"Homer at the Bat" aired in February 1992 after the players had performed their voice-overs in the sound studio when they were in Los Angeles and Anaheim for games the previous season. "The weird thing," Mattingly said, is that he did his scene about Mr. Burns benching him for his long sideburns before the Yankees benched him for not getting a haircut in July 1991. "Everyone thought they wrote it in later but they didn't."
That haircut benching might have been the first case of the dreaded Simpsons' Curse that hit many of the players within a few seasons following the episode, striking as oddly as if they had stepped into the Springfield Mystery Spot. Boggs had the first sub-.300 season of his career the same season the episode aired. Jose Canseco was traded by Oakland that summer and threw out his arm pitching in a game the next season. Clemens had the first losing season of his career the year after the episode. Strawberry was arrested, suspended, entered rehab and developed cancer. Mattingly, Scioscia and Steve Sax all saw their talents decline enough that they retired by age 34.
Worse, all but Griffey, Scioscia and Ozzie wound up playing for the Yankees. (But then, doesn't everybody?)
Simpsons' creator Matt Groening told Sports Illustrated when "Homer at the Bat" came out that everyone involved with the show was heavily into rotisserie baseball. Evidently, because that isn't the only Simpsons baseball episode. In "Dancing Homer," a drunk Homer gets up on the dugout of an Isotopes game on "Nuclear Plant Employees, Spouses and No More Than Three Children Night" and fires up the crowd by dancing to "Baby Elephant Walk." Sensing a hit, the team owner credits Homer for the game-winning rally. Homer is hired to be the regular mascot and eventually is called up to the majors to sub for the Capital City Goofball. Naturally, he is fired from that gig.
"Somebody said the 'Dancing Homer' episode was the first episode that used the word 'ass,'" said Ken Levine, who co-wrote the episode after being inspired during his own stint broadcasting baseball games. "I don't know whether that's true but, if so, I'm very proud."
In "Brother's Little Helper," a paranoid Bart shoots down a satellite that Major League Baseball was using to spy on everyone. Mark McGwire, however, calms the public by landing in a helicopter and asking: "Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?"
The crowd's response: "Dingers! Dingers!"
(By the way, wouldn't it have been awesome had McGwire delivered the same line when he testified before Congress? Had he done so, he might be going into Cooperstown this weekend.)
There also is the episode in which Homer goes on a hunger strike to keep Albuquerque from stealing the Isotopes away from Springfield, an episode that inspired the real-life Triple-A Albuquerque franchise to change the team's nickname from Dukes to Isotopes.
(Not that a marketing technique so blatant as changing an established name to one from the Simpsons would ever catch on.)