants to be.
  • In the Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! episode Grand Scam, Velma is initially dismissive towards baseball until she passionately discovers that the game lends itself to statistical analysis.

    Real Life 
  • Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Hawking and Stephen King were (and still are, in King's case) big baseball fans. King in particular has co-authorednote  a nonfiction book (Faithful) all about Boston Red Sox fandom, wrote a short story (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon) inspired by the Sox's ace reliever at the time, and later a novella, Blockade Billy, about the eponymous catcher during his brief stint playing for the equally fictional New Jersey Titans. He's also slipped baseball references into many of his other stories and novels.
    • Gould once dedicated a large chunk of a book to explaining statistics with reference to .400 hitting in baseball.
    • Partly averted in the case of the late Carl Sagan, who expressed an appreciation for sports in general in several of his books but was partial to both playing and watching basketball in particular.
  • Keith Olbermann, the liberal nerd formerly of Countdown With Keith Olbermann and Current TV, is a huge baseball fan who has been a member of the Society of American Baseball Research for years, which shouldn't be at all surprising, since he is also formerly a main anchor on ESPN's SportsCenter. There's also the Olbermann Family Curse: getting hit with things at baseball games. (His mother was hit by a ball, and his nephew was hit by a flying bat.)
    • On his now-canceled, eponymous ESPN2 series, he was fond of sharing anecdotes from baseball's distant past. For example, he once told the story of Merkle's Boner, a famous (among baseball people) fielding miscue that decided the 1908 National League pennant race. While passionately relating his tale, Olbermann was holding the actual baseball with which Merkle was tagged out. Presumably he owns the ball.
    • Olbermann's former MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow is also a huge baseball fan, and the two have a friendly rivalry (he is a Yankees fan and she a fan of the Red Sox).
  • Bespectacled, bow-tied conservative commentator George Will is a huge baseball nut and has frequently written about the game, including the books Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball and Bunts. A lifelong Cubs fan, Will also owns a minority share of the Baltimore Orioles, and has served on a couple of "blue ribbon" panels commissioned by MLB.
    • When he married his wife, he gave her a ring with the logo of Major League Baseball. So, yeah. Pretty dedicated.
    • His fellow conservative and Fox News Channel contributor Charles Krauthammer was a colossal Washington Nationals fan. He wrote about it columns, mentioning that Nationals Park was seven minutes from Fox's Washington studios, allowing him to get there just in time to see the Nationals bat in the bottom of the first.
  • It should come as no surprise that Bob Costas, arguably the nerdiest of America's big-time network sportscasters, is a baseball guy through and through. Since leaving NBC he's kept his hand in by calling games for MLB Network.
    • Costas vividly displays this in Ken Burns' Baseball documentary, with an anecdote about an Englishman and an American having an argument, followed by a loving description of the ways Babe Ruth embodies and defines the American spirit. See it here.
  • Nate Silver, of, was one of the most insightful analysts of the 2008 election, using an insanely complicated statistical model that successfully called 49 out of 50 states, mostly within a few percentage points. (The one state he missed, Indiana, was incredibly close for McCain in his model and incredibly close for Obama in real life.) What do Nate and his statistical models do in the political off-season? Baseball, of course.
    • Heck, when you consider it, his baseball models are doing politics: he started off doing baseball stuff, and then moved to political analysis when he realized that he had a talent and taste for it.
    • In fact, his statistical model for predicting performance by players and teams in MLB (called PECOTA), which he developed for the annual book (and associated website) Baseball Prospectus, is the most accurate in the business.
  • Former U.S. President Barack Obama (whose nerd bona fides can be found on his page) is a huge Chicago White Sox fan, going so far as to wear his favorite hat of theirs every time he throws out the first pitch at a baseball game.
    • Hillary Clinton is another nerdy politico who identifies as a baseball fan, having rooted for the Cubs (while growing up in suburban Chicago) and Yankees (since becoming a U.S. Senator from New York).
    • Obama's predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush, has gone on record saying that the entire reason he became a part-owner of the Texas Rangers is because he was (and is) a huge fan of the team. Then there's his famously "wimpy" father, who was not only a baseball fan but played first base for Yale. For a long time Bush's greatest career ambition was to be MLB commissioner. Saturday Night Live once ran an alternate universe sketch in which Al Gore won the 2000 election, and Bush went on to become commissioner. Gore gave an Oval Office speech to the nation in which he said that Commissioner Bush was so committed to getting to the bottom of MLB's steroid controversy that he would "tap every phone in America if he has to."
      • The younger Bush was the first Little League player to grow up to become President. It was Dubya's ambition to eventually become the Major League Baseball Commissioner (which may still be on the table at some point in the future).
  • Bryan Cranston is an avid collector of baseball memorabilia and a noted fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • British historian Sir Simon Schama partially averts this. He's a longtime supporter of Tottenham Hotspur FC, but when he lived in the United States, grew to have a great affection for baseball, particularly the Boston Red Sox.
  • Jon Stewart, formerly of The Daily Show, is—slightly unusually for a New York celebrity—a Mets fan. He will occasionally make jokes about how they aren't really good.
  • Mark Twain was a huge baseball fan.
  • Geddy Lee, lead singer of Rush, one of the favorite bands of nerds, is a big baseball fan. His team is naturally the Toronto Blue Jays, though he also follows the Chicago Cubs as they were the team that introduced him to the sport. He's also an avid collector of rare and signed baseballs, including a collection of over 200 Negro League balls that he donated to the Negro League Museum.
    • He has at least one entire room in his home dedicated to nothing but baseball memorabilia, as seen in the 2010 documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage. It's actually very impressive.
  • Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as a whole are surprisingly into baseball, making it a regional example of this trope meets Asian and Nerdy. There's a reason so many manga and anime series feature Baseball Episodes, even those that are not Gaming and Sports Anime & Manga.
  • Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie is something of a baseball fanatic, to the point where he apparently loses followers on Twitter every time the season rolls around due to talking about it so much.
  • Guess which sport Ken Burns, idol of history nerds everywhere, chose to devote one of his multi-episode PBS documentary series to? You got it.
  • Kevin Smith averts this trope, being instead a huge fan of the National Hockey League, holding particular affection for the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers. This is completely consistent with his status as an Honourary Canadian.
    • Paul Giamatti is also an aversion (having stated that he isn't into sports in general), and an ironic one, as he is the son of the late MLB commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti.
    • Likewise averted by George R. R. Martin, who blogs extensively about his favorite NFL teams (the Jets and the Giants).
    • As well as David Foster Wallace, whose love of tennis was well-documented.
  • Journalists are another group that tends to have a lot of baseball fans, and not just the sportswriters.
  • The popular baseball stats site Baseball Reference was founded by a computer science professor.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who became a familiar face on TV during the COVID-19 pandemic, admitted that he missed baseball during the lockdown. Being from Brooklyn, he's naturally a Yankees fan, though he also supports the Washington Nationals. He was chosen to throw out the first pitch at the latter's belated 2020 season opener.
  • Ernest Moniz is the former U.S. Secretary of Energy and a nuclear physicist who looks like one. He's a supporter of the Red Sox, and threw out a first pitch in 2014.
  • Drew Carey plays with this trope in a number of ways. Carey complements his nerdy image with his love for sports in general, particularly teams from his native Cleveland. He is naturally a supporter of not only the Cleveland Guardians of MLB,note  but also the Cleveland Browns of the NFL, Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA, and Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL, as well as the United States national soccer team. (And speaking of soccer, he also happens to be part-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC.)
  • Vincent Price was another baseball fan (and his nerd credentials, beyond appearing in classic horror, science fiction and fantasy films, can be found on the One of Us page), though wasn't completely uninterested in other sports (especially teams from his hometown of St Louis). He even handed out hot dogs at a few games (Vincent Price—author of multiple cookbooks, who frequently ate at gourmet restaurants around the world—loved ballpark hot dogs nearly as much as he loved the sport, if not more so).


Video Example(s):


Wayne Szalinski on Baseball

Nerdy scientist Wayne Szalinski discovers he enjoys the mathematical and statistical side of baseball after his son Max attends baseball camp.

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5 (1 votes)

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Main / GameOfNerds

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