Frankenstein Knows Baseball

(By Chris, Editor in Chief of and the adult writer of the Gab Four. Originally published Nov. 23, 2009, sponsored by 3 Spoons Yogurt)

Game 1 of the World Series, home team trailing 4-3. Tying run on base, two outs, bottom of the ninth. And up comes a pinch hitter with a stomach virus, injuries to both legs and missing two arms an undetermined amount of internal organs.

Of course, Kirk Gibson provided Los Angeles with a Hollywood ending, hitting a game-winning home run, as he was wheeled around the bases on a gurney, potentially causing male residents of the Nursing Home Legion to consider trying out for spring training.

It was a classic moment for baseball and specifically for maimed baseball players. And like half of the movies that Hollywood
produces, it was a sequel.

Forty-eight years before Gibson's World Series
home run, on Aug. 8, 1940, Los Angeles hosted another baseball game, played in front of a fashionably-late crowd and highlighted by a pinch hitter who made Gibson look like an exemplar of well-being. (I just said "exemplar.")

Stumbling to bat with club feet, numerous scars and green skin, the pinch hitter went down in history as the only player with a brain transplant to appear in a baseball game.

It also marked the only time the Frankenstein Monster hit a home run.

Boris Karloff wore the monster's makeup for Hollywood's annual (and final) celebrity charity ballgame. Even in full makeup, Karloff seemed to maneuver around the field slightly better than Vladimir Guerrero currently does.

The game pitted the Comedians against the Leading Men. Though the Monster still had to endure such epithets as being called a "wise guy" and "old blind eyes," (albeit from Comedians Moe, Larry and Curly and Leading Man Frank Sinatra, respectively).

Other Leading Men included leadoff batter Peter Lorre, Gary Cooper, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Fred Astaire, Randolph Scott, John Wayne and Roy Rogers, while Paulette Goddard managed the team.

The Comedians were managed by Marlene Dietrich, and players included Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Andy Devine, Buster Keaton, the Ritz Brothers, Edgar Kennedy and Leo Carillo.

The celebrity bat girl was Jane Russell, Milton Berle announced, while Kay Kyser, James Gleason, Chico Marx and Thurston Hall umpired.

At the time, Karloff, Lorre, Kyser and Bela Lugosi were filming the movie "You'll Find Out," making one wonder if Lugosi's absence signified that he was possibly one of the imported Transylvanian wood bats players used.

Having never had the pleasure of being called upon to pinch hit, I am unable to relate to knowing what it feels like to get off the bench, grab a bat and come through for the team, after spending the majority of the game playing with ants and grasshoppers.

But Karloff was never one to put up much of a fuss. After spending four to five hours in a makeup chair each day while filming "Frakenstein," his patience had grown slightly larger than Curly Howard.

Though he wasn't listed on either lineup card, Frankenstein's Monster came to bat late in the game for the Leading Men.

"Frankenstein sought to hit a home run without reckoning . . . upon the rules," as Edward Van Sloan would have said, had he been given the chance to narrate the game on ESPN

The Frankenstein Monster did hit a home run, though he didn't necessarily go deep.

According to the Spring 1972 issue of "Liberty" magazine, Karloff revealed, "I might add that the only time I really enjoyed playing the Monster was at the last annual charity baseball game in Hollywood
between a team of comedians and a team of leading men. I strode up to the plate for the occasion in my full make-up as Frankenstein's Monster, whereupon Buster Keaton, who was catching for the comedians, promptly shrieked at the sight of me, did a backward somersault, and passed out cold behind the plate.

"I waved my bat. The pitcher tossed the ball in my direction, and I swung at it as best I could, encumbered as I was with the Monster's metallic overalls. Luckily enough, I managed to tap the ball, which bounced crazily in the general direction of the pitcher's box. It should have been an easy out at first. But as I approached each base, the opposing player fainted dead away. And the Three Stooges, who were playing second, all passed out cold. It was a home run, though horrible!"

Despite the best efforts of Frankenstein's creation, the Leading Men lost to the Comedians, 5-3. And as it turned out, it was Karloff's only known appearance as the Monster at a game. And it's no wonder why.

It took too long for Karloff to put on his game face.

Chris is a Waco, Texas, resident, Editor in Chief of, author of the book "Sports Briefs" and the adult writer for the Gab Four. Read more of Chris' solo columns here.

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