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Brave and the Bold 45
"Challenge of The Headless Baseball Team!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND December - January, 1963

Story: Gardner Fox Art: Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella

(Originally Reviewed On 01/21/02)

The World Champion Jets are challenged to a World Series game by a team which no one can even see! The Jets' pitcher must make each of his pitches count, because he knows that the fate of the Earth, itself, is riding on the outcome of this game!

The top half of the ninth inning in the last game of the World's Series, with the score 2 to 1, with The New York Jets in the lead. Lefty Clark, the relief pitcher, has been sent in to maintain the lead, for the opposing team has the bases loaded, with no one out... Strriikke One! Lefty has struck out two batters, then has two balls and two strikes on "Home Run" Wilcox, with Lefty unleashing his slider... Strriikke Three! The World's Champions are The New York Jets, with emotions running high on the field and in the stands, with the world's championship flag being brought over to the winning team! This is a new measure introduced by the commissioner. Suddenly, the cheers are interrupted by a single voice, with grating metallic tones... The disembodied voice congratulates The Jets and offers a challenge to them for another game... a worlds' series game between the baseball champions of planet Earth and their world! Fans point upwards towards a shimmering dome, which materializes over the stadium, and encases them within a force-field! No one can leave until there is an agreement to the challenge!

From hyper-space, comes a spaceship, which begins to land at center field, and fans who have been watching the game on their TV sets are drawn to this most unusual drama! Some wonder if The Jets will agree, others if they have a choice, and still those who are confident that The Jets will beat these unusual vistors! The Jets' manager strides towards the spaceship and tells them that it is agreed, with the aliens' demand for victory is to receive the championship flag! Fans watch as a ramp is lowered from the ship, and the alien baseball players descends onto the field, with only their uniforms visible, and their bodies invisible to the fans in the stand. The starship departs, then Lefty Clark heads for the mound, with the catcher him that he can go when he's tired, but Lefty feels great! Going into a windup, a blazing fastball heads towards the plate...

The alien batter swings and connects with the ball, sending it beyond the Jets' second baseman! The next alien batter makes a bunt to get on base. The third alien batter hits the change-up pitch and sends it into left field for a double! With a runner scoring, the visiting team has one run! Lefty strikes out the next batter, causing the next batter to do a pop up, and getting the third out with a slow roller to third base! At an air force base, planes are on alert...

The alien pitcher performs perfectly for three innings, but in the fourth, The Jet Batter makes a triple between left and center fielders! Unfortunately, he only gets as far as third, when the next batter hits a fly ball to right! The next innings yields no scores for either team, and both pitchers go through the opposing teams. The players urge Lefty on, promising to get runs for him. The score is 1 - 0 at the top of the ninth, and as Lefty reaches for a topped ball, he collides with the catcher, and they drop the ball!

While Lefty is dazed, he receives the thoughts of another mind... The invisible baseball players are a band of interplanetary warriors who invaded the fourth dimensional world of Ilaran! They were able to enter the planet by use of an indestructable metal called protana, with doria-beams shined upon it, enabling warping of normal space, which open gaps in the space-time continuum... They attacked the inhabitants of Ilaran, fighting till the natives were driven back to the desert of Mleen. They are aware that the invaders' Kamma-Ray weapon must be jammed, for it is a most formidable weapon, while their Ekko Gun is deadly, it does not have the range of the invaders' Kamma-Ray! A native warrior named Enath of Kalomoor, boarded the spaceship, and saw that each day the aliens would replenish their water supply, with only one invader remaining aboard, and his best chance to make his way. He proceeded to the gun-mount which contained the Kamma-Ray Barrel, and uses a magnetic disc to block it off, in order to cause a nuclear explosion which will blow up the ship and the invaders when fired.

Enath overheard the returning invaders' thoughts, particularly their determination not to fire The Kamma-Radiation gun again! The Krann have learned that whenever the gun was fired, the protana globe is eaten away, now at the size of a pebble! If fired once again, the protana will disappear, with no more of the metal to be found in the universe! Enath was a stowaway, while The Krann returned to their home world, determined to create a replacement weapon. Hidden in a storage locker, Enath ate his emergency rations, then when The Krann landed at their home base, he was determined to fire the weapon for the final time, but it was being guarded!

Stymied for the moment, Enath decided to steal the protana globe, and prevent The Krann from attacking his world! At night, he fled with his precious cargo, and stole a small ship! The ship's hyper-space boom would tip off The Krann to his departure, but he'd be far away by then. On his way, he tested the protana globe, learning that it gives off a radiation which could be tracked by a takka-screen, no doubt wielded by The Krann on his trail! Days and weeks are spent on finding a way to turn off the radiation, until he learns that gold prevents the protana radiation from escaping, but Enath hasn't enough to conceal it, and he must find a planet with an abundance of gold, to wrap the protana globe and hide it! His search begins, and on the third planet from the sun, he lands!

With his ship's cloaking device activated, the vessel lands underwater where none will find it! Enath walks the streets at night, using his aurometer to find gold, which is being kept in an empty building! Knowing that The Krann will be following him, armed with the art of reading minds, they will no doubt learn where the protana globe will be conealed, if any earthling learns of it! At the baseball stadium, Enath hides the globe inside the gold knob of the world championship flagpole, where it will not be detected by The Krann! Enath also bathes the display case with a shower of Ekko particles, harmless to earthlings, but fatal to The Krann! If they attempt to take the protana globe, they will be doomed!

Enath adopted an earthman's identity, and was as startled as the others at the stadium when The Krann arrived to deliver their challenge! Reading their mind, Enath learned that The Krann were aware of the hiding place of the globe! They used a super x-rayscope to find the hiding place, and must play ball in order to win their prize, which will be taken out of the case by the earthling baseball team, so that they will not be harmed by the Ekko rays! Since their skin would be burned by the radiations of Earth's sun, they used a lotion to make them appear invisible to the earthlings! Since their only weapon is The Kamma-Gun, The Krann aren't willing to lose the protana globe! Only a moment has passed for the story to play in Lefty's mind, and now erased from his conscious mind! Enath is confident that his tale will be retained by Lefty's subconscious, and that he'll be able to win the game!

Lefty is determined to finish the game and beat the aliens. Now pitching as he has never pitched before, Lefty is uncertain of why it's important that the aliens not win, but his subconscious mind knows better, for much more than a ball game is at stake! Only one runner has gotten on base, but Lefty and Chopper, The Jets' catcher, hold them scoreless. Now at bat, The Jets must make a tying run and winning run. The bottom of the ninth has a pop foul ball caught by the invisble catcher, while the next batter hits the ball deep to the outfield, where it's caught! Chopper is up to bat, with Lefty urging him to get on base...

A Baltimore Chop enables Chopper to get on first base, with the ball's bounce ensuring it. Lefty approaches the plate, swinging two bats, and determined to knock one out of the park! The alien pitcher throws two strikes, then a ball, and a fast ball! Lefty begins his swing, aware of what pitch was going to be thrown! KRAK! A home run! The Jets win two to one! While Lefty reaches home plate, the invisible baseball players turn back, then stride towards their spaceship, which has landed onto the centerfield.

In the midst of the celebration, the aliens' departure has gone unnoticed. Once in space, the voice of The Krann calls the earthlings "fools!" Though they have won the baseball game, they have lost their lives, for defeating The Krann, they must pay the price and have their planet destroyed! There is no time for the air force interceptor planes to reach the alien ship, which is now beyond Earth's atmosphere, and an officer not believing that the Earth would meet its end without a chance to strike back! The world watches... as does Enath of Ilaran, who jammed The Kamma-Gun with the magnetic disc, and watches The Krann ship explode! Among those who witness its fiery end is Lefty Clark, who wonders why he feels some familiarity to the event, but is grateful for not knowing.

The fans leave the stadium, as does Enath, who made sure that The Jets' pitcher wasn't consciously aware of The Krann, who were reading his mind while he pitched! They read the minds of every player, knowing each move and confident that one run would be enough to win the game. With Lefty at bat in the final inning, Enath aided Lefty in figuring what pitch would be thrown. At his room, this particular baseball fan removes his rubberoid mask, and knows that since the protana globe has been destroyed, he can never return to his home planet, but he'll know that he saved his world, and that of his adopted one from destruction!

A riveting game by Gardner Fox, with dramatic action by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella!

Baseball players and fighter pilots. No doubt, two heroes of The Silver Age, and what most kids would like to have grown up to be.

I particularly enjoyed the use of shadow in the panels when Enath was telling his story, a trademark of Infantino and Schwartz.

If Enath was looking for a planet with an abundance of gold, I wonder why he didn't land on Krypton?

Lefty Clark is a blonde-haired, crewcutted ballplayer who resembled Barry Allen. Maybe it's Hypertime?

The Krann are sore losers.

I wonder what ticket scalpers would have made of The Headless Baseball Team?

Nice to see that an alien from another world can come to love our world and the piece of Americana which is the national pasttime of Baseball.

This tale, as well as other Brave And Bold Strange Sport Stories were being discussed on The Silver Age/Golden Age List, and I thought I'd review it here.

This Review Is Dedicated To Rich Goldberg, Jack Selegue, Chuck Nail, and Steve Cohen!

PLAY BALL!

Steve Chung
"Review of The Headless Baseball Team!"