December 12, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Media .
11/14/2013: Let’s discuss the THT Annualby Dave Studeman
12/12/2013: The all-decade team: best of the bestby Richard Barbieri
12/11/2013: Alone on the pedestal, Part 2by Jason Linden
12/11/2013: The Applegate factorby Shane Tourtellotte
12/10/2013: All about the latest Bill James Handbookby Dave Studeman
12/10/2013: Though night may fall, play ball!by Frank Jackson
12/10/2013: Roy Halladay retiresby Jeff Moore
12/09/2013: Leverage Index by inningby Dave Studeman
12/09/2013: How far are the Mariners from relevancy?by Brad Johnson
12/09/2013: Prince Halby Chris Jaffe
12/09/2013: Three underrated acquisitionsby Pat Andriola
12/06/2013: Cooperstown Confidential: Ed Charles and 42by Bruce Markusen
12/06/2013: The Athletics get busyby Brad Johnson
12/06/2013: Getting to know Ryan Haniganby Chad Dotson
12/04/2013: Cataloging the non-tendered playersby Brad Johnson
12/04/2013: Alone on the pedestalby Jason Linden
12/03/2013: Mascot fight!by Greg Simons
12/03/2013: Why is a sinker “heavy?”by David Kagan
12/03/2013: The role of fall leaguesby Jeff Moore
12/02/2013: Nationals make great deal for Fisterby Matt Filippi
12/02/2013: The Twins go holiday shopping, but to what end?by Brad Johnson
12/02/2013: The end of the benchby Chris Jaffe
11/29/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Danny Waltonby Bruce Markusen
11/29/2013: The best rookies of the ‘30sby Chad Dotson
11/27/2013: Towards an award prediction systemby Shane Tourtellotte
11/26/2013: MLB’s coffers are overflowingby Greg Simons
11/26/2013: The role of prospects in tradesby Jeff Moore
11/25/2013: Stepping up to the plateby Frank Jackson
11/25/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about player birthdaysby Chris Jaffe
11/22/2013: The end of the road for Chris Carpenterby Chad Dotson
11/21/2013: All the news that’s fit to inventby Azure Texan
11/20/2013: Marcus Stroman, the mythbusting machineby Kyle Boddy
11/20/2013: Welcome to the birthplace of… someone elseby Jason Linden
11/19/2013: 2013 THT awards reviewby Greg Simons
11/18/2013: THT Fantasy has moved to Rotographsby Dave Studeman
11/18/2013: Atlanta gets burned againby Frank Jackson
11/18/2013: The 2014 Hall of Fame VC ballotby Chris Jaffe
11/18/2013: Must See MLB.TV 2013by Dave Studeman
11/15/2013: The best rookies of the ‘40sby Chad Dotson
11/15/2013: Card Corner: Wayne Granger: 1973 Toppsby Bruce Markusen
11/14/2013: 10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski tradeby Chris Jaffe
11/14/2013: The Screwball: The face of championship baseballby Azure Texan
11/14/2013: Player-A-Day: Casey Fienby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Player-A-Day: Tim Lincecumby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Pitcher performance after batting successby Shane Tourtellotte
11/13/2013: 25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letterby Chris Jaffe
11/13/2013: Houston hoodoo ‘62by Frank Jackson
11/12/2013: It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014by Dave Studeman
11/12/2013: Player-A-Day: Joe Mauerby Brad Johnson
11/11/2013: Fastball velocity by game stateby Jon Roegele
11/11/2013: The rise of the middle-aged managerby Chris Jaffe
11/08/2013: Player-A-Day: Josmil Pintoby Brad Johnson
11/08/2013: Hall monitor: The case for Andruw Jonesby Chad Dotson
11/07/2013: Big leaguers, bit partsby Azure Texan
11/07/2013: Player-A-Day: Nathan Eovaldiby Brad Johnson
11/06/2013: If he’d only gotten another shotby Jason Linden
11/06/2013: Player-A-Day: David DeJesusby Brad Johnson
11/05/2013: Player-A-Day: David Ortizby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Dariel Abreuby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: The Boston (Braves) Marathon of 1928by Frank Jackson
11/04/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about birthdays in 2013by Chris Jaffe
11/01/2013: Taking the close pitch with two strikesby James Gentile
11/01/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Don Baylorby Bruce Markusen
11/01/2013: The best rookies of the ‘50sby Chad Dotson
10/31/2013: The Screwball: Celebrate good times, come on!by Azure Texan
10/31/2013: Player-A-Day: Leonys Martinby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Player-A-Day: Jon Lesterby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Forecasting the major 2013 awardsby Shane Tourtellotte
10/30/2013: The effect of seeing pitchesby Jon Roegele
10/29/2013: Putting the knock on pitching changesby Joe Distelheim
10/29/2013: Player-A-Day: Ryan Howardby Brad Johnson
10/29/2013: Losing momentum in the sixth gameby Dave Studeman
10/29/2013: Previewing the fall Stars gameby Jeff Moore
10/28/2013: Player-A-Day: Travis Woodby Brad Johnson
10/28/2013: Marquis Grissom: Mr. October Jr.by Frank Jackson
10/25/2013: The blackballing of Dick Dietzby Bruce Markusen
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Xander Bogaertsby Brad Johnson
10/24/2013: The Screwball: Put it in neutral?by Azure Texan
10/24/2013: The all-decade team: the ‘00sby Richard Barbieri
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Michael Wachaby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: Earn money watching baseballby Dave Studeman
10/23/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Iglesiasby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: 20th anniversary: The Joe Carter gameby Chris Jaffe
10/23/2013: Giants take a risk with Lincecum’s two-year dealby Matt Filippi
10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
10/22/2013: Where does David Price fit?by Jeff Moore
10/22/2013: Survey says?!?!?by Greg Simons
10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
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April 01, 2013
Pop culture and the pastime: The Walking Dead and baseballYou’re probably wondering what in the world The Walking Dead has to do with our great game of baseball. I’ll get into that in a moment, but last night’s enthralling season finale tied up more than a few loose ends to one of my favorite programs. Rick’s crew pulled off the upset of the century in holding off the prison against a larger troop of Woodburians (think about the 1988 Dodgers beating the mighty A’s), the evil Governor completely lost his mind and slaughtered most of his soldiers, and the enigmatic Andrea lost a battle with a zombified Milton at the very end.
Long before the season finale, another favorable character from the hit show died when former prison inmate Axel took a barrage of bullets from the Governor’s sharpshooting assassins. Axel appeared in only eight episodes, but developed a strong following in a short time and appeared destined to become one of the accepted members of Rick’s group. Axel was portrayed by the chameleon-like character actor Lew Temple.
Herein we find the connection to baseball. The versatile Temple attended Rollins College, a Division II school, where he starred on the varsity baseball team. In 1982, he won the team’s MVP Award, leading Rollins to the championship of the Sunshine State Conference. He didn’t quite have the talent or the size to pursue a professional career as a ballplayer, but he found work in other areas of the game. Long before becoming an actor, Temple worked in two major league organizations as a bullpen catcher, first with the Seattle Mariners and then the Houston Astros.
In 1986, Temple joined the Mets as a scout, good timing considering that the Mets won their second world championship that fall. Temple eventually rejoined the Astros, becoming the franchise’s assistant of minor league operations and scouting. He continued to hold that position through the 1993 season.
It was at that point that Temple decided on a change in careers. He left the Astros to become an actor, first working on the stage at the prestigious Alley Theater in Houston. From there, he made the transition to film work. Ironically, his first feature film role came in the 1994 Disney baseball movie, Angels in the Outfield, in which he played a ballplayer. That would be his last baseball role, at least to this date, but he would go on to make memorable appearances in Domino and the critically acclaimed Waitress, and a number of horror films, including The Devil’s Rejects, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and the wonderfully titled Silent Night, Zombie Night.
Though his film career is still in the early stages, Temple has already gained a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors. He plays both villains and likeable characters with relative ease, while showcasing an ability to radically change his physical appearance from one role to another. His characters also have a habit of dying, a tendency that has been noticed, with some chagrin, by his devoted fans.
While Temple’s character did not survive the zombie apocalypse, the actor himself has survived a bout with leukemia, despite being given only a 40 per chance to live. And he’s also given one of TV’s most highly watched shows a tangible connection to our National Pastime. Who says baseball is out of touch with today’s hip culture?
Posted by: Bruce Markusen
March 11, 2013
Pop culture and the pastime: talking movies with Billy SampleFor eight seasons, Billy Sample patrolled the outfield for the Rangers, Yankees, and Braves. He was a good role player, capable of hitting in the .270s, stealing bases, hitting an occasional home run, and playing a good left field.
Smart and well-spoken, Sample then pursued a successful career as a broadcaster, first with the Braves and Angels, and then with MLB Radio. Now he is on to career No. 3. Sample has become an actor, director and writer, with two full credits under his belt and a third on the way.
Sample will be featured in the upcoming horror movie, Gravedigger, along with several other former big leaguers-turned-broadcasters. He also is heavily involved in the production of a new baseball film, called Reunion 108, slated for release this spring.
Earlier this week, Billy chatted with me about his burgeoning career in the film industry.
Markusen: First Wade Boggs did a horror movie for the SyFy Channel; now you are starring in your second horror film. Is this the new trend for former players?
Sample: As I understand, horror movies and porn movies are the least expensive to produce, and since no one has called for me to fill in for Ron Jeremy, I have to take what I can get to fill out my IMDB page. I am looking forward to joining the ranks of Jim Bouton and Ron Shelton as former player/filmmakers, in fact, I have a Jim Bouton-Ball Four reference in Reunion 108.
Markusen: Billy, I noticed that the two main writers for Gravedigger are named Pepitone, Joseph and Billy. Are they related to the Joe Pepitone?
Sample: They are Joe’s nephews. (The younger Joe Pepitone wrote the screenplay for the comedy, Stuck in the Middle, and co-wrote the novel, Soul of a Yankee.)
Markusen: You are one of several former major leaguers in the film, along with Jim Leyritz and Brian McRae. All of you used to serve as hosts at MLB Radio. I would imagine this is more than a coincidence.
Sample: Well, the connector to all of us is Keith Collins, the producer and lead actor in The Meat Puppet and Gravediggers. Leyritz and Collins were friends. “B-mac” introduced me to Collins when we were working in Anaheim, though Collins is from Clifton, New Jersey.
Markusen: This is your second role in a horror movie; the first was The Meat Puppet. Tell us what that experience was like.
Sample: I think the biggest challenge for me is to change on the fly, if what I had decided doesn't work for the director, and he or she is looking for something else, to be able to give the director another look for the scene with only a few seconds between takes. Someone told me that I stole my scene in The Meat Puppet, and I felt good until I realized that after my introduction to the scene, I was the only one in it.
Markusen: Tell us about the role you are playing, Mayor Benjamin Barnes, in this new film. Is your character a hero, a villain, or something in between?
Sample: As with my police captain role in The Meat Puppet, my mayor in Gravedigger is quite annoyed that bodies are showing up dead under my jurisdiction and it doesn't appear we are making any headway towards bringing an end to the murders.
Markusen: Where are you as an actor right now?
Sample: Somewhere between, “this is fun” and “my goodness, how do they learn all of these lines?”
Markusen: Among established actors, are there any influences you’re looking to in refining your acting skills?
Sample: I watch way too much Turner Classic Movies and am amazed at how talented the actors are from the era of the thirties through the fifties, especially considering that talking film was still in its infancy in the early thirties. My drama teacher in high school, Dorsey Smith, asked me if I wanted to see if he could get me scholarship money to East Tennessee State, his alma mater (I was in two plays my junior year in high school), but I was playing three sports and couldn’t find the energy to be a performer my senior year. I've had a long time between roles .
Markusen: In addition to acting, you have written a screenplay, and you are directing a baseball film. Of the three roles (acting, writing, and directing), what would be your preference?
Sample: Too soon to tell.
Markusen: Tell us about the baseball film, Reunion 108, and when we can expect to see that.
Sample: Hopefully Reunion 108 will be out this spring, well, it has to be out by this spring. Late March would be ideal at this point. Reunion 108 is a lot like its screenwriter—edgy, satirical and R-rated. The genesis is of two different generations of ball players returning for a minor league reunion in a fictional Appalachian town, for which both teams won a championship. The players are induced to tell stories about events from their baseball past. Real life former players joining me are Fernando Perez for a large role, John Foster, and Joe Ausanio.
Markusen: Final question, Billy, what’s your next project?
Sample: My next project is about my first grade teacher, Lucy Harmon, who interacted with George Washington Carver and Thurgood Marshall and was instrumental in getting equity in pay among African-American and white teachers in 1930s southwest Virginia. The project after that centers around Sam Carrodo, the coach of a junior college women's baseball team in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that won 94 consecutive games, and if Reunion 108 makes money, a sequel will be my fourth project.
My oldest son, Ian, who is an executive producer of Reunion 108, has written three screenplays. Hopefully, Reunion 108 will generate enough revenue that the family will continue to be filmmakers. If not, I may not ever get out of debtor’s prison.
Posted by: Bruce Markusen
January 11, 2013
Don’t villify the writersIt is an article of faith in the online baseball community that Barry Bonds, etc., got jobbed in this year's Hall of Fame voting. Just look at the numbers, says the sabermetric orthodoxy.
And understandably so. Looking at numbers is what sabermetricians do. But these are not the people who vote on Hall of Fame membership.
Members of the traditional sports writing fraternity—who do vote—do numbers, yes, but are more inclined to look beyond them. Thus the brouhaha over this year's election and its rejection of otherwise-qualified candidates suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. And thus the overwhelming online condemnation of what the voters did (or didn't) and why, in articles like this.
I have a foot in each camp. For some years now, I've been an editor here at The Hardball Times, working with smart people who massage statistics in ways I couldn't have dreamed of in my long-ago life as a newspaper sports editor (and, briefly, a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America).
One thing I have learned is not to stereotype either camp. Baseball writers on the internet aren't all geeks in their pajamas writing in their mothers' basements, eschewing baseball tradition. Baseball writers in the press box are not all old fogies getting mustard all over their plaid sports jackets and refusing to recognize newfangled numbers.
The argument that reached its loudest point in this year's Hall of Fame election cycle is familiar to anyone reading this. The electors are 10-year members of the BBWAA. The guidelines they get are open to wide interpretation:
"Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."Nothing about how much weight to give each of those elements. Nothing about how to define any of them. And so, not surprisingly, the 500-plus BBWAA voters don't all agree on how to apply these standards.
I think we've covered the major points on THT over the past few days: Chris Jaffe gave us the historical pattern of Hall of Fame voting and explained why this year is different. Jeffrey Gross made the case for Bonds, the most obvious left-out candidate. Today, Jason Linden sums up the argument that the "character" qualification is meaningless. And Dave Studeman, here and here, has urged that all those who care about baseball and the Hall of Fame take a fresh look at the whole selection system.
I'm not here to argue Bonds and PEDs, or RBIs vs. wOBA. Rather, I'd like to offer a little perspective.
There's a BBWAA chapter in each major league city. The print beat writers who go (or in some cases used to go) to the games are members, and, after 10 years, have the opportunity to vote on Hall of Fame candidates. (Not all members vote. Some news organizations have decided, not unreasonably, that there's an essential conflict in having people who cover the players participate in decisions that affect those players.)
The full membership requirements are in the BBWAA constitution. Essentially, you must be a beat writer, backup writer, columnist or sports editor from a newspaper or wire service that covers major league baseball on a regular basis. Membership has been expanded to include web sites on a case-by-case basis. No television or radio broadcasters have a vote.
Some of these writers are historians of the game. Some are students of its strategy. Some are working stiffs just happy to have a job in these troubled times in their industry. As is the case where you work, some are more diligent and knowledgeable than others.
Most love the game. Some can't wait to get off the weird travel and hours of the beat so they can have a normal life. Those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Some are quite good with numbers, believe it or not, but numbers are the salt and pepper that season each day's game stories and most other newspaper baseball coverage. They're not the meat. Newspapers tell stories. Newspaper baseball writers use statistics in aid of that.
So why has this exclusive little group, bound to get smaller under current rules as the number of daily newspapers shrinks, kidnapped the Hall of Fame admissions process?
Well, it hasn't, exactly.
The system in place is legitimate in that it represents an old reality. Time was, as Jason Linden notes today, baseball beat writers for daily newspapers were the fans' primary eyes on major league baseball. Only they saw all the games and all the teams (at least in their teams' league). Then came locally televised games. Then came the national game of the week. And then superstations. And then came now, when, if you can't find a ballgame on TV on a summer day, you aren't trying, and when you don't need the Cleveland Plain Dealer to find out Asdrubal Cabrera's batting average.
But the Hall of Fame didn't see that future three-quarters of a century ago when it asked the people who watched baseball players for a living to choose the best of the best players to be honored. The BBWAA notes on its website:
"The board of directors at the Hall of Fame is responsible for choosing the best way to select honorees. Currently, they have decided that the BBWAA is the body best-suited to vote, but the Hall of Fame board is free to make changes as it sees fit."That's the Hall's decision. And the "... integrity, sportsmanship, character..." language is the Hall's language.
If the Hall of Fame wants its honorees selected on the basis of statistics and nothing else, that's easy. We have a dozen folks at The Hardball Times who, given an afternoon, could propose a credible formula defining a Hall of Fame player by the numbers.
I think most of us can agree, though, that a Hall of Statistics would lose some of the romance of what we have now. But once you move beyond mere numbers, you bring in subjectivity—opinion, interpretation. And that invites differences of approach, less so on what 300 wins means than on what "integrity" means, and "character."
You can make a good case—as Dave Studeman has—that the process should be examined, overhauled, opened up, made to reflect 21st century reality. But don't blame the people who have been asked to figure out how to do a vaguely defined job for doing just that.
Posted by: Joe Distelheim
January 09, 2013
Pop culture and the Pastime: Baseball and the Twilight ZoneIf you’re anything like me, your favorite part of the New Year’s celebration is The Twilight Zone marathon that airs on the SyFy Channel. It usually features some of the most iconic episodes in the history of the groundbreaking series, the creation of the brilliant mind of Rod Serling.
Inevitably, I look for ways to tie interests of mine to baseball, and The Twilight Zone does not let down in that regard. Of the 156 episodes that aired from 1959 to 1964, at least one centers on the theme of baseball. (To the best of my knowledge, none of the shows focused on basketball, football or hockey.) Appropriately, the episode is called “The Mighty Casey.” It aired on June 17, 1960, during the first season of The Twilight Zone’s successful five-year run.
Most of The Twilight Zone episodes involve serious subject matter, with twist endings that produce dire conclusions for characters who have committed a variety of sins and lesser indiscretions. A few of the episodes involve lighter fare, where the supernatural twist is more comedic and fanciful in nature. Written and developed by Serling, “The Mighty Casey” falls into this latter category.
The episode begins with the following opening narration, delivered in Serling’s wonderfully clipped and creepy manner of speaking.
“What you’re looking at is a ghost, once alive but now deceased. Once upon a time it was a baseball stadium that housed a major league ballclub known as the Hoboken Zephyrs. Now it houses nothing but memories and a wind that stirs in the high grass of what was once an outfield, a wind that sometimes bears a faint, ghostly resemblance to the roar of a crowd that once sat here. We’re back in time now when the Hoboken Zephyrs were still a part of the National League and this mausoleum of memories was an honest-to-Pete stadium. But since this is strictly a story of make-believe, it has to start this way: One upon a time in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was tryout day. And though he’s not yet on the field, you’re about to meet a most unusual fella, a left-handed pitcher named Casey.”
As the plot unfolds, Zephyrs manager Mouth McGarry (played by the great Jack Warden) finds his team playing so poorly that it has fallen completely out of the pennant race. A scientist named Dr. Stillman approaches McGarry with a potential solution to his problematic team. The good doctor introduces the manager to a pitcher named Casey, played by the relatively little-known character actor Robert Sorrell. Casey is a terrific pitcher but also happens to be a robot. McGarry keeps that fact a secret as he adds him to his beleaguered roster.
Casey throws a fastball so hard that it cannot be hit, but his lack of humanity is eventually discovered when he is beaned with a ball and has to undergo a physical examination, revealing his robotic status. The National League tells McGarry that robots are not permitted to play, so Dr. Stillman offers to make the robot a human by transplanting a heart into his mechanics.
As with most Twilight Zone episodes, an unintended effect occurs. Now that he has a heart, Casey feels sympathy for opposing batters. He refuses to throw his superhuman fastball and becomes useless to the Zephyrs.
His reluctance appears to doom the Zephyrs, who are now on the verge of bankruptcy. Dr. Stillman gives his robotic blueprints to McGarry, who looks at them before undergoing an epiphany. He hatches a scheme to create an entire pitching staff of robotic Caseys, an idea that will make his club the team to beat for years to come.
Serling then closes the episode with his narrated summary:
“Once upon a time there was a major league baseball team called the Hoboken Zephyrs, who during the last year of their existence wound up in last place and shortly thereafter wound up in oblivion. There is a rumor, unsubstantiated of course, that a manager named McGarry took them to the West Coast and wound up with several pennants and a couple of world championships. This team had a pitching staff that made history. Of course, none of them smiled very much but it happens to be a fact that they pitched like nothing human. And if you are interested as to where these gentlemen come from you might check under ‘B’ for baseball, in the Twilight Zone.”
Here are a few other notes of interest with regard to “The Mighty Casey:”
*The episode was originally filmed with veteran actor Paul Douglas starring in the lead role as manager McGarry. But Douglas appeared out of sorts and sounded raspy throughout the filming, leading to some speculation that his drinking problems had returned.
A few days after the filming, Douglas died from a heart attack at the age of 52. It turned out that he was suffering from heart failure; it was that condition, and not a relapse of drinking, that led to his haggard appearance. When Serling learned of Douglas’ death, he felt that the episode, which was centered on light-hearted comedy and whimsy, simply could not air. As Serling explained, it was as if he and others on the set were literally watching Douglas die in front of them.
Serling came up with a Plan B. He decided to re-shoot most of the episode, calling on Jack Warden to replace Douglas. When CBS refused to pay for the re-shoot, Serling took on the costs himself, paying more than $25,000 out of his own pocket. The result was a bit of an editing nightmare, with the episode appearing somewhat disjointed. But Serling felt this was a better option than showing Douglas in his dying days. It was the right choice by the always sensitive Serling.
*Sorrells, who portrays Casey, turned to drinking in later life and became a bizarre recluse. In 2004, he shot two customers in a Simi Valley bar, killing one of them. Arrested for murder, Sorrells is now serving a sentence of 32 years to life for the shootings.
*The baseball scenes were filmed at Wrigley Field, but not the one in Chicago. They were recorded at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, the home of the minor league Los Angeles Angels. The California Wrigley, which also had ivy on its walls, was often used by Hollywood in the 1950s and '60s and became the setting for the 1960 cult favorite, Home Run Derby, hosted by Mark Scott.
*The uniforms worn by the mythical Zephyrs have a National League 75th anniversary patch on them, indicating that the episode was set in 1951. The Zephyrs are based in Hoboken, the same town where the first officially recorded game under the Cartwright Rules took place.
All in all, “The Mighty Casey” provides light entertainment, though it hardly ranks with the classic Twilight Zone episodes, which usually involved imprisonment, cruel justice, or even death. Still, there is a deeper theme at work here, and a timely one, if we draw a parallel between robots playing baseball and the current issue of steroids. At what point do players and teams try to make themselves better without disrupting the notion of fair play? It’s a question that remains unanswered by the end of the 30-minute episode.
There are some other points in the episode’s favor. “The Mighty Casey” remains memorable because of the last-minute re-casting that had to be done before it reached the airwaves. The underrated Warden is always good, whether it’s performing comedy or drama, or a little bit of both. And even a weaker episode of The Twilight Zone is worth watching, if only to catch a glimpse of Serling, in his classic narrations, delivering us some of his science fiction-inspired wisdom.
Posted by: Bruce Markusen
December 11, 2012
Pop culture and the pastime: Willie Mays and BewitchedWillie Mays and Bewitched provided me with two of the greatest entertainment sources of the 1960s. When you combine the two, the level of amusement is almost indescribable.
Mays’ appearance on Bewitched was one of 67 times he appeared on television as himself, including appearances on late-night talk shows, documentaries and World Series films. In 1989, he appeared on both My Two Dads and Mr. Belvedere, the latter program starring former Mays opponent Bob Uecker. Mays actually appeared three times on The Donna Reed Show, including twice in 1964 and once in 1966.
The year 1966 also marked Mays’ visit to the set of Bewitched, one of the most popular shows of the 1960s . The episode originally appeared on Oct. 26, as part of the third season of the show. That season was also the first year that Bewitched was filmed in color.
Why was 1966 such a busy year for Mays on TV? I’m guessing that it had something to do with his vintage 1965 season, when he hit a career high 52 home runs and led the National League in both on-base percentage and slugging. On the heels of that performance, Mays most likely filmed the Donna Reed episode during the fall of 1965 and the Bewitched episode during the summer of 1966, just in time to appear on the fall schedule.
The Bewitched episode is titled “Twitch or Treat,” a play on Samantha’s ability to produce magic with a twitch of her nose. The episode centers on a Halloween party thrown by Endora (played wonderfully by Agnes Moorehead) at Darrin and Samantha’s house. The guest list includes a number of Endora’s friends and family, all of whom happen to be witches or warlocks. One of the witches has a tail, while one of the waiters is invisible. (It sounds like last year’s New Year’s Eve party.)
As you might have guessed, Mays is on the guest list, with the party revealing him to be something more than just a Giants outfielder. Dressed in jacket and tie, a smiling Mays greets Samantha heartily, with Sam returning the greeting with an enthusiastic, “Say hey, Willie.” When Darrin asks Sam, “What’s he doing here?” she responds with a subtle but knowing answer, “Darrin, really.”
Darren then nervously inquires whether Mays is indeed a warlock. Sam delivers a classic response. “The way he hits home runs? What else?”
Looking at his watch as he downs another hors d’oeuvre, Mays declares, “Gee, I guess it’s about time for me to pop out to the ballpark.” He then instantly disappears from sight, as a wide-eyed Darrin watches in disbelief.
No Bewitched episode would be complete without a stellar guest star appearance, in this case by Paul Lynde, who puts in his usual turn as Uncle Arthur, Endora’s brother. Lynde, with the most unusual speech pattern this side of Howard McNear (the actor who gave Floyd the Barber life on The Andy Griffith Show), portrays Arthur in his usual wisecracking manner, as he tries to wreak havoc on Endora’s party. His repeated mocking of Endora during her recitation of “The Night Before Halloween” supplies us with some of the most amusing moments of the show.
Beautiful and classy, Elizabeth Montgomery puts forth her usual spot-on performance as Samantha. So does the elastic Dick York as Darrin. York always succeeds in capturing the nervous energy of the husband harried by the presence of witches in his family; there is hardly an episode that goes by without his eyes popping or his hair rumpling. This episode is a reminder that Bewitched was never quite the same when York left the show due to severe back pain, giving way to the more reserved and staid Dick Sargent.
Interestingly, no other baseball players made appearances on Bewitched, though one football star did put in a cameo. Deacon Jones, the Hall of Fame defensive end of the Los Angeles Rams, appeared in a 1969 episode, which coincidentally was the first episode that featured Sargent.
If you’ve never seen Bewitched, particularly the episodes from 1964 to about 1970, when the show was really hitting its stride, you’re missing out on something. Some cable stations run it, and there is always the avenue of buying the DVD. And if you pick up the 1966 season, you’ll have some fun seeing an in-his-prime Willie Mays looking awfully relaxed on a situation comedy. Good stuff indeed.
Posted by: Bruce Markusen
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