The book: “Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars: Hollywood’s Love Affair with Baseball”
The author: Joe Siegman
The vital statistics: Educator’s International Press, 124 pages, $34.95
Find it: On Amazon.com, on Barnesandnoble.com, on powells.com.
The pitch: The Dodgers’ 2015 pro-
motional calendar includes all kinds of giveaways — 10 bobble-
heads, an assortment of fleece blankets, collectable pins, caps, T-shirts … all the usual stuff that will get people to come through the metal detectors.
And then there’s return of the Hollywood Stars Night, set for Saturday, June 6, prior to the Dodgers-Cardinals game.
We’ll believe it when we see it.
An event that was once a signature event on the Dodgers’ calendar didn’t necessarily jump the shark — although Henry Winkler could have been there to do it — but it wasn’t as important in the Frank McCourt Era after he purchased the franchise from Fox in the early 2000s.
In 2004, McCourt, who “appeared to know nothing about Hollywood Stars Night,” as Siegman writes in the final chapter of this coffee-table sized book, had told Siegman and partner Jack Gilardi, orchestrators of the annual event since the mid-1960s, that their services were no longer needed. It had devolved into something of an MTV-type B-list celeb softball game, and the Dodgers’ in-house staff could easily take care of booking it.
In 2010, Siegman and Gilardi were asked to come back and plan a Hollywood Stars Night, to be played in August. But two weeks before it was to happen, it was canceled. Then it was pushed to the final weekend of the season. Then it was dropped altogether.
“The game has ended,” Siegman writes, “but the memories linger on.”
Those memories, in words and more importantly photos, are pulled together by the entertainment publicist and producer who could call on his connections to bring all kinds of Hollywood hotshots onto the field to play what was actually a decent brand of baseball.
Siegman explaines that the genesis of the event came from a Hollywood Entertainers League made up of actors, agents, writers, publicists and friends that played competitively in the early 1960s, getting together at the Mandeville Canyon High School or Hamilton High School fields on Sunday mornings. With the help of the Dodgers’ marketing guru Danny Goodman, the event became a Dodger Stadium regular event and grew in popularity during an era where it was Hollywood hip to be into baseball.
For those who could remember, seeing the team photos that Siegman includes in the book are incredibly priceless. There were Hollywood royalty – Milton Berle, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, George Raft, James Caan, Ernest Borgnine, Bobby Darin, Garry Marshall, Sid Caesar, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Redd Foxx, Gene Hackman, Pat Boone, Peter Falk …
That led to the next wave: Billy Crystal, Tom Selleck, Kevin Costner, Mark Harmon, Charlie Sheen, Cuba Gooding, John Ritter, Tom Hanks …
And, yes, even Tony Danza, who once broke his arm during one of these things.
There was the time in 1968 when Jackie Gleason happened to be in town and actually wanted to play. Dodgers PR man Fred Claire had to give Gleason an actual Dodgers home uniform because they couldn’t find a Stars jersey big enough for him.
There are the shots of Billy Barty running through the legs of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The time in 1991 when Kevin Costner decided he wanted to take some cuts. The game in 1979 when Robin Williams was gaining TV stardom and agreed to participate – as space alien “Mork.” Again, in the late ‘70s, when Steve Martin had just burst onto the scene and made an appearance.
Or the 2001 game when Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla, who then had “The Man Show” on HBO, talked their way into the lineup and turned things sideways.
Maybe a 90-minute game that lasts three or four innings hasn’t been embraced by the millennial crowd the same way it was a half-century ago. Depending on what the guest list looks like for this summer’s game – again, if it does come together – this could be a revival. Or it’ll go the way of Old Timers’ Games.
At least with this book, which came out last June but we are giving some dispensation for it by including it in this year’s list, we thank them for the memories. Even if Bob Hope, a former owner of the Cleveland Indians, never played in this one.