Sunday, May 1, 2016

OTR Baseball Episode 8: Gunsmoke's Ball Nine, Take Your Base

For this episode of my Old Time Radio and baseball series, I am going to highlight one of my favorite series.  I am certainly not alone in thinking that Gunsmoke is one of the best programs that was ever sent over the radio waves.  As I like to say about Gunsmoke, the story is good - the acting is great - the production values is off the charts.  In 1959, they broadcast a great baseball episode called "Ball Nine, Take Your Base."

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (Louisville, Kentucky)

The Louisville Slugger Museum (October 2012)

When most old time radio fans list their favorite five or ten programs, Gunsmoke is almost always on the list somewhere.  It is certainly on my list and a definite top five - if not higher.  The first western for adult audiences on radio, this CBS produced show featured the best cast, the best stories, and the best production values.  Gunsmoke had one of the best casts on radio, a group that stuck together during its entire run (1952 to 1961).  Each radio episode started the same way, with the narrator setting the scene:

Around Dodge City and in the territory out west, there's just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers... And that's with a U.S. Marshal, and the smell of...Gunsmoke!

Gunsmoke!... the story of the violence that moved west with young America. And the story of a man who moved with it...

Then, Matt Dillon would chime in...

I'm that man...Matt Dillon, United States Marshal. The first man they look for, and the last they wanta meet. It's a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful. And a little lonely...

CBS radio superstar William Conrad starred as Marshal Matt Dillon, He was joined by Howard McNear as Doc Charles Adams, Georgia Ellis as Kitty Russell, and Parley Baer as Dillon's assistant Chester Wesley Proudfoot.  They were often joined by the stars of CBS radio, most commonly it seems was John Dehner, who almost always played the bad guy.  The show was a new type of entry among Westerns.  Matt Dillon did not ride in and save the day each time.  He was more human than any of the other series leads on radio it seems.  And while William Conrad was too stocky and short to play Matt Dillon on TV, he was perfect for radio.

On August 2nd, 1959 (late in its run on CBS Radio), the baseball episode of this great series was broadcast.  Dodge City is very excited as the Eastern All-Star Professional Baseball Club is heading into town to play!  As we start the episode, Doc is getting ready to be the umpire for the game between the Eastern All-Stars and the Dodge City team.  Matt Dillon was concerned that Doc might not quite remember the game the way he thinks he does!  But Doc has this covered by ordering a copy of Chadwick's Rules!  Doc insisted that the game was still for gentlemen - but Marshall Dillon was less convinced.  He was very nervous about the role of gambling and did not want the good people of Dodge City to be taken for a ride.  Turns out, as often was the case, Matt's intuition was right!

This seems like a great representation of what these traveling teams might have been like when they arrived in towns.  I guess time will tell if baseball is still a gentleman's game as Doc insisted.  This episode features a great supporting cast including: Vic Perrin (who also was the writer), Ralph Moody, Barney Phillips, Joseph Kearns, Sam Edwards, and Harry Bartell, Hope you enjoy this wonderful episode.

Ball Nine, Take Your Base (August 2, 1959)

Old Time Radio Baseball Series and Other Links

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