Secret Origins: Huntress and Sportsmaster: The Games People Play, Chapter 2: The Strangest Sports Story

by Martin Maenza, partially adapted from DC Super-Stars #10 by Bob Rozakis and Dick Dillin

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October, 1981:

The couple had been fighting, as usual. “Super-villains never win!” the Huntress insisted. “No matter how you stack the cards, the good guys always beat them!”

“So you’re going to give up your life of crime and become a super-heroine?” the Sportsmaster squawked. “Over my dead body!

“If that’s the way it’s got to be…!”

His wife hurled a chair at him; he barely ducked in time. He could tell she’d actually meant to hurt him. “Honey — don’t get so violent! Give me a sporting chance to prove I’m right! Let me show you we bad guys can win!”

The Huntress paused. “Just what do you have in mind?”

The Sportsmaster put his arm about his wife. “A ‘friendly’ baseball game!” he said. “You pick a team of heroesI’ll make mine up of villains! If your team wins, you switch to being a crime-fighter… if mine comes out ahead — and I’m sure it will — you stick with me!

***

And with that, the criminal couple set about to hijacking nine heroes and nine villains with the help of a remote-monitoring and transportation device they leased at great expense for the occasion from a criminal tech supplier known only as the Monitor. They assembled them at Crandall Stadium in Upstate New York.

There, to add to the incentive of the participants, particularly the heroes, the Huntress had lured over sixty-six-thousand civilians to the stadium to see the game using a mind-control device also supplied by the Monitor. The simple brainwashing of the crowd would keep them there until the scoreboard showed the ballgame was over. All they had to do was play the game, and neither side was allowed to use their super-abilities. The heroes reluctantly agreed to the game. Each team chose one of their own to serve as umpires. Uncle Sam was chosen because of his honesty and trustworthiness. Amazo was tagged by the villains because, as an android, he would have to call them as he saw them.

So the Huntress led the team of heroes consisting of Wonder Woman, Robin, Kid Flash, Batman, Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Black Canary, and Superman. The Sportsmaster’s line-up included Doctor Polaris, the Tattooed Man, Felix Faust, Lex Luthor, the Weather Wizard, the Joker, Chronos, and Matter Master.

Once the equipment was distributed, Uncle Sam called out, “Play ball!”

The game progressed fairly straightforward for the first eight innings, leaving the game tied at eight apiece by that point. In the villains’ dugout, the Sportsmaster tried to rally his team. “The heroes are up to bat first,” he said. “Team, we’ve got to win! I don’t care what you do… or how you do it… just don’t let them score!”

“You telling us to cheat… use our powers?” the Tattooed Man asked him. “I been waiting all day for this!” The other men on the team nodded in agreement.

The Sportsmaster shortly took the mound and threw one of his curveballs. Black Canary still managed to get a piece of it, knocking it toward the short stop. Tattooed Man touched a relatively new glove tattoo on his right arm, launching the mitt high into the air to catch the ball. It blocked the hit’s progress, but fell to the ground and dropped the ball.

“You dummy!” Matter Master shouted from second base as Black Canary headed for second. “Your tattoo-glove caught the ball, but you didn’t catch the glove!

Undaunted, the Sportsmaster had a plan to keep the heroes from scoring. His next pitch nailed the next batter in the head. Unfortunately, that batter was Superman, and the villain nearly got beaned by his own pitch; the Man of Steel took his base. Wonder Woman was next to bat, and connected after two strikes, knocking a single toward right field that Chronos couldn’t catch before it bounced. The bases were loaded.

The Sportsmaster then struck Robin out one, two, three. Kid Flash managed to connect with a grounder to short. Tattooed Man, deciding to forgo any more gimmicks, threw out Black Canary at home plate. “Tag, you’re it, pretty bird! Ha-ha-ha!” laughed the Joker, who was the catcher.

“Now we’re clicking!” the Sportsmaster said. “One more out and this game is ours!

Batman was next to bat. After three balls and one strike, the Caped Crusader managed to connect, but only for a foul ball. The final pitch was another ball, forcing a walk and bringing in Superman as the run.

“We’re ahead by one, G.A.!” Superman said. “See if you can drive some ‘insurance’ runs across the plate!”

“Leave the driving to me, Supes!” the emerald archer replied. On the first pitch, Green Arrow hit a long single to right field, knocking home Wonder Woman and Kid Flash. “Hoo-ha! How’s that, Sportsy? Eleven to eight!

As Green Arrow started to round first base, he was too busy taunting the pitcher to notice Felix Faust casting a spell. The evil sorcerer took the ball from Chronos’ hands to his own and tagged the unsuspecting Green Arrow. With that, the heroes took the field for the bottom of the ninth.

Superman tried his best to pitch the ball across the plate, but a special bat quickly designed by Luthor emitted vibrations that kept the orb from doing so. With four balls, the bald scientist took his base confidently. “Better luck next time, Supes,” Luthor taunted.

The Weather Wizard was up next, hitting a chopper to second base. As he ran toward first, he whipped out his weather wand to kick up a mini-blizzard to keep Wonder Woman busy. The Amazon retaliated by using her magic lasso to fan away the snow from her eyes and, in doing so, kept the base hidden from Luthor as well. Kid Flash recovered the ball and tagged Luthor out.

The Joker bunted one toward third base. Chronos then got a hit and used the special devices in his costume to speed up time for his teammates, while slowing it down for the heroes. We’ll all be safe! he thought, chuckling to himself as he sauntered toward first.

Kid Flash managed to recognize the time shift and was the only one capable of doing something about it. Pushing himself to the extreme, he managed to tag Chronos out at first, with barely inches to spare. “I’ll take that,” he said, snatching the device from Chronos and turning it off. This returned everyone’s speed to normal, but still left villains on second and third.

Matter Master was up next and dropped his bat in favor of his Mentachem wand. “Here goes a long fly ball…” he said with a flick of the wrist, “…with wings!” Suddenly, the ball grew wings and began to take flight.

“OK, clownie–” Green Arrow said as he pulled his bow and an arrow from his quiver, “–if you wanta play this way… so will I!” The arrow managed to stop the ball from leaving the arena, keeping it down to only one villain scoring.

The Sportsmaster was the last up at bat, and he slugged a long fly ball to deep center field over his wife’s head. Black Canary scurried after it. “Hah!” he laughed as he confidently rounded first base and raced for second. “This one’s in the bag!” He stood proudly at second, scoring a standup double. The Joker had crossed home plate, and Matter Master was safe at third. “Another run in! We’re only one behind — hunh?!

Plastic Man had stretched his arm from first to second, and now tagged the villains’ captain with the ball. “Sorry, pal–” the hero said, “–you didn’t tag first base… so I’m tagging you out!

The Sportsmaster walked up to stand face to face with Plastic Man. “Yes, I did!” he shouted. “I made sure I did!”

Plastic Man grinned widely. “Wrong! That was my foot! Ask the umpire!

Amazo approached and looked down near first base. Sure enough, the pliable hero’s foot was still planted before the base in a similar square shape. “He’s right–” the android announced, “–he tricked you in a grandly villainous manner!”

The Sportsmaster made an attempt to protest, but Plastic Man shoved the ball into his mouth, and anyway, the game was already over. The final score stood with the heroes at eleven and the villains at ten. As promised, the entranced crowd rose from their seats and filed out of the stadium as silently as they had entered. And the players who had been drafted for the two teams also vanished as easily as they had been abducted, when the recall button was pressed on the transporter device. That left only two people behind.

“Well, big shot!” the Huntress said. “I told you the heroes would win — even with all those dirty tricks you pulled!” The Sportsmaster could do little to argue with his spouse on that count. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Great Super-Star Game,” DC Super-Stars #10 (December, 1976).]

***

“Well,” Dr. Harleen Quinzel said. “That has got to be the strangest sports story I’ve ever heard.”

“Yeah?” asked Crusher Crock. “I know of a few others that might qualify, if you can actually find them believable.”

“Shut up, you!” Paula ordered her husband. “No one wants to hear about a faceless basketball team or planetary pole-vaulting!”

Harleen was recognizing a pattern. The couple was just about to break out into yet another argument. She decided to head this one off. “Say, do you often use competitions to settle your differences?” she asked. “I mean, I’ve only known you both for an hour or so, and I can tell you’re both highly competitive people. Has it always been like that between you two?”

“Well, yeah, sure,” Crusher admitted after a moment. “Now that you mention it, we do compete an awful lot.”

“One of us tends to enjoy it a bit more,” Paula said, gesturing toward her husband.

“Hey!” Crock said. “Sometimes I let others do the competing for us! Remember that time back in Mexico with Batgirl and Robin?”

“How could I forget?” Paula said. “We lost a fortune thanks to that double-crossing Dynamite Duo!”

“Can I hear about that, please?” Harleen asked.

“Of course,” Paula said, and she launched into the story.

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