a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nice guy Musial a no-show in "42"

An illustration created when a bridge was renamed after baseball legend Stan "the Man" Musial in his Donora hometown. (credit: Badzik Printing)

By Scott Beveridge

DONORA – The venerable Donora Mayor John Lignelli asked me the other day if Stan "the Man" Musial was mentioned in the new movie "42" about Jackie Robinson and the racism he experienced after becoming the first black man to play Major League Baseball.

I replied to the 91-year-old mayor by saying the movie was really good, but that Musial, a native of Donora who played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, didn't show up in the movie.

Disappointed, Lignelli said Musial should have been mentioned in the movie as being among the first white ballplayers to endorse Robinson after Robinson broke the color barrier when he debuted in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

As it turns out actor David Stanbra had been cast in the roll of Musial, however, his scenes ended up on the editing room floor to shorten the film, the actor stated on his Facebook page.

That's a shame, even though there are differing versions of the story about the day Robinson, a first baseman from a sharecropping family in Cairo, Ga., made his initial appearance on the baseball diamond in St. Louis.

It has often been written that Musial refused to join his teammates in their threats to refuse to play on the same field with Robinson, although, Musial would deny such a strike was ever considered before he died Jan. 19 at age 92.

Often remembered as the nicest man to have ever played baseball and one to have avoided controversies and scandals, it's easy to conclude that Musial mostly stayed out the debate and possibly could have done more to encourage integration in baseball.

He's often been quoted as having said he didn't like "rough and racist" talk in the clubhouse and did earn Robinson's respect.

Lignelli, who developed a long friendship with Musial, said the ballplayer became a "regular guy," while playing sports as a youth in the Mon Valley steel town alongside black children, including Buddy Griffey, the father and grandfather of baseball greats Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

The color of a man's skin "didn't make a difference to him," Lignelli said.

The movie "42" released April 12 has met with mixed reviews and criticism from some uber baseball fans who feel it didn't bring anything new to light about Robinson.

For a fan, like me, who went to the theater without much knowledge about Robinson, it came as somewhat of a shock to hear so, so many racial slurs directed at him on the playing field, especially the verbal abuse lodged by Phillies manager Ben Chapman.

That, in itself, was enough to cause me embarrassment to belong to the same race as Chapman.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Agent 99 visits Pittsburgh museum highlighting 1968

Actress Barbara Feldon reflects in her hometown of Pittsburgh on the time she spent in the 1960s as Agent 99 with actor Don Adams on TV's "Get Smart." (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – TV's wildly popular 1960s situation comedy "Get Smart" began as a cartoon about the famously handsome fictional spy James Bond, said Western Pennsylvania native Barbara Feldon, who starred as the show's beautiful and witty CIA Agent 99.

Then the spoof that aired from 1965 to 1970 morphed into an extreme satire on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and some of the foolish things its agents were doing in a decade when a paranoid America dealt with the Cold War, Feldon said Saturday during a speaking engagement at Sen. John Heinz History Center.

"Everybody was spy conscious," Feldon, 80, said at the event in Pittsburgh timed for the center's special exhibit, "1968: The Year that Rocked America." 

The exhibit highlights a tumultuous year that saw assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy also welcomed an explosion in zany pop culture.

To capitalize on the buzz 1968 has been generating, the staff at the Heinz center on Saturday hosted dealers with Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer who specialize in selling mod collectibles ranging from Pyrex Ware to vinyl records.

The dealers who spread their wares across the first floor reported good sales from customers who stood in lines that stretched out the front doors of the museum at 1212 Smallman, and brought inside young faces that otherwise might never have visited this attraction.

In the seventh-floor library, Feldon drew 200 fans eager to hear the former model discuss her life and acting career.

She said her costar Don Adams, AKA as Maxwell Smart, was all business during their time together on the show, and that they didn't become close friends until years after it was cancelled.

Adams felt uncomfortable at around her because she was a lot taller than he, forcing her to slouch and use her crossed ankles as support to stand in order to make them appear to be the same height in screen.

"I was the only actress in Hollywood with callouses on my ankles," joked Feldon, who was born in Butler County and graduated from Bethel Park High School.

She also graduated from Carnegie Tech and soon relocated to New York and the opportunities in offered young actors in search of stardom.

Pittsburgh, today, "is much more cultural" than it was in the early 1940s, she said.

"I was ready to leap off that diving board and see the world."