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Monday, August 21, 2006

3.02 --- Extra Innings

Directed by : Doug Jackson
Written by : Tom Palmer
Starring : Marc Singer, Tracy Cunningham, Amber Lea Weston
First aired : 1st of October, 1988.

Ed Hamler (Marc Singer, V, The Beastmaster) is a former Detroit Tigers player currently living in dire straits. Retired due to his crippling leg injury, Ed is torn between his love for baseball and the inner child in him, and his wife Cindy (Tracy Cunningham) which is trying to make him move on in life, and set him up with a computer sales job. Marc's most faithful friend is a 12-year old girl named Paula (Amber Lea Weston), who visits him regularily and is a baseball player herself. One day, she brings him a peculiar baseball card from 1909. - a fellow named Monty Hanks, who bears more than just a passing resemblence to Ed. Ed is intrigued, and after doing some research he finds out that Monty lasted only two years in the majors - he was killed by a pitch which hit him straight in his face - and, interestingly, had the same stats his rookie year just like Ed did - a discovery which his wife meets with usual dose of cynicism and scorn.

That night, while asleep, Ed is awaken by some sudden noise, and is amazed to see his Monty Hanks baseball card come to life. It forms a portal-like entrance, and Ed is transported to 1909., right into the midst of a Washington - Philadelphia series which decides the pennant winner. The first pitch he faces plunks him viciously to the face, but Ed/Monty gets up quick, and after discovering his leg is suddenly alright, moves on with the game. The next morning, he tells all of that to Paula, saying that he stole two bases, scored three runs and hit a homer. Paula finds all this difficult to believe, but when Ed shows her that the stats from the baseball card changed - another homer is now credited to Monty's totals - she's a believer. Two of them use the card to travel to 1909. again, and have a great time at the ballgame, Washington winning another one.

Ed's life is now drastically changed, although he, along with Paula, seems to be the only one to appreciate it. After missing a job interview in order to see Paula's little league game, Cindy brutally derides him for being immature and irresponsible, pulling a hell of a guilt trip on him and saddling him with a task of holding a motivational speech for the company where he's supposed to get employment. Ed reluctantly agrees, knowing that he has a more important assigment coming before that - a deciding game in the WAS-PHI series, with a trip to the World Series at stake.

However, the things don't work out all that perfect. Due to prolonged futility of both teams, the game goes to extra innings, and Ed is late for his appointment. He tries to bail out claiming his wife will leave him if he doesn't bolt right away, but the coach confronts him and tells him that the World Series should be his priority right now, and that he can't leave his teammates just like this. At that point, something breaks in Ed and he agrees to stay - a decision not appreciated by Cindy, who finds him gone with his tuxedo untouched back in the 80s, and starts burning his baseball cards from sheer depression.

She is caught doing this by Paula, who can't quite tell Cindy what is happening to Ed, but still manages to save the Monty Hanks card from going into the fireplace. As Cindy tells Paula that Ed is just a loser who wasted his life away on a childish game and that she can't do anything for him now, Paula comes to a great idea and tears the Monty card in half - leaving Ed forever in the "other" dimension. Just as she does that, Ed/Monty hits a walkoff homer, and Washington qualifies for the world series. Seconds after, Paula joins the two halves of a torn card and looks at its backside, stats filling up year after year, forming a succesful career...and the frontside changes too, now featuring Monty in a more self-assured pose, along with the title of a batting champ.

***

It's hard to dislike this episode. As a long-suffering Cubs fan, and someone who, just like Ed Hamler, is desperately in love with baseball, I thoroughly enjoyed those 22 minutes of Zone. This piece just pulls all the right strings and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, maybe not on the Field of Dreams level, but it's still remarkably decent.

Marc Singer plays his role just right - he is not awfully bright, giving away his "jockability", and still not dumb as rocks, which gives him credible depth. All the baseball lingo was carefully recreated, as well as the classic baseball scenes from the early 20th century, with staggering level of authenticity. Tracy Cunningham is rather vile as Ed's wife, and you really grow to hate her guts by the end - which is a good sign, as she was written in that mould. All in all, a real home run of an episode...if you'd excuse the cliché.

Ballgame trivia : just in case someone cares, the real 1909 World Series was won by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who vanquished the Tigers in a tense seven game series. This means that the Washington - Philadelphia series was complete work of fiction, considering Detroit qualified for the WS as the AL team.

Comments on "3.02 --- Extra Innings"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:38 PM) : 

There is much to like about this episode. However, the "staggering level of authenticity" to which the writer refers is seriously undermined in this TZ story by the historically inaccurate use of a lighted baseball diamond.

Night baseball in 1909? No way. The first Major League game played under the lights didn't occur until 1935. Anyone who had done even basic research into baseball history would have avoided such a silly mistake.

 

Blogger Mairosu said ... (6:17 PM) : 

Ah, humour the European. This is just a minor detail, innit ? :D

 

Blogger jared terry said ... (3:34 AM) : 

I'm afraid I have to dissent from the previous consensus of this episode.

For me this episode is indicative of season three generally. There is a cheap feel to much of the proceedings which falls into line with the budgetary cuts and falling audience of the series. But the main problem with this episode (and which can be applied to this season as a whole) is the mawkish sentimentality married to a broad humor. Gone is any attempt to disturb or even be vaguely spooky, magic and optimism replaces this. It is less the Twilight Zone and more the Sunrise Zone. In content and sentimentality it actually reminds me slightly of Spielberg's entry for the Twilight Zone Movie. I suppose there is a place for sentimentality in the Twilight Zone and dislike of this approach is at least partly subjective but season three was full of winsome light weight episodes such as this and for me (perhaps as I admittedly know nothing about baseball ...being in England) this represented the nadir of that approach. The whole episode just tries to be likable and ends up syrupy and sickly.

 

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