A series of filmed home run contests between two sluggers of the late 1950s/early 1960s, one National Leaguer, one American Leaguer. The batters had to swing at every pitch in the strike ...
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A series of filmed home run contests between two sluggers of the late 1950s/early 1960s, one National Leaguer, one American Leaguer. The batters had to swing at every pitch in the strike zone. Any called strike or batted ball that did not go for a home run was an out. (Three outs per inning.) The batter with the most runs at the end of nine innings won $2000. The loser got $1000. As an added incentive, any batter who hit three home runs in a row got a $500 bonus. Each consecutive home run after the first three in a row was worth an additional $500. While one hitter was at bat, the other sat in the press box with host Mark Scott and talked about both his and the other hitter's career. Filmed at Wrigley Field--home of the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels--where the power alleys were a generous 345 feet from home plate.Written by
Steven W. Siferd <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The winner's award of $2,000 doesn't sound like much now but if one adjusts for inflation that amount would be equivalent to almost $16,000 in 2013 dollars. Hank Aaron, due to his success over several contests, earned the equivalent of a bit over $100,000, which isn't too bad for a day's work. See more »
Turning a Kids' Schoolyard, Pick-up Drill into an indispensable addition to America's Pastime!
We can well remember that day, July 20, 1969.Four days earlier, Appollo 11 had "blasted off" from good old Planet Earth on its historical mission. While Astronaut Collins held down the fort in the orbit Lunar Command Module, Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin landed and did that "one small step for Man, one giant step for Mankind!"
For once, there was something truly worth while on the tube to justifying staying home to watch. Well just about everybody stayed home, 'cept faw some friends, who chose to go to a Church Carnival that night!
When the story was related to our Dad, Clem Ryan(1914-74). He chuckled and related a story of his school days. "When we were kids in 8th grade at St. Gabriel School, the German Airship, the Graf Zeppelin, was paying a visit to Chicago. On the day it was here(circa 1927), our Nun allowed 2 of us at a time up in the Church's Bell Tower. There we saw it closer. Now they have a chance to be witness to History and they go out! The World must be really changing!"
Dad sure made a point, as it looked as if the more coverage we had of something, the less awe we have for anything. This leads us in to HOME RUN DERBY.(A nearly perfect segue-way!)
When this TV Series debuted In The Year of Our Lord 1959, we had more like occasional TV coverage of our National Pastime. The Radio took the daily coverage with names like Allen, Barber, Brickhouse, Caray, Elson and Harwell doing the job of our eyes and ears. We had 3 TV Networks, some Independants and a fledging Public Broadcasting System. UHF stations were about 5 years or so away from being an everyday reality.
Unlike today. when we have maybe 8 or 10 regular broadcast stations in a market and literally hundreds of Cable/Satellite Dish stations available to us. Sure, there are no more Newsreels at the Cinema*, but the on the spot, nearly instant, immediate coverage of the Cable/Dish News Networks rendered much of these old line irrelevant, unnecessary and hence, extinct.
And so it is to this World of 1959 that we transport you, dear reader. General Dwight D. Eisenhower is President, with his youthful side kick, Richard M."Dick" Nixon as his V.P. A bloodthirsty Lawyer and former Minor League Baseball Player, Fidel Castro had taken over in Cuba, pledging to the Cuban People and the World that he had no interest in keeping the Power for himself. Le's see now, Fidel; it's now been 48 years. Think it's time for your temporary regime to peacefully step aside?
There were 2 Major Leagues with 8 National League and 8 American League Teams. Those of us who cared would spend the Winters (roughly November thru April's Opening Day) engaging in what has come to be called "the Hot Stove League"; that is, discussing and rehashing what were some likely or even possible trades that could take place over the Winter and how such Deals could effect our teams.
Well, one day somebody got the bright Idea that the baseball fan needed some relief from the long stretch between seasons. They wanted to come up with a Baseball related program, that would not only Showcase Top Talent from "The Bigs", but provide some method of showing off their talents, with $ome prize money for the participants-if only to make it a little more interesting.
And just imagine, from ZIV Television Productions, the same company that brought us HIGHWAY PATROL, SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE and SEA HUNT, we got HOME RUN DERBY! What we saw in HRD was a filmed competition between a National League slugger vs. an American League powerhouse. They would get 9 innings to get all the homers they can. And much like a kids' schoolyard game of "3 Outs" or "Piggy Move-up", each drive they had was either a Home Run or an out. Between at-bats, we were privy to the conversations held by Emcee Mark Scott and the non batting Competitor. The program notes informed us that the producers let the cameras roll and tried for a "Real Time" look. Hence we were treated to such verbal wit as; Mark Scott: "That sure is tough, eh Mickey?" Mickey Mantle: "Sure is!"
The series was filmed,cut and edited (not unlike YOU BET YOUR LIFE), and the top sluggers were seen in competitions, lasting as in a single elimination tournament. Therefore, we were treated to the likes of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Duke Snider(Willie, Mickey and the Duke!), Henry Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, Ernie Banks, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Eddie Matthews, Frank Malzone, Rocky Colavito and Ted Kluzewski, et al, all 'showing off' their stuff. The prize money seemed a bit trifle; but remember, your DOLLAR$ were worth more then in the age of Pre-Free Agency!
As our "American Pastime", Baseball has picked up a lot of traditions that we know of today, gradually along the years. (the 7th Inning Stretch, Throwing Out the 1st Pitch, Singing "The STAR SPANGLED BANNER" and "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", etc.)
And so it is that this little, filmed and syndicated Baseball's answer to WHAT's MY LINE? or BEAT THE CLOCK; staged and recorded for posterity at "beautiful Wrigley Field"(in LA, not Chicago); has left its mark on history. For even though the original series had slipped into obscurity(until its being brought back by ESPN Classic Sports), the idea of a HOME RUN DERBY, albeit on a Grand Scale, has now become a part of our annual All-Star Game break. And how important it is, especially in a year of a dull All-Star Game!
* The newsreel had been getting less and less important. The last one that we saw was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin as a part of the playbill, along with CASINO ROYALE(the original theatrical film). That was in Summer, 1967!
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