#PopUps: Babe Ruth was an Alien
Starting with the title, we can see the first of many baseball references. The episode title of “The Unnatural” is a clear connection to the 1984 film, The Natural, and the 1952 novel by the same name. As the film was a success, being nominated for five Academy Awards and winning one, the title “The Unnatural” is a clear allusion to the film and also hints at the other worldly origins of the story’s protagonist.
The X-Files viewer who is not also a baseball fan may miss many of the other hidden gems that Duchovny hid in this episode. Firstly, the protagonist of the episode, Josh Exley plays for the all-black team, the Roswell Grays. Josh Exley takes his name from both Hall of Famer Josh Gibson who played for the Homestead Grays and apparently also from author Fredrick Exley. Josh Exley is reportedly from Macon, Georgia. This is roughly where Josh Gibson was born. Also, Exley is referred to in the episode as the “black Babe Ruth”, a term which Gibson was often called. However, the connections between characters and baseball figures do not end there.
The next interesting connection involves the team name in the episode. Josh Exley plays for the Roswell Grays. As Josh Exley is an allusion to Negro Leagues Star Josh Gibson, who played for the Homestead Grays, it only makes sense that Exley’s team is also named the Grays. The Roswell Grays wear uniforms that are very similar to those of the 1943 Homestead Grays.
— Tina (@lostdogs20) April 6, 2015
Another interesting play on the team name comes from the Sci-Fi side of the story. The tall, grey skinned, large-headed beings that form the typical alien image, are knows as Greys. There is no doubt that Duchovny deliberately did this. While the two are spelled differently, they are certainly homophones (words that sound the same), which plays well to the television audience. In fact, Duchovny’s character, Agent Mulder, even mentions in disbelief that an alien would be playing on a team called The Grays. In one of the more humorous exchanges of the episode, Arthur Dales and Mulder discuss this:
A viewer/baseball fan who has been following the story to this point would understand Mulder’s confusion. While Bob and Kirk Gibson both had outstanding careers in the Majors (Bob being a Hall of Famer), Josh was clearly the Gibson referenced. In the final scene of the episode, any questions about the allusion to Josh Gibson in the form of homerun-smashing Josh Exley are erased. Agent Scully arrives at a ballfield to find Agent Mulder taking late-night batting practice. She states that she received an urgent message on her answering service from a “Fox Mantle” telling her to rush to the ballfield. This was clearly a message from Agent Fox Mulder, who borrowed the surname of Yankee Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.
Mulder, wearing a Grays uniform with the No. 20 and the name Gibson on the back, asks his partner if she had ever hit a baseball. When she answers in the negative, Mulder stands behind and reaches around to show his partner how to hit. Then, Mulder delivers a monologue that any baseball fan can appreciate. Mulder states, “…. All right, what you may find is while you concentrate on hitting that little ball, the rest of the world just fades away...”
Nate Tweedie is the manager of on-site learning at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum