Reflections of Father's Day, Baseball, and DEEP SPACE NINE
The lines above might just as well have come from an episode of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, as from the film FIELD of DREAMS. DS9 is a show about relationships, and the most important relationship featured in that show is the one between Benjamin Sisko, and his son Jake. When we first meet them - they are two people recovering from loss, so from the beginning their story is one of a father and his son on their own. Complex and not always easy, relationships between parents and their children can be... dynamic. Sharing interests can be something that strengthens & deepens the bond between parent and child, and for Ben & Jake Sisko one of those interests was Baseball.
Ben Sisko grew up loving, and playing the great game of Baseball, and taught his son the game very much the way Ben learned it when he was young. We know that the two of them not only watched and played the game against live opponents, but played with historic players and in classic games via one of the great technological advances of the 24th Century - "The Holosuite" (or "Holodeck" for any Starfleet officers reading). That’s the part I'm most envious of. To take the field with my Dad and play a game of Baseball with and against some of the greatest people to ever play the game? What an amazing way to both celebrate the game of Baseball, and to spend an afternoon with Dad. It’s this idea that links Deep Space Nine, and Field of Dreams. In both worlds Baseball fields are populated with great players from the past conjured there by children and fathers.
The similarities between the two concepts are fun to contemplate and even mirror each other in DS9’s premiere episode “Emissary.” It can't be accidental knowing the man who gave Ben Sisko's character a love of Baseball, writer Michael Piller. One of the greatest contributors to the larger Star Trek franchise — Mr. Piller was a huge Baseball fan who wrote his love for the game into the very DNA of Star Trek’s 24th Century era.
It’s widely accepted that Star Trek: The Next Generation hit its stride in the third season when Michael Piller was called up to the show, and he came out swinging for the fences. He may have hit it out of the park with the two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds," but I love the first script he wrote for TNG, the third season’s premiere episode “Evolution." In this story we learn that the late Jack Crusher had taught a very young Wesley the game, and that fellow “wunderkind,” Dr. Paul Stubbs, used to replay classic ball games in his head as a thought exercise. It was the first script produced that Michael wrote for the franchise, and the first of many nods to Baseball.
From there, innocuous references to Baseball would pop up from time to time in all of the TNG-era shows, but Mr. Piller really went the distance when co-creating Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by giving Commander Benjamin Sisko a love of the game. Sisko even keeps a Baseball on his desk. A ball that remained present throughout the entire Cardassian occupation of Deep Space Nine — a subtle reminder to Gul Dukat that Ben would return to retake the station.
Later, Ira Steven Behr and Robert Wolfe created the character Kasidy Yates, who also loved the game and grew up with a brother who played Baseball. Independent, strong, and with a love of the game hardwired into her, Yates became the perfect love interest (and eventual wife) for Ben Sisko.
Which brings us to one of my favorite episodes of Deep Space Nine — perhaps in the entire franchise — “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” In this episode our heroes turn themselves into an ad-hoc Baseball team, "The Deep Space Niners," in less than two week’s time to face the all-Vulcan “Logicians” of the U.S.S. T’Kumbra. Logically I suppose, the Niners lose to the Logicians 10-1. However (perhaps not so logically), the important lesson the Logicians fail to learn about baseball is that playing the game is victory enough. At the end of that episode, the Niners present Ben Sisko with the game ball, complete with all of their signatures, a significant gift to any fan from an important game.
Baseballs are cherished objects for many fans of the game, especially if they’re connected to a particular point in time: a ball caught by a spectator during a game, one signed by a favorite player, or a commemorative ball stamped for a landmark event. That’s why our team at ANOVOS believed that a baseball was a perfect way to commemorate last year's 25th Anniversary of DS9.
Instead of making a direct replica of the screen-used ball from the episode, the ANOVOS team went the “inspired-by” route. We asked ourselves: What would a baseball look like in-universe, had Quark made these for the "hew-mon" patrons of Quark’s Bar? The answer: a souvenir Official Planetary League baseball, similar to those used by Planetary Baseball League teams like Buck Bokai’s London Kings, and by teams like the Pike City Pioneers. As a passionate Baseball fan, Ben Sisko wouldn’t play with anything less than a replication of an official league game ball. And our version is a unique commemorative baseball that we’ll never re-release again.
I have a few special Baseballs in my collection, but my Official Planetary League Baseball is the first one that melds my love of the game with my love of Star Trek. And, while it may seem frivolous - one of the first things I did with mine was to take it outside and play catch with my daughter. It IS a baseball after all!
Until next time fellow Niners, live long and play ball!