A great Leporid-American gets his due
December 1, 2007 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Bugs Bunny, greatest banned baseball player ever. A close analysis of recently rediscovered historical footage makes it clear that the little-known Bugs Bunny would have been one of history's greatest baseball players, had MLB's notorious speciesism not prevented him from competing.

This is from last year, but it was just published as part of the Best American Sports Writing 2007 anthology, the first blog post so honored.
posted by Horace Rumpole (20 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Wolfdog at 5:49 AM on December 1, 2007

It was before my time, but my father was at that game and used to tell me about it at bedtime, giving me very interesting dreams and a lifelong addiction to losing baseball clubs. People today don't realize it, but in those days, before the dominance of television and the iron grip of MLB, there was a tremendous amount of fan interest in non-league games like that. The Teatotallers had quite a fan base, including my father, who was thrilled when Bugs (the well-known star of the Carrot League) showed up to rescue what had been another dismal outing for the 'Totallers. You can imagine the reaction in the stands when he singlepawedly drove up the score, and especially when he won the game with that amazing catch. Everyone wanted him signed, but the skinflint owner wouldn't agree to the transfer fee the Carrot League wanted (not to mention the endless supply of carrots and wine Bugs demanded in the contract), and the team (a collection of has-beens and never-weres in their fusty old Pirates-style headgear) went on losing, but it wasn't as lovable somehow now that the fans had had a taste of glory, and the long-suffering supporters decided they'd had enough and melted away. And that (my father used to tell me) is why you and I are Washington Senators fans today. At least they win a game every now and then.

(Oh, and that Gorillas player who took over as umpire and allowed himself to be talked into changing his call in Bugs' favor? He was beat up so badly by his teammates that he left the game for a year or two, and wound up managing the Teatotallers for their last season. True story!)
posted by languagehat at 6:55 AM on December 1, 2007 [9 favorites]

I know there's a Barry Bonds joke related to the "MLB's notorious speciesism" line, but I'm too tired to make it right now.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:23 AM on December 1, 2007

Fabulous cartoon. Looks very much like the work of Tex Avery, though I didn't notice his name on the credits.

While it's great to have access to all this classic animation via You Tube, there's a sense in which it's always a bit of a let down. When I was a kid, the city I lived in had two cinemas that were devoted to showing cartoons. One was called The Tatler, the other was called either The Jacey or the News Theatre (because they had one of those neon ticker tape displays outside showing the news headlines.) Both had a rolling programme of cartoons that ran for about an hour and a half. Because they were proper cinemas, you could see these classic cartoons in full, glorious technicolour on a big screen in the dark, the way that the artists intended they be seen. Whenever my parents took us shopping as kids, we'd do the stuff we needed to be there for, and then my dad would duck out and take us to see an hour of cartoons while my mum finished up the shopping.

There's no cinematic experience either from my childhood or my adulthood that comes close to me to those cartoon showings. There's something about those Disney and Warners shorts that makes it so much easier for them to achieve perfection. Like small, well polished little gems, these shorts were the equivalent of the r n' b 45, as opposed to the prog rock concept album which most animated features resemble.

By the 70's, both the Tatler and the Jacey had turned into porno houses. The first time I got busted, it was for smoking hash on the back row of the Jacey. It was a long-standing ritual for us -- going to O'Connors pub to buy dope, then into the Jacey coffee bar to roll up the spliff and sneak onto the back row to smoke it. I remember it was half an ounce of Afghani Gold Seal, and the image stamped in the gold looked like a Nazi eagle. Cost £5 for the half ounce, and I was more embarrassed about my parents finding I was caught in the Jacey than I was about the hash. (I think I was 15 at the time.)

A couple of years later, I remember finding another of these cartoon cinemas in Piccadilly Circus in London, so I decided to check it out to relive those happy childhood moments. Turned out that the place was full of fairly persistant chickenhawks. (I'm guessing I'd have been 16 or 17 by this point.) I'm not sure why this should have been a surprise to me, as Piccadilly Circus was notorious for its chickenhawk meat rack. I suppose I'd expected the place to be filled with kids out shopping with their dads, not hustlers out giving handjobs to chickenhawks.

Apologies for the derail into my sordid youth. Great cartoon.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:26 AM on December 1, 2007 [4 favorites]

This was one of the memorable cartoons of my childhood and so I was happy to see it on YT, even in tiny form. The gorillas doing the rhumba around the bases, the screaming line drive, the argument where bugs confuses the ump into calling him safe--great stuff.

bricka bracka bricka bracka sis boom bah
bugs bunny bugs bunny rah rah rah!
posted by cogneuro at 8:06 AM on December 1, 2007

He got it.
posted by not_on_display at 8:58 AM on December 1, 2007

I know it's a pedantic point to make, but the two posters above me - the video was on Google, not YouTube. Don't let YouTube gain more mind share than it deserves!
posted by benzo8 at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2007

two great american pastimes combined,
cartoons and baseball
posted by citybuddha at 10:21 AM on December 1, 2007

I know it's a pedantic point to make, but the two posters above me - the video was on Google, not YouTube. Don't let YouTube gain more mind share than it deserves!

Google powns YouTube.
posted by not_on_display at 10:30 AM on December 1, 2007

PeterMcDermott, the chickenhawks and porn were worth it. There was a Clampett retrospective at Ottawa last year and it was my first experience with the film versions of these cartoons. My eyes must have been peeled bare for days.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:35 AM on December 1, 2007

What is a chickenhawk? The only slang term I'm familiar with is someone who advocates war while avoiding it themselves.
posted by delmoi at 10:42 AM on December 1, 2007

What is a chickenhawk?

Older men who seek sex with young boys ('chicken'). They aren't really paedophiles, as they tend to be looking (hence 'hawks') for boys in their teenage years, but in this period it was still illegal as the age of consent for gay men was 21 here in the UK.

When I was a teenager, they seemed to be the bane of my life. I felt like I couldn't go anywhere without some chickenhawk hitting on me. I remember one occasion when I'd been visiting friends and was walking home at 3.00am. A drunken man was singing and swaying, and as I approached, he held out his hand for me to shake -- in the way that gregarious drunks often do.

Being a polite and friendly kid, I was happy to shake his hand, but as soon as he wrapped his in mine, the drunkenness suddenly disappeared, and he clamped his mitt around mine with a grip of steel.

"Hello, sonny? Where are you going to? How would you like to make some money and have a good time at the same time?"

Now, if he could have offered me a couple of hours of Bob Clampett and Tex Avery on 35mm, I'd have been there like a shot, but money just didn't have enough appeal.

PeterMcDermott, the chickenhawks and porn were worth it.

No, its almost impossible to convey just how lush these shorts were on 35mm film on the big screen. Richly saturated, an enormous contrast range, etc. etc. Even watching on today's humungous widescreen tv's doesn't come close to the experience of seeing them in the cinema.

I've always thought that it was the experience of watching those cartoons that made me open to the idea of taking acid. I was simply trying to capture an experience similar to watching those animated shorts -- because that was what the various accounts of the drug had implied it was like.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2007

Actually, I had previously seen it on YT, where it resides to this day.
posted by cogneuro at 11:48 AM on December 1, 2007

Watch me paste this pathetic palooka with a
powerful paralyzing perfect pachydermous percussion pitch.

Love it!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:30 PM on December 1, 2007

posted by dw at 1:51 PM on December 1, 2007

All I know about baseball I learned from Goofy.
posted by wendell at 3:19 PM on December 1, 2007

Dude, you know the Mets passed up an option on Bugs to sign Butch Huskey, right?
posted by Opposite George at 6:45 PM on December 1, 2007

Or maybe it was Choo-Choo Coleman. I forget.
posted by Opposite George at 6:48 PM on December 1, 2007

To be fair, Bugs was well past his prime by then. On the other hand, he was still better than anybody on the Mets.
posted by languagehat at 5:00 AM on December 2, 2007

Yeah, apart from Sidd Finch.
posted by Opposite George at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2007

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