Hollywood’s cup of glamour runneth over with lore, the most significant likely being, in terms of endurance, the story of Lana Turner, she of the tight-fitting sweater, busty figure, and platinum blonde hair. Turner’s genesis as a star began at Schwab’s Pharmacy in Hollywood, where the future star played hooky from Hollywood High School. Or so the legend went. It was, in fact, the Top Hat Malt Shop that served as the locale for Turner’s discovery by a talent agent in the late 1930s.
Television producers in the 1950s and the 1960s need not have looked further than Chavez Ravine to discover talent for verisimilitude in their baseball-themed episodes. Leo Durocher, no stranger to show business because of his marriage to Laraine Day—which ended in divorce in 1960—appears as himself in The Beverly Hillbillies and The Munsters. In both appearances, Durocher, a coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers, scouts baseball talent—Jethro Clampett in the former and Herman Munster in the latter.
The Beverly Hillbillies uses the classic “fish out of water” format to depict country bumpkins living in Beverly Hills after striking oil accidentally. Audiences delighted in the misunderstandings between the Clampett kinfolk and their neighbor—and banker—Milburn Drysdale. Jethro, the slow-witted but joyful nephew of Jed Clampett, has a throwing arm that the more famous Drysdale would envy. Unfortunately for Durocher, Jethro’s pitching ability flourishes only when he puts possum fat on the ball, clearly an illegal maneuver. Dodgers executive Buzzie Bavasi does not appear as himself, rather, Wally Cassell portrays him.
In the Munsters episode “Herman the Rookie,” which aired in 1965, Durocher eyes Herman Munster, a comedic Frankenstein-looking fellow, as the Dodgers’ next great slugger. While playing with his son, Eddie, Herman grabs the attention of Durocher, who thinks he’s found the next Babe Ruth. A ball hit by Herman from a ballpark eight blocks away knocks Durocher on his noggin.
Again, Durocher’s scouting exploits amount to naught. During a tryout, Herman hits a ground ball that tears through the infield dirt like a drill. Toppling like a house of cards, the scoreboard falls after a home run ball smashes it. “Mr. O’Malley said it would cost him $75,000 to put the Dodger Stadium back in shape every time I played,” explains Herman to his family.
Herman’s tryout takes place at Wrigley Field—in Los Angeles—which provided the site for several television programs and movies, including Home Run Derby; Wrigley Field was the home ballpark for the California Angels in their inaugural year, 1961.
Durocher also plays himself in episodes of Mr. Ed and The Donna Reed Show.
Don Drysdale made four appearances on Donna Reed in addition to guest starring on Leave It To Beaver and Our Man Higgins; his infamous appearance in The Brady Bunch occurred in 1970. A post-baseball career in front of the camera beckoned during the contract holdout that joined Drysdale and fellow Dodgers hurler Sandy Koufax before the 1966 season.
In his 1990 autobiography Once A Bum, Always A Dodger, Drysdale revealed that a movie with David Janssen was in the works. “Sandy and I assumed that we wouldn’t be with the Dodgers during the summer, so we geared up to do a movie instead. It was to be called Warning Shot, directed by Buzz Kulik. Janssen was going to be the star, Sandy was going to play a detective sergeant, and I was going to be a television commentator. We had planned to start filming at just about the time the baseball season would begin. Sandy and I had signed contracts and all systems were go.”
Drysdale and Koufax resolved their differences with the Dodgers, thereby excluding the Janssen movie from their calendar.
Before the Dodgers established a beachhead in southern California, beginning with the 1968 season, Ebbets Field was their home. During his tenure as one of the marshals of McKeever Place, Duke Snider guest starred as himself on Father Knows Best in the 1956 episode “Hero Father.” Father Knows Best is set in Springfield, presumably somewhere in the Midwest.
The story’s premise revolves around Bud, the middle of the Andersons’ three children. Duke Snider’s All Stars are scheduled for exhibition games in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Duluth, Omaha, and Los Angeles. “The All Stars come right through Springfield on their way to Duluth,” offers Bud, a teenager, to his two pals.
Anderson matriarch Margaret points out to her husband, Jim, that Duke Snider’s team would be a good draw to raise money for the new hospital wing; Him is the chairman of the committee for the addition.
Implausibly, Jim gets in touch with Duke. Money proves to be a sticking point; Brooklyn’s iconic centerfielder explains, “My boys have to make a living.” All is not lost, though. Duke offers a deal that would give his team 25% of the profit from the ticket sales—instead of the usual 50%—plus expenses in advance.
Jack Braymer, the father of Sandy, one of Bud’s friends, approaches Jim with a deal—he’ll pick up the cost of the expenses and guarantee the tickets if Springfield’s zoning commission allows him to to build a manufacturing plant on the site of his choice. Initially, Braymer wants to look like a hero to his son, with whom he has a somewhat fractured relationship. When Jim shows that his integrity is unassailable, Braymer withdraws the offer.
After his conscience hits him with the force of a Duke Snider home run, Braymer comes clean to his son. In the episode’s tag, Duke plays catch with the Andersons’ younger daughter, Kathy.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on March 25, 2016.
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Tags: 1958, 1961, 1966, Angels, Beverly Hillbillies, Buzz Kulik, Buzzie Bavasi, California, California Angels, Chavez Ravine, Chicago, David Janssen, Dodger Stadium, Don Drysdale, Donna Reed, Duke Snider, Duluth, Ebbets Field, Father Knows Best, fish out of water, Herman Munster, Herman the Rookie, Hollywood, Hollywood High School, Home Run Derby, Jack Braymer, Jethro Clampett, Lana Turner, Laraine Day, Leave It To Beaver, Leo Durocher, McKeever Place, Milburn Drysdale, Mr. Ed, Munsters, Omaha, Our Man Higgins, Pittsburgh, Sandy Koufax, Schwab's Pharmacy, Springfield, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Donna Reed Show, The Munsters, Top Hat, Top Hat Malt Shop, Wally Cassell, Warning Shot, Wrigley Field