Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown (2003)

Starring: Wesley Singerman
Grade: C

“Does winning a ball game mean that much to you?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never won a ball game”.

Well, we’re about to see how far Charlie Brown is willing to go.


Linus (Corey Padnos) finds Charlie Brown (Singerman) on his baseball mound in the snow, reminiscing about his happy baseball memories. Ever the optimist, Linus reminds him about all the games they lost. Immediately, Charlie Brown puts all the blame on his right fielder Lucy (Serena Berman). Just then, Lucy appears and asks if they’re going to have a baseball team again this year. The answer is yes, but Charlie Brown is honest with her in saying they were hoping she wouldn’t find out because she’s the worst baseball player to ever live. Undeterred, Lucy happily tells Charlie Brown to put her down for right field.

In the springtime, baseball season is officially here, and Charlie Brown and Linus are on the field watching their groundskeeper Snoopy (Bill Melendez) clean things up. He doubles as their best player, and Woodstock and his little minions act as the field’s sprinkler system, as they all water the field at once with little water pots. Taking a look at the roster, Linus thinks their team is weak at every position, prompting Lucy to interrupt to say right field is the exception. Linus leaves after hearing her delusional comments. She asks Charlie Brown about money, but he has to explain to her that they don’t get paid for playing. The exception is Snoopy, who is given dog food as his compensation. Following this, Charlie Brown tries to do some drills with Lucy by hitting some balls towards her, but she still can’t catch shit. One lands in the bush, so she just brings the whole bush back while saying it’s in there somewhere. After trying to explain to his team that the focus this year will be to play fast, Snoopy annoying him, and him trying to show Lucy how to catch the ball, the practice is thrown on its head after a heavy wind distracts everyone. It’s powerful enough to throw Snoopy and Lucy into the air. Charlie Brown can’t get focused as the pitcher, and Schroeder (Christopher Ryan Johnson) tries to remind him of his job. Unfortunately, Charlie Brown is getting anxiety knowing his backup is Lucy and how she’s just bound to do something stupid. Schroeder gets him a glass of water to calm down and he tries to make it work, but her intruding voice throws him off once again.

That night, Charlie Brown tries to sleep because their first game is Monday, but he can’t because he’s a nervous wreck. At the same time, Schroeder (who decides to wear his catcher’s mask to bed) can’t sleep either because he’s come to the realization that he’s no catcher, he’s a piano player, as if this is the time to have an existential crisis. Lucy nor Snoopy can sleep either. Eventually, the morning comes, and Charlie Brown’s confidence is shot even further, as he realizes he’s a lousy manager that no one pays attention to. Hoping that it will rain, and no one will show up, he tries to stay in bed, but Lucy shows up in his bedroom telling him to get up. Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, and Snoopy walk together to their away game. Though it’s only a few blocks away, Lucy is still complaining. Finally, they get there. The opposing team is led by Peppermint Patty (Daniel Hansen) and Marcie (Melissa Montoya). Peppermint Patty greets Charlie Brown and lets his team take the field to warm up before they start. He hits a fly ball to Lucy, but she can’t catch it and blames it on jet lag. Following this, Snoopy walks over to Charlie Brown with his food bowl in his mouth, but Charlie Brown tells him he gets food after the game. Snoopy walks away agitated but keeps the food bowl in his mouth and goes through the warmup with it still there. Peppermint Patty brings over the schedule to Charlie Brown and tells him that their teams will be facing each other twelve times this season. She uses this opportunity to trash talk, talking about how badly they’re going to kick his team’s ass. Later, Peppermint Patty talks about the lack of opening day ceremonies and how they should do something big like releasing a bunch of pigeons into the air like how she saw on television. Charlie Brown has Snoopy release Woodstock from a box, but this isn’t good enough for her.

Peppermint Patty tells Charlie Brown his team will bat first, and the game commences. Leadoff batter Snoopy goes first, but pitcher Peppermint Patty hits him with the first pitch. Immediately, Charlie Brown storms the mound to scold her, forfeits the game, and takes his team home. The season moves on, and Charlie Brown’s team loses the first ten games. The eleventh game has mixed results but after some more distractions like Sally (Megan Harvey) coming to the mound to tell Charlie Brown that his subscription to some baseball magazine ran out, they lose again. On the walk home, Lucy talks about how the season is in ruins, so Charlie Brown decides it’s time for a change. He’s going to start making some much-needed trades. He calls up Peppermint Patty to see if she’d be interested in making one. However, she says the only player who he has that’s worth a shit is Snoopy, and he refuses this. Once he brings up Lucy, Peppermint Patty hangs up on him. The next day, Linus asks how the trades have been going, and Charlie Brown tells him about the phone call. However, as he says it, he reconsiders the Snoopy trade after Linus scolds him for potentially trading his own dog to win a few baseball games. He wants to win badly though, so he goes home and calls up Peppermint Patty again to renegotiate the offer. She offers five players for Snoopy and will bring a contract on Monday to settle things. Charlie Brown accepts but as soon as he hangs up, he feels terrible about what he’s done.

On Monday, the two managers meet to sign the contract. A nervous Charlie Brown is hesitant in signing it but does so after pressure from Peppermint Patty. Later, Charlie Brown reveals the news to Snoopy, and he’s pissed. Sometime after, he hangs with Schroeder, and he flips on Charlie Brown too for trading his own dog. Following this, Linus expresses similar sentiment to Charlie Brown. He’s so disappointed that he doesn’t even want to talk to him. The guilt eats at Charlie Brown so much that he rips up the contract to Snoopy’s delight. Peppermint Patty shows up and assumes he got the message she sent him. Apparently, the five players she was going to trade to him said they would give up baseball before they played for his sorry ass team, so she already rescinded the trade. The deal is off! However, the real problem is still evident. Lucy is fucking terrible, and they need to find a way to get rid of her. Team manager Charlie Brown may have to figure out another trade scenario to hopefully salvage what’s left of their season.

My Thoughts:

In regard to the very specific, baseball-related Peanuts subcategory, Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown edges out It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown by the sheer fact that they stick to a basic story with no extra hoops, it’s more focused on the sport itself, and it actually induces laughter from time to time. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

First of all, the idea that Lucy is so terrible at baseball that it becomes a focus of a special is funny in itself. We’ve seen her suck at the sport before, but it’s really put into perspective here. This go-around, Charlie Brown is pushed to the brink of insanity by trying to make his team work, despite having the worst outfielder to ever play on his team. Everyone has had enough of her. Even the mild-mannered Schroeder has a moment where he yells, “Hey you! Get lost! Go away! We don’t need you! Go home!”. If you got the quiet piano player to flip out, you know you’re awful. My only problem with this is that it wasn’t as satisfying as it should be. Truthfully, I, like many, cannot stand Lucy. At the very least, we want her to internalize the fact that there isn’t a single person in the Peanuts world that actually wants to play with her. You can call it spiteful, but it’s the truth. How come every time Charlie Brown gets scolded by her or anyone else, he gets anxiety and gets depressed, with most of it stemming from years and years of trash talk from Lucy herself. However, when the tables are turned, she acts completely aloof to the obvious situation at hand? She should be a little angered by the situation, right? It would make sense considering how we’ve grown to know the character over the years. Even the positive Marcie gets mad when she’s traded, and she hates baseball! Why does Lucy act like they’re yelling at everyone but her? Even when Schroeder yells at her to go home, she literally walks up to them and asks for him and Charlie Brown to tell her who they’re yelling at, so she can help them get rid of “him”.

This is unacceptable. This special was the perfect time for Charlie Brown to get revenge, and they blew it.

The humor of Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown is just way better comparatively than in It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown. When Lucy’s lazy self tells pitcher Charlie Brown she’s going to sit in the shade and how she wants him to pitch in a way that it lands near her, I loved Charlie Brown’s frustrating response where he tries to trick her, telling her to go home to get herself a cold glass of lemonade in her kitchen, and to leave the back door open in case the ball comes that way. He’s trying his hardest to not scream at her (because she’s not getting it anyway when he does yell at her), but when he starts blatantly lying to get her to leave, preferring to play without a right fielder instead of having her there, it’s pretty damn funny. Then, you have moments where she brings her glove and a pizza to the bench, where she states that the pizza is her snack between innings. Thinking of a near impossible hypothetical, Charlie Brown asks her what would happen if she got the glove and the pizza mixed up. Anyone watching this special would probably think the chances of that happening are extremely low, but the gag right after shows her managing to do exactly that. This is a great example of the ridiculous cartoon humor that we know and love.

One difference between the two baseball specials is how bad the team is this time around compared to their previous story. Snoopy is sleeping in the outfield, Charlie Brown’s pitches are still getting hit back towards him so hard that it knocks all of his clothes off on countless occasions (it’s funny every time), and they lose a game 0-53. This is a far cry from the close games they play in It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown. In doing so, a much more interesting story developments out of this decision, as our star becomes so desperate for a win that he’s willing to trade his best player for five potentially solid rotational players. Now, I don’t know what schoolyard league allows for trades, but it’s kind of funny to watch these kids throw on their team manager caps, get on the phone, and negotiate because of the outrageousness of it all. Also, very rarely do you see Charlie Brown act out of desperation and show a thirst for winning. Usually, he’s just focused on love and despair. Here however, he loves baseball and wants to win badly. From the opening, he talks about some of his happiest memories stemming from the sport, despite losing so often. He goes to sleep with his cap for good luck (at least that’s what we’re told in the 1996 special previously), and he even sees the morning sun in the image of a gigantic baseball. The man is locked in for the season, making sense of his willingness to start making moves to improve his team. He just wants it more than ever. Is that hard to ask? As fans, some maybe bothered by Charlie Brown trading his own dog, as the other players are, but this just tells me he’s a low-key competitor. Trading a star player for five decent rotational guys could be worth it.

Let’s be real, no one else on the team is making any noise. They have to switch things up after a 0-10 start. Any GM would. Charlie Brown has the right mindset here, which is why he’s the team manager and star of this franchise while Linus is known for carrying around a fucking security blanket.

I don’t know why Linus and Schroeder are so invested in what he does with his dog either. It’s none of their business. If you want to win, sometimes you have to make tough decisions. This is a part of growing up. Charlie Brown showing some dedication in this sense bodes well for his future. He’s willing to sacrifice, or at least consider it, while the others aren’t. From all the other specials I’ve seen, this is an intriguing bit of character development for our favorite balding child even if he does end up backing out. It’s cool seeing this side to him. It’s very different. Watching him react to the term “win” after being a loser for so long, we can see why he goes as far as he does. The depth of this story would have benefitted had they milked this chunk of the plot a bit more in a longer special, especially with his subsequent guilt when his teammates get mad at him for trading Snoopy. They were really on the cusp of something special before the story stops in its tracks after Peppermint Patty rescinds the trade. It still works as is, but there was room for the story to blossom a bit more had it hit the thirty-minute mark instead of the twenty-five-minute mark.

The refusal to sugarcoat things is probably the best part about this special. These kids are brutally honest with each other when it comes to trying to win a baseball game. It gives us two of the best moments of the show. First, there’s Peppermint Patty revealing to Marcie the unofficial rule of little league baseball by admitting, “It’s traditional the worst player always plays right field, and you’re our worst player”. Then, there’s Lucy saying Charlie Brown was robbed in the Marcie/Lucy trade, but Charlie Brown disagreeing saying, “I think I got a better deal. She (Patty) agreed to throw in a pizza!”, which was easily the funniest line of the entire special. Of course, the second-best line is when Peppermint Patty tries to trade back but Charlie Brown doesn’t think he can because he already ate the pizza. That was gold. These handful of scenes leading to these jokes make the special what it is and in doing so, it leaves It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown in the dust.

Though I didn’t like Lucy’s brushing off of the comments directed towards her, it’s endearing when Marcie does it. After Peppermint Patty tells her how bad she is, she follows it by saying Marcie wears her glove well, so she thanks her for the compliment in this cute, deadpan, laugh-inducing way that has become her trademark. This is the Marcie portrayal I love the most. It’s so much better than how she was portrayed in A Charlie Brown Valentine. Her simple, happy-go-lucky charm accompanied with her consistently plain expression is so much more entertaining in comparison. Giving her a bit of an attitude like in the said Valentine’s Day special, always felt wrong and a bit removed from the spirit of the character. When you think about it, Charlie Brown was really missing the point here. Having happier players is a much better option than having a team disruptor like Lucy be there. Considering how he was willing to not even have Lucy on the field at one point, having the positive energy of Marcie just standing there on the mound with him is easily the better option. Speaking from experience, anyone would rather play with a positive person who sucks, rather than a negative person who sucks. She might be clueless about the sport (“I didn’t score a single goal and I never even made a free throw”), but team chemistry is much more important for morale. Plus, the Charlie Brown/Marcie dynamic is so awkwardly amusing because our star never knows how to act around Marcie any time that she admits she likes him. It’s just entertaining.

Basically, he should’ve told Peppermint Patty to go to hell.

Oddly enough, the actual act of Lucy being traded, the whole point of this special, doesn’t happen until the final four minutes of the program. More time is spent on the Snoopy trade and it eventually not happening, which wasn’t entertaining enough to warrant the time given to it. Again, the way to flesh this out would have been to make this just a tad bit longer to add more substance to the Snoopy trade, but they opted to go the simpler route. It doesn’t make the special worse by any means, but it could have been better.

Even though the special comes to a halt in a finish that isn’t the most conclusive or satisfying end to the buildup of the story, there is something so eloquent about it. Rain floods the baseball field, and everyone leaves, with a distraught Charlie Brown just sitting on the mound by his lonesome in an indelible image to lead us into the credits. It’s such a “mood” that I can’t even hate on it. Sometimes, a quiet finish like this just works even if its randomness doesn’t answer any questions.

Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown is a passable Peanuts special. It’s not anything crazy good, but it’s one of the better programs following creator Charles M. Schulz’s death.

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