Monday, February 27, 2012

THE JOE DIMAGGIO SHOW

Joe DiMaggio
Hank Greenberg told Sport magazine in the September 1949 issue that Joe DiMaggio covered so much ground in center field that the only way to get a hit against the Yankees was “to hit ‘em where Joe wasn’t.” On February of that same year, DiMaggio signed a record contract worth $100,000 and became the first baseball player to break $100,000 in earnings. He already broke Wee Willie Keeler’s all-time hitting streak record and was a weekly celebrity in the New York newspapers. So it came as no surprise that on September 17, 1949, CBS Radio premiered The Joe DiMaggio Show, with that catchy theme, “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.” After 26 weeks, the series went off the air (concluding on March 18, 1950) and NBC immediately attempted to cash in on the ball player’s popularity. On April 15, NBC premiered The Joe DiMaggio show, offering more stations and larger coverage than CBS.

Among the notable guests on the CBS series were Jack Dempsey and Tommy Henrich. The final broadcast of the series featured former president Herbert Hoover opening Boys’ Club week. The Joe DiMaggio Show on NBC pretty much followed the same format of the CBS version. The famous center-fielder for the New York Yankees was the emcee and sports commentator who each week presented on his program the following special features:

Joe DiMaggio in living color
Commentary on outstanding happenings in the baseball world tied in with the various big league games played each week. A sports quiz, featuring Jack Barry, famous emcee of Juvenile Jury as conductor for the quiz, which pitted “Kids versus Grown-ups” with contestants chosen from the studio audience and with questions on various sports subjects both general and specific, past and current. The contestants were arranged in two “teams” – the teams play a “3-inning game” following the rules of baseball. For every question correctly answered, the team scores one run. At the end of the quiz, the team with the greater number of runs was the winner. Jack Barry was the “pitcher”… of questions; Joe DiMaggio was the “umpire” who called the “hits” or errors. Scores were announced at the end of every inning and at the end of the game. Each member of the winning team received a 17-jewel Helbros wrist watch. Each member of the losing teams received a year’s subscription to Sport Magazine.

Each broadcast featured a famous sports writer and Joe DiMaggio invited them to tell their favorite sports story. This was revealed in the form of a brief dramatization, for which the celebrated athlete would also appear as a guest for a quick interview with Joe DiMaggio. (The interviews were scriped, not improv, as evident when reviewing the scripts.) The dramas featured New York radio actors Leon Janney, Mandell Kramer and Everett Sloane more often than any others, but the productions used different actors from time to time.

Joe DiMaggio
There was a letter-answering spot in which DiMaggio answered some of the questions asked in letters sent to the program by listeners, who were instructed to mail their sports questions to Joe DiMaggio, NBC, New York 20. The most interesting letters each week were answered on the air by DiMaggio himself.

The program was a Barry-Enright Production and was under direction of Dan Enright. Production-direction was handled by Fred Weihe. The show was taped in advance and edited by Dan Enright. The script writer for the biographical dramas was Mike Oppenheimer. Musical background and bridges: Arlo Hults (generally known simply as Arlo), organist. While the exact reason is not known, the most obvious answer of why the series was transcribed rather than broadcast “live” was to accommodate DiMaggio’s schedule. On the same day the series premiered, April 15, DiMaggio was not in the radio studio but was playing against the Dodgers on the field at Yankee Stadium. No one could predict a game would or would not go into extra innings, and his performance on the field could not be affected by the radio series.

The premiere broadcast was reviewed in the Pine Plains, NY Register-Herald: “…the fans of baseball rated a four-star salute… this column recommends it for good radio listening if you are a baseball follower… Incidentally, DiMaggio has a voice which could, if he desires, bring him in the ranks of the top-notch radio sports announcers when his baseball days are over.”

Don DiMaggio (left) and his brother Joe DiMaggio (right).
For baseball fans, the radio series is a fascination of sports commentary. The Yankee Clipper in his opening show gave his version of the major league races for 1950 by picking the Yankees to win in the American League closely contested by Boston, Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia in that order. In the National League, DiMaggio picked the Dodgers to repeat with plenty of trouble from the Cardinals, Boston Braves and the Giants with the Giants the dark horse to win the National League crown.

Another interesting part of the show was Tommy Henrich’s answer to DiMaggio’s question: “Tommy, what is the hardest park in the American League for you to hit in?” Henrich replied by naming the parks in Boston and Washington stating that the distance in both stadiums to the right field fence was longer than in other parks.

Joe DiMaggio takes a swing.
For the broadcast of May 20, special guest was David W. Armstrong, National Director of the Boys’ Clubs of America, who presented Joe DiMaggio with the First Annual Boys’ Clubs of America “Man and Boy Award” in recognition of DiMaggio’s leadership and guidance among the Boys’ Clubs of America members.
The August 19 broadcast featured a dramatization of Jim Braddock, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Braddock’s success story would later be filmed as a motion-picture in 2005 as Cinderella Man. Playing the role of Braddock was George Reeves, before he became a household name as the Man of Steel on television.

The September 2 broadcast included a salute to the Fresh Air Fund, a fund used to send deserving youngsters to camp in the summer. Guest Irving Marsh told about the approaching Fresh Air Fund Football Game planned for the next week, the 12th annual game for the Fund – would be played September 7 at the Polo Grounds in New York between the Los Angeles Rams and the Giants.

DiMaggio himself did appear on radio prior to The Joe DiMaggio Show, in the form of guest appearances. On the April 14, 1946 broadcast of The Radio Hall of Fame, DiMaggio was among the guests saluting America’s favorite pastime. On the February 12, 1941 broadcast of It’s Time to Smile, Joe DiMaggio participated in a comedy sketch titled “The Teetering Towers,” in which the ball player was moving into Eddie Cantor’s apartment building. DiMaggio was interviewed by Rudy Vallee on the November 17, 1938 broadcast of The Royal Gelatin Hour.

Broadcast Schedule
April 15, 1950 to October 7, 1950
East Coast Broadcasts: Saturday evening from 7:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Chicago Broadcasts: Saturday evening from 6:30 to 7:00 p.m. (not broadcast in Chicago on October 7).
West Coast Broadcasts: Saturday evening from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.
The final three episodes were broadcast West of Chicago only. In New York and along the East Coast, Art Linkletter’s People Are Funny was broadcast in the time slot. (The Joe DiMaggio Show was not broadcast on October 7 in Chicago.)

Episode Guide
Broadcast of April 15, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Tom Meany, associate-editor, Collier’s magazine and one of the country’s leading sports reporters and columnists.
Dramatic story is about Tommy Henrich, Yankee baseball star, and his performances of last season.
Tommy (Old Reliable) Henrich is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Ed Latimer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of April 22, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Ben Epstein of the New York Daily Mirror sports staff.
Dramatic story is about the true experience of Charley “Casey” Stengle who wanted to be a ball player and who became one of the greatest managers of all time.
Charley “Casey” Stengel, manager of the New York Yankees, is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story. This was not the first time Stengel and DiMaggio appeared together on the same radio broadcast. On October 12, 1948, an official announcement was made over the Mutual Broadcasting Company with Stan Lomax introducing Dan Topping and Del Webb, who in turn introduced Stengel as the new manager of the New York Yankees. Both Stengel and DiMaggio were interviewed during the 1948 broadcast.
Supporting cast: Charles Irving, Frankie Thomas and Stefan Schnabel.

Broadcast of April 29, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Art Morrow, sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Dramatic story is about Connie Mack, manager of the Philadelphia Athletics.
Connie Mack, manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, was special guest after the drama.
The Morrow and Mack portions were transcribed from Philadelphia.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandell Kramer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of May 6, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Milt Gross, sports reporter and columnist for the New York Post.
Dramatic story is about Dominic (Dom) DiMaggio, Joe’s kid brother and player with the Boston Red Sox.
Dominic DiMaggio was special guest after the drama.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandell Kramer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of May 13, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Lou Effrat of the New York Times.
Dramatic story is about Luke Appling, Chicago White Sox infield star.
Luke Appling is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Jackson Beck, Charles Irving, Leon Janney and Mandel Kramer.

Broadcast of May 20, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Joe Trimble, sports writer for the New York Daily News.
Dramatic story is about Lou Boudreau, playing manager for the Cleveland Indians.
Luke Appling is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Jackson Beck, Charles Irving, Leon Janney and Mandel Kramer.

Broadcast of May 27, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Bob Cooke, of the New York Herald Tribune
Dramatic story is about Gene Sarazen, famous golfer, who is also a special guest following the dramatization of the story Cooke has told.
Supporting cast: Jackson Beck, Leon Janney and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of June 3, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Jim Kahn, associate editor of Collier’s magazine.
Dramatic story is about Phil Rizzuto, shortstop for the New York Yankees. Rizzuto is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story Jim Kahn has told.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandel Kramer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of June 10, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Charlie Hankinson, a nine-year-old boy who was probably the youngest sportscaster in radio history, and who recently went on the air with his own radio sports program.
Dramatic story is about Dizzy (Jerome) Dean.
Dizzy Dean is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Jackson Beck, Jay Jackson and Mandel Kramer.

Broadcast of June 17, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Mel Allen, famous sportscaster in New York City.
Dramatic story is about Bob Feller, famous pitcher for the Cleveland Indians.
Bob Feller is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story Mel Allen has told.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney and Mandel Kramer.

Broadcast of June 24, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Dan Daniel, baseball editor for the New York World Telegram and Sun and author of the daily column, “Dan’s Dope.”
Dramatic story is about Hal Newhouser, famous pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.
Hal Newhouser is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story Dan Daniel has told.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandel Kramer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of July 1, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Arthur (Art) Daley, popular columnist of the New York Times, and author of the column “Sports of the Times” since 1942.
Dramatic story is about the life of Pee Wee Reese, short-stop of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Pee Wee Reese is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Jackson Beck, Leon Janney and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of July 8, 1950.
Instead of a sports writer, the program has a special guest: Ham Fisher, creator of the Joe Palooka comic strip, and considered one of the outstanding contributors to the sport of boxing through his comic character. Fisher says next to Joe Palooka, his favorite fighter is Sugar Ray Robinson.
Dramatic story is about the life of Sugar ray Robinson.
Sugar Ray Robinson is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Jackson Beck, Leon Janney and Mandel Kramer.
Trivia: For this broadcast only: musical bridges by John Gart, replacing Arlo at the organ.

Broadcast of July 15, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Al Buck, sports columnist for the New York Post.
Dramatic story is about Lefty Gomez (Vernon Gomez), known as the “whackiest left-hander big league baseball pitcher in the country.
Lefty Gomez is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandel Kramer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of July 22, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Don Dunphy, one of the top boxing announcers in the country.
Dramatic story is about Willie Pep, featherweight boxing champion of the world.
Willie Pep is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandel Kramer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of July 29, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Jim Burchard, sportswriter for Scrips-Howard newspapers and president of the Lawn tennis Writers Association of America.
Dramatic story is about Pancho Segura, professional tennis champion of the world.
Pancho Segura is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast is unknown.

Broadcast of August 5, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Max Case, sports editor of the New York Journal American.
Dramatic story is about Yogi Berra, catcher for the New York Yankees. Berra’s real name is Larry Berra, and he appears as a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandel Kramer and Everett Sloane.

Broadcast of August 12, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Jess Abramson, sports reporter of the New York Herald Tribune.
Dramatic story is about George Kell, battling champion of the American League, and third baseman with the Detroit Tigers.
George Kell is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandel Kramer and Grant Richards.

Broadcast of August 19, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Red Smith of the New York Herald-Tribune.
Dramatic story is about Jimmy Braddock, former heavyweight boxing champion of the world.
Jim Braddock is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney, Mandel Kramer and George Reeves.

Broadcast of August 26, 1950.
Sports writer guests: Frank Graham, feature writer and columnist of the New York Journal-American, who also wrote a regular feature for Sport magazine under the title, “One for the Book.” It wasn’t done on prior broadcasts, but on this date there were two sports writer guests. The second was Dick Young of the New York Daily News reporter who covers the Dodgers games for his paper.
Dramatic story is about Mel Ott, who was until his retirement in 1948, was the manager of the New York Giants.
Mel Ott is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast in unknown.

Broadcast of September 2, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Irving Marsh, assistant sports editor of the New York Herald Tribune.
Dramatic story is about Florence Chadwick, the woman Channel swimmer who this year broke Gertrude Ederle’s record in crossing the English Channel. Charlotte Manson plays the role of Florence Chadwick in this episode.
Supporting cast: Jay Jackson, Mandel Kramer and Charlotte Manson.
Trivia: John Gart was the organist for this episode, the first of two consecutive episodes, replacing Arlo who left for vacation.

Broadcast of September 9, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Harold (Hal) Weisman of the New York Daily Mirror.
Dramatic story is about Umpire Dolly Stark, a retired baseball umpire. Stark retired in 1940 after 21 years as an umpire and ranked with Bill Klem as one of the “greats” in baseball arbitration.
Dolly Stark is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Leon Janney and Mandel Kramer.
Trivia: John Gart was the organist for this episode, the second of two consecutive episodes, replacing Arlo who was on vacation.

Broadcast of September 16, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Ed Fitzgerald of Sport magazine.
Dramatic story is about Jack Kramer, tennis star.
Jack Kramer is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Donald Buka, Leon Janney and Mandel Kramer.
Trivia: Arlo Hultz, organist, returns from vacation.

Broadcast of September 23, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Lou Effrat, sportswriter of the New York Times.
Dramatic story is about Gus Mauch, trainer for the New York Yankees baseball team.
Gus Mauch is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast: Jackson Beck, Charles Irving and Mandel Kramer.

Broadcast of September 30, 1950.
Sports writer guest: Dick Young of the New York Daily News reporter who covers the Dodgers games for his paper.
Dramatic story is about Carl Hubbell, great pitcher of the Big Leagues of the past. Hubbell retired 14 Yankees in a row during the first game of the 1937 World Series, including Joe DiMaggio, which is mentioned briefly on this program.
Carl Hubbell is a guest in person following the dramatization of the sports story.
Supporting cast is unknown.

Broadcast of October 7, 1950.
There was no sports writer guest for this episode. Instead, Joe DiMaggio presents guest Sid Luckman, pro football star, and interviews him about his personal and professional life.

Closing Notes
To date, only six episodes are known to exist in recorded form. April 15, May 20, July 8, July 15, September 23 and September 30.

After a successful run on radio, Joe DiMaggio tried his hand with television. On September 23, 1950, The Joe DiMaggio Show premiered on NBC-TV as a fifteen-minute series, lasting a short thirteen weeks.

Special thanks to Ken Stockinger for his vast baseball knowledge.

2 comments:

Craig said...

Thanks, Martin - and Ken!

Always interesting to learn something about an area of network radio that I'm poorly posted on.

-Craig

Michael J. Hayde said...

I was wondering if you'd mention the George Reeves episode... you didn't let me down!

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