Our third installment of Greatest American Hero “fun cards,” this time with 1982 Topps.
It’s the bottom of the ninth inning. Shorty Robinson has just been fired, with coach Manny Garcia delivering the news. While Robinson and Garcia yell at each other in the dugout, Ralph Hinkley slips into the game, pinch hitting for…
Mike Kelly. I’m not sure that Kelly was an outfielder. His position is never identified in the episode. In any case, he relinquishes the bat to Hinkley. Two outs, the bases are loaded, and Hinkley faces off against…
Hayden Finch. Actually, his name might is probably something else. He is never identified in the episode. I’m not even sure who the actor is. He’s a pitcher for the Oakland Mets, and that’s all we really know about the mustachioed fireballer. He racks up three balls and two strikes against Hinkley, but that sixth pitch is nailed by our caped Californian. (The cape is hidden by the uniform, but it’s there.)
Announcer Don Drysdale‘s words tell the story best:
“It’s a high drive hit to straightaway center field. This ball hit well. It is going, going—it is gone into the upper deck! No, wait, the ball is flying out of the ballpark. It’s goin’ into the parking lot. I never saw a ball hit that far before. Hinkley knocked the cover off of the ball!”
With that walk-off homer, Hinkley won the National League pennant for the California Stars, and they were on their way to the World Series.
Okay, so the writers of The Greatest American Hero didn’t have a firm grasp on the ins and outs of the greatest American pastime, but they tried. It’s an entertaining show, and remains one of my favorites from my childhood. Now if Funko would just make a Ralph Hinkley Pop!
Day two of The Greatest American Hero “fun cards,” and we’re focusing on 1982 Fleer today.
As I mentioned yesterday, Ralph Hinkley took the bat from another Stars player and pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth inning in the last game of the season. But we’re not going to talk about that at-bat just yet. It would be silly to go into detail about that when there is another day of “fun cards” tomorrow. Let’s just say that Shohei Ohtani is not the first pitcher who can hit.
Manager Shorty Robinson had trouble hiding his disgust at the idea of a high school teacher trying out for his major league team.
Hinkley’s biggest fan may have been in the broadcast booth. Only a former major leaguer could truly appreciate Hinkley’s talent, and Don Drysdale was not only a former major leaguer, but a Hall of Fame pitcher who played with one of the greatest, Sandy Koufax.
Tomorrow we will look at the final at-bat of the 1981 regular season for the California Stars.
One of my favorite television shows growing up was The Greatest American Hero, featuring the bumbling superhero Ralph Hinkley. The series is currently available to stream on Hulu. While watching a few weeks ago, I came across a second-season episode called “The Two-Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Fast Ball,” which originally aired November 4, 1981. As you might guess from the title, it is the “baseball episode” of the series.
I checked one of my new favorite blogs, Phantom Cardboard, which mashes up pop culture with trading cards. He has created some awesome cards for The Karate Kid, Harry and the Hendersons, Who’s The Boss?, Ronald Reagan, and more. But he hasn’t tackled The Greatest American Hero yet.
As the show aired in late 1981, I decided to go with 1982 designs. I’m going to stretch this over three days, and day one will feature the 1982 Donruss design.
Ralph Hinkley (William Katt), high school teacher by day, major league pitcher by later-in-the-day-but-not-quite-night. Hinkley impressed California Stars team owner Deborah Dante (played by Markie Post of Night Court fame) in a tryout arranged by FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp). In his only pitching appearance, Hinkley struck out the single batter he faced, throwing the ball at over 200 miles per hour. The Stars announcer, Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale, was amazed by Hinkley’s fastball which destroyed the catcher’s mitt. “Baseball has just found a new legend,” Drysdale exclaimed. “With three pitches, this unknown named Ralph Hinkley has possibly changed the sport forever. I don’t believe it!”
Stars manager Shorty Robinson (Bruce Kirby), however, was not trying to win ballgames. He was in league with a couple of gun runners, and throwing the games was going to erase their debt with some nefarious criminal. Or something like that. By the end of the episode, Robinson had been relieved of his duties and replaced by…
Manny Garcia (William Marquez). Garcia and Robisnon began arguing in the dugout during the last game of the season, which allowed Hinkley to slip in and pinch hit. What happened when the “new legend” came to the plate? Go watch the episode and find out!
We’ll be back tomorrow with more “fun cards” from The Greatest American Hero!