Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, an earth television series, premiered in 1993. It is set beginning in 2369 on a space station run by the United Federation of Planets. The space station is located near a wormhole, which invites a variety of trade, politics, and eventually war. The commanding officer of this particular space station is Benjamin Sisko. Ben, born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 2332, is the tragically widowed father of Jake Sisko (in short: Ben’s wife Jennifer was killed in the battle between the Borg and the Federation following the Borg’s assimilation of Captain Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in order to gain tactical information). And, in the great Trek tradition of humanizing its humans with one or two quirks that the viewer can relate to, Benjamin Sisko loves baseball.
I wish he’d look at me the way he looks at that baseball, knowwhatI’msayin?
On 24th century earth, baseball is largely forgotten, but kept alive by a handful of enthusiasts, of which our Ben is one. In the early DS9 episode “If Wishes Were Horses,” an alien impersonating Buck Bukai gives Sisko a baseball. That baseball becomes one of Ben’s prized possessions, taking on a symbolic importance throughout the show. It stays on Ben’s desk throughout his sometimes long disappearances during wartime, and disappears when he intends to leave forever. When he is around, it sits prominently at his desk (when he’s not tossing it in his hand while contemplating important decisions). Who is Buck Bukai, you ask? Ben Sisko’s favorite baseball player: Harmon Buck Gin Bukai, known as Buck or “Buckaroo.” Bukai’s rookie year in the Major Leagues was 2015. He played for the London Kings for four years before joining the Crenshaw Monarchs of the Planetary Baseball League (PBL). He also played for the Gotham City Bats and two other teams before rejoining the London Kings, this time of the PBL. Buckaroo was a fairly extraordinary player: a switch hitting shortstop who broke DiMaggio’s hit streak record in 2026 (with the Kings). Bokai’s career spanned over 25 years until he retired in 2042 after the Kings won one last World Series against the New York Yankees, the final game of which was attended by only 300 people. According to one Star Trek novel, this was the last World Series ever played on earth and Bokai hit the game winning run home run in the 11th inning of Game 7. I’m guessing he’d be your favorite player too, if you were Ben Sisko (and aren’t we all?).
The classic Star Trek attention to detail!
In episdoe 154 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, titled “Take Me Out to the Holosuite,” Vulcan Captain Solok challenges Ben to a good old fashioned Holosuite baseball game. For those totally uninitiated in the ST universe, a Holosuite/deck is essentially a place where a computer simulates whatever type of reality you ask it to. Examples of this on Next Generation include a Sherlock Holmes episode and the hilariously titled western adventure “A Fistful of Datas.” Holosodes (I just made that up) of Star Trek series often represent a break from the outside world and a fairly contemplative and philosophical take on memories and dreams. At least in TNG and DS9, these episodes are almost always referential to some time on earth much closer to our present than the show and that’s what makes them fun and also totally ridiculous. Despite the cheeky costumes always featured in holodeck episodes, they often examine deep issues such as “what makes something alive?” (when a hologram develops consciousness). But this particular holosode doesn’t try to cast a new light on religion or race, humanity or logic. It is, like the baseball game is for the crew of the space station, simply a break. I guess that’s just how baseball is for people unlike myself who don’t use it as a tool to examine every other aspect of the universe.
Solok thinks he can humiliate Captain Sisko and his crew by challenging them to a baseball game. His senior crew members — all Vulcan — consider themselves the best in the fleet. Sisko brings his own crew, explains that they’ve been challenged to a “contest,” and and bolsters their confidence (Worf: “we will destroy them.”) before laying it on them that it’s a baseball game and that it’s in two weeks. Naturally, none of the crew has ever played baseball with the exception of Ben and his son Jake. Of course, antics ensue!
Kira, reviewing the infield fly rule on her Kindle, reading aloud to Worf and Nog. Worf: “What if there is a runner at home?”. Cut to Doctor Bashir, explaining bunting to Colm Meany and the girl with dots on her face. What’s a “Grand Slam?” What’s a “Fancy Dan?” Wait, what is a Fancy Dan? The Doctor reads “a Fancy Dan is a play performed by a baseball player, with an extra flourish in order to impress the spectators.” I think we all know who has a new nickname!
Quark’s brother Rom wants to try out and Quark suggests that he’s not capable of “kicking a ball around a field.” Rom’s wife Leeta objects — although she doesn’t really understand baseball either, she does know that Quark could never play either: “Jake says it’s a game that takes heart and you sold yours a long time ago!” BOOM!
I’m sure another 3000 words could be written on why these are the two MLB hats they chose.
Tryouts are held. Ben introduces his son — Jake “The Slider” Sisko, apparently — as their pitcher, and announces that the other positions are open. He suggests that everyone at the trial has seen at least one game with him in the Holosuite, which leads me to question why the crew is still confused about whether you kick the ball, but whatever. Ben does say something smart here — “It’s a difficult game. It was a difficult game to play even for seasoned professionals who spent their lifetime practicing.” Truth! He talks about his opponent — “they’re stronger and faster than any one of us… except for Worf. And our genetically-enhanced doctor.” Genetically enhanced? You would think that a baseball fan as devoted as Ben Sisko on a show produced in the late 90s might have an issue with genetic enhancements on the field of play, but he doesn’t mention it again. He just goes on to say that baseball is about courage and faith and heart, while “The Slider” nods along like his dad is preaching a gospel he’s heard a thousand times before. He pairs off his players for catch and then the scene ends like this — the emphasis in their inflections noted with italics:
Jake: Dad, these are going to be two long, hard weeks.
Ben: Jake, I don’t care how long and hard these two weeks are.
Next up: Ben asks Odo, the shapeshifting dough face guy who’s kind of like a God or something, to umpire the game. In a discussion which is relevant to my interests, Odo suggests that the computer should umpire the game and Sisko hates the idea. “I don’t want a computer calling my baseball game! That’s something Solok would do! I want a real person behind the plate, not just some collection of photons and magnetic fields.” Facing facts, Sisko probably also hates WAR. He trusts Odo to be objective because that’s kind of Odo’s whole deal. Odo agrees and I can’t wait because everything Odo does is hilarious and weird.
Colm Meany tore his rotator cuff in tryouts, in addition to a litany of other injuries easily fixed with space age medical technology, but in a mean twist of fate, his ligaments need time to [insert nonesense spacey jargon here] so he’s out. He was to be the third baseman and something Ben calls the “anchor of the second half of my lineup,” whatever that means, so things are effectively ruined, but the always ingenious Captain makes him “batting, pitching, and first base coach.”
Ben needs a new third baseman so he pulls some strings and flies in his girlfriend, who is apparently an awesome baseball player? She’s all “how are we going to spend my time here?” sexy like and he’s all “I’ve got a few ideas” and she’s all “I bet you do!” ME-OW! and he’s all “how’s your throwing arm holding up?” What did I say about antics, y’all? They are happening, that’s what!
There’s a practice. Everyone’s pretty good except for that silly Rom, who insisted on trying out so that he could bond with his son, but who has no depth perception and can only throw the ball about five feet in front of him. The Vulcan Solok is scouting their practice and smugly watches as Rom strikes out in BP, throwing the bat towards Jake “The Slider” Sisko in the process. In a sudden, uncharacteristically harsh moment of frustration, Ben throws Rom off the team. His teammates are understandably horrified and everyone who’s ever seen a beer league softball captain lose it over a game knows exactly how they feel. This is supposed to be for fun, Cap! All of the players agree to quit unless Rom is reinstated. #OccupyDS9. But Rom convinces them that it’s more important to him that he’s able to watch his team beat the Vulcans, even if he’s only watching from the stands. That’s what I call heart!
Rom’s stance doesn’t look SO bad but he doesn’t keep his eye on the ball.
Speaking of heart, cue touching baseball montage! Quark shagging fly plastic cups thrown from the upper floor of the bar! Doctor Bashir learning his stance! Outfielders figuring out that they have to talk to each other! And, best of all, Odo in a meeting room made of windows, loudly practicing his out/safe calls. Odo is totally the pugs of DS9: so ugly he’s the most adorable thing ever.
Ben’s girlfriend tells him he’s lifting his foot on his backswing and it’s messing up his “rhythm,” at which time he is moved to tell her some story about why this game matters to him. Which essentially comes down not to wanting to bring his crew together or to teach people about baseball, but some nonesense about how Solok bested him back in Starfleet school and now he wants to get back at him and prove that Vulcans aren’t better than everyone else. Womp-womp. It is, however, revealed in this conversation that the team is to be called the Niners. Heh. Sisko’s lady thinks he should tell the team why this is personal to him and he won’t agree. She promises not to tell the team and then she immediately tells the team. WOMEN, amirite?!?!?
Follow after me: “BROKE-N PROMISES!!! YAY!!!!”
GAME DAY!!! The stands full of pasty white faces atop polo shirts and ill-fitting jeans, just like a real baseball game — even though we’re on a space station. Ah, I get it — these people are holograms because no one on the space station gives a care about this. Sisko suggests that they be eliminated from the stands and they are, much to Fancy Dan Umpire Odo’s apparent disappointment (who will hear his cries?) Some sort of anthem that I really wish was the Star Trek theme song because how funny would that be? — but it isn’t — is played and then… PLAY BALL! My anticipation pants are on!
This is what baseball fans look like.
All kidding aside, I’m a pretty big Star Trek fan, but I can’t honestly say that it makes me laugh out loud — at least not intentionally — all that often. However, as the first Vulcan batter steps into the plate and Sisko asks his team for some “chatter,” the camera pans to Worf at first base (BTdubs, it makes so much sense for Worf to be a first baseman) and while his teammates chant “batterbatterbatter” he unflinchingly yells “DEATH TO THE OPPOSITION.” Ha!
The first pitch is thrown and… the Vulcan batter hits a home run just barely over the outfield wall (which no one in the outfield moves towards even though it appears to only be about seven feet high). There’s another funny scene right here where the Vulcan who hit the homer goes back into the dugout and is greeted with the old silent treatment — but it’s because they’re Vulcans and they don’t express emotions!
Ladies and gentleman, Alex Rodriguez.
Has there ever been a baseball movie or show where there wasn’t a passage of time marked with a short montage of the scoreboard changes? Via that method, we learn that the Vulcan team scores four runs in the 1st inning of the game. Sounds like Jake “The Slider” Sisko isn’t reaching his ceiling, but in a total Dad/Dick Move, Ben blames all of the runs on the rest of the team, saying that they are making mental errors on the field. The Vulcans then strike out the top three Niners in a row. Why didn’t Ben have himself, his girlfriend, or Jake — you know, one of the three people that have played baseball for longer than two weeks — batting third in that lineup? Stay tuned for the next episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
Another scoreboard shot: In the top of the 5th, the Vulcans have seven runs on nine hits, while the Niners have left two stranded and have zero runs. Ben makes a nice play but when he throws the ball to Kira, she’s knocked off the base by the opposing team’s token Vulcan lady sliding right into her ankles. She starts to fight and Ben begs her not to do anything to get herself thrown out of the game. Foreshadowing! Kira reaches base in the bottom of the 5th, barely safe against the same lady, who is also a 2b. Worf, in the three spot, reaches a full count and then calls a time out, irritating Odo, who is taking his job very seriously. The pitch is thrown and it’s called a strike. Let’s be honest here: I rewound and watched this pitch like twenty times and I think it’s a strike. I know whose side I should be on, but I agree with Odo, I think it caught the outside corner. Ben and Worf both argue the call, and when Ben tapes Odo’s chest in his fury, he’s immediately booted from the game.
He goes to the stands to watch as dot-face makes a Fancy Dan play that involved her backwards somersaulting off of the outfield wall while making a catch. He and Rom have some awkward moments in the stands together, as they are the only actual bystanders present. One thing worth noting at this juncture is that, in case you were unclear about who to root for, the Niners wear socks pulled up their knees, while the Vulcan team wears the new standard long pants. I think we all know who the good guys are.
Nice guys pull their socks up.
But nice guys also finish last and it’s not looking good for the Niners. Nog catches the ball for a close play at the plate but doesn’t make the tag. Odo makes kind of a weird grunting sound, prompting the new Captain, Colm Meany, to inform Nog that the runner didn’t touch the plate. Nog runs into the opposing team’s dugout to tag the runner, but he can’t tell them apart because, to him, all Vulcans look the same. I will refrain from commenting on the significance of this moment but maybe I should take back my previous statement about this episode not having interesting philosophical or political points to make. But, guys, really, Buckaroo Bukai is asian so it’s okay, I have gay friends! In an unlikely development, the play is eventually made when the runner jumps up from the dugout and runs towards home and Nog is able to make a bullet like throw to Jake “The Slider” Sisko who makes the tag.
Ben gets happy talking about how that’s what he loves about this game — which is ironic, because what just happened could never, ever happen in an actual baseball game. Then he asks himself: what would Buckaroo do?, and rights his previous wrongs by suggesting to Coach Colm Meany that they put Rom into the game as a pinch hitter for Jake “The Slider” Sisko. Ben also has the computer do a play by play announcement for Rom, which is nice and for some reason makes me feel a little verklempt. He also puts all the white people back in the stands, which isn’t as great. The hologram white people kind of give me the creeps.
Coach Colm Meany remembers bunting and decides that this would be a good time for that and starts trying to signal the batter. Rom is totally confused, but naturally (like you do), puts his bat in a perfect bunting position in front of his body when he’s straining to understanding what his coach is saying. And guess what, y’all?! At this point, Rom lays down a perfect bunt! Why the opposing team didn’t notice people yelling “bunt” right before the play and adjust accordingly will make up the second half of tonight’s Unsolved Mysteries, but in any case it totally accidentally works and, in the bottom of the 9th, the team finally scores their first and only run. YES! For a moment, I feel real joy. And then it’s over.
That’s right: the Niners lose this game. But they win something much bigger: a moment in the sun for the bungling Rom, a sense of togetherness and heart, and a newfound appreciation for “baseball,” if you want to call what just happened that.
They are positively jubilant! Ben reassures Jake “The Slider” Sisko that if the opposing team had been humans he would have held them to two or three runs (being born Vulcan is a PED). He apologizes to Rom. Rom still doesn’t know what a bunt is — haha!
The vulcan Solok shows up and he’s pretty annoyed and confused. He doesn’t understand why they’re celebrating — because he doesn’t have a heart, y’all. He says Ben is “manufacturing triumph,” which is probably a valid point. But this isn’t about logic. This is about humanity! And baseball! And stuff! So all of the human and humanoid and not really humanoid but still okay by me races join together in something they can all get behind as a team: pointing and jeering at the Vulcan, making fun of his racial traits (such as his lack of emotion), and laughing hysterically at everything he says until he gives up on trying to have a serious discussion and leaves the bar.
Hahahahahaha, sportsmanship my ass!
The spirit of humanity, earth, the Planetary Baseball League, Buckaroo Bokai, and Benjamin Sisko survive to play another game, and it can all be summed up in this one singular, perfect lesson: if someone is mean to you, be mean to them back — together!
Summer Anne Burton is a writer and illustrator living in Austin, Texas. She is drawing pictures of Every Hall of Famer.