After a few heavy episodes to start the final season, it was about time for a lighter one, and a game of baseball against some Vulcans seems like a good way to go. That said, while Rom is the most inept player on the field, actor Max Grodénchik actually was a talented athlete and considered becoming a professional baseball player before ultimately deciding to go into acting. As such, for this episode, the right-handed actor played as a leftie to hide how good he actually was the game his character sucked so badly at.
So, with this episode, I have to ask: why did it take so long to get the baseball-loving Ben Sisko out onto the diamond to actually play a game? I know Deep Space Nine has been playing with the idea that baseball is pretty much a forgotten sport by the 24th century, and as things for a Star Trek actor to be really into, it makes at least as much sense as Picard’s love for Shakespeare and Riker’s love of jazz. It just seems odd that the game itself is largely forgotten, but that just means the comedy of most of the characters’ learning how to play is all the more fun.
Likewise, there haven’t been too many Vulcans on the 90s-era Star Trek series. There’s a good reason for that: Vulcans got a lot of the spotlight in the original series, and there was a desire to focus on newer races like the Ferengi, the Betazeds and the Trill. The Klingons also come to mind as they were no longer treated as just the stock all-purpose bad guys that they used to be. But the Vulcans, aside from a guest appearance here and there before Tuvok boarded the starship Voyager, they didn’t pop up that often. Having an entire ship of them come to the station is something of a change of pace from the usual aliens that pop up on the station. Besides, while Spock was always written as a benevolent figure, there is a high probability that a lot of Vulcans might just be cocky dicks that like to prove their superiority to more emotionally-driven “lesser” species, and that is precisely how Captain Solok looks at Captain Sisko.
So, why did this guy show up at the station distinctly to challenge Sisko and his crew to a round of Sisko’s favorite game? Sure, Ben Sisko is up for it, and Jake also knows the game and isn’t even a bad pitcher. But the rest? Well, he gets Worf, Kira, Ezri, O’Brien, Bashir, and Nog without too much trouble. Rom had heard how much Ben and Jake bonded over the game, so he wants to play too and Leeta wants to make it a family affair. They then easily shame Quark into joining the team. And when O’Brien gets injured in a way that not even Bashir can fix overnight like he can everyone else, Ben can sweet-talk Kasidy into taking a spot on the team. All that’s left is to ask Odo to be the umpire as he is easily the most fair man on the station.
Poor Odo spends so much time working on his theatrics only for the players to decide to play without the holographic crowd. He looked so disappointed.
Small problem: Vulcans are all stronger and faster than most of the crew save Worf and apparently the genetically enhanced Bashir. They also seem to have practiced more. Sure, Ben and Jake know the game, but the others? Not so much. Rom in particular is so inept that Ben bounces him from the team. The others threaten to quit, but Rom understands because that’s his whole life after all, and he’ll just sit in the stands and watch the game wistfully.
And it’s not much of a surprise that the Niners fall behind quickly and while they get a little better during the course of the game, they’re down 9-0 by the end of the game, to the point where Odo tosses Ben out of the game for touching the umpire.
Now, Ben Sisko is a really intense in a lot of ways, but he always got rather sentimental when the topic of baseball came up. Why is he so intense here?
Turns out he and Solok were classmates in the Academy. Solok and some Vulcans went to watch humans drinking to try to understand “lesser” species, Ben got mad and challenged him to a wrestling match, and Solok, both sober and a stronger and faster Vulcan, easily prevailed. Now, that would be one thing. The only problem is Solok has used this experience every time he presents a paper of some kind to show off Vulcan superiority. Ben just wants to wipe that smirk off his face just once, especially since Solok deliberately choose Ben’s favorite game to beat him again and once more show off Vulcan superiority.
Really, there’s no way for the Niners to win, even after Kasidy shares Ben’s real reason with the others.
But these are Vulcans. The best way to beat a Vulcan is to behave completely illogically. That means letting Rom back into the game and getting him to accidentally bunt in the Niners’ only run. Nog runs in, and the Niners celebrate. Did they win? Nope! Solok doesn’t get it, but Odo tosses him from the game too for likewise touching the umpire. And there’s a victory party, where Solok is confused about what the Niners are even celebrating for. But Ben knows why: he found his joy. Baseball is his passion. It’s an unpredictable game, and even a player as inept as Rom can score a run. Besides, the thing for Ben was never so much about victory as just proving that Solok can’t get to him anymore, and having the Vulcan experience utter confusion as the team celebrates a single run in a 9-1 game, one where their one hit came as a result of a player who didn’t even know how he got that run in, well…no wonder Ben can finally get over that wrestling match.
It seems the best way to best a Vulcan: pretend their superiority doesn’t matter. It works even better than outright beating them.
Weekend Trek “Ship In A Bottle”
Vikings: Valhalla “Pieces Of The Gods”
Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #52 (September, 1967)