Tag Archives: Mad Magazine

Salute to Opening Day!

WorldSeriesClevelandIndians1948-85081With opening day for The Los Angeles Dodgers today, the Chicago Cubs playing their first game of the season tomorrow, and my hometown Cleveland Indians opening their 2015 campaign tonight — baseball prognosticators are saying great things about the potential of all three of these clubs. My fellow Cubs and Indians fans know not to get too excited too early (or ever) — but opening day is all about possibilities, optimism and renewal. So, here’s to an Indians vs. Cubs World Series.

And in celebration of Opening Day, here’s a re-post of a piece from 5 years ago, featuring a bit of satiric verse.

——

I’d like to celebrate the first flowering of the MLB baseball season with a re-print of a poem I wrote many years ago. Full credit must be given to my wife Victoria (who was not yet my wife at the time) who managed in 1988 to get my satiric take on Ernest Lawrence Thayer’sCasey At The Bat” published in the Baseball Bible, The Sporting News.

I still remember being at the wheel of our car when Victoria told me that some sports publication called “the sporting something” was going to publish my poem. “Is it The Sporting News?” I screamed at her, pounding the steering wheel! “Are you talking about the Baseball Bible? The Sporting News??” Victoria was a cool, impossibly groovy girl — but she had no idea how absolutely perfect a publication she’d landed. And, as a relatively good South Side Chicago girl, she could not fully appreciate how I felt when I saw that the legendary Mad Magazine artist, Jack Davis, illustrated my poem.

UPDATE: Before I published this article, I wrote to The Sporting News to confirm the identity of the artist.  In September 2010, I finally heard from Sporting News archivist Bill Wilson that is was he — and not Jack Davis — who illustrated my poem. “I hate to disappoint you,” writes Wilson, “but the ‘prominent artist’ who illustrated this piece was none other than me. I’ll take the compliment, however, as well as the comparison to Jack Davis—it is an apt one, as he was one of the biggest influences on my style. I was with TSN as everything from a staff artist and cartoonist to creative director between 1981 and 2008.” Ultimately, I’m not disappointed. The very talented Bill Wilson did a great job.

Here then, in honor of Spring Training 2010, is my poem — first published in The Sporting News on January 5, 1988.

CASEY GOES TO ARBITRATION

Written by Paul Barrosse

With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, a tongue-in-cheek look at baseball today…

It looked extremely hopeful for the Mudville nine that year,
The Spring was full of promise, and the fans were full of cheer.
Then came the news by UPI that hit home with such clout,

The star would not report that Spring — Mighty Casey would hold out!

 
Casey was the MVP on last year’s Series Champ,
And all the writers in the land pitched tents in Casey’s camp.
 ‘Twas “Casey this!” and “Casey that!” and features on TV,

Now when they came to interview, no Casey did they see.

 
The Mudville General Manager, his Stetson hat askew,
Bellowed “I’ll make Casey hold his breath until he turns bright blue!”
 Casey’s agent, Morton Zucker, raised a challenge in the press,

“No Pay — No Play,” read headlines, “We Want Millions — Nothing Less!”

  
The season ticket holders soon stopped calling to renew,
As Casey held out six long weeks, and then another two!
Spring training almost over, and the lineup nearly set,

The name of Mighty Casey was not written on it yet.

 
 On Op’ning Day the Mayor threw the first ball out with shame,
Not a fan inside the ballpark dared to whisper Casey’s name.
The players took the field and paused to hear the Anthem played,

A little boy sat crying, Mighty Casey was delayed.

 
The fans were growing restless, Mudville started 0 and 10,
And rumor was that Mudville would not see Casey again.
But when Casey’s agent Zucker sought an arbitration hearing,

Every Mudville heart believed a blessed settlement was nearing.

 
The Mudville G.M. cried with rage, “This business reeks of greed!
If Zucker wants to arbitrate, then we’ll make Casey bleed!
Ev’ry error he’s committed, every drunk post-curfew spree,

Will be laid before the arbitrator — bare for all to see!”

 
The hearing lasted five long days, as both sides thrashed it out,
Some devoted fans of Casey’s were no longer so devout.
“He has problems with his back,” his trainer testified to all,

“He’s drunk so often, sometimes he can’t even see the ball!”

 
“Casey never hits for average,” Mudville’s G.M. pointed out,
“And let’s not forget the day that ‘Mighty Casey had struck out!'”
The arbitrator ruled that Mudville pay nine hundred grand,

But Mudville brass weren’t buying and they made their own demand.

 
“If Casey wants his money, we demand he do his best,
And since he can’t be trusted, he must pass a urine test.”
Casey’s test results were positive; all Mudville was in pain,

When Casey was suspended for dependence on cocaine.

 
Casey rehabilitated while the season passed him by,
Mudville fell into the cellar while he hung out to dry.
There were stories in the paper, graphic photos told the tale,

Of how Casey got into a fight and spent the night in jail.

  
This was not the season for which Mudville hearts had hope,
The greatness overcome by greed, the dream done in by dope.
By All-Star break, with Mudville’s pennant promise all but faded,

It was announced that Mighty Casey would be reinstated.

 
Casey soon was reassigned to Triple A Des Moines,
First time up he hit a triple, ran too hard, and pulled his groin.
On a minor league Disabled List, laid low by wear and tear,

Mighty Casey waited for his body to repair.

 
July was nearly over, Casey wasn’t yet in shape,
If Mudville had a chance in hell, they could no longer wait.
The day at last arrived when Casey showed up, bat in hand,

And was penciled in the lineup for the final pennant stand.

 
Casey stepped into the box, a hush was heard to fall,
With Mudville on its feet, he tore the cover off the ball.
It smashed against the outfield fence, a triple in the gap,

And Casey, charging hard for third, paused just to tip his cap.

 
The throw from left was right on line, and Casey had to slide,
But Casey’s legs did not react, he could not find his stride.
The baseman put the tag down from the fielder’s perfect peg,

Before the dust had settled, Mighty Casey broke his leg.

 
A silence gripped the faithful when they heard that fateful crack,
And realized that Casey was not ever coming back.
They bundled him with air-splints and they trundled him away,

No Mudville man nor boy alive will e’er forget that day.

 
Somewhere children sing and laugh and play with simply joy,
Somewhere in ev’ry Baseball Play’r still lives the little boy,
Somewhere there’s a place where Baseball’s just a joyous game,
But there is no joy in Mudville — Mighty Casey pulled up lame.

Author’s Note: Of course, if this had been written in the last decade, cocaine would have been replaced by HGH and steroids — and Tiger Wood’s peccadillos would have loomed large. In many ways, my 1988 Casey got off easy.

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Republican National Convention Day Two: What, Me Worry?

The second day of the GOP convention has just ended with Vic Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s rousing speech – and while I am left with a better impression of Ryan’s political and oratorical talents, I’m still wholly unimpressed with the GOP message as expressed in this convention.

First of all, there was Rand Paul – the champion of Ayn Rand and Individualism.  He actually said, “the individual is more powerful than any collective.” Really? So, if one guy picked up a gun to fight against Hitler, he would have been more powerful than the millions of Americans who answered the call against fascism? One man with a shovel could have built the interstate highway system? Rand Paul’s central message is an absurdity.

Then there was John McCain. Did you hear his speech? If you did – and you agreed with old warrior John – are you really itching for war against Syria and Iran?

I loved seeing Condoleezza Rice on the GOP Convention stage. I actually like Condi. She’s a smart woman, up from poverty and educated at Stanford University.  But she’s particularly responsible for the Bush administration’s failure to prevent the 9-11 attacks and its heinous lies that led us into the catastrophic war in Iraq.

Not to mention the fact that Condoleezza actually mentioned the economic crash in 2008.  WHO was President in 2008? That’s right. George W. Bush. The Republican. Thanks for reminding us, Condi!

As for Paul Ryan’s speech, I have just two things to say.

Here’s the national deficit under Republican (Bush) and Democrat (Obama) administrations.

Here’s job growth under Republican (Bush) and Democrat (Obama) administrations.

The rest  (including Ryan’s rousing DNC speech) is bullpucky

And, by the way, there were few words in favor of Mitt Romney.

Tomorrow, Mitt’s got a big bar to leap.

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Salute to the Opening of Spring Training

Baseball fans!

This is the week that Major League Baseball’s spring training camps begin. Of course, the hateful, evil, Satanic New York Yankees were among the first teams whose pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on Wednesday, February 17, 2010. I will leave it to the all-knowing baseball gods to explain why my downtrodden, under-achieving Cleveland Indians (who you’d think would want to get a head start on the damnable Yankees and everybody else) were the very last club to hold their first spring workouts on Tuesday, February 23 – nearly a full week after the Yankees. What the hell? Was my Tribe gallantly giving the hated Yanks a head start? My competitive head aches…

But regardless of how my beloved Cleveland Indians have approached spring training 2010, I’d like to celebrate the first flowering of the MLB baseball season with a re-print of a poem I wrote many years ago. Full credit must be given to my wife Victoria (who was not yet my wife at the time) who managed in 1988 to get my satiric take on Ernest Lawrence Thayer’sCasey At The Bat” published in the Baseball Bible, The Sporting News.

I still remember being at the wheel of our car when Victoria told me that some sports publication called “the sporting something” was going to publish my poem. “Is it The Sporting News?” I screamed at her, pounding the steering wheel! “Are you talking about the Baseball Bible? The Sporting News??” Victoria was a cool, impossibly groovy girl — but she had no idea how absolutely perfect a publication she’d landed. And, as a relatively good South Side Chicago girl, she could not fully appreciate how I felt when I saw that the legendary Mad Magazine artist, Jack Davis, illustrated my poem.

UPDATE: Before I published this article, I wrote to The Sporting News to confirm the identity of the artist.  In September 2010, I finally heard from Sporting News archivist Bill Wilson that is was he — and not Jack Davis — who illustrated my poem. “I hate to disappoint you,” writes Wilson, “but the ‘prominent artist’ who illustrated this piece was none other than me. I’ll take the compliment, however, as well as the comparison to Jack Davis—it is an apt one, as he was one of the biggest influences on my style. I was with TSN as everything from a staff artist and cartoonist to creative director between 1981 and 2008.” Ultimately, I’m not disappointed. The very talented Bill Wilson did a great job.

Here then, in honor of Spring Training 2010, is my poem — first published in The Sporting News on January 5, 1988.

CASEY GOES TO ARBITRATION

Written by Paul Barrosse

With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, a tongue-in-cheek look at baseball today…

It looked extremely hopeful for the Mudville nine that year,
The Spring was full of promise, and the fans were full of cheer.
Then came the news by UPI that hit home with such clout,

The star would not report that Spring — Mighty Casey would hold out!

Casey was the MVP on last year’s Series Champ,
And all the writers in the land pitched tents in Casey’s camp.
‘Twas “Casey this!” and “Casey that!” and features on TV,

Now when they came to interview, no Casey did they see.

The Mudville General Manager, his Stetson hat askew,
Bellowed “I’ll make Casey hold his breath until he turns bright blue!”
Casey’s agent, Morton Zucker, raised a challenge in the press,

“No Pay — No Play,” read headlines, “We Want Millions — Nothing Less!”

The season ticket holders soon stopped calling to renew,
As Casey held out six long weeks, and then another two!
Spring training almost over, and the lineup nearly set,

The name of Mighty Casey was not written on it yet.

On Op’ning Day the Mayor threw the first ball out with shame,
Not a fan inside the ballpark dared to whisper Casey’s name.
The players took the field and paused to hear the Anthem played,

A little boy sat crying, Mighty Casey was delayed.

The fans were growing restless, Mudville started 0 and 10,
And rumor was that Mudville would not see Casey again.
But when Casey’s agent Zucker sought an arbitration hearing,

Every Mudville heart believed a blessed settlement was nearing.

The Mudville G.M. cried with rage, “This business reeks of greed!
If Zucker wants to arbitrate, then we’ll make Casey bleed!
Ev’ry error he’s committed, every drunk post-curfew spree,

Will be laid before the arbitrator — bare for all to see!”

The hearing lasted five long days, as both sides thrashed it out,
Some devoted fans of Casey’s were no longer so devout.
“He has problems with his back,” his trainer testified to all,

“He’s drunk so often, sometimes he can’t even see the ball!”

“Casey never hits for average,” Mudville’s G.M. pointed out,
“And let’s not forget the day that ‘Mighty Casey had struck out!'”
The arbitrator ruled that Mudville pay nine hundred grand,

But Mudville brass weren’t buying and they made their own demand.

“If Casey wants his money, we demand he do his best,
And since he can’t be trusted, he must pass a urine test.”
Casey’s test results were positive; all Mudville was in pain,

When Casey was suspended for dependence on cocaine.

Casey rehabilitated while the season passed him by,
Mudville fell into the cellar while he hung out to dry.
There were stories in the paper, graphic photos told the tale,

Of how Casey got into a fight and spent the night in jail.

This was not the season for which Mudville hearts had hope,
The greatness overcome by greed, the dream done in by dope.
By All-Star break, with Mudville’s pennant promise all but faded,

It was announced that Mighty Casey would be reinstated.

Casey soon was reassigned to Triple A Des Moines,
First time up he hit a triple, ran too hard, and pulled his groin.
On a minor league Disabled List, laid low by wear and tear,

Mighty Casey waited for his body to repair.

July was nearly over, Casey wasn’t yet in shape,
If Mudville had a chance in hell, they could no longer wait.
The day at last arrived when Casey showed up, bat in hand,

And was penciled in the lineup for the final pennant stand.

Casey stepped into the box, a hush was heard to fall,
With Mudville on its feet, he tore the cover off the ball.
It smashed against the outfield fence, a triple in the gap,

And Casey, charging hard for third, paused just to tip his cap.

The throw from left was right on line, and Casey had to slide,
But Casey’s legs did not react, he could not find his stride.
The baseman put the tag down from the fielder’s perfect peg,

Before the dust had settled, Mighty Casey broke his leg.

A silence gripped the faithful when they heard that fateful crack,
And realized that Casey was not ever coming back.
They bundled him with air-splints and they trundled him away,

No Mudville man nor boy alive will e’er forget that day.

Somewhere children sing and laugh and play with simply joy,
Somewhere in ev’ry Baseball Play’r still lives the little boy,
Somewhere there’s a place where Baseball’s just a joyous game,
But there is no joy in Mudville — Mighty Casey pulled up lame.

Author’s Note: Of course, if this had been written in the last decade, cocaine would have been replaced by HGH and steroids — and Tiger Wood’s peccadillos would have loomed large. In many ways, my 1988 Casey got off easy.

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Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

It was 20 years ago that I was fortunate enough to cross paths with two pop culture legends.

Here I am, circa about '64. Just the age for Bazooka Joe. In fact, is that an eyepatch strap wrapped around my crewcut head?

I’d actually known one of these legendary figures since I was a boy, riding my bike recklessly down to the corner store for a comic book, pop and some chewing gum. The gum of choice was Bazooka, a sugary square of latent tooth decay, swathed in a waxy wrapper. But I didn’t buy Bazooka for the taste of the gum – just as I didn’t buy baseball cards to get that stale, petrified pink stick that came along with all the photos, stats, and trivia. No, as my teeth worked their way through the first torturous chomps that would eventually soften that small rock-hard mass into something chewable, I was psyched to read the latest about a smart-aleck kid with an eye-patch: Bazooka Joe.

As far as I knew back then, Bazooka Joe And His Gang had always been and always would be. Iconic characters like Joe and Mort weren’t born and could never die. That’s how it is with great folk art. Did Woody Guthrie really write “This Land Is Your Land”, or was it always on the wind, just waiting to be given voice? Was some unknown drummer the first to hit a rim shot after a bad joke – or is that response simply wired into our DNA? Weren’t hamburgers and hot dogs available since the Garden of Eden? For millions of kids like me growing up in the early 1960’s, chewing Bazooka gum while reading Bazooka Joe comics was an essential cultural touchstone — albeit, one that made our jaws sore and our dentists rich.

It was inconceivable to me, as I sat in front of that corner store and chuckled at the antics of Joe and his pals printed on those little colored rectangles of waxed paper, that I would ever have anything to do personally with Bazooka Joe. Then, two decades later, I found myself in the orbit of a second cultural luminary: Jay Lynch.

This is Jay a few years before we met -- so he's not flipping me off.

I met Jay Lynch in the early 1980’s through our mutual friends, Ron and Sydney Crawford. (Someday, I will devote a lot of blog space to the amazing, artistic Crawfords.) At the time Jay was writing a comic strip called Phoebe & the Pigeon People with artist Gary Whitney. (I will soon be writing more about Gary, too.) Of course, like any fan of The Chicago Reader I knew Phoebe & the Pigeon People very well before I ever met Jay and Gary. In person, Jay was a relatively quiet guy. He was quick-witted and fun to be around, but you wouldn’t call him conversational. Jay gave up information about himself with more reluctance than a Gitmo detainee – so how was I to know he was an underground comics legend?

These links will give you a more complete picture of Jay Lynch:

http://www.mindspring.com/~jaylynch/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Lynch

http://jaylynchlist.ning.com/

Jay is a cultural superstar that has been operating on the minds of American youth (and older folk of youthful spirit) for decades. A contemporary of R. Crumb, Jay contributed to Bijou Funnies, one of the first underground comix, and his characters, Nard n’ Pat are icons in the world of subterranean funnies.

Besides his work with Gary Whitney on the long-running Phoebe & the Pigeon People strip, Jay contributed to Mad Magazine and worked for Topp’s on Bazooka Joe comics. He’s the guy all of us middle-aged kids have to thank for Topp’s Wacky Packagesin the early 1970’s: those satiric cartoon stickers we stuck all over everything, with titles like “Plastered Peanuts,” “Ultra Blight Toothpaste,” “Messquire Magazine,” and “Mrs. Blubberworth’s Whale Fat Syrup.” And then there’s Jay’s work on classics like Garbage Pail Kids and Meanie Babies. The list goes on…

In the fall of 1989, Victoria and I were planning our wedding for June of the following year, and I already had one foot in Los Angeles, when Jay approached us with an offer I could scarcely believe: would we like to work with him on a new edition of Bazooka Joe comics? I was busy and the holiday season was upon us – but how could we pass up a chance to have our work immortalized on one of those little waxy rectangles? A cosmic opportunity like that must be seized upon with joy and thanksgiving. We told Jay that we’d give it a shot.

According to Jay, Bazooka Joe was in a transitional, post-MTV period. Joe was in need of a makeover. For one thing, the notion of Bazooka Joe and his gang was problematic. The word “gang” no longer called to mind harmless Huntz Hall and The Bowery Boys. Now, courtesy of rap video imagery and real-world drug wars between outlaws like the Crips and Bloods, “gang” had taken on a far more negative connotation. “Bazooka Joe and His Gang” were gone, replaced by Bazooka Joe & Company.

Now, Jay Lynch had dubbed himself Jayzey long before Jay-Z, so he knew that Topps had to embrace the MTV and Hip-Hop culture if it wanted to destroy the teeth of a new generation of kids, so Jay told us they were launching Bazooka Joe Raps. Run DMC meets Bazooka Joe.

Bazooka Joe himself would undergo a bit of a transformation: hipper, more handsome, and more of a jock. Joe’s hair and the bill of his ever-present baseball cap were both longer. And while his eye patch remained, Joe’s good eye was on the future.

Topps was also introducing some new characters. Mort was still there, his nose sticking out of his ultra-long turtleneck, but Bazooka Joe’s new girlfriend was a sexy shopaholic named Zena.

In another nod to advances in youth culture, Metaldude made his debut. A hairy, hard-rocking misfit, Metaldude was designed to appeal to guys who wouldn’t be caught dead hanging with a relatively square guy like Bazooka Joe.

Then, there was Ursula – something totally new for Bazooka Joe: a black woman. And a sexy, confident and athletic black woman at that! Hard-bodied Ursula was drawn in an eye-popping fashion that even a guy with one good eye like Joe would have to appreciate.

From November of ’89 through February ’90, Victoria and I submitted scripts for the various new Bazooka Joe series, including Bazooka Joe Fantasies and Bazooka Joe Mystic Master of Space & Time. As it turned out, we did our best work on Bazooka Joe Raps.

However, my favorite strips are the ones we wrote for Bazooka Joe & Company. I’d always loved those classic three and four panel jokes as a kid – and to get a chance to do it myself was an honor. Victoria, having chewed more than her share of Bazooka Joe as a youth, was also thrilled to be part of a great American cultural institution.

The comics that illustrate this article are ones that we were privileged to add to Bazooka Joe’s jaw-aching legacy. And we’ve got Jay Lynch to thank for allowing us to share a very small part of childhood cultural history.

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