Says McCarthy: "When we criticize, people jump us. But theater critics rap shows they feel aren't good, and people admit that's part of their job. Some people just can't see that we're trying to serve a purpose, too."
The Huddlers sometimes initiate their own telephone calls, to places like Carlsbad Caverns and Rattlesnake Springs, N. Mex., Grauman's Chinese Theatre in L.A. and Kansas City. They asked the ranger at Carlsbad to ship up some bats for Bat Day. They spoke to a forest ranger in Rattlesnake Springs, hundreds of miles from the nearest large body of water, to see if he was aquiver with excitement about the forthcoming America's Cup races. He said he was more lonely than excited and, presto, scads of listeners wrote to cheer him up. The Huddle called Grauman's to see if it would be possible to forgo the usual footprint for a headprint of Yastrzemski, only to have Andelman retract the request because, "You couldn't possibly have a spot big enough." A year ago they called a restaurant in Kansas City. They had been contending that the Sox played as individuals, not a unit, so they tried to reserve 25 tables for one. The players, they said, "could eat the way they play."
Andelman once phoned the White House and asked for the Grand Wizard, a professional wrestling impresario who frequents the program. After a lengthy go-round with officials who looked everywhere but under the Oval Room carpet, Andelman was asked if a message could be relayed should the Wizard be found. "Yes," Andelman replied. "Tell him to bring home a loaf of bread and some milk."
Other calls have been placed to Buckingham Palace to ask if the Patriots could "exchange two of their guards for two of yours"; to the Port of New York Authority inquiring whether it would send to the New York Giants, desperately in need of a new play, the Statue of Liberty; to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to ask them to hop to it and find the stolen Stanley Cup. Recently, a call went to the Los Angeles Forum, where they let a pay phone ring until a well-meaning Chinese answered. Andelman asked him to relay an urgent message to Wilt Chamberlain: 'The frog leaps high only in the spring." Said the bewildered Chinese: "He playing now, but I try."
The listening audience is often invited to participate. Once the Sports Huddle asked all within earshot to send in pictures of themselves. It was deluged with studio portraits, color photographs, paintings and one unexplained snapshot of an empty chair. The Huddlers figured it was an insult. Another time, when they promised a sweatshirt to anyone who could sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game in a foreign language, they were serenaded in some 30 tongues. And when they thought they had found a stumper—"We'll give a sweatshirt to anyone who can play the Notre Dame Victory March on a violin"—they were besieged by fiddlers. Sometimes the Huddle comes up with a question that bugs listeners for weeks. Like "Who was Florence Wishmeyer?" It took more than a month, but finally someone remembered she was the valedictorian of Bob Feller's high school graduating class in Van Meter, Iowa.
One of the show's more successful undertakings was the discovery of Superfoot, a project that started as a joke and became an international manhunt. It began early last year when the Huddlers wished out loud that the Patriots would go look somewhere for a field-goal kicker. They wouldn't, of course, said the three, because they were "too cheap" to scout for the talent the other clubs had. England, with all its side-wheeling soccer types, was obviously the place to look, so the Huddle called BOAC to ask if a Patriot scout and some footballs could fly to London in the baggage compartment of a plane. Saves money, don't you know? BOAC turned the Huddle down, but then reconsidered. Soon the airline, WBZ radio and TV, the Patriots, the Huddle and the London
underwrote a quest for Superfoot in England, the winner to get $1,000 and a tryout with the team.
More than 1,600 Britons entered the contest, the finals of which were held in Oxfordshire on May 15. Andelman, McCarthy and Witkin were on hand, having blitzed through customs wearing football helmets. The winner was Mike Walker, then 21, a 6-foot, 178-pound bricklayer from Carnforth, Lancashire who, in three consecutive attempts, booted two 55-yard field goals through wind and rain. Up to 185 pounds, Superfoot has been competing against Charlie Gogolak for the kicker's job with the Patriots this summer.
There have been other accomplishments, although the Huddle says, "It's difficult to say exactly how much effect the show itself has had in various cases because you can't expect teams to credit us for forcing them to do things." However, the Huddle may well have had something to do with the Bruins' cutting ticket lines by subscribing to the Ticketron system. Jack Nicholson, recently hired as an assistant to Adams, feels Huddle Power may have led to the creation of his job, which entails "bridging the gap between the media and the public and helping fans to air their complaints." Says Nicholson: "I can't be certain, but a show like Spoils Huddle that does a lot of criticizing is bound to get attention."
Members of the Huddle are sure they helped the Bruins on another occasion. Andelman says: "The Bruins hadn't won a regular game in Toronto in 4� years, so we called on the King of the Gypsies to cast a spell. The next time the Bruins played in Toronto they won."
It is also possible that the Huddle influenced the Patriots in making two decisions. For months last year there had been strong indications that Coach John Mazur was going to be fired, so listeners were urged to write the club to retain him. They did, and the club did.