Friday, March 19, 2010

R.I.P. Fess Parker

Fess Parker, the Davy Crockett of the 50s and the Daniel Boone of the 60s, died this week. From the LA Times obit:
"Those Davy Crockett episodes really brought American history -- indeed, a Disney version of American history -- to the playground as well as to the American living room," Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, told The Times some years ago.

"You not only could watch these programs, but you could play them, dress up like them, make the Davy Crockett aesthetic infiltrate every part of your life," he said. "And, of course, those coonskin caps: No self-respecting kid under the age of 12 could go through American life without one."

But although "you can merchandise and market and promo something like crazy," Thompson said, "I think, in the end, for something like this to succeed, you've got to have an actor who can pull it off, and Fess Parker made a great Davy Crockett."

For more here on the Crockett phenomenon, follow this link or the Davy Crockett tag. His version of the Ballad of Davy Crockett is youtubed below.

Fess Parker and the Ballad of Davy Crockett

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Boomer Sports: Billy Virdon

It was a brisk day so I put on my wool vintage 1960s-style Pittsburgh Pirates cap, and as I glanced in the mirror on my way out I saw the cap, the round glasses, and I thought, Billy Virdon. And I remembered the day at Forbes Field when kids were allowed down on the field to meet players before the game. I only remember encounters with two: I was in complete awe of Roberto Clemente, and managed to shake hands with him, but he didn't make eye contact with anyone, and didn't seem to want to be there. So I was surprised when I found myself in front of Bill Virdon, and as he shook my hand he looked me in the eye, and said, "hello, son." Son! I still get choked up thinking about it.
Bill Virdon was our center fielder--he could run down just about anything in that enormous park, and as I recall he surprised a few Yankees by doing so in the 1960 World Series. He went on to be a manager for the Pirates and the Yankees, as well as for other teams, and got several into the postseason. He stayed with baseball as a coach, and I was happy to learn that he's still working with the Pirates, as a special outfield instructor. He's probably with them in training camp right now.