I’m not entirely certain that only this series could have dreamed up an absurdist fantasy such as tonight’s offering—in which a World Series is decided on a pitch considered so revolutionary and dangerously unhittable that the Series ends with an umpire’s ruling that triggers a swarming fan riot that triggers a court inquiry and a Congressional investigation into whether the pitch should be allowed to kill the game once and for all.
But I’m not entirely certain that it couldn’t, either.
“That this was not a show for the masses,” John Dunning (in On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio) would write of The Columbia Workshop in 1998, “is especially true today. Some of these shows, on first listening, seem to move at a glacial pace; some seem quite old and dated. The techniques they pioneered have become so routine, their high-tech counterparts bombarding people in radio commercials around the clock, that a listener seldom gives thought to a time when they didn’t exist. (The show’s directors) put a modern listener on notice: you may come to the picnic, but you must bring something to it. The listener is offered nothing less than a full partnership.”
And it would remain true of The Columbia Workshop even in 2012, even allowing the series disruption for World War II, when the show was cancelled in 1942, following the broadcast of the remarkable “Air Raid,” because CBS feared the series “too frolicsome for wartime consumption,” a remarkable observation considering CBS’s offerings at the time included the frolicsome satire that was Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen.
The show’s revival for 1946-47 continues its experimental drama and, this time, frolicsome is not a vice—especially with tonight’s offering, an “appropriate salute to the World Series,” a World Series destined to be won after a double and a high throw in from center field delayed a shortstop’s relay home just enough to allow St. Louis outfielder Enos Slaughter to score, from first base, what proved the Game Seven-winning run. But even heartbroken Boston Red Sox fans wouldn’t think about swarming the field in fury.
Yes, tonight’s offering is only a far-fetched fantasy. (Glancing back to reality for a moment, New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey in 2012 would become the first knuckleball-throwing 20-game winner in the major leagues since 1980.) But if you know and love baseball as deeply as I (think I) know and love the game, would you consider it all that far fetched that there might be those who think some baseball decisions should be made, God forbid, by a court ruling or, even, a popular vote?
This we know: Sparky Anderson won’t have this episode in mind when he says, decades later, “We try every way we can to kill this game but for some reason nothing nobody does never hurts it.”
Belanger: Bill Slater. Judge: Santos Ortega. Red: Art Carney. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcer: Don Baker. Director: Howard G. Barnes. Writer: Irwin Seidel.
FURTHER CHANNEL SURFING . . .
Escape: Wild Oranges (CBS, 1949)—The Joseph Hergesheimer novella becomes a kind of rush job on radio but not too much less effective for that: John Woolfolk (Van Heflin) has chosen life at sea to quash the memory of his wife’s untimely death, but when he lands on the Georgia coast his curiosity about the inhabitants of a ramshackle mansion leads him to fall in love with the daughter (Betty Lou Gerson) of a broken recluse—unaware the manor’s deranged house servant also loves her. Additional cast: Edmund MacDonald, William Conrad, Wilms Herbert. Music: Cy Feuer. Director: Norman Macdonnell. Writer: John Dunkel, adapting the Hergesheimer novella.
The Pepsodent Show with Bob Hope: From Terminal Island; Guest—Orson Welles (Season premiere; NBC, 1943)—Live from Terminal Island in southern California: Bob (Hope) and Frances (Langford) take a carriage ride; Vera Vague (Barbara Jo Allen) fawns over the new orchestra leader; and, Welles plays a great swami predicting Bob’s future. As usual, the rat-a-tat-tat jokes are half the show and most of its burden, as often as not. Spirit: Jerry Colonna. Announcer: Wendell Niles. Music: Stan Kenton Orchestra, Frances Langford. Writers: Possibly Al and Sherwood Schwartz, Norman Panama.
Bob & Ray Present the CBS Radio Network: The Fly-Away School of Aviation Hostesses (You’re getting warmer, 1959)—Artie Schermerhorn (Ray Goulding) at the school interviewing its leader (Bob Elliott) and a young lady (Elliott) who is studying at the school. Also: Celebrating their sixtieth consecutive weekday broadcast, the duo announces a search for a college song to be sung by Natalie Attired; J. Arthur Shrank (Goulding) and the Trophy Train in Yakima; looking to sell squirting carnations; racer Dusk McCluskey (Goulding) gives safe driving tips. Writers, we have on less than reliable authority: Bob Elliott, Ray Goulding.
Dragnet: The Big Brain (NBC, 1952)—A badly beaten man found in the trunk of his car sends Friday (Jack Webb) and Smith (Ben Alexander) on a hunt for his assailants who have committed several robberies in which the victims ended up the same way. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcers: Hal Gibney, George Fenneman. Music: Walter Schumann. Director: Jack Webb. Writer: Jack Robinson.
Dragnet: The Big Bible (NBC, 1954)—Friday (Jack Webb) and Smith (Ben Alexander) investigate the apparent gunshot suicide of a man in the apartment of his estranged wife and her mother—whom the man blamed for his marital split—after the man’s reconciliation attempts were rebuffed continuously . . . except that the bullet which killed him couldn’t have come from his gun. Additional cast: Unknown. Announcers: George Fenneman, Hal Gibney. Music: Walter Schumann. Director: Jack Webb. Writer: Possibly Jack Robinson.
Columbia Workshop: Alice in Wonderland (Part One; CBS, 1937)—The Lewis Carroll classic receives an oddly playful interpretation, which may prove trying at times but is worth the entire listen when all is said and done. Cast: Unknown. Announcer: Possibly John Reid King. Music: Leith Stevens, Paul Stout. Director: William N. Robson. Adapted by William N. Robson based on the novel by Lewis Carroll.
World War II
Special Report: Chamberlain—Just Before Munich Conference (BBC, 1938)—Greeted by a crowd as he departs for the Munich conference, Neville Chamberlain greets a young admirer and expresses his hope that the conference will succeed, using a reference to King Henry IV.