Friday, August 31, 2012

Number 1219: Baseball by moonlight

Ty Cobb (1886-1961) was an awfully great baseball player and a greatly awful person. There are many stories of his nastiness. Despite the records he set and his accomplishments on the field he's just as well known for his bad temperment, his aggression and intimidation of opposing players. The story is that Cobb filed his steel cleats to be razor sharp, and when he stole bases he slid into base “with his feet up and steel showing.”

I'm sure that Ty Cobb was the inspiration for “Foul Play” in Haunt of Fear #19 (1953). The story, with its gory ending, was fairly typical EC-revenge. But it was brought before a stunned public of non-comics readers with a page in Seduction of the Innocent (1954) by Fredric Wertham, M.D.

The caption reads, “A comic-book baseball game. Notice the chest protector and other details in the text and pictures.”

In 1986 I attended a panel with Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis at the San Diego Con. Davis made mention of the horror comics and the trouble they caused. Speaking of the Senate hearings and uproar over them Davis said, “I'd lie awake at night and think, did I cause this?”

This is the infamous baseball story, drawn by Jack Davis, and written by editor Al Feldstein.


Brian Barnes said...

This is an interesting story from EC. While it's fame comes a lot from Seduction, and it follows the EC formula maybe a bit too closely, it does have a number of differences.

First, it's a bit more of a Shock Suspense Stories plot; there are no supernatural elements, it's just a revenge plot. Second, Al wisely pushes the grisly reveal up and puts the static gravestone as the real ending, reminding us that it's justice, not vengeance (as stopping on the gore would have done.) Al did that before, but it's relatively unique.

Davis really gives it his all on the head, though!

Kirk said...

I think I've said this before in this section, but I find it so interesting, I'll say it again. Wally Wood's comic art was (to my eyes) so different from his more dramatic stuff that they seemed like they were drawn by two different men. Jack Davis dramatic style, on the other hand, was merely a slightly modified version of his comic style. It helps that the EC horror stories had an undertone of humor anyway ( something that I'm sure escaped Dr. Wertham)

clark said...

I had lunch with Ty Cobb when I was in military school in Georgia, back in the 1950s. At that time he was soft-spoken, well-mannered, and gentlemanly. Also very intelligent and aware. I've read the bios, seen the movie, and think he's been unfairly maligned by those portrayals. Liquor, I suppose, cut loose his devils. Yes, he sharpened his cleats and went for the gouge. He was a fierce competitor in a tough sport, and felt no need to be popular. I once encountered a guy who jabbed his foil into hos opponents' wrists to weaken their response. Same sort of competitor -- winning through fear or intimidation.jectem

Pappy said...

Kirk, I remember Davis from Mad paperbacks, years before I saw his horror comics. I was genuinely surprised at his horror art. Like you said, just a modified version of his funny stuff, but very effective.

Pappy said...

Brian, there were a lot of EC horror stories that weren't supernatural. I remember Davis's "'Taint the Meat, It's the Humanity," from TFTC #32, made an impression on me when I first read it. A greedy butcher making money from the black market during World War II poisons his customers with tainted meat and gets the ultimate revenge visited upon him. He's cut up and put in the display case! I thought EC had a mix of story types going for them (and how many had sex and adultery as the driver for the plot?), although they all tended to rely on formula.

"Foul Play" was Grand Guignol, a build-up to the gruesome panels. The final panel is an anti-climax.

darkmark said...

Gates, as I've said, was asking for censorship with this one. He got what he asked for.

rnigma said...

I wonder if this story was adapted for the "Tales from the Crypt" TV series (which used many of the stories from the original comics)?

As Lyle Stuart recounted in his bio of Bill Gaines, one contemporary EC fan, sending in a story idea, summed up one of their plot tropes thus: "You sharpen the pencils, the pencils sharpen your head."

By the way, Ty Cobb and Jack Davis were both Georgia boys. I recall seeing some of Davis' art for "The Bullsheet," a humor magazine printed at the University of Georgia when he was a student there. His style was evident that early, and is certainly distinctive whether he's serious or funny.