Why The Simpsons Cast Hated Making "Homer At The Bat"

“Homer at the Bat” is considered a highlight of The Simpsons, but the cast hated making the softball episode. Premiering in 1992 during the show’s third season, “Homer at the Bat” helped usher in The Simpsons’ Golden Age, generally regarded as seasons 3-8. It was also one of the first Simpsons episodes to juggle multiple guest stars, which proved successful, despite its difficult production.

The episode follows Homer as he encourages his co-workers to sign up for the Nuclear Power Plant’s softball team. Homer’s “secret weapon,” a homemade bat, propels them to victory in several games, leading Mr. Burns to make a million-dollar bet on the championship game against Shelbyville. To eliminate any possibility of defeat, the obscenely rich Mr. Burns hires nine ringers from Major League Baseball to replace the core team. In true Simpsons fashion, disaster befalls the famed athletes.

Related: When Does The Simpsons Get Good?

Although “Homer at the Bat” boasts plenty of memorable moments, the cast hated making an episode tailored around guest stars. The Simpsons’ current showrunner Al Jean told Baseball Hall of Fame about a terrible table read with the cast that left him thinking, “I hope I keep my job.” Although the softball episode was a pivotal moment in The Simpsons’ history, the cast didn’t find the script funny and needed an explanation for one of the best jokes.

Jean recalled “Homer at the Bat” was the first time the hugely influential Simpsons ever beat The Cosby Show in ratings, proving “we were going to be around for a while.” However, the episode wasn’t easy to make, and he described “one of the worst table reads ever” occurring prior to production. It was the first and last time the cast was gathered to read a script twice in one day, as nobody was amused by the story. According to Jean, the second read didn’t generate a single laugh, but “complete dead silence.” The cast’s reaction is surprising, as there are plenty of great gags that involve popular characters, not simply the guest stars. Despite this, some of the actors were less than enthusiastic about recording their lines. Speaking on the episode’s DVD commentary, co-showrunner Mike Reiss revealed, “Harry Shearer and Julie Kavner hated this show.” Jean confirmed they grew tired of performing certain lines, uttering “not that one again.” Their reason for disliking this Golden Age Simpsons episode was its level of surrealism and how all the guest stars received the best moments.

Kavner plays Marge, who only has a small role in “Homer at the Bat,” so it’s somewhat understandable she was underwhelmed by the script. However, Shearer, who voices such beloved characters as Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Principal Skinner, and Ned Flanders, had far less reason to hate this Simpsons episode. Burns has numerous fantastic jokes, especially his repeated demands for Don Mattingly to shave off his non-existent sideburns. It’s arguably the best and most memorable running gag in the whole episode, but writer Jeff Martin told Sportsnet that he had to explain the humor to the cast. Per Martin, “I definitely remember Harry Shearer and Julie Kavner pulling me aside and saying, 'Why is this funny?' They didn’t get it at all.” He struggled to justify the Nuclear Power Plant owner's confusion, probably because it’s a strong visual gag. In fact, much of the episode emphasizes visual humor over sharp dialogue. Therefore, it was likely rather difficult to imagine the outcome when reading the script.

Great pains were taken to record all the professional baseballers’ dialogue, with José Conseco demanding his role be rewritten to appear heroic at late notice. However, the cast’s concern about the players was unfounded, as they never overpowered Homer’s underdog story. Newer episodes rely too heavily on guest stars, but “Homer at the Bat” is a terrific reminder that the show once excelled at using celebrity cameos to support The Simpsons' story - not the other way round.

Next: What The Simpsons' Original First Episode Was (& Why It Changed)

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