The Abbott & Costello Show: The Baseball Player (NBC, 1947)
That would be Lou (Costello), who gets the unlikely telegram that he’s been asked to fill in for Joe DiMaggio with the New York Yankees . . . which provides a very convenient excuse for Abbott & Costello to perform, yet again, the routine which will remain their signature long after both men have gone uneasily to their rewards.
The part that everyone is likely to forget from tonight’s performance is that Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller provides a hook around which Abbott & Costello deliver a routine nearly as classic as “Who’s on First” . . . even if their radio contract doesn’t call for performing “Feller Pitching” at least twice a season.
This is not to distract you from the pleasure of Abbott & Costello having their typical madcap mangle at Feller’s expense. But, much like “Who’s on First,” it’s just as much fun to read from the script while you listen.
Of course the idea of Lou Costello being asked to stand in for the injured Yankee Clipper is as preposterous as Feller’s once-infamous observation that nobody in the Negro Leagues was good enough to play major league baseball. Of course, Feller was compelled to dine on crow under glass, when his Cleveland Indians broke the American League’s colour barrier and won a World Series with Larry Doby and Satchel Paige, and when Feller himself would be inducted into the Hall of Fame—on the same day as Jackie Robinson.
Don’t let all that stop you from enjoying:
Abbott: Now, you’ve got to get ready for the opening game.
Costello: Yes, I think we’re gonna play the Cleveland Indians.
Abbott: Cleveland Indians, eh?
Abbott: Feller pitching?
Costello: Certainly there’s a feller pitching. Who do you think they’d use, a girl?
Abbott: I know they don’t use a girl. I said, “Feller pitching?”
Costello: What feller?
Abbott: Feller with the Cleveland Indians.
Costello: Look, Abbott, there’s nine guys on the Cleveland Indians team. Now which feller are you talking about?
Abbott: Feller that’s pitching. There is only one Feller with Cleveland.
Costello: You mean nine Yankees are gonna play against one feller?
Abbott: That’s right.
Costello: You mean there’s no fellers in the outfield?
Costello: And there’s no fellers in the infield?
Abbott: No, Cleveland only has one Feller.
Costello: Well, this feller must be pretty good if they don’t need any other players for themselves.
Abbott: Look, all the players’ll be out there helping him.
Costello: You just said there was only one feller on the team.
Abbott: That’s right.
Costello: Then where did all them other fellers come from?
Abbott: Aw, you idiot, when I say there’s only one Feller on the team, I mean there is only one Feller that pitches.
Costello: Well, Abbott, when the manager of the team wants this pitcher, what does he call him?
Costello: You mean he just hollers, “Hey, feller!” And this guy knows that they mean him?
Abbott: That’s right.
Abbott: His name is Feller. Feller. Bob Feller. And when I say there is only one Feller on the team that pitches, that’s it. And the feller that pitches is Feller. There’s the other fellers on the team, but there’s only one Feller.
Costello: Boy are you mixed up! You mean the feller that pitches is Feller? And there’s other fellers on the team but they’re not Fellers?
Abbott: Now you’ve grasped it.
Costello: Yes, I grasp it but it keeps slippin’ out of my hands!
Abbott: Let’s forget it. Let’s go into this sporting goods store and get your baseball equipment. I want you to look right for the opening game.
You may actually find yourself forgetting that tonight’s performance of “Who’s on First” may be the absolute best performance of the routine Abbott & Costello ever delivered.
Cast: Marilyn Maxwell, Ken Niles, Iris Adrian, Martha Wentworth, Sidney Fields. Announcers: Ken Niles, Michael Roy. Music: Skinnay Ennis Orchestra, Marilyn Maxwell. Writers: Pat Costello, possibly Hal Finberg, possibly Parke Levy.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: At the Circus (NBC, 1938)—After the cast (Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson, Kenny Baker, Phil Harris, Andy Devine) suggests he think about bumping off Fred Allen, Jack (Benny) decides to treat them to a night at the circus, where Jack’s customary scheming might make them think twice about lion around . . . Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Mahlon Merrick, Phil Harris Orchestra, Kenny Baker. Writers: Ed Beloin, Bill Morrow.
Easy Aces: Betty Leaves Carl Over the Baby’s Name (CBS, 1941)—New mother Betty (Ethel Blume) says “Sheila”; new father Carl (Alfred Ryder), apparently, says “Susan”; and, doting great-aunt Jane (Ace), as usual, says a mouthful, after allowing Betty to stay with the Aces, until the whole megillah about the Neff’s newborn daughter—causing yet another row between the combustibly loving young couple—blows over. Marge: Mary Hunter. Announcer: Ford Bond. Writer/director: Goodman Ace.
mr. ace and JANE: Quiz Show (CBS, 1948)—With a little intercession from Mr. Ace, neighbour Ken (Roberts) has landed a gig announcing a new quiz hit called The Sky’s the Limit; wanting to thank Ace for the boost, Ken finds Jane (Ace) and her shiftlessly shifty brother Paul (Leon Janney) at home instead . . . while accidentally leaving that evening’s show’s script on behind on a chair, provoking Paul to prod his gullible sister into cashing in on the blunder. Perhaps the Aces try and succeed in submitting a none-too-subtle satirical hint that what explodes into scandal a decade later was perhaps common enough that only the genuinely gullible could have believed the big dollar quizzes were as pure as the proverbial driven snow? Quiz host: Robert Q. Lewis. Mrs. Samuels: Betty Rubin. Himself: Michael Abbott. Announcer: Ken Roberts. Writer/director: Goodman Ace.
The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show: Dinner for Teacher (NBC, 1949)—More accurately, for principal: the children’s principal (possibly Elvia Allman), whom Alice (Faye) invited for Easter dinner, making her very nervous about randy Remley (Elliott Lewis) making hash of the evening . . . until everyone gets a taste of the principal’s haughty manner and her badly browbeaten husband. Phil: Phil Harris. Phyllis: Anne Whitfield. Little Alice: Jeanine Roos. Willie: Robert North. Julius: Walter Tetley. Announcer: Bill Forman. Music: Walter Scharf, Phil Harris Orchestra. Director: Paul Phillips. Writers: Ray Singer, Dick Chevillat.
Our Miss Brooks: Pseudo Magazine Articles (CBS; Rebroadcast: AFRTS, 1955)—Ducking Conklin’s (Gale Gordon) wrath for moonlighting at all, never mind writing magazine articles on the side, is child’s play compared to the dilemna Connie (Eve Arden) faces now: she wrote fictitiously, as the mother of one of the legendary Quiz Kids . . . and her editor is coming to town to verify the story before paying her. Toward the end of its life even this comic jewel could get more than a little absurd in the not-so-flattering way, but you’ll stay with it, anyway. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Walter: Richard Crenna. Writers: Arthur Alberg, Lou Derman.
Box 13: Sealed Instructions (Mutual, 1949)—A proposition promising Dan (Alan Ladd) ten thousand dollars “if you’ll go through with it” brings him to an uneasy correspondent, a sealed envelope, a trip to the Philippines to retrieve an unnamed valuable, a phony Manila police lieutenant who might have killed to keep Dan from retrieving it for him, a troubling revelation about his original correspondent, and half a mysterious map. You may get the feeling that if you can follow that you’re a better man than wryly intrepid Dan. Suzy: Sylvia Packer. Additional cast: Possibly Alan Reed, Luis Van Rooten, John Beal. Announcer: Vern Cartensen. Writer: Charles Gannett.