Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The Hall of Fame Case for Gene Autry

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

Gene Autry wore many hats, proverbially speaking, besides the cowboy dome piece in his movies:

  • Owner of Los Angeles television station KTLA from 1963 to 1982
  • Original singer of the Christmas standard Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Army Air Corps officer and Air Transport Command pilot during World War II
  • Owner of Melody Ranch, a 110-acre site formerly known as Monogram Movie Ranch (bought in 1953, sold nearly 100 acres and used the remaining land for Western movies and television series)
  • Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch radio show
  • The Adventures of Champion radio show (about Autry’s horse Champion)
  • Radio stations
  • Television stations, in addition to KTLA
  • Rodeo
  • Record company

Baseball fans, however, knew Autry primarily as the man who planted a Major League Baseball flag in Orange County, California; Autry, once a part-owner of the Pacific Coast League’s Hollywood Stars, was the first owner of the California Angels ball club—originally named Los Angeles Angels—which had its first season in 1961.

Autry’s journey to ownership began, as financial successes often do, in the wake of disappointment.  When the Los Angeles Dodgers switched radio broadcasters from Autry’s KMPC to rival KFI in 1959, an opportunity emerged.  A new American League franchise in Los Angeles would be a ripe opportunity for KMPC, particularly because of its sports broadcasting pedigree.  A former ballplayer raised the ante.  “Joe Cronin had known Autry since Gene’s barnstorming rodeo days over two decades earlier.  Cronin, now president of baseball’s American League, wondered if Autry was ready to tame the Wild Wild West’s newest franchise in L.A.,” wrote Robert Goldman in the 2006 book Once They Were Angels.  “Autry jumped at the opportunity.  It was a perfect fit, as not only did Autry love baseball, but he also had an impeccable reputation as a businessman and a person of integrity.”

And so, the mogul who grew up dirt poor in Oklahoma pioneered American League baseball on the West Coast.

And yet, the icon born Orvon Grover Autry is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Autry’s tenure as the Angels’ owner spanned decades, from the last days of the Eisenhower presidency to the first days of the Internet becoming a mainstream tool for information.  When Autry sold the Angels in 1996, he left a legacy difficult to match and easy to applaud.  His length of time made him a baseball fixture.  His integrity made him a model of comportment for businessmen.

Tom Yawkey is in the Hall of Fame, and rightfully so—he spearheaded the renovation of Fenway Park in the 1920s.

Walter O’Malley is in the Hall of Fame, which causes havoc in the hearts of Brooklynites, who see O’Malley as a betrayer for moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles.  His transit to Los Angeles after the 1957 season paved the way for Autry and other owners to establish teams west of St. Louis, theretofore the westernmost metropolis with a Major League Baseball team.

Barney Dreyfuss is in the Hall of Fame, a membership for the former Pirates owner resulting from many achievements, including being a proponent of the World Series; the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates played in the first World Series in 1903.

Gene Autry is not in the Hall of Fame, despite his steadfast ownership.

Devotion to the fans stands out.  Not content to simply have a financial ledger in the black.  Autry poured “his vast millions on players who made the club a winner if not a world champion.  He attended his final Angels game only 10 days before he died,” wrote Myrna Oliver of the Los Angeles Times in Autry’s 1998 obituary.

In 1982, the Angels retired 26 as Autry’s number to reflect being the “26th Man” on the roster, which has a limit of 25 players.  It was a sign of respect that Autry also earned from owners, fans, stadium workers, players, and baseball executives across Major League Baseball.  Such is Autry’s emotional connection to Angel Nation that the phrase “Win One for the Cowboy” resonates from Angel Stadium to Aliso Viejo, from Santa Ana to San Juan Capistrano.

Cooperstown awaits.  Patiently.

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on September 29, 2016.

A Stalag 13 Christmas

Friday, December 25th, 2015

RemingtonChristmas television specials dominate prime time during between Thanksgiving and December 25th.  The Hollywood Palace was no exception in 1965.

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Everybody Loves Dean Martin Sometime

Friday, October 30th, 2015

RemingtonDino Crocetti emerged from the hardscrabble existence in Steubenville, Ohio to become one of the biggest stars in the second half of the 20th century.  With a new moniker of Dean Martin, a legendary partnership with Jerry Lewis, and a fixture status in the famed Rat Pack, the kid from Steubenville became a show business icon.

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The Unsung Hero of CBS

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

RemingtonOn the day before Christmas in 2006, Frank Stanton passed away at the age of 98.  A broadcasting pioneer, Stanton served as CBS chief William Paley’s lieutenant for decades, helping mold the television industry into a media force.  Unquestionably, CBS earned its prestige under the watchful eye of Stanton, leading to the Tiffany Network moniker.

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Maxwell Smart, Spy Extraordinaire

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

RemingtonGet Smart parodied the popular spy genre in the 1960s, countering serious offerings, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, Get Smart gave American television audiences a humorous view of espionage during the Cold War.  Don Adams mastered the role of Maxwell Smart, a well-meaning, befuddled, and gadget-dependent spy for C.O.N.T.R.O.L., a United States spy agency.

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“thirtysomething”

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Yuppies existed on prime time television before we had a word to describe them.  Yuppie, of course, is a slang word for young, upwardly mobile professional.

Dr. Bob Hartley was a Chicago yuppie on The Bob Newhart Show.

Rob Petrie was a television comedy writer yuppie on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

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1960s Sitcom Music

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

If music be the food of 1960s television sitcoms, play on.

In the 1960s, the Beatles captained a British invasion across the Atlantic Ocean.  John, Paul, George, and Ringo inspired sitcom versions of themselves after their first American television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 captured America’s attention, not to mention Hollywood’s creative community.

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Thomson Hit the Shot Heard ‘Round the World, But Who Was the Winning Pitcher?

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

1951.  The Giants Win the Pennant!  Ralph Branca.  Brooklyn Dodgers.  Bobby Thomson.  New York Giants.  Leo Durocher.  Polo Grounds.    Russ Hodges.  The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.  Larry Jansen.

Larry Who?

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Origins: “All in the Family”

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

All in the Family dominated prime time programming in the first half of the 1970s.  It was a jewel for the Tiffany Network, a nickname for CBS because of the network’s high quality news and entertainment programming.

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