Saved By the Bell may have started in 1989 and run new episodes out through 1993, but its influence–via countless reruns that continue to this day–saturated the 1990s. I, for one, watched episode after episode when I got home from school. The appeal transcended the content itself. I rarely laughed out loud at the jokes, for example, and the stories and characters were all shallow and stilted. It may be that I loved it just because it was there, like Sid Bream.
As an homage to Saved by the Bell during this multi-week celebration of the decade, I decided to cast the show with first basemen of the 1990s, with help from Eric and Ben.
Mark Grace as Zack Morris
Mark Grace plays the Bueller-esque protagonist of the show. Grace has got the looks, the moves, and the mischievous glint in his eye. He’s not the most powerful hitter or the fastest runner, but he’s got the smarts and the charm to get the job done in a pinch. It doesn’t seem like a stretch for Mark Grace to press pause in the middle of a baseball game and turn to the camera with some choice quips.
Scene: Zack/Mark Grace is on a pinball losing streak at the Max, and keeps forking over dough to Slater. A double or nothing bet is on the table when a big, snaggle-toothed girld walks up to Zack/Grace and asks where the bathroom is. Zack/Grace presses pause on the world, turns to the camera, says “Slumpbuster!” and winks.
Frank Thomas as Kelly Kapowski
Frank Thomas plays everybody’s favorite cheerleader and volleyball star. Kelly/Frank Thomas is flawless and unflappable, as likable a fellow as he is a great player.
Scene: Zack and Slater are in a fierce rivalry to hit in front of Kelly/Frank Thomas in the lineup. Kelly/Frank Thomas decides to hold a home run hitting contest to determine who gets the privilege. On the day it should’ve taken place, a hailstorm traps the three sluggers in the dugout and they decide to let Wally Joyner hit ahead of Frank Thomas and they group hug.
Mo Vaughn as A.C. Slater
Mo Vaughn, the Hit Dog, plays passionate, gruff but lovable jock A.C. Slater. This old school letterman uses his physicality to intimidate his rivals, and he’s liable to fly off the handle when provoked. But he’s hiding a heart of gold behind all of that brawn.
Scene: Slater/Vaughn spikes his milkshake with Peach Schnapps at the Max, then slaps a waitress in the rear and punches out an extra. He is suspended from the big game and learns a valuable lesson about alcohol abuse.
Wally Joyner as Samuel “Screech” Powers
Wally Joyner is pretty dorky. He went to BYU, so chances are he goes light on the good stuff, and Kevin Towers compared him to the protagonist of Leave it to Beaver. Joyner refused to juice up when had the necessary phone number in hand via Ken Caminiti, so if Screech/Joyner isn’t primed for a talking-to to Zack/Mark Grace about the dangers of partying too hard, I don’t know who is.
Scene: A shady character whose parachute pants are a menacing charcoal shade offers Screech/Joyner a syringe full of the good stuff at a party. The puny weakling is torn about whether or not to accept the offer, and fantasizes about being the big man on campus with bulging biceps. Screech then bursts awake from this strange dream, as he would never actually attend a party. Relieved, he re-ups the dollup of Vicks VapoRub on his chest and falls back asleep to dream about Eric Karros.
Eric Karros as Lisa Turtle
Of all the 1990s first basemen I can think of, Eric Karros seems like the most likely to be into fashion and grooming. Plus, Lisa was always a bit overlooked, too. Action!
Scene: Blah blah blah, I like fashion. Ew, Wally Joyner, blah blah blah.
Mark McGwire as Jesse Spano
Playing the overachiever who just wanted everybody to love him, Mark McGwire is Jesse Spano. McGwire had the tools to be one of the greats. But he wanted it a little too bad, and he took a shortcut.
Scene: “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so…strong!”
Bud Selig as Mr. Belding
It’s amazing what those crazy kids get away with right under his nose!
Frank Howard as Max
1960s first baseman Frank Howard will play the jovial cafe owner, as they kinda look alike and are equally spastic and Howard was a first base coach in the 1990’s so they both provided over-sized yet wise counsel in times of trouble to a younger generation.