April 2nd, 2013

Play Ball!

by Brian Walker, Greg Walker and Chance Browne

Since it’s the beginning of a new baseball season, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some thoughts about America’s favorite pastime.

I have always loved the game of baseball.  Growing up in southwestern Connecticut, I was a New York Yankees fan during the glory days of Mickey Mantle and have remained so ever since.  I didn’t play organized baseball in high school or college but joined a men’s slow-pitch softball league after I graduated from college.  Our team, the “Bruisers,” was comprised primarily of old high-school friends and for many years was sponsored by my family company, Comicana.  I played for about 16 years, from 1974 to 1990.

My son, David, started playing Little League baseball when he was six years old and worked his way up from the local recreational league to the high school junior-varsity team.  I enjoyed watching him play and my schedule permitted me the freedom to see many of his after-school games.

Baseball has been a good source of gag material throughout the history of Hi and Lois, but the frequency of baseball gags picked up when I started writing for the strip in the mid-1980s.  Anyone who has played the game knows that a big part of baseball is learning to deal with failure.  As my father, Mort, always says, “Success isn’t funny.  Failure is.”

So, naturally, baseball is a great source of humor for cartoonists.

Although I have written hundreds of strips about baseball in the last thirty years, the following Sunday page is my favorite one.

This was a real situation that I experienced with my son.  When I was playing in the softball league, I once got a game-winning home run in a tournament.  After watching my son get a home run that led to his team’s victory in a Little League game, I felt a pride that far surpassed the excitement of my own accomplishment years before.

Charles Schulz is the cartoonist who is most often associated with baseball and when Charlie Brown stands on the pitchers mound, venting his frustrations, we all feel his pain.  These episodes are not just about baseball they are about the human experience.  Bil Keane’s gentle approach in Family Circus also inspired me to write strips that go beyond humor and deal with real situations.

That’s why this Hi and Lois Sunday page is my favorite baseball-themed episode.  It is not particularly funny.  But it is true to life; not only for me, but hopefully to many other proud parents whose children play baseball.

– Brian Walker

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