Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"How Does The Pennant Look This Year?"

Among other things, Tallulah Bankhead was a rather passionate New York Giants fan. (That's the baseball team, which moved to San Francisco in due course.) The head writer for her NBC variety blowout, The Big Show, Goodman Ace, was a Giants fan married to a Yankee fan. ("Get a hit, Yogi darling!" Jane Ace was wont to holler, when watching a game on the living room telly. In terms of domestic bliss, of course, it could have been far worse---and would have been, had Mrs. Ace been a Dodgers fan.)

Combine the foregoing to Giants manager Leo Durocher's first appearance on The Big Show, 4 February 1951, and the following was the net result.

TALLULAH BANKHEAD: Well, darlings, we have just finished thirteen weeks of The Big Show. And each show an hour and a half. Now, you won't believe this, I'm sure, but I just found out there are shows on radio that are only one half hour each. (Pause.) I knew you wouldn't believe me, darlings. But on this show it takes a half an hour just to mention the names of the stars. Well, as a matter of fact, we thought we would save time by just referring to our stars just by their initials, you know, like, uh, Durante, Allen, and Holliday would be, uh, D-A-H. But we gave that up because, on next week's show, we were thinking of having Cantor, Berle, and Sinatra. (Pause; laughter.) I waited for you, darlings. So, you can see why using intials is out!
LEO DUROCHER: Out?! Whaddya mean, "out," ya ner---he was safe by a mile!
BANKHEAD: Leo Durocher! (applause.) OK, Durocher, simmer down, simmer down, you're not managing the Giants now at the Polo Grounds.
DUROCHER: Well, I'm sorry, but you said, "Out!" And certain . . . words in baseball, why, they upset me and I lose my head.
BANKHEAD: Yeah, I know . . . a word like ummm-pire, for instance. I think it's perfectly awful the way you treat the umpires.
DUROCHER (mock astonishment): Me? I don't bother the umps.
BANKHEAD: oh-ho-ho-ho, not much you don't. Why is it the minute the umpires walk out before every game, you make everybody at the Polo Grounds stand up and sing, "Oh, say, can you see . . . ?"
DUROCHER: Well, you know me, Tallulah. Baseball's in my blood.
BANKHEAD: Yeah, I thought you were rather lumpy. Now tell me, Leo, we Giant fans have been waiting fourteen long years, now. How does the pennant look this year?
DUROCHER: Ah, looks the same---it's powder blue, it kind of tapers off to a point, and I, uh---
BANKHEAD: Leo, I know what it looks like, darling. I've seen plenty of pennants at Ebbets Field. (Laughter, applause.) And, I'm going to see one flying over the Polo Grounds this year, am I? (Applause.) (Inaudible.)
DUROCHER: Well, Tallu, just give me one more good long ball hitter, and we'll win that pennant quicker than you can say "Jackie Robinson."
BANKHEAD: We can use him, too. No, but honestly, Leo, don't you think hoping to win a pennant this year is aiming, uh, too high---
DUROCHER (shouting, slightly backstage): Too high?! Why, that ball was right o---whaddya mean, "Too high"?!
BANKHEAD (mock sheepishness): Oh, darling, I'm so sorry I used another word that upsets you. Down, boy . . . easy, now . . . eeeeea-sy.
DUROCHER (returning to mike): Look, Tallulah, I'm not interested in talking baseball. This is my racket---that's what I'm interested in, acting.
BANKHEAD: Hah! Acting---you?
DUROCHER: Just a minute! Why the emphasis on you? This may surprise you, but I'm booked to star in my first play this summer. And it's gonna be a hit.
BANKHEAD: Oooh, your first play, and it's gonna be a hit.
DUROCHER: Yes, and then I'm going into my third play.
BANKHEAD: And you're going from your first play to your third?
DUROCHER: Sure. With a hit anybody can go from first to third.
BANKHEAD: So you're an actor. Does Laraine know about this?
DUROCHER: Laraine who?
BANKHEAD: Laraine Day, your wife.
DUROCHER: Oh---that Laraine Day.
LARAINE DAY: Yes, that Laraine Day. You remember me?
DUROCHER: Aw, hello, honey. (Applause.)
BANKHEAD: Laraine, darling, what is this routine about Leo wanting to become an actor?
DAY: Yes, I know. Leo B. Mayer, we call him around the house. Do you know what he does, Tallulah? He won't let me go to many ballgames. He makes me stay home and catch him on television. So I can tell him how good his acting was when he went out on the field to argue with an umpire.
DUROCHER: I'd like to see Dr. Kildare do as well.
BANKHEAD: Uh, tell me, Laraine---do you get upset, darling, when you see Leo go out to argue with an umpire?
DAY: Oh, no, not anymore. The minute I see him walk out, I start getting dinner. I know he'll be home early.
BANKHEAD: Baby, you must have early dinners quite often.
DAY: Well, when the Giants play a doubleheader, we . . . sometimes have dinner as early as . . . two o'clock in the afternoon.
DUROCHER: Now, wait a minute, Laraine---don't go giving the impression that I fight with all the umpires.
DAY: Well, no, not all of them. Much to my surprise, Tallulah, one night last week Leo came home with an umpire after the game. We had him for dinner.
DUROCHER: Yeah. Served on a platter with a baseball in his mouth. Boy, was he tasty.
DAY: Yes. That was the first umpire that ever agreed with Leo.
BANKHEAD: Laraine, it must be very exciting to be married to a man in baseball.
DAY: Well, it's like being married to a man in any other business. I talk to the players' wives and they tell me what kind of day their husbands had. Like Eddie Stanky's wife. She calls me very proudly and says, "Eddie had a very good day today. He walked, he singled, he tripled, and he was hit in the head by a pitched ball."
DUROCHER: Aw, I wish the women would stay out of my baseball business. They always talk a good game, I'd like to see them out there playing it.
BANKHEAD: If that's an offer, you can sign me now.
BANKHEAD: Why the em-pha-sis on you?!
DUROCHER: You wouldn't even know what to do. Now, look---if you were on third base and we needed one run to win, and it's the last of the ninth, there's one out, Lockman bunts, the pitcher comes in for the ball. Now, how would you get home?
BANKHEAD: Well, the same way I always get home, darling---I take a taxi.
DUROCHER: Ah, pretty smart, darling. Well, this'll stop you---suppose it's raining'n ya can't get a taxi.
BANKHEAD: Well, this'll shock you, Buster---when it rains, they don't play ball.
DAY: That oughta take care of him. Thanks, Tallulah, it's good to see somebody win an argument with Leo for a change.
BANKHEAD: Well, I must say, Laraine, that being the wife of a stormy baseball manager doesn't seem to have changed you very much. You still have that fresh, lovely, scrubbed look.
DAY: Why shouldn't I look scrubbed? Every time we have an argument, Leo sends me to the shower.

They little knew just how soon a National League pennant would fly above the Polo Grounds once again, and at whose heartbroken expense following a thriller of a pennant race.


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