Mantle, smiling, cocked a glance at Tom Naud.
"Honest, Mick," Naud said. "Wally knows where first base is."
The 70-year-old Frawley knew where first base was, and more. Veteran of countless movies, and more recently a star on the I Love Lucy and My Three Sons television shows, he was a favorite of everybody in the Yankee camp because of his wit—which was earthy and sharp—and his knowledge of baseball, which was genuine. In uniform he was the very pattern of the veteran baseball coach, his ample lines calling to mind the figure of James J. Dykes standing in the third-base coach's box, looking with utter disdain at a base runner just picked off second. As Frawley was being made up the first day, he asked, "Is this stomach all right? Should I wear one of those belts to pull it in?" A man watching said, "Your belly? I thought it was part of your makeup. You look perfect." Frawley wore his hat at a slightly rakish angle. "Acey-deucey, they call this," he said. "Rip Collins used to wear his cap this way."
Frawley was a delight to watch in his scenes—roaring in his bull voice when he was on camera, and making asides to the ballplayers and the spectators when he was off—but the most bizarre and distressing episode during the making of the film involved him. He had been ill Saturday afternoon and his malaise had been aggravated by the news of the death of an old friend, Joseph Kearns, who played Mr. Wilson on the Dennis the Menace television show. Frawley called in a doctor and received medicine and a sedative to make him sleep Saturday night. He slept but, as he said Sunday morning, "It was a drugged sleep," and when a car came by his hotel at 6:55 in the morning to pick him up and drive him out to location he was still woozy. In a scene with Mantle and Maris, Frawley kept forgetting his lines, and suddenly there was the extraordinary sight of the two amateurs, letter-perfect, patiently repeating their lines in rehearsal after rehearsal while the professional labored to remember his. Finally they went before the camera and Mantle, after all this, blew his first line. He broke up laughing, Frawley seemed to relax, and after that everything was on the upgrade. Frawley thrust his hands in his hip pockets, struck a Stengelian pose, and said, "I'll do it like Casey." Tom Naud grinned and said, "He's feeling better."
But the confusion and the delays and the repeated takes of the same scenes, over and over, never seemed to stop. The voices of the assistant directors, pleading with the crowd to be "quiet, please, just for a few minutes, folks, please!" seemed to echo all week. The set, even when it was roped off, seemed always to be crowded with nonessential people. At one point during the filming at the ball park the very long bench in the dugout was completely filled. Maris and Mantle and Houk and Yankee rookies working as extras were sitting along the step, but the bench itself was occupied by boys, girls, women, newspapermen, photographers and friends. Only one person in a baseball uniform was on the bench—and that was Bill Frawley. "I've heard of guests on a movie set," said a member of the Hollywood contingent, "but this is ridiculous."
And yet right through the last day of shooting, when Maris and Mantle and Frawley and the boy were playing interior scenes, the two top players remained startlingly professional and serious, except for their moans about the delays. There was almost no horseplay on the set, and few wisecracks—except from Frawley. When the makeup man would move in quickly, in an interval between takes, to fix Mantle's makeup or mop some, sweat from Maris' forehead, they submitted quietly, with no resentment or embarrassment. When a sportswriter called Mickey "Marlon Mantle," Mickey smiled as though it were a good joke but a pretty old one. When Maris blew a line he walked away from the camera a few feet muttering in disgust, as though he'd just got a bad call at home plate, but there was only irritation at himself, no panic, no petulance. "We've been in a movie before," he said. "Last summer in Los Angeles. Mickey and I and Yogi Berra were in a scene in That Touch of Mink. It's not so bad."
Their big dramatic moment was played in the Yankee locker room when the boy, Hutch, asks Mickey and Roger to come to the banquet.
Mickey (gently): Hutch—you lied when you said you knew Rog and me. (Hutch nods, ashamed.)
Roger: And you lied when you said we would come to your banquet. (Hutch nods again, more ashamed.)
Mickey: If we showed up—we'd be trying to make your lie good. It'd be like making a foul ball fair by moving the baseline. It just isn't in the rules.