By Zach Bergson
Warp speed, campy plots, Klingons and your dad are usually the first things that come to mind when you think of Star Trek. To the casual viewer, Gene Roddenberry's creation and its subsequent spinoffs appear to have little connection to 20th and 21st century pop culture.
But for people like me who've watched almost all of the series in their entirety, the connections between the fictional 24th century and present day are not fleeting -- in fact, the Star Trek Universe intertwines the two in intimate detail. Look no further than Lieutenant Tom Paris' passion for old westerns and the Deep Space Nine crew's love for a mid-20th century Las Vegas club as evidence.
This brings me to baseball. America's favorite pastime, believe it or not, pops up in Roddenberry's world in almost every series, sometimes regularly. The game even has its own historical timeline, filled with fictional teams, players and World Series.
Here's a rough timeline of Star Trek baseball: In the early 21st century, the Planetary Baseball League was created, which included teams like the London Kings. It's unclear if North American teams competed with clubs from across the oceans on a regular basis, or if they only met in the World Series. In the 2040s, however, baseball and most other professional sports were abandoned due to an escalating world war, which involved thermonuclear weapons, the breakdown of nation-states and the death of more than 600 million people. When human civilization regained its footing decades later (and eliminated poverty, money, disease, etc.) professional baseball did not reemerge.
But the sport and even its practice lived on in the Star Trek universe, through the enthusiasm of characters like Captain Benjamin Sisko and even a new league with six teams on Cestus III. Deep Space Nine, which takes place on a space station near the planet Bajor, is undoubtedly the driving force for baseball lore in Star Trek. Emissary, DS9's first episode, includes Sisko teaching a group of wormhole aliens the concept of time by instructing them in the ways of baseball. This example works, thanks in part to a group of 1920s Chicago Cubs players materializing to demonstrate the game's linear cause and effect.
Beyond this, the captain spends hours in a holosuite-created baseball diamond practicing with his son, Jake, meets his second wife thanks to a mutual love for the sport and even has a ball sitting on his desk throughout the entire series.
In total, there are more than 30 significant references to baseball in The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. Below, I catalogue the players mentioned in Star Trek and review some of the most baseball-centric episodes.
Ralph Branca, Al Dark, Bobby Thomson and Whitey Lockman (TNG, Evolution): Doctor Paul Stubbs, an astrophysicist and baseball enthusiast aboard the Enterprise-D to study a neutron star, recalls New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson's home run off of Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca in the National League tie breaker in 1951, commonly referred to as the "Shot Heard 'Round The World."
"Lockman on first, Dark on second, Thomson at the plate, Branca on the mound," Stubbs says.
It should be noted that, according to Baseball-Reference.com, Dark had already been batted in by Lockman when Thomson was at the plate. Maybe Stubbs' memory wasn't that great after all -- he insisted on recreating 20th century games in his head rather than watching them in the holosuite. The astrophysicist also dabbled in baseball statistics, according to Memory Alpha.
Joe DiMaggio (TNG, The Big Goodbye and DS9, If Wishes Were Horses): In "The Big Goodbye" Joltin' Joe shows up in a paper that Captain Jean-Luc Picard is reading in a 1940s holosuite program. The headline reads: "DiMaggio's streak reaches 37." The Clipper is mentioned in this Deep Space Nine episode, because it involves the London Kings' Buck Bokai (see below) who broke DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting record.
Roger Maris (TNG, The Most Toys): Commander Data is taken captive by Kivas Fojo, a collector of rare items. While observing Fojo's stolen treasures, Data notices a bubble-gum scented Roger Maris baseball card, along with the Mona Lisa and The Persistence of Memory.
Willie Mays (DS9, In The Cards): Jake and Nog hatch an elaborate scheme to acquire a rookie edition Mays baseball card for the Captain, which is being sold at an auction on the station.
Ted Williams, Tris Speaker (DS9, If Wishes Were Horses): In this episode, Quark reveals Sisko's baseball holosuite program includes The Kid and The Grey Eagle.
Buck Bokai (Numerous DS9 episodes): This fictional player started his Major League career in 2015 with the London Kings. Beloved by Sisko, 'Buck' broke DiMaggio's consecutive game hitting record in 2026. Bokai also hit the winning home run for the Kings in the final World Series in 2042 against the Yankees.
Eddie Newsom (DS9, If Wishes Were Horses): Bokai broke DiMaggio's record when his groundball slipped under Newsom's glove.
In Season 7, Starfleet and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant is caught up in a war with an evil Facist-like empire from the Gamma Quadrant, and Sisko and his crew are battle-weary. But this doesn't stop them from competing in an epic baseball game in the holosuite, when Sisko's Starfleet nemesis, Solok, challenges him and his crew. The captain accepts and gathers a team together (dubbed The Niners), which is comprised of only a few other people who've played the sport before. He then, rather futilely, tries to prepare them for a game against Solok and his Vulcan-only crew (who call themselves The Logicians) in less than two weeks. The Logicians had been practicing for months before they arrived on the station.
The Vulcans (with their superior strength and speed) clobbered the Niners 10-1, but Sisko's team is overjoyed to score a single run, thanks to Rom's unintentional bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning. My favorite moment from this episode is when Dr. Julian Bashir and Chief Miles O'Brien figure out what chewing gum is and decide to infuse it with scotch.
Voyager, One Small Step: This episode opens in 2032 with the Ares IV, one of the first human missions to Mars. The pilot of the craft, John Kelly, is bantering with his crewmates -- who are on the surface of the Red Planet -- about the 2032 World Series between the Yankees and the London Kings. Suddenly, Ares IV is enveloped by a mysterious glowing orange ellipse and Kelly loses contact with his crew. (Shortly before his death later in the episode, he laments about not being able to learn who won the championship.)
Flash forward to the starship Voyager in the year 2376. Helmed by Captain Kathryn Janeway, the Starfleet vessel was transported tens of thousands of light years away from home to the Delta Quadrant by a mysterious being almost half a decade earlier. On their journey back to Earth, Janeway and her crew encounter the same ellipse that Kelly saw centuries earlier, and decide to investigate it once they realize Kelly's ship is inside.
Seven of Nine manages to board the Ares IV and recover Kelly's remains. Once they're aboard Voyager, the crew gives Kelly a proper burial, but not before Seven (having listened to his final transmission about the World Series and looked up its results) whispers to the casket: "The Yankees in six games."
DS9, Family Business: Jake sets his father up with freighter captain Kasidy Yates. At first, Sisko is skeptical of his son's fervent matchmaking attempts, but once he finds out Yates is a huge baseball fan, they immediately develop a rapport. The freighter captain's brother, it turns out, plays for the Pike City Pioneers, a baseball team on Cestus III, which Sisko learns has a six-team league that uses wood bats and doesn't have designated hitters. The captain -- while flexing his pitching arm -- asks Yates if her brother's team could use a right-hander. The two end up getting married in the final season.
If you want to find more Star Trek baseball references, I've compiled an episode list.
Zach Bergson is an editorial producer for SoE and a freelance journalist. His work has appeared in Capital New York, Digiday, The Hill and Gotham Gazette. Follow him @zbergson.