The Springfield Nuclear Plant Nine: Where Are They Now?

It’s been 28 years and it’s still debatable whether Don Mattingly shaved his sideburns enough for Mr. Burns. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

When last we saw the Springfield nine, they were posing for a picture. Thanks chiefly to the bases-loaded beaning of one Homer Simpson, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team had just defeated the Shelbyville squad, 44-43, when they posed with a sign reading 1992 CITY CHAMPS. As it stands, the photo is the last visual evidence of that legendary team of big league ringers and townie down-and-outers.

Gaze upon it now.

There’s Simpson, still unconscious, and manager Montgomery Burns, who, in the bottom of the ninth, boldly replaced the left-handed Darryl Strawberry with the right-handed nuclear safety inspector. Burns is on a knee, gazing manfully at the camera as our hero lies prostrate nearby. Keep looking and you’ll see those fabled ringers, each recruited by Burns in efforts to win his million-dollar bet against Shelbyville owner Aristotle Amadopolis. Behind Burns is Roger Clemens, arms in mid-flap as he clucks like a chicken. Next is Jose Canseco, uniform blackened by flames. Then there’s Don Mattingly, the sides of his head crudely shaved, and Mike Scioscia, in a hospital gown. Beside him, Steve Sax is handcuffed to sergeant Lou.

Behind Sax, Strawberry is scowling, and why not? Despite his nine home runs on the day, the eight-time All-Star still hit the pine in favor of benchwarmer Simpson. To Strawberry’s right, Wade Boggs is sporting a black eye. Nearby, in a wheelchair, is Ken Griffey Jr., his head grotesquely swollen. Behind Boggs, a gauzy Ozzie Smith is floating in midair. One wonders: What happened to these ringers?

What became of the Springfield nine?

The THT Investigative Team, with funding from a leave-a-penny, take-a-penny tray at the Circle K near the Greyhound station, recently discovered the answers.

Catcher Mike Scioscia

In efforts to legitimize his roster of ringers, Burns gave each major leaguer a job at the plant: Clemens, security guard. Boggs, janitor. Griffey, lunchroom cashier. But none took to his duties quite the way Scioscia did. Free from the pressures of major league baseball, he even whistled while he worked — literally — tootling Take Me Out to the Ballgame while hauling radioactive waste in a standard-issue wheelbarrow.

But the waste took a toll on the veteran catcher. When next we saw him, he was in a hospital bed and muttering, “Can’t…lift…arm…or…speak…at…normal…rate.”

Diagnosis: acute radiation poisoning.

Prognosis: grim.

In fact, so grim were his prospects that assistant coach Waylon Smithers told Burns prior to the Shelbyville game that “Scioscia may not live through the night.”

So…whatever happened to Scioscia?

Following stem-cell replacement, a blood transfusion and a strict regimen of Frank Thomas’ artisanal small-batch testosterone booster, Scioscia not only lived through the night, he lived through brunch and soon was able to speak at a rate so normal that he no longer required ellipses. He was able to lift his arm, too, mostly so he could write Thomas a check. Radiation still lurked in his system, however, and on July 8, 2011, the Angels manager crafted an Andy Van Slyke-approved T-booster smoothie for Triple-A call-up Mike Trout.

In the fashion of Radioactive Man and, to a lesser extent, Fallout Boy, Trout got a dose of radiation and — ka-pow! — became a comic-book version of a ballplayer.

An Angell at Spring Training
For decades, Roger Angell's writing has warmed us to the romance of the new season.

Witness his prodigious homers, now averaging 4,000 roentgens on the official MLB Geiger counter.

In 2018, Scioscia retired from baseball and now powers the nuclear reactor core of a free-trade thermal power co-op in Portland, Oregon.

Pitcher Roger Clemens

In the lead-up to the championship game, Burns hired a hypnotist to cast a collective spell on the players. He wanted the men to believe in themselves, to give 110 percent and, for maximum dryer efficiency, to clean their lint screens more frequently. In an unintended consequence, Clemens not only failed to clean his lint screen more frequently, he thought himself a chicken.

Rather than his usual regimen of running, weightlifting and frosting the tips of his hair, the Rocket engaged in the typical activities of domesticated fowl. He clucked. He flapped his arms. He bobbed his head, usually to the beat of the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive but also, at feeding time, to the more complicated time signatures of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

So…whatever happened to Clemens?

Following a long career as a starting pitcher and a shorter career as a philosophical crossing guard, Clemens testified before the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association that he had never ingested high-protein alfalfa meal or even discussed that product with head poultry trainer Brian McNadoodle-do. Later, following his acquittal on six charges of perjury and one charge of salmonella transmission due to improper handling, Clemens retired to a stud farm in southeastern Arkansas. Upon being reminded that he is a chicken, not a rooster, Clemens left the farm and became a corporate clucksperson for KFC. In time he took the role of chief marketing strategist. He is responsible for the Tastes Like Clemens campaign.

First baseman Don Mattingly

During practice, Burns approached his first baseman.

“Mattingly!” he shouted. “Get rid of those sideburns!”

Replied the puzzled Mattingly, “What sideburns?”

Indeed, Mattingly was sideburn-free.

Nevertheless, his manager demanded he remove them. In response, the 11-year vet returned to the big game with the sides of his head artlessly shaved. Some claimed he looked like the fifth member of A Flock of Seagulls. Others said he looked like the fourth member of the Travis Bickle Trio.

Still, Burns was unsatisfied and kicked him off the team.

So…what happened to Mattingly?

Troubled by his unfair ouster, Mattingly suffered insomnia. He tossed and turned so violently that he soon sustained back problems..Three years later, following an age-35 season in which he tied his own shoes a career-low 23 times, Donnie Baseball retired from softball and founded the Hair Club For Men Without Hats. Among his first clients: the sixth member of A Flock of Seagulls and, perhaps surprisingly, onetime Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

In a show of defiance and shrewd marketing acumen, Mattingly grew his sideburns so thick and long that he began using a conditioning shampoo on his love handles. Accordingly, he is now a consultant in the men’s hair-care division of Bowflex.

In his spare time, he enjoys managing the Miami Marlins.

Second baseman Steve Sax

“There’s no way I can lose this bet,” Burns boasted on the day before the game. “Unless, of course, my nine All-Stars fall victim to nine separate misfortunes and are unable to play tomorrow. But that will never happen! Three misfortunes? That’s possible. But nine misfortunes? I’d like to see that!”

Moments later, Sax was driving through a quiet Springfield neighborhood when members of the police department pulled over his midsize sedan. Though operating outside the proper jurisdiction, sergeant Lou and officer Eddie arrested Sax on suspicion of committing every unsolved murder in New York City.

So…what became of the second baseman?

In accordance with the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment, Sax was slated for trial at 9 a.m. the following day and, at 9:15, convicted of every unsolved murder in the five boroughs as well as 27 murders not yet committed. He was also convicted of a violation of section 332.156 of the Springfield Transportation Code: failure to use a turn signal when being pulled over for a series of unsolved slayings. In the penalty phase, Sax represented himself by wearing a seersucker suit and fanning himself continuously with the daily racing form provided by Springfield Downs.

Today, Sax is serving the remainder of his six life sentences in the notorious Gotham Wing of the Springfield State Penitentiary and Salvage Yard. Prior to an attempted overthrow of prison guards in 1998, the inmates of Cell Block C elected him block captain on the basis that “he overthrows everyone.”

Thanks to an online course called The Yips and You: Freeing Yourself of the Eponymous Steve Sax Syndrome, Sax is now playing on the varsity prison team. Having “lost a step,” mostly for having “lost a toe” in a cafeteria incident involving a White Cheddar Cheeto and an inmate named Ravenous Roy, he primarily serves as its first baseman. Asked about his glovework, Sax communicated by banging a tin cup on the metal bars of his moonshine still.

“Clang,” he replied.

Shortstop Ozzie Smith

Smith was en route to the title game when he stopped at the Springfield Mystery Spot. As a habitué of tourist attractions like Graceland and the Birthplace of Boileryard Clarke, he couldn’t resist the allure of its tagline: Where Logic Takes A Holiday And All Laws Of Nature Are Meaningless.

“How long does it take to see this thing?” he asked. “I’m kind of in a hurry.”

The ticket taker answered quickly.

“Well, it’s hard to say, my friend. Once you go in, you may never come out.”

The Wizard went in. He never came out.

The last we saw of Smith, he was spinning through some great void.

The question remains: Where’s the Wizard now?

Despite a comprehensive search spanning three decades, the nation’s top scientists and interdimensional bounty hunters have been unable to locate the longtime Cardinal. Even the popular TV show Finding Oz, now in its 29th season, has discovered only tantalizing clues regarding his whereabouts.

In Season 1, Finding Oz found a FanGraphs page for Smith.

“What wOBA means, we can only speculate,” said host Con Mann. “Perhaps it’s a distress signal to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s little-known twin, wOBA-Wan Kenobi.”

In Season 28, the show claimed to have discovered a photo of Smith performing his signature backflip just prior to a game between the 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings and the Cincinnati Red Stockings and offered it as proof that the Wizard had indeed entered a traversable wormhole and time-traveled his way onto the active roster of an American Association team.

However, research performed by an independent group of forensic photo examiners revealed that the man in the photo was actually Welday Walker.

He wasn’t performing a backflip. He was playing leapfrog.

“The photo,” reported the lead examiner, “was upside down.”

More recently, a top astrophysicist speculated that even if Smith is not inside a traversable wormhole, his “flailing limbs might incite a quantum entanglement, or what Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance,’ in which subatomic particles interact despite a vast physical distance between them.”

Added the top astrophysicist during a top astrophysics TED Talk, “If we can reconcile the gap between quantum and classical physics, then we might find a link between the Springfield Mystery Spot and some other mystery spot.”

Based on that speculation, analysts will watch this season to see if Smith’s appendages poke from the top inside quadrant of Joey Gallo’s strike zone.

Third baseman Wade Boggs

Aside from the photo shoot, the final appearance of Wade “Chicken Man” Boggs occured when the veteran third baseman sat on a barstool at Moe’s Tavern and engaged in a vicious debate regarding Britain’s greatest Prime Minister.

“Lord Palmerston!” roared town drunk Barney Gumble.

“Pitt the Elder!” responded Boggs, poking Gumble in the chest for emphasis.

With that, Gumble punched Boggs and dropped him to the floor.

So…where did Boggs go? And where is he now?

Upon picking himself off the barroom tile, Boggs first stopped at the stadium to pose for the team photo. “It seemed a strange thing to do, seeing as how he hadn’t played in the game,” reported Emmy-winning news anchor Kent Brockman. “Perhaps it’s because one of the moms brought Sunny D.”

After snacking on a Fruit Roll-Up and stuffing a second Sunny D in his pocket, Boggs took a city bus to Springfield Hospital. There, he reported concussion-like symptoms such as hitting for an appreciable lack of power in every season except 1987. Other symptoms included growing a thick and unfashionable mustache, vehemently denying allegations made in a now-settled palimony lawsuit and eating chicken before every ballgame.

Following his release, Boggs relocated to Great Britain. Once settled, he accepted a position at the prestigious Pitt the Elder Institute, where he frequently speaks to visiting school children about Pitt the Elder’s insistence on calling the Seven Years’ War by its less well-known but more accurate name: the Six Years, Eight Months, Four Weeks and One Day’s Conflict.

Known around Pitt-Upon-Avon as the Poultry Bloke, Boggs often corresponds with KFC chief marketing strategist Roger Clemens. It was Boggs who first reported that mincemeat pie “tastes nothing like Clemens.”

Right fielder Darryl Strawberry

As evidenced by his angry scowl in the team photo, Strawberry became deeply embittered by his experience in Springfield. First, while manning his position in right field, he encountered vicious heckling from the bleachers.

“DAR-ryl!” chanted Bart and Lisa Simpson.”DAR-ryl!”

Second, Straw had positioned himself as Burns’ favorite by way of several brown-nosing strategies. When Burns told the players to refrain from coffee, tea and “cola drinks” because they “pack a wallop,” Strawberry agreed, saying, “They sure do, skip!” And when Burns chided some of the players for their lack of “heart,” Strawberry took the time to add, “No hustle either, skip!”

Now here he was, a dedicated teammate and consummate slugger, replaced by an overweight safety inspector who had managed to put his head in the path of a bases-loaded pitch. And this donut-eating, Duff-swilling, second-string deadbeat was now the town hero? What was fair about that?

Third, and lastly, Straw was the only ringer who showed up for the game.

But suddenly, Boggs could get an extra Sunny D?

Nobody could blame him for bitterness.

The question is…what became of Strawberry?

Committed to overcoming his anger and achieving inner peace, Strawberry entered a Buddhist monastery in the fashionable Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Angered by its high monthly fees, in addition to its overemphasis on Facebook and Twitter, Strawberry left the Nob Hill cloister and traveled to Bangkok, where a five-dollar foot massage did the trick.

Today, Strawberry counsels survivors of the Lord Palmerston-Pitt the Elder debate.

Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr.

In his hankering to win the ballgame, and the million-dollar bet, Burns used more than hypnotism and a recommended abstinence from caffeinated drinks. He also introduced a “brain and nerve tonic.” Its name: Brain & Nerve Tonic.

Eager to prove it “promotes robust health,” he gave a sample to Griffey.

From that point onward, Griffey guzzled it constantly.

Soon, he was admitted to Springfield Hospital.

The reason: “an overdose of nerve tonic.”

The diagnosis: gigantism.

Confined to a wheelchair, he sported enlarged limbs and a massively swollen head.

So…whatever happened to Griffey?

Informed by Dr. Julius Hibbert that he could still lead a “full and active life” as long as his neck could “somehow support” his head, Griffey embarked on an audacious journey of self-discovery and miscellaneous employment. First, he got a job as an advance man for alternative-rock band Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Per an article in Spin, the job ended when Big Head Todd felt threatened and “yeah, a bit emasculated” by Griffey’s big head.

Next, he worked as a “head double” and “facial stand-in” for President George Washington in the straight-to-DVD Mount Rushmore: The Movie.

With his large foot in the door of the entertainment industry, Griffey next accepted a role as a Talosian in the La Jolla Playhouse restaging of the Star Trek pilot episode “The Cage.” In it, and in a nod to his Brain & Nerve Tonic introduction, he portrayed the big-headed alien who tells USS Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike the “vial contains a nourishing protein complex.”

Having built his dramatic bonafides and consulted with actor William Shatner, Griffey next became Shatner’s understudy in his role as the Big Giant Head on NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun. Following an on-set tiff with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s understudy, G. Gordon Liddy, Griffey auditioned for the role of Stewie Griffin in Family Guy. Per an article in TV Guide, producers denied Griffey the Griffin role “because his head is more round than oblong.”

Disillusioned, Griffey left the TV industry and took a series of odd jobs, first as a “noggin model” for Fathead, LLC, then as a greeter at Easter Island. Upon losing his Easter Island job “because his head is more round than rectangular,” an embittered Griffey returned to the United States and formed his own company. With the launch of Vengeance Is Yours, Inc., Griffey hires himself out to those “who want to get back at business rivals ” by sitting in front of them at “movies, concerts, ballgames or even their daughter’s ballet recital.”

Recently, Wade Boggs hired Griffey to sit in front of Barney Gumble at the Springfield Dinner Theater staging of Mount Rushmore 2: The Movie Still.

Left fielder Jose Canseco

While strolling along a sidewalk en route to the game, Canseco happened upon a fully involved house fire. In the front yard, a woman stood panicked.

“My baby!” she screamed.

Though in uniform, Canseco declared, “Don’t worry, mam, I’ll save your baby!”

With that, he stepped from the sidewalk and entered the flaming structure. In time, he rescued not only the baby but also the cat, the couch, the recliner, the player piano, the dining table, the matching chairs, the grandfather clock, the mirrored dresser, the upright lamp and the bedside lamp.

He also saved the washer and dryer.

Said the woman, “The dryer goes on the right.”

The question is…what happened to Jose Canseco?

In the years that followed, many observers have claimed that among all the outcomes that sprang from Springfield — among all the stories that emerged from the recruitment of the ringers nine — Canseco’s is the most implausible.

Consider: On August 31, 1992, just six months after Fox made public the Springfield episode, Canseco was in the on-deck circle during a game against Baltimore when Oakland officials informed him that he had been traded to Texas. Less than a year later, against the Indians, Canseco had drifted toward the wall on a deep fly when the ball bounced off his head and over the fence for a home run. Three days after that, Canseco convinced manager Kevin Kennedy to let him pitch in a blowout loss to Boston. During his 33-pitch performance, Canseco injured his elbow. Six weeks later, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the remainder of the season.

In 1999, Canseco signed a three-year contract with Tampa Bay stipulating that if he were elected to the Hall of Fame, he would enter as a Devil Ray. In 2001, he and identical twin Ozzie got into a fight with two tourists at a Miami nightclub. The brothers pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and received probation and community service. In 2002, and just 38 home runs shy of the 500 mark, Canseco signed with the Expos but found himself released after batting .200 in spring training. Next, he signed with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights but failed to show up at the park one day and never played again.

In March of 2003, he missed a scheduled court appearance while dealing with a child-custody dispute. A judge revoked his probation and sentenced him to two years under house arrest followed by three years’ probation. Three months later, he was arrested for probation violation after testing positive for steroids and spent four weeks in jail. In 2007, he received six Hall of Fame votes and dropped off the ballot. In 2008, he revealed that his two divorces had cost him $15 million and he’d lost his Encino home to foreclosure.

On July 12, 2008, he fought former NFL player Vai Sikahema in an Atlantic City boxing match and suffered a first-round knockout. On Oct. 10 of that year, immigration officials at a San Diego border crossing detained Canseco as he attempted to smuggle a fertility drug from Mexico. On Nov. 4, Canseco pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation.

In 2009, he fought former child actor Danny Bonaduce in a three-round boxing match that ended in a draw. In that same year, he lost a mixed-martial arts match to 7-foot-2 kickboxer Choi Hong-man. In 2011, he became a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice but quit the show three months later. In 2014, he blew off the middle finger of his left hand in an accidental shooting. He also wrote two books.


John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.

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sandwiches4ever
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sandwiches4ever

You forgot the bizarre Jose-Canseco-as-Yankee fever dream induced by a Y2K and/or a waiver claim.

nickfox45
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nickfox45

Wonderful, simply wonderful.

John R. Mayne
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John R. Mayne

When I saw this link, I thought: “Well, I guess I have to read this to get the Simpsons Softball Completeness badge in life, but I will not enjoy it and I am a bad person for wasting time.”

I enjoyed it. A lot.

Alby
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Alby

“He overthrows everyone.” I not only laughed, I banged my fist on the counter and choked on saliva. Freaking amazing. I hope you took two pennies from the dish.

Paul G.
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Paul G.

Also that partial season when he played for the Newark Bears alongside his brother Ozzie.

And there was that whole Madonna thing. It’s one of those relationships where you have to think about it to determine which one was weirder.

glennaragorn
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glennaragorn

Notgraphs lives again!

Lanidrac
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Lanidrac

Hey, you forgot about how Mike Scioscia returned years later to give Marge Simpson some advice, claiming that the radioactive poisoning gave him “Super Managing Powers.”