One Trek Mind: When The Niners Played Ball
By Jordan Hoffman - October 23, 2013
I don't watch much baseball, but next time I'm at a game and someone does some showboating I'm going to call that player a “Fancy Ezri” instead of a “Fancy Dan.” If anyone gets the reference I'll buy them some peanuts and Cracker Jack.
Season of 7 of Deep Space Nine was definitely a little heavy. The Dominion War left the Federation bruised and battered. Jadzia Dax died in the station's Bajoran chapel. We had even joined forces with the Romulans. Everyone needed a little bit of levity. Ironically, it was instigated by a Vulcan.
Not just any Vulcan – a particularly persnickety one. A Vulcan that had busted the chops of Benjamin Sisko during his academy days. Pro tip: if you win a wrestling match with a proud, drunken human, don't write multiple psychological papers about it and expect that person to ever forgive you. As such, Captain Solok of the USS T'Kumbra can expect top-of-the-line repair service at Deep Space Nine (and congratulations on winning a Christopher Pike Medal of Valor honor,) but that's going to come with a lot of death glares.
While on the station, Solok (who may not actually have his emotions fully in check) needles Sisko into a new physical challenge – this time at Sisko's favorite game. Baseball.
Yes, that baseball-as-paperweight that's been sitting on Sisko's desk for over six seasons FINALLY paid off in “Take Me Out To The Holosuite,” which premiered this week in 1998. (And it is no coincidence that now, as then, we're gearing up for the World Series.) It is, in terms of the final season's grand arc, non-essential viewing. It is, however, a wonderful excursion with our characters. A fun, light day out at the ball park, if you will. (Bonus factoids: DS9 co-creator and co-executive producer Michael Piller was an avid baseball aficionado who amassed tens of thousands of baseball trading cards in his lifetime. His mother, songwriter Ruth Roberts, created the "It's a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game" theme song for the Los Angeles Dodgers and "Meet the Mets" for the New York Mets. Piller passed away in 2005 and Roberts died in 2011.)
Captain Sisko has been teaching his son Jake to play for years, but the rest of his senior staff doesn't know squat about the game. Even Chief O'Brien, seemingly the most outdoorsy of the bunch, is not only clueless, but horrible. Worf has natural skills, but sometimes gets a little confused by the rules. (Indeed, when Sisko calls for some chatter, grunting “death to the opposition!” is probably not what he had in mind.) Still, with some resiliency, camaraderie and some replicated Scotch-flavored gum, the team of misfits is able to rally.
Don't get me wrong – they still lose the tournament. But they lose in a way that's human. And Ferengi. And Bajoran. And Trill. They lose with heart, carrying doofus Nog off the field like a champ after (accidentally) bunting in the Niners' only run.
Yep, that's right the team is called the Niners - and the Vulcans are the Logicians – with IDIC symbols on their ball caps. You can see why this one is a fan favorite. In one of the rare instances of breaking the fourth wall in all of Star Trek, even the names on the back of the Niners' uniforms are in what Paramount and CBS referred to as the Galaxy font - which is one of the Star Trek title treatments. (Note to self – I can't believe we've been doing these One Trek Mind columns so far and haven't had an entry devoted exclusively to fonts! To the editorial calendar!)
If there's anything not to like about “Take Me Out To The Holosuite” it's perhaps its strain of anti-Vulcanism. Not since season one of Enterprise have we seen such xenophobia on behalf of our heroes. (Wait, is that “not since” or “not until?” Or am I being close-minded and thinking three-dimensionally again? Q would surely scoff at me right now.) Neither TNG or DS9 had a full-time Vulcan on the roster. (Lt. Selar doesn't really count, sorry folks.) Maybe since Tuvok was already kicking butt on Voyager the producers felt it was okay to throw a little shade Vulcan's way in this episode.
All of this is secondary to seeing the station's Changeling Constable in one of his finest moments. The always fair Odo is tapped to be the ump. Sure, the Holosuite program could have created one, but having a computer call the balls and strikes would have been the . . .Vulcan way. There's some great comedy to be had as we watch Odo practice shouting “yrrrrrout!” and while he always remain true to the rules of the game, you can clearly see that he's a Niners booster deep in his gooey, amorphous heart.
A bit of trivia: Jake wears an Atlanta Braves cap during training. Cirroc Lofton's uncle is Kenny Lofton, who at the time was playing for the Braves. The Captain wore a San Francisco Giants cap – which I suppose makes sense. That's where Starfleet is based and New Orleans doesn't have a team. Kenny Lofton maybe took that as a suggestion, however, as he later moved on to play for the Giants.
But as far as I'm concerned, there's no team in any league, or quadrant, with more heart than the Niners.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.
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