Classic TV Friday: July 2009 Archives

1986 - Creepy Phillies Fans

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Today's Classic Television Friday is actually a series of commercials the Phillies apparently thought would bring fans to the Vet in 1986. The Fightins drew 1,933,335 fans to Veterans Stadium that year, good for fourth in the league, so it looks like it worked.

Times must have been tough then in Philadelphia; one of the promos is for a giveaway of a "free lunch" to kids. What, no Tom Herr glove? (I actually received this at a Phillies game once.)

If you were a 1980s era purveyor of vices and you needed a celebrity spokesperson to push your wares on television, you couldn't do much better than Billy Martin. Want to sell some beer? Get Billy Martin. Sell some nudie mags? Billy Martin. Black market baby pandas? Billy Martin fuckin' loves those things. But perhaps there was no better marriage of athlete and product than Billy Martin and pipe tobacco:

I've never smoked a pipe before, but I realize that it was quite popular back in the early 1980s. But what is this "bite" concept? What does it feel/taste like when pipe tobacco "bites" you? Is it similar to the time Catshirt got really high at a Red Sox game and tried to smoke Butch Huskey's sunflower seeds and Butch Huskey bit him?

In November of 1972, Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente managed the Puerto Rican team in the Amateur World Baseball Championship in Leon, Nicaragua. Hans Norbert Jaeger, a player for the German team, took this footage of Clemente stepping in to take some batting practice, perhaps to keep himself in shape or perhaps to educate the youngsters under his tutelage.

Three weeks after the championship, Clemente was in Puerto Rico when he heard of a devastating earthquake that hit Nicaragua. He organized relief efforts including food and medicine, but concerned that the supplies were not reaching the neediest folks, he got on a plane to deliver them himself.

Clemente died when the plane crashed into the ocean, but his name lives on at Roberto Clemente Field in Mannheim, Germany, built in 1975 and named in honor of a heroic player that Hans Norbert Jaeger and his teammates were in awe of during their trip to Nicaragua.

In honor of tomorrow's big Walkoff Walk Field Trip to Philadelphia, aka the Citizens Bank Heist, here's a clip of WPHL-TV that aired prior to game five of the 1980 NLCS. Richie Ashburn! Harry Kalas! Astrodome! 1980s era TV graphics! What production value! As per the description on YouTube:

This aired during a time when MLB allowed a team's local TV outlet to produce its own LCS coverage, thus duplicating the game in the home market along with the network broadcast (in this case, ABC). The local stations were also allowed to simulcast the network's World Series feed. Both practices ended after the 1983 season.

So basically, if your team made the playoffs, you were lucky enough to not deal with Tim McCarver. Lucky ducks.

The Phillies would eventually topple the Astros on their way to a World Series title, and a young Maury Povich would report on the win on KYW 3 back in Philly. I learned that little tidbit when I visited the traveling Hall of Fame exhibit at the Constitution Center; at the end of the exhibit, they had a television playing 1980 World Series news clips on a fantastically endless loop.

Part of the reason batters wear helmets with earflaps nowadays is the unfortunate incident that happened to Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro back in 1967. Just two seasons removed from leading the league in homers as a 22-year-old, the outfielder was smashed in the face by a Jack Hamilton pitch, crumpling to the ground with a broken cheekbone and a damaged retina. His career lasted a few more productive years before he was forced to retire due to worsening eyesight.

At the same time his baseball career was taking off, he was signed by RCA Victor to a recording contract and made a few appearances on the Merv Griffin show, as evidenced below:

Fast fact: In Italian, Conigliaro means "rabbit". And in Gaelic, Mervyn Griffin means "rich dead closeted queer".

(video obtained thanks to the Classic Television Showbiz blog)