Monday, September 05, 2005

Famous Fans

Date: Sat, 3 Sep 2005
From: Rob Edelman

Subject: Famous Fans

William Frawley's long-time involvement with baseball is chronicled in detail in MEET THE MERTZES, the Frawley-Vivian Vance double biography I co-authored with my wife, Audrey Kupferberg. Elden Auker, Yogi Berra, Frenchy Bordagaray, Jim Bouton, Cliff Dapper, and Dom DiMaggio begin the list of baseball folks who gave us information and quotes.

Also, several years ago, I wrote a piece titled "Bill Frawley and the Mystery Bat," which was published in THE NATIONAL PASTIME. Two stills, which I uncovered while researching Frawley, accompanied the piece. The first, a 1936 Paramount Pictures publicity still, features Frawley and actress Arline Judge posed with a bat that Goose Goslin presented Frawley at the previous year's World Series. (A yarn which contradicts the fate of the bat appears in GEORGE RAFT, a 1974 biography by Lewis Yablonsky.)

The second still was taken at a 1952 dinner sponsored by the Association of Professional Baseball Players. Frawley is pictured with Lefty O'Doul, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Herman, Beans Reardon, and Sloppy Thurston. Finally, while in San Francisco several years ago, I visited the Geary Street restaurant that Lefty O'Doul once owned, and that still bears his name. Hanging over the bar to the left of the entrance was a photo of Frawley, inscribed "Best on earth to my pal Frank [O'Doul'] from his pal Bill Frawley."

While researching my book GREAT BASEBALL FILMS, I became acutely aware of the love of baseball shared by Joe E. Brown (whose son is Joe L. Brown, the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates general manager) and Buster Keaton. Both had tremendous athletic ability, which you clearly can see when they play on-screen ballplayers, and both also organized teams in Hollywood.

Back in 1956, Brown published his autobiography, LAUGHTER IS A WONDERFUL THING. The baseball-related stills in the book include: Brown as a member of the 1909 Crowley All-Stars, a Toledo semi-pro team; Brown clowning with New York Yankees Joe McCarthy, Herb Pennock, and Wilcey Moore in 1931; Brown posed with several Detroit Tigers at the 1934 World Series; Brown comically shaking hands with Dizzy Dean; Brown and Tris Speaker; Brown and Ford Frick at the Polo Grounds in 1935; Brown interviewing Fred Hutchinson in 1953; and Brown in the company of some young PONY League players.

While interviewing Joe L. Brown for my book, I asked him about these stills-- as well as the wonderful baseball memorabilia that his father had collected over the years. He told me that, sadly, all had been destroyed in a fire.

Rob Edelman
Courtesy of SABR-L

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