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That was not the worst first pitch in history, however. That distinction belongs to Mr. Rogers, who wasn't even in the neighborhood when he dribbled out the first ball in Pittsburgh a few years ago. Boys and girls, can you say wild pitch?
Which brings us to the stars of stage, screen and television who have aired out their arms. You name 'em, they've probably done it. The stars have come small (Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley), medium (Karl Maiden, who did play Jimmy Piersall's father in Fear Strikes Out) and large (the Chairman of the Board, my friends).
How about Yul Brynner? Sure. The road show of The King and I was in Kansas City one year on Opening Day. Rodney Danger-field? Naturally, he threw out the first ball for a special Opening Day II promotion at Shea Stadium for the second game of the 1985 season. Stefanie Powers? She was once the opening act for a Class A game in Palm Springs. Staying in character, she walked through the clubhouse, looked at a young, strapping catcher named Jim McNamara and said, "You can be my bodyguard."
Former Oakland A's receiver Gene Tenace once caught Clint Eastwood. "I asked him to autograph the ball for my wife, Linda," Tenace recalls. "He wrote, To Linda, with love, Clint Eastwood. I said, 'That was really nice, but you didn't have to write with love.' " Eastwood, by the way, may be an Oscar winner, but he is no Oscar Zamora when it comes to pitching.
Dodger fan Cary Grant. Cardinal fan David Hartman. Met fans Glenn Close and Richard Dreyfuss. "Richard threw the ball very well," says former Met and current Seattle Mariner Mackey Sasser, who has obviously remained on a first-name basis with the actor. While Queen Elizabeth II didn't throw out the first ball at the Oriole game she attended on May 15, 1991, her look-alike did in the movie The Naked Gun.
There has actually been a Furst ball, thrown by the actor Stephen Furst. You don't know him? Obviously you don't cherish the movie Animal House. "I didn't recognize his name," says Oriole catcher Jeff Tackett, who caught Furst at a Double A game in Charlotte, N.C., in 1988. "He threw the ball, and I went out to shake his hand. Suddenly I recognized him. 'You're Flounder!' I said."
Hammer threw out the first ball before a 1990 ALCS game in Oakland. From the mound he demonstrated a major league delivery. The pitch, however, was strictly U Can't Touch This. Hammer had worked for the A's as a batboy back in the days when he was just Stanley Burrell and Charlie Finley was, well, Charlie Finley. The A's owner loved to have celebrities throw out first balls: Bob Hope, Rock Hudson, Jack Benny.
Benny was given the honor at a World Series game in the early '70s, and former commissioner Bowie Kuhn remembers it well. "I was standing next to him because I was supposed to hand him the ball," says Kuhn. "He was very specific about the mechanics of the thing, the timing of the public-address announcement, the signal I would give him. Twice he asked me, 'Is this going to be on television?' I assured him it was, and when the time came for the announcer to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to...' I handed Mr. Benny a ball. He held it up, looked at it approvingly, and then, giving that classic Benny expression, he put the ball in his pocket."
During the last years of his tenure Kuhn instituted a policy against clubs using celebrities and politicians in first ball ceremonies. This did not sit well with George Steinbrenner, who threw a fit when told that James Cagney wouldn't be able to throw a pitch before an '81 Series game at Yankee Stadium. Kuhn backed off, diplomatically declaring Cagney "a national treasure."
Catchers certainly don't object to catching an attractive female celebrity. "When I was in Memphis in 1990," says Kansas City Royal catcher Brent Mayne, "I got a first pitch and a kiss from Miss Tennessee." Pirate catcher Don Slaught recalls the night he caught Miss Deaf Texas in Arlington. World Series MVP Pat Borders fondly remembers being on the receiving end of a first pitch from Jennifer Beals of Flashdance fame. "Bui I don't remember how hard she threw," he says.