COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Every now and again, Hall of Famer Wade Boggs will be walking around somewhere, and someone will suddenly yell at him: "Lord Palmerston!" This is not normal, you know, for people to randomly yell the name of the last British Prime Minister to die in office at a 12-time All-Star third baseman with a lifetime .328 batting average.
That's the power of The Simpsons.
"I would say that a lot of people who are obsessed Simpsons fans are also obsessed baseball fans," said Jeff Martin, a four-time Emmy Award-winning comedy writer who 25 years ago worked on the now-famous "Homer at the Bat" episode. "The two go together a little bit. I think when we did that episode, a lot of people thought, 'This is the greatest -- my two favorite things in one.'"
He smiled. "That's how I felt."
That is how many of us felt. Saturday morning, on the steps in front of the Hall of Fame Library, the Baseball Hall of Fame celebrated the 25th anniversary of that baseball episode, "Homer at the Bat."
It was, admittedly, a little bit out of character for the usually staid Hall of Fame. The vibe in Cooperstown is usually of timelessness, a deep connection to the past, the ghosts of the Babe and Satchel and the Big Train cheerfully hovering.
But on this morning, Simpsons writer Mike Reiss talked about how much he disliked baseball. There was an extended conversation about how handsome Steve Sax is. And the executive producer for "Homer at the Bat," Al Jean, made a Hall of Fame plea for longtime Tigers double play partners Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell.
And Homer Simpson was inducted into the Hall of Fame with his own plaque.
"It is with great humility I enter the Hall of Fame," Simpson said in his recorded acceptance speech. "And it's about damn time. I'm fatter than Babe Ruth, balder than Ty Cobb and have one more finger than Mordecai 'Three Finger' Brown."
The thing about "Homer at the Bat" that endures is the obvious love for baseball that fills the episode. Yes, of course, there are classic Simpsons bits in it, such as Boggs and Barney having a violent barroom argument over the greatest British Prime Minister (Lord Palmerston! Pitt the Elder!), Jose Canseco continuously running into a burning home to save a woman's furniture, Roger Clemens clucking like a chicken, Bart and Lisa arguing about who gets to bring Homer a beer after he crushes a game-winning homer ("Kids, kids, you can BOTH bring me a beer").
But it is a love letter to baseball, too. Legendary Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder, who avoids the press and was not in Cooperstown, wrote the show, and he is an obsessed baseball fan. The theme of the episode was that the Springfield Nuclear Plant softball team was one win away from the championship, and after making a million dollar bet on the game, the bajillionaire Monty Burns decided to load his team with ringers.
He first wanted to bring in Honus Wagner, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Harry Hooper and Pie Traynor, among others, to play. Smithers alerted him that everyone on his team is retired and also deceased: "Your right fielder has been dead for 130 years."
That right fielder was Jim Creighton, one of the first stars in baseball, a guy many credit for being the first pitcher who actually tried to get hitters out rather than just pitching the ball to contact. Using a relatively obscure player like Creighton, the other Simpsons executives said, was a pure Swartzwelder move.
"[Swartzwelder] is a guy," Jean said, "who loves the game so much he doesn't just have a lot of baseball memorabilia -- he has a lot of Pacific Coast League baseball memorabilia."
There are sweet baseball touches throughout the episode. At one point, Homer calls a shot by pointing to center the way Babe Ruth did in his famous called shot. When Homer hits his homer to left instead, he quickly re-points in the right direction.
When Bart and Lisa chant "Darryl, Darryl," at Darryl Strawberry, their mother says they should stop because it's mean. Lisa explains that as a professional athlete, such insults just roll off their backs. There is then a closeup of Strawberry, and a single tear falling from his eye.
"I didn't know whether to tell Darryl we were going to do that," Jean said. "I decided not to tell him."
There were other great stories about the episode. Casting director Bonnie Pietila said they tried to get Rickey Henderson for "Homer at the Bat" but were told, cryptically, "Rickey runs." She took this to mean he would rather not do the show.
Reiss told how, because he was such a non-baseball fan, he was the one chosen to direct Ken Griffey Jr. in saying the line, "It feels like a party in my mouth, and everybody's invited."
"He got very mad," Reiss said.
The whole Cooperstown experience, Martin said, was beyond belief. Martin is an enormous baseball fan. As a writer for David Letterman back in the 1980s, he created "Harmon Killebrew Day," and the "Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter." He grew up in Houston watching games at the Astrodome, spent as many of his college days as possible at Fenway Park, and he still lives for the game.
The last time he had been to Cooperstown was 28 years ago -- he still carries photos on his phone of that trip. His daughter was 10 months old then. One of his favorite photos is of the two of them in front of a Yankees baseball exhibit just staring in awe.
"The Simpsons were already a big deal when 'Homer at the Bat,' came out," he said. "But to think we'd be here in Cooperstown 25 years later, I mean, it's surreal."
Or as Homer Simpson put it in his Hall of Fame speech: "If the Cubs can win the World Series, and a cartoon can enter the Hall of Fame, there are no rules. The apocalypse is nigh."
Joe Posnanski is an executive columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.