With the news of Jake Arrieta's first loss after 20 consecutive wins last night, I was reminded of one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, The Mighty Casey, which originally aired in 1960. Similarities? You be the judge. Submitted for your approval:
The camera pans across a deserted, weed-covered baseball field . . .
"What you're looking at is a ghost, once alive but now deceased. Once upon a time, it was a baseball stadium that housed a major league ball club known as the Hoboken Zephyrs. Now it houses nothing but memories and a wind that stirs in the high grass of what was once an outfield, a wind that sometimes bears a faint, ghostly resemblance to the roar of a crowd that once sat here. We're back in time now, when the Hoboken Zephyrs were still a part of the National League, and this mausoleum of memories was an honest-to-Pete stadium."
"Mouth" McGarry, played by Jack Warden, is the long-suffering, broken-down manager of the Hoboken Zephyrs, a ball club that hasn't won the pennant in decades and is threatened with extinction. The hopes of McGarry and the Zephyrs are suddenly lifted when Casey, a mysterious pitcher, shows up for a tryout. Casey possesses both a peculiar lack of emotion and an unhittable fastball. Casey is accompanied by his personal trainer, Dr. Stillman, who we later learn, built Casey in a lab as a very life-like robot.
Casey's fastball indeed proves unhittable as he plows through the league, becomes a sensation, and lifts the team into the pennant race.
Just when "Mouth" has the long-desired pennant in his sights, tragedy strikes. Casey is beaned and an exam by a doctor reveals that he is a robot. After other teams complain, the National League president quickly declares that no one can play baseball who is not human.
Undaunted, Dr. Stillman returns to the lab and installs a real heart into Casey's chest, thereby making him human.
Alas, while the heart allows Casey to conform to the rules, it also brings an unintended complication: it gives Casey a conscience. He soon refuses to throw his heater anymore--worried that by striking out his opponents, he is hurting their feelings and careers--and instead serves up a diet of gopher balls that would make the Cincinnati Reds bullpen proud.
Without Casey, the Zephyrs return to their customary place in the cellar and the franchise is doomed. In the end, the disheartened Dr. Stillman gives McGarry the blueprints that he used for Casey and retires from the baseball business. McGarry, however, is anything but sad--he wonders what it would be like to have an entire team of Caseys . . .
"Once upon a time, there was a major league baseball team called the Hoboken Zephyrs, who, during the last year of their existence, wound up in last place and shortly thererafter wound up in oblivion. There's a rumor, unsubstantiated, of course, that a manager named McGarry took them to the West Coast and wound up with several pennants and a couple of world championships. This team had a pitching staff that made history. Of course, none of them smiled very much, but it happens to be a fact that they pitched like nothing human. And if you're interested as to where these gentlemen came from, you might check under 'B' for Baseball - in The Twilight Zone."
While many people thought this episode was fiction it was, in fact, completely based on reality. And the team on the west coast was of course the Dodgers of Sandy Koufax. But nothing like it had occurred in major league baseball for five decades. Until last year when a previously-unknown pitcher showed up in Chicago, pitching like nothing human.
Unfortunately for Cubs fans, it appears that their Casey, Jake Arrieta, has suddenly developed a heart. He lost his first game after 20 consecutive wins.
Cubs fans can only hope that he returns to his bloodless ways and leads them to the promised land.