Wednesday, December 15, 2010

August 8, 1953: Dogs playing baseball


So Snoopy is playing baseball now?

(Takes off critic's hat, puts it in box.) That's it, I'm done. I accepted Beethoven sponsoring Schroeder, but a dog playing baseball? That's too weird for me.


What's that you say? Snoopy has already done things far weirder than that, including moving into a doghouse hotel and erecting a TV antenna on his house. Sigh. If you insist. (Puts hat back on.)

I'm not sure if this is actually the first strip that implies or outright shows Snoopy as a player. It's possible at this point that he's just the team's mascot. In Peanuts' odd context, as Snoopy becomes weirder and more capable it makes increasing sense to use him as a player, although Schulz has fun with the idea for many years to come. (Remember "Peppermint" Patty's reaction? It took her years to figure that one out.)

I'm reminded, perversely, of those loathsome "Air Bud" movies Disney puts out, in which a Labrador Retriever proves to be freakishly capable at various sports. You know the ones, they're part of that long and hateful tradition of animal sports movies. They nearly always have a scene with a flabbergasted ref looking through a rulebook, then saying "There's no rule that says dogs can't play, guh-huck!" Yeah, and there's no rule about murdering your opponents either OMG IMA GENIUS.

Let's have a look at the Wikipedia synopsis for that movie:

After the death of his father, who has died in a plane crash, Josh moves with his family to Washington State and is too shy to try out for his middle school's basketball team and too shy to make any friends. He meets Buddy, a Golden Retriever who had escaped from his cruel owner, an alcoholic clown named Norman Snively, who had locked Buddy in a kennel after causing trouble at a birthday party and was taking him to the dog pound when the kennel fell off the truck. Josh soon learns that Buddy has the uncanny ability to play basketball....

Oh look, the dog plays baseball in the 2002 sequel called time to make the scare quotes "Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch":

Josh is off to his first year of college and Buddy has stayed behind with Josh's little sister, Andrea, and the rest of the family. Andrea, attempting to fit in with her Jr. High classmates, decides to join the baseball team and along the way discovers that Buddy also has the uncanny ability to play baseball. Just as the season is settling in, a terrible discovery is made - Buddy's puppies, have mysteriously started disappearing with the help of kidnappers' little helper, Rocky Raccoon. Turns out the kidnappers' were researchers who were kidnapping Air Bud's pups because they thought they had a special gene that would enable them to play sports.

I bring up these upsetting artifacts of popular culture to illustrate, by way of contrast, how awesome Peanuts really is.


  1. As Snoopy evolves, what sets him apart from Buddy of "Air Bud", Benji or other fictional animals is that Snoopy isn't just a dog with special abilities and smarts. He truly emerges as a wholly unique creature who remains dog-like but has aspects so surreal that they can't be categorized. This is the advantage of the medium (Snoopy's behavior and appearance were limited only by Schulz's pen and imagination... whereas Buddy was an actual dog), but it's also reflected in how the others interact with him and largely accept his behavior. The closest analogy would be other cartoon animals that freely violate all laws of physics and logic, like Bugs Bunny.

  2. And now, TV Tropes Time!

    This used to be covered entirely under Ain't No Rule, but evidently, there were enough examples to justify a whole entry just for the Animal Athlete Loophole.

    According to the latter page, a couple of the Peanuts animated specials actually had the issue come up when Charlie Brown's team tried to join organized leagues.

  3. "Uncanny ability"... well, that explains everything.

  4. Not to get all "Beeth Oven Company" about this, but in absolute fairness...putting a t-shirt and a cap on a dog is hardly unheard of in real life. That's a long way from having Snoopy actually playing baseball. I'd argue the "Lucy competes in the 1954 Women's State Amateur Golf Tournament" sequence nearly a year after this strip was way more surrealist.

  5. In all the discussion of Snoopy's uniform, no one appears to have noticed that Charlie Brown has a UNIFORM NUMBER on the front of his shirt. How often did THAT happen?

    Also, the gang's hometown must be pretty small to have a store simply called "THE Pet Shop."