Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Time Mister Ed Met the Dodgers

Mr. Ed was aired before my time, really, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy watching reruns of those shows.

One of my favorites was first broadcast 50 years ago tonight — perhaps it is one of my favorites because I am a Dodgers fan, and Mr. Ed was a Dodgers fan, too. Anyway, in the episode that aired 50 years ago tonight, he paid a visit to the Dodgers and their then–manager Leo Durocher, who is often credited with saying "Nice guys finish last."

(I don't know if Durocher ever actually said it — or if he was the first to say it. I just know that I often hear it said that he said it, and sometimes I hear it said that he was the first to say it.)

Alan Young, who played Wilbur Post, was about the only series regular — other than Mister Ed himself — who was featured in the episode. I don't think Connie Hines, who played Carol Post, was in that episode. If she was, she didn't have much of a presence in it.

But she never did have much of a presence in the series, to be honest. Ed only spoke face to face to Wilbur — sometimes, he spoke to people on the phone or when there was some kind of barrier between them, like a wall — and their conversations were the foundation for the show.

The actor who played Wilbur's neighbor died a month earlier, and his character had not been replaced. His wife was still on the show for awhile, but she had a diminished role. She usually only showed up when Carol was around, but if Carol wasn't featured in this episode, there probably wouldn't have been much of a reason for her to be seen, either.

The episode was the revival of a dormant theme in the series. In the second season (1961–1962), Mister Ed "met" George Burns and Clint Eastwood. Then, in the 1963–1964 season premiere, he got to meet Durocher and some of the players for his favorite baseball team.

It's been awhile since I've seen the episode, but, as I recall, Ed was watching a Dodgers game on TV, and he noticed some things that the Dodgers were doing wrong — on the mound, at the plate, in the field — and placed a phone call to the Dodgers to offer some tips (giving his name as Wilbur Post). Come to think of it, I think he made a series of such calls.

Durocher took his advice, it worked, and the Dodgers (who actually did win the National League pennant and swept the New York Yankees in the World Series that year) went on a wild winning streak. In gratitude, Durocher invited Wilbur to visit the team — and maybe provide a few more helpful pointers.

Wilbur, accompanied by Ed, who was his "good luck charm," went to Dodger Stadium. He even got to take a little batting practice.

Really, I believe it's one of the truly funny scenes in American sitcom history. Holding the bat handle in his teeth, Ed stood (on the right side of the plate) while Sandy Koufax delivered the pitch, and Ed drove it into the outfield.

Ed went charging around the bases; none of the infielders challenged him. He turned the corner at third base and headed for home.

"Slide, Ed, slide!" Wilbur shouted out — and, by golly, Mister Ed slid. The terrified catcher climbed halfway up the backstop.

An astonished Durocher said, "That's the smartest horse I ever saw."

"He's not so smart," Wilbur replied. "He forgot to touch second base."

As I say, it's been awhile since I have seen this episode, but, whenever I have seen it, it's been the same for me as it is with a movie I've seen many times before.

I know that scene is coming. But it always makes me laugh, anyway. It makes me laugh in anticipation of it. It makes me laugh when I see it. And I continue to laugh after I've seen it.

It even makes me laugh to think about it when I'm not watching it and I haven't seen it for awhile. Now, that's funny!