40 year old disabled pro baseball player Ed Hamner is listening to his former team, the Detroit Tigers, on the radio. His BFF, 12 year old Paula — wait, what? — drops her bike outside and comes in. She is also wearing Tigers paraphernalia. She jumps up into the chair with Ed — again I say, what! This strange relationship is not even the first thing that jumps out when viewing the episode. For some reason, Marc Singer has chosen to play this character as if he were borderline mentally challenged.
After the game, she shows Ed some of his old baseball cards which she just bought. She says, “I hear 20 Ed Hamners will get me a Reggie Jackson.” That might sound cruel, but she was being charitable. Based on my brief flirtation with baseball cards, the figure should have been more like 2,000 . But they’re pals, just joshing and giving each other shoulder and elbow shoves as they giggle.
She hands Ed her big surprise — an ancient card she found for a player named Monty Hanks. Like Ed, he had a brief career. Also, like Ed, he has Ed’s face — they are identical. Paula leaves, but Ed says he will come to see her pitch tomorrow.
Ed’s wife comes home and immediately starts nagging him in the most irritating way possible — deservedly. She chews him out for playing with baseball cards when he was supposed to be working on his resume, although it is pretty much on the back of all of the Ed Hamner baseball cards Paula brought him.
Ed does make the effort to show up for an interview at Vectrocomp the next day, however, the boss keeps him waiting for over an hour. He tells the receptionist he has another appointment and goes to Paula’s baseball game. That night when he gets home, Cindy is swilling wine already. She says, “Look who’s here, Rookie of the Year!” I enjoyed that.
That night, sleeping on the couch, he is awakened by the Monty Hanks baseball card glowing in the dark. Then it floats over to him and expands to the size of a door. Ed walks through and is transported to 1910. He no longer needs his cane, and is in a Washington Senators baseball uniform. The bad news is that he is Monty Hanks and at bat facing the bean-ball that ended Hanks’ career. Sure enough, he takes one right to the melon. This time Hamner / Hanks is able to shake it off, though, and play out the game.
After experiencing the miracle of time travel, being healed so he no longer needed a cane, again feeling the passion of playing the game he so loved, Ed can’t wait to tell his soul-mate, his life-partner, his bestie . . . 12 year old Paula. She is understandably skeptical until he shows her the stats on the back of Monty Hanks card which have changed to reflect Ed’s performance. On the next trip, he takes Paula with him; to a simpler time when there was no crippling pain, no nagging wife, no pressure to get an office job, no consent laws.
After a few trips, Ed’s team is in contention to go to the World Series. Cindy has set up a gig for Ed as a speaker at a convention, but he ditches that too as he can’t miss a crucial game. Paula could not attend, but comes to his house later. She catches Cindy tossing Ed’s baseball cards into the fire. Paula enters and asks, “Where’s Ed?” Cindy quite reasonably asks, “Don’t you ever knock?” This gal is a keeper! Paula is able to stop Cindy from burning the Monty Hanks card.
Cindy gives her the card. Paula rips it in half, somehow knowing that will trap Ed in 1910 rather than, say, ripping him in half like Bishop in Aliens. Wouldn’t Cindy burning it have also sealed him in? Also, that’s a pretty presumptuous life choice for Paula to make for Ed and Cindy. As she looks at the back of the card, the additional years’ stats that Monty Hanks never had are filled in.
Overall, a pretty good episode. Marc Singer’s performance is a little over the stop with exaggerated facial expressions and speech affectations. He confesses to his wife that he never really grew up, so I guess he is just a stunted super-fan. His relationship with Paula might raise eyebrows in the neighborhood, but nothing salacious is implied here. As usual, the wife doesn’t get much to do except nag. She did get off some good lines though, and her scene with Paula was very believable.
I even liked the jaunty score they played when Ed went back in time. It seemed more carnivally than basebally, but it did effectively evoke the past. Even the little pixie dust flourish musical cue that usually signifies an awful TZ episode is appropriately-used here.
-  Marc Singer (Ed) is 40, so Ed’s brief career must have ended about 15 years ago.  This would have put his last year at about 1973, when Reggie Jackson was World Series MVP. I’d say his wife has been pretty patient.
-  Or 3 years before Paula was born.
- Classic TZ Connection 1: In Sixteen Millimeter Shrine, an actress disappears into an old movie rather than a baseball card. But she didn’t take her paperboy with her.
- Classic TZ Connection 2: Ed Hamner is suspiciously similar to TZ writer Earl Hamner, but I see no other similarity. Maybe he was a Tigers fan.
- IMDb erroneously calls him Hamler, but it says Hamner on his cards.
- Ed Hamner was such a Tigers fan, I wonder why TZ didn’t have Hanks play for the Tigers in 1910.
- From the director of the dreadful Banshee on RBT. The weakness there was more the script than his direction, though.