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The Truth Is Out There: Baseball, Aliens, & A Scene To Remember

“You’ve never hit a baseball have you Scully?”

It has already been well-established on this site that Jose Canseco—and apparently Tawny’s Dad—believes in little green (or potentially grey) men. Twenty years ago (4/25/99, to be precise), noted thespian David Duchovny penned a story dealing with that very topic. To this day—and even if this article is classified as satire, this statement sincerely is not—it remains my favorite single episode of television ever.

I will always have a soft spot for The X-Files. It was the first TV drama I really followed on a week-to-week basis, and from the epic theme to the ongoing mythology and some great acting/writing, it truly is one of the greatest shows ever produced, if I do say so myself.

By 1999, The X-Files was about at the peak of its popularity. It had already been airing for nearly six full seasons, and the ratings would only decline from that point. The series was created and managed by Chris Carter (no relation to the Vikings’ HOF wide-receiver or the strikeout-prone MLB slugger), himself an avowed baseball fan who grew up in California listening to Vin Scully on the radio. Is it any coincidence that one of his show’s main character bears the same surname?

This episode, entitled “The Unnatural”, begins with Scully chastising Mulder for spending a perfectly good Saturday poring over old boxscores...

What a great scene, and one I can relate to considering how many times I’ve been given a sidelong glance for watching an afternoon Twins game on a beautiful summer day.

As the episode progresses, the overall gist is that in Roswell, NM (of course) in the late 1940s, a black slugger name Josh Exley (very much a Josh Gibson archetype) is the greatest slugger the area has ever seen. He seems to have no interest in jumping to the majors, however, and a local policeman finds out the reason why: Ex is actually an alien!

While it all sounds ridiculous, the material is handled quite well and turns out to be a very emotional piece of filmmaking. Duchovny really “gets” the essence of baseball melodrama (he would later go on to write a baseball novel entitled Bucky F*cking Dent, which I have read and is actually pretty solid) and the story contains some great themes.

What truly makes this a special piece of television—as I said, perhaps the most special for me—is the closing scene. As an African-American spiritual plays in the background, Mulder & Scully banter about baseball, life, and the mysteries of the universe. One could argue, and make a pretty strong case in doing so, that this moment was the absolute zenith of the show’s original 9-year run, as well as a touching and relatable tribute to the simple pleasure of “smacking a piece of horse-hide with a stick”:

I remember watching this episode live on a Sunday night back in ‘99, and as an impressionable 13-year old with a burgeoning love for baseball it left quite a lasting mark.

“Shut up, Mulder. I’m playing baseball”.

Perfect. Just...perfect.