“Take Me Out to the Holosuite”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Chip Chalmers
Season 7, Episode 4
Production episode 40510-554
Original air date: October 21, 1998
Station log: The T’Kumbra (a ship with an entirely Vulcan complement) has docked at DS9 and Captain Solok reports to Sisko with the repair schedule for his ship. As they talk, it’s obvious that there’s some serious history between these two—Solok has no use for humans, though it’s obvious he’s focused his disdain on Sisko, and Sisko has no patience for Solok’s attitude—and then Solok reveals that his crew uses a holodeck program in which they play baseball—their team is called the Logicians. Since the T’Kumbra’s holodecks are down, they must use Quark’s holosuites. Solok challenges Sisko to a game in two weeks.
The crew starts to learn the rules, though Kira, Nog, and Worf have trouble with the infield fly rule (so does everyone else, so it’s okay). Dax quizzes Bashir and O’Brien on other rules, and Leeta and Rom ask to try out for the team—and Leeta manages to guilt Quark into trying out as well.
Sisko gives an inspiring speech to the Niners, and then practice starts. Sisko and Jake have played plenty of games together, and they’ve all seen games with Sisko on the holosuite. As practice goes on, it’s obvious that very few of them know what the heck they’re doing (though Nog and Worf and Bashir are doing okay). Several of the players get hurt—Worf and Quark are both injured by Rom’s clumsiness, O’Brien tears his rotator cuff (so he can’t play at all), and Dax and Kira both have bumps and bruises. Sisko also conscripts Odo to be the umpire, since the captain trusts the constable to be impartial.
Sisko is also more than a little obsessed. He won’t lose a baseball game to Solok.
With O’Brien on the shelf, Sisko pulls some strings to have the Xhosa’s next three cargo runs reassigned, which means Yates can be on the station to play third base.
Practice continues apace. The team is starting to come together, with one notable exception: Rom, who can’t field, throw, or hit, to the point where Sisko kicks Rom off the team. Solok is also scouting the practices.
Leeta, Nog, Quark, Dax, Kira, Bashir, and O’Brien are willing to quit the team on account of Rom being kicked off—the game is supposed to be fun, and Sisko’s taking it way too seriously—but Rom insists that they play. He doesn’t want to make the team that way, and the fact is, he sucks. He wants to watch Leeta and Nog play, and he wants the Niners to win.
Practice continues onward—including Odo working on his umpire moves—and the night before the game, Sisko finally explains to Yates what the big deal is: he and Solok were at the Academy together, and one night at the Launching Pad, Sisko was getting drunk with some other human cadets. Solok came in with some Vulcan cadets and said he was doing a study on primitive human bonding rituals. Sisko didn’t take kindly to that, or Solok’s attitude, so—being quite drunk—he challenged Solok to a wrestling match. He naturally had his ass handed to him, as he deserved, and if that had been it, everything would’ve been fine. But Solok continued to point Sisko out, both in person and in psychological papers he wrote, as the textbook case of human emotionalism and Vulcan superiority, using that wrestling match as the prime example.
Sisko makes Yates promise not to tell the Niners, a promise she breaks six-and-a-half seconds later by telling the rest of the team in the wardroom. They’re all on Sisko’s side, and they swear to win the game for the captain.
The game starts with the Federation National Anthem, and then Odo yells, “Play ball!” (After the anthem, Sisko asks Solok to remove the crowd, as his team has never played in front of people. Disdainfully, Solok agrees.) On the first pitch, Jake gives up a home run, and the Logicians are up 4-0 after the first inning, 7-0 after four. At one point, a Logician does a takeout slide on Kira during an attempted double play; she gets her revenge in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff double. Worf is later called out on strikes, stranding Kira, and both Worf and Sisko argue the call (for what it’s worth, Odo was right, it caught the corner). Unfortunately, Sisko touches Odo when he’s pointing at him, and the rules call for immediate ejection. Sisko is forced to watch the rest of the game from the stands. Solok makes sure to tip his hat at Sisko’s rampant emotionalism.
Sisko goes to the stands and sits near Rom. Bashir takes over at second, Leeta moves to left, and Quark is put in right off the bench. By the top of the ninth, it’s 10-0 Logicians. A base hit seems to score a run, but Odo says nothing. O’Brien realizes the runner didn’t touch home plate, so Nog goes after the player into the dugout. But then the player runs back to home. Luckily, Jake is covering home, and Nog throws the ball to him and he’s out.
Sisko is thrilled at the unpredictability, finally remembering how much fun the game is, and then he grabs Rom and puts a uniform on him, telling O’Brien to send him up to pinch hit for Jake after Nog hits a triple. Sisko even restores the crowd so Rom can have his at-bat in front of the full cheering audience. He swings and misses the first two pitches, and then O’Brien calls for a bunt. Rom does bunt, more or less accidentally, and Nog scores the team’s only run. The Niners’ celebrate their finally scoring a run, and carry Rom off the field in glorious celebration. Solok argues with Odo that this is improper, as the game isn’t over, and makes the mistake of putting a hand on Odo’s shoulder. With tremendous glee, Odo tosses him out of the game.
There’s a huge celebration in Quark’s afterward. Sisko says Jake pitched a helluva game—yes, he gave up ten runs, but they were Vulcans. Against humans, he probably would’ve kept them to two or three. Sisko also apologizes to Rom.
Solok doesn’t understand why they’re celebrating, as the bunt was an accident and they still lost—they’re manufacturing triumphs where none exist. The Niners then raise a toast to manufactured triumphs. The Niners make fun of Solok quite a bit, which Solok dismisses as typical human taunting, prompting Dax and Quark, on behalf of themselves, Leeta, Kira, Rom, Nog, and Worf, to remind Solok that they’re not all humans. Kira then tosses Sisko the game ball, which they’ve all autographed. Sisko turns to Solok and asks if he’d like to sign it. Solok makes a tch noise and leaves the bar.
The Sisko is of Bajor: The Siskos wear Major League Baseball caps for the practice sessions. Jake wears an Atlanta Braves cap (Cirroc Lofton’s uncle, Kenny Lofton, played for the Braves, among many other teams), while his father wears a San Francisco Giants cap, fitting both because it was Willie Mays’s team, and also the football team from San Francisco is the 49ers, often nicknamed the Niners.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira plays shortstop, the hardest defensive position on the main field.
The slug in your belly: Emony was an Olympic gymnast, and Dax keeps expecting her body to do things that Emony could, but Ezri most assuredly can’t. In addition, Ezri finally learns something that Curzon and Jadzia both wondered about for years: why Sisko hated Solok so much.
There is no honor in being pummeled: While the rest of the team’s trash talk is the usual “hey-batter-batter-batter-swing-batter” variety, Worf’s is more Klingon: “Death to the opposition!” He also refers to tagging a runner out as “killing.”
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo gets into his role of umpire with gusto, practicing his safe and out calls, and taking great pleasure in tossing both Sisko and Solok from the game. Also the rule he quotes to Sisko is accurate, down to the number.
Rules of Acquisition: Rom is terrible at baseball, and Quark isn’t that much better—he’s the reserve, and when he’s put in the game, it’s in right field, which in nonprofessional games is often where the worst player is placed (since the fewest balls get hit there).
Victory is life: The T’Kumbra has been in combat operations for six months, and their repair schedule is extensive.
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Obviously, the baseball action all happens on one of Quark’s holosuites. The holosuite program puts them on a college baseball field complete with crowds, pennants, flags, and the Federation National Anthem.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Kira is totally smitten by Odo practicing his safe and out calls. Meanwhile, Sisko brings flowers to Yates to butter her up for conscripting her as his third baseman (and while he waits for her to dock, he swings the flowers like a bat). One wonders if Sisko ever told Yates that he pulled a few strings to have the Xhosa’s cargo runs reassigned, especially since that’s how Yates makes her living…
Keep your ears open: “They just chewed it?”
“No, they infused the gum with flavor.”
“What flavor did you infuse it with?”
Bashir and O’Brien on the subject of chewing gum, and why oh why did Topps never include Scotch-flavored gum with packs of baseball cards?????
Welcome aboard: Gregory Wagrowski is magnificently snotty as Solok; he’ll return as Ceris in the Enterprise episode “Chosen Realm.” Plus we get regulars Aron Eisenberg as Nog, Max Grodénchik as Rom, Penny Johnson as Yates, and Chase Masterson as Leeta.
Trivial matters: The title of this episode is derived from the 1908 song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” which has been a staple of seventh-inning stretch sing-alongs for decades.
Solok and the T’Kumbra appear in the Gateways crossover, primarily in the TNG portions, the novel Doors Into Chaos and the followup “The Other Side” in What Lay Beyond, both by Robert Greenberger; and again in the post-finale DS9 novel Lesser Evil by Robert Simpson. In the latter, the T’Kumbra is sent to destroy the U.S.S. Gryphon, in the belief that it has been taken over by the parasites from TNG’s “Conspiracy.” Kira is able to convince Solok that she’s really Kira and not possessed by the parasites by sending him a message with the phrase “manufactured triumph.”
The baseball scenes were filmed at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
This episode’s primary inspiration was an episode of Fame written by DS9’s show-runner Ira Steven Behr in 1985 called “The Ol’ Ball Game.” Several beats from the Fame episode were used here, including the catcher running through the dugout trying to find the right runner to tag (which Behr has said was based on something that happened to him in Little League; in fact, according to MLB rules, Odo should have called the Logician out as soon as Nog entered the dugout). There was also more than a little bit of The Bad News Bears in this one…
Ironically, the member of the cast with the most previous experience playing baseball was Max Grodénchik, who played semi-pro ball in high school and considered going pro, but took up acting instead. He had Rom play left-handed (Grodénchik is right-handed) in order to make himself look less competent.
Joey Banks, the son of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, served as the baseball coach, and he brought in professional ballplayers (including himself) to fill out the Logicians’ roster.
The episode’s initial airing was the same week as the 1998 World Series, in which the New York Yankees swept the San Diego Padres in four games.
This is the only time the Federation National Anthem is ever heard. It’s remarkably bland and uninteresting, which is fitting, somehow. (Hey, at least it’s not actively awful like “The Star-Spangled Banner.”)
Solok congratulates Sisko on his receiving of the Christopher Pike Medal, which occurred in “Tears of the Prophets,” before quickly mentioning that he himself has been awarded the medal twice.
The full defensive lineup and roster for the Niners:
P—Jake Sisko, #78 (replaced by Rom, #13, as a pinch hitter)
2B—Benjamin Sisko, #15 (ejected, replaced by Julian Bashir, #22)
SS—Kira Nerys, #9
3B—Kasidy Yates, #47
LF—Julian Bashir, #22 (replaced by Leeta, #55, when Bashir moved to 2B)
CF—Ezri Dax, #43
RF—Leeta, #55 (replaced by Quark, #7, when Leeta moved to LF)
Manager: Benjamin Sisko, #15
Bench coach: Miles O’Brien, #34
Not all the numbers have obvious significance, although Rom getting unlucky #13 is an obvious in-joke, as is Quark getting #7, which is a lucky number in gambling. Yates gets the inevitable #47, a number that recurs a lot in modern Trek, and Jake’s #78 might refer to the year of Cirroc Lofton’s birth (1978).
The Baseball Prospectus web site had an excellent article in 2011 by Larry Granillo that examined this episode from a baseball perspective.
Walk with the Prophets: “Now that is a Fancy Dan!” I first started watching baseball at the tender age of seven, watching Yankee games along with my parents. (My family are Yankee fans going back to my grandparents, including one grandfather who was at the first ever game at Yankee Stadium in April 1923.) I was vaguely fascinated by the game in general, but what I remember solidifying my interest was the crazed celebration that accompanied the Chris Chambliss walk-off home run that won the Yankees the 1976 American League Championship Series and sent the team to the World Series for the first time since 1964.
I became a fairly obsessed fan of baseball in general and the Yankees in particular after that. I went to my first game on my eighth birthday, 18 April 1977, with seats on the first-base side as the Yankees played the expansion Toronto Blue Jays (the Yanks lost 5-1). Over the years, I would continue to follow the sport with assiduity, even getting season tickets to Yankee Stadium a few times (once when I was a teenager, twice more when I was in my 30s). I’ve even done some professional baseball writing here and there.
So you can understand why I absolutely adore this episode.
Yes, it has its flaws. Yes, it’s a big ol’ cliché. Yes, the story beats are eminently predictable (though I like the fact that they not only don’t win but aren’t in the slightest danger of winning, as a hastily assembled baseball team would never stand a snowball’s chance in hell in these circumstances, and it’s to Ronald D. Moore’s credit that the Niners’ bravado about winning doesn’t last past the first pitch).
What makes the episode truly shine is three superb comic performances by Max Grodénchik, Rene Auberjonois, and especially Avery Brooks. Grodénchik sells Rom’s incompetence, but also his earnestness—his unwillingness to break up the team over his own failure, and earlier his desire to use baseball as a bonding experience with Nog the way the Siskos have done. Auberjonois just has too much fun as the umpire—this wouldn’t have worked early in the show’s run, but now after six years, mixing Odo’s gruff seriousness with the doofiness of what umpires have to do (all part of the game, but still doofy) is comedy gold.
But the episode is absolutely owned by Brooks. His infectious enthusiasm mixed with obsession. The love of the game shines through every scene, but too often it’s diluted by his anger at Solok—but that makes the initial speech during the first tryout and especially the joy Sisko has at the episode’s conclusion that much more wonderful. I particularly like the catharsis he gets after the weird out at home, because it reminds him of how delightfully unpredictable baseball can be. He rediscovers the joy he takes in the game, which Solok’s challenge had soured for him.
Probably the finest moment in the episode is Sisko’s rant to Yates on the origins of his feud with Solok, which is a masterpiece of delivery and body language and vocal inflection.
I also love the fact that both teams have women on them, and this isn’t a big deal. When I wrote about the Cestus Baseball League in my Trek novels A Time for War, a Time for Peace and Articles of the Federation, I had the teams be mixed-gender also, because there’s seriously no reason why women can’t play professional baseball. Indeed, they deliberately put Kira, Yates, and Dax at positions that require tremendous skill defensively (shortstop, third base, and center field are among the spots that require the most defensive skill), and one of the few hits we see any of the Niners getting is Kira’s double.
Some have dinged this episode for its “unfair” portrayal of Vulcans as arrogant asshats. This, sadly, is the side effect of the obsessive fandom of the character of Spock, which warped a lot of people’s views of Vulcans because they thought Spock was awesome. But if you actually watch the original series, most of the Vulcans we meet are in fact arrogant asshats, starting with Spock. A lot of the snotty comments Solok makes in this episode are akin to those Spock made for three years running, and the other Vulcans we met on the original series were Sarek (who wouldn’t even speak to Spock because he joined Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Science Academy, a decision he wouldn’t even admit was wrongheaded for another few decades after “Journey to Babel”), T’Pau (who spent all of “Amok Time” being disdainful and dismissive of Kirk and McCoy), and the incredibly manipulative T’Pring (I don’t need to explain this one, do I?).
Overall, this is a delightful episode. Sure it’s kind of silly to take time out from a war to do a silly sports episode, but if MASH can do it with football, why can’t DS9 do it once with baseball?
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido has written about baseball in the past for Pinstripe Alley, the Replacement Level Yankees Blog, his own Bleacher Creature Feature, and in a bunch of different books, including In the Dugout: Yankees 2013, Yankees Yearly 2012, The Maple Street Press Yankees Annual 2010, and The Red Sox Fan Handbook 2005.