Tuesday, March 15, 2016

OTR Baseball Episode 1: Baseball Murder on 'The Saint' with Vincent Price

I have wanted to start a series of blog entries that showcase the way that baseball has been covered on Old Time Radio.  I have done a few other series (ChristmasLighthouses - which I still need to finish - and Diets - which I still need to finish...but the other way).  I have a few more ideas, but watching baseball in spring training got me thinking that I needed to get the ball rolling on this.  I am going to feature Old Time Radio programs that have baseball as a central theme.  There are some mysteries, crime stories, lots of comedies, and a great number of historical pieces.  I will share these every week or so through the season (there are a number to cover).  There are also excellent ones for other sports, which could start up in the Fall.

46/365/2602 (July 27, 2015) - West Virginia Power vs. Hagerstown Suns (Minor League Baseball - July 27, 2015)

West Virginia Power vs. Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic League - Minor League Baseball 
July 27, 2015)

There were a number of actors who brought Leslie Charteris' great character Simon Templar to the air.  But none of them can hold a candle to the best of them all.  From 1947 through the early 1950s, Vincent Price provided the voice for The Saint.  With this great role, Price brought a wit and charm to the role that was not captured by any of the other radio actors who played the part.  One of the funny things about The Saint is that they often repeated stories, with slightly different names.

The baseball episode is a great one to start off this series.  The episode is called "Baseball Murder" and aired on September 3rd, 1950 with Vincent Price in the main role as Simon Templar.  The story is one of my favorites and I hope you enjoy it also.

The story starts with Simon and his favorite cabbie Louie (played by Lawrence Dobkin) heading out to the see the Blue Sox.  (This reminds me of going to the Utica Blue Sox games when I lived in Cooperstown).  They are the minor league team in town and they have a baseball first - a father and son playing on the same time at once (Something that first really happened when Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey, Jr. played for the Seattle Mariners in 1990 and 1991).  Lefty Miller is the aging former major leaguer who is wrapping up his career - or as he calls it "playing out the string".  Phil Miller is the son who is rising fast and is as close to a sure thing as might be out there.  While they claimed that they were great friends, the truth is that they were estranged ever since Lefty divorced Phil's mother.

Lefty called over to the Saint to see if he can help determine if he is getting mixed up in thrown games and gamblers.  Key to this arrangement is a seductress who will not leave Phil's side.  But when Lefty is suddenly found dead, of an apparent suicide, The Saint gets to the bottom of it all.

The focus of the mysterious woman in Phil Miller's life seems to have the feel of the career of Eddie Waitkus and his shooting.  Waitkus was a Philadelphia Phillies first baseman who was shot by an obsessed fan in 1949 (one year before this episode aired).  That shooting would serve as one of the the inspirations for Bernard Malamud's The Natural which was published in 1952.

One other fun element is that the thug that was working with the femme fatale was constantly mentioning what his analyst said - which beckons to Tony Sporano and the famous HBO series The Sopranos.  The number of elements in this story that go beyond 30 minutes of radio time are pretty remarkable.  The episode was written by Dick Powell - who is better known as a movie star and the radio actor playing Richard Diamond.  Those scripts were written by Blake Edwards (of Pink Panther fame), so maybe some of it rubbed off!  Joining them were director Helen Mack and actors Hal March, Jack Moyles, Ed Mack, Bob Clark, and Gloria Blondell,

Baseball Murder (September 3, 1950 on NBC)

I hope to have new episodes of this podcast series every week - carry me through to the World Series.  I hope you enjoy!

Here are some links to programs relating to The Saint:
Old Time Radio Baseball Series and Other Links

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