Los Angeles — I was robbed the other night in front of 55,000 people, most of whom either applauded or stamped their feet! Of course, it's not what you think. The incident took place before a near-sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium during a Celebrity Game between the Los Angeles news media and Hollywood stars.
It wasn't exactly like Academy Awards night, but Dracula was in charge of the bats and three of his helpers were Mary Ann Mobley, Annette Funicello, and Samantha Harper. Farrah Fawcett would have been there, except she was exhausted from teaching her pet turtle not to chase cars.
Occasionally, when I am wearing a fielder's glove and things are thrown to me , I will catch them. But while most people are considered armed and dangerous when anyone hands them a baseball bat, I am merely considered inept.
In fact, I have spent so much time on the bench in most of these celebrity games that I now run like a guy sitting down. Even Robin Williams (of Mork and Mindy) said he'd never seen anything like me, even on the Planet Ork.
Well, I must have paid my dues or something, because the other night I came up with runners on base, the Media trailing the Stars four runs to six, with the chance to be a hero.
If you think I blew it, you're almost wrong. I hit a fair ball that rocketed between first and second base like James Bond going through a plate glass window. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was playing first base at the time, couldn't have been more surprised if i had dunked against him.
Base hit, I said to myself, with all the confidence of a marine from Texas. "Base hit," boomed game announcer Gary Owens, a Los Angeles radio personality.
We both should have known better. Playing second base for the hollywood Stars was actor Mark Harmon, who used to play first-string quarterback for UCLA. Mark is also the son of former Michigan All-American Tommy Harmon, who for a while back in the late 1930s made people forget Red Grange.
Harmon got to my ball somewhere behind first base, cut it off from the right fielder, pivoted beautifully, and threw me out. I doubt if the Dodgers' Davey Lopes could have done it any better.
The crowd, which knew i had been robbed, exploded in admiration. The fact is, Mark made two other sensational plays that same inning -- diving for a line drive and then falling over backward while catching a ball so deep that it should have belonged to the right fielder.
Harmon, who has a new television series coming out soon called "Flamingo Road ," and one less viewer to watch it (me), also had two hits in the game and four stolen bases. Pete Rose would have been proud of the real estate Mork took into the locker room with him on his uniform.
Although the hollywood Stars won the game, they did have a casting problem with Abdul-Jabbar, whose baseball shirt would have fit neatly around the Queen Mary and whose shoes were the size of Rhode Island.
The National Basketball Association's most valuable player and one of the stars of a hot new comedy movie spoofing all the serious films that have ever been made about airline travel did not seem comfortable in center field.
Abdul-Jabbar reached for most fly balls like a guy trying to unscrew a light bulb while standing up in a hammock, catching one and playing another into a two-base error. Kareem, who later moved to first base, also had trouble with throws below his waist.
Perhaps the funniest tableu of the evening was when Billy Barty, the third base coach and a veteran character actor who is 3 ft. 9 in. tall, came down to home plate to instruct 7 ft. 2 in. Abdul-Jabbar in the mysteries of hitting.
Had you been in the stands you could have seen Wayne Rogers hit safely. Gary Collins catch a fly ball, and Telly Savalas, scowling like a cop who would give a ticket to a shepherd for making a ewe turn, line out to the pitcher.