There was a lot to see and do at the SABR 40 Convention in Atlanta this weekend, but I just wanted to share a little something that I ran across while there. I checked out the Dealer's Room a few times, and, on one of my visits, I came across this terrific little comic book. If you can't tell from the image, this was given out to fans at The Ballpark in Arlington back in 2001. The Fantastic Four you see on the cover are: Ken Caminiti, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Rafael Palmeiro.
This was a comic book targeted at the young kids in the crowd, as the sponsorship from North Texas Hospital for Children shows, which must have been nice that weekend. Today, though, it gives us a wonderful peak at just how crazy things were only 9 years ago.
Considering the era we're talking about and the players involved - three confirmed steroid-users and one commonly suspected of using - maybe it's a little too subtle, but I think those physiques are just a little exaggerated. Here, check them out in their full glory:
You've got to love the A-Rod pose there, especially when paired with his line; some comic book artist was having fun with that.
(Click "Read More" to continue reading.")
Now, to be fair, the comic shows the four Texas Rangers as superheroes of a sort, with the exaggerated bodies being shown only in superhero-mode. The four are off to save Texas and the world from some evil troll who has threatened to steal all of Texas' energy if he is not given $1 billion in an hour. As Jerry Narron points out, "Texas is the hub of oil, power, and wealth. Economics in the world would be in shambles. Unless something is done right now, Texas and maybe the US will be lost!!" To the Ranger Chamber indeed.
This is some serious stuff (though I wonder why Tom Hicks didn't just step in and write a $1 billion check right there).
Another example of just how different of an era this was - besides the crazy blinders we had to steroids and such - is the fact that A-Rod isn't hated in the comic. In fact, he's shown as a hero who saves kids and who, in return, those kids love. That may be the biggest culture shock of the entire comic.
As all good superhero stories go, the Fantastic Four have a few issues dealing with their foes at first. It isn't until they work together as a team and build off each other's strengths - "You just can't steal on Pudge!" - that they defeat the evil troll. Their "superstrength" also helped. (And just look at that culturally diverse view of Northern Texans!).
I don't really have all that much to add. I loved the comic book when I found it for it's ridiculous depictions of the power-hitting stars of the 2001 Rangers and for the laugh it gives us when we realize that three of the players either admitted or were caught using steroids. The comments in the story about Texas and it's greatness are just icing on the cake. I'm very pleased to have found it for just a buck at SABR 40. Now I just need to get my hands on the other baseball comics Ultimate Sports Force printed back then: Shortstop Squad (featuring Ripken, Larkin, Jeter, & A-Rod), Super Sluggers (f. Bonds, Griffey, Piazza, & Caminiti), Cosmic Slam (f. McGwire, Sosa, Bagwell, & Justice), and Fastball Express (f. Johnson, Maddux, Chan Ho, Hideo, & Clemens). Something tells me they're all awesome beyond words.