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Night People

December 2, 2022
                                                             Night People


The other night I was on the treadmill, and You Tube had this movie, "Night People", on the front page, don’t ask me why, so I decided to give it a 5-minute test, which is about as much Treadmill as I can handle.  Anyway, in the first few minutes of the movie this actor says. . .

            Well, first you have to understand that the Closed Captioning here is comically bad.  There wasn’t any kind of closed captioning when the movie was made. The closed captioning has been added by automated interpretation of voices, and you know how reliable that is.  In the opening scene and in numerous subsequent seasons the closed captioning reads "foreign [music]".  I don’t quite know what "foreign music" would be, but in the opening and closing scenes this stays on screen over John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, which is about as American as you can get. 

            Anyway, a few minutes into the movie there is a Mickey Mantle reference.  I thought "WHAT?" and ran back the scene to figure out what was going on.  The closed captioning reads "I wouldn’t be a bit surprised because if I lost one I must have lost a dozen dolls on account of all this night work that was one of them kids a little fat one named fritzy I wouldn’t have swept from Mickey Mantle."

            I’m sorry, I didn’t get that?  The Mickey Mantle reference surprised me at first because the movie is set in post-war Germany, and I had placed it in my head as being a late 1940s movie.  When you focus on the quality of the photography and the technicolor, you realize it can’t be 1940s, because the images are too sharp and the colors are too bright.  The movie was released in 1954, which would usually mean it was made in 1953.  Well, in that era movies would be made in 1954 and released in 1954, not so much anymore, but this movie was filmed in 1953; I’ll explain later. 

            Anyway, the closed captioning didn’t make any sense, but by running it back three or four times I realized that what he is actually saying is "I wouldn’t be a bit surprised (if we wind up working nights here), because if I have lost one, I must have lost a dozen dolls on account of all this night work.  One of them kids, a little fat one named Fritzy, I wouldn’t have SWAPPED her for Mickey Mantle." 

            It’s Buddy Ebsen speaking, later Jed Clampett and Barnaby Jones. The plot (NOT a spoiler alert). . .the plot is that an American GI has been kidnapped in Germany and is being held in East Germany by the Russians, and Gregory Peck heads up the military/diplomatic effort to negotiate a deal to get him back.  Buddy Ebsen works for him.  From the way they talk about it you would think they had been in charge of recovering dozens of Americans captured by the Russians.  I don’t think that kidnapping American soldiers for negotiating leverage was ever all that common, but what do I know; I was four years old at the time. 

            But assuming that the movie was made in 1953, that is still VERY early for movie to be using Mickey Mantle as a cultural reference point.  It’s actually sort of a sophisticated take; it assumes that the viewer knows that Mickey Mantle is GOING to be a superstar, even though in 1953 he is just a 21-year-old really good player. 

            So now I have to watch the movie.  It turns out that there is a lot of baseball.  These guys are in Germany, but as they go about their work they are listening to Mel Allen broadcast a Yankee game.  Well, you know me; now I have to figure out what the game was.   One time the closed captioning reads "all she’s right going against Boston tomorrow here."  Re-watching the scene a few times, I realize that what the actor had actually said was "Raschi’s going against Boston tomorrow, I hear."  That’s a pretty good indication that the movie was made in 1953; Vic Raschi wasn’t with the Yankees in 1954.  If the movie had been MADE in 1954, they would have used a pitcher who was still with the Yankees. 

            So Raschi is pitching against the Red Sox; that is our first clue to what the game in the background is.  But it turns out that Raschi pitched against the Red Sox pretty much constantly in 1953.   He pitched 7 times against the Red Sox, 6 starts, 53 innings, far more than he pitched against any other team.  He always pitched a lot against the Red Sox; in 1951 he had made eight starts against them. 

            The movie isn’t terrible, isn’t great.  It’s kind of in the same genre as one of my favorite movies ever, and one of Tango’s favorite, "Bridge of Spies."   Bridge of Spies is a much better movie, but Night People is an espionage/counter espionage non-thriller with people on our side of the Iron Curtain involved in complicated long-term relationships with people on the other side of the Iron Curtain, with people being double-crossed and long-term fake identities like "The Americans", Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.  Some of it works.  It reeks of the Cold War. There’s a Checkpoint Charlie scene; somebody should make a list of all the movies that have Checkpoint Charlie scenes.

            But the game. . .Mel Allen fake-broadcasts a Yankee game, which sounds like a real game but you kind of know it isn’t.  At one point, Buddy Ebsen asks Gregory Peck for a few minutes off to do some chores, and then runs down the hall to where there is a room where some doctors and medical staff are secretly listening to the broadcast of the game.  In another scene, we learn that Ebsen has placed some bets, betting on the Yankees, and he says that Yogi Berra has pinch hit and struck out with two men on; Ebsen says "that’s my Berra alright."  That’s not quite right; Berra hardly ever struck out.  In another scene, when the prisoner-exchange plan is starting to crash down around everyone’s ears and time is of the essence, Gregory Peck nonetheless takes a few seconds to duck into the room and see how the game is going.  Raschi is mentioned repeatedly.  

            There are other sports references.  Peck self-identifies as an old pro football player who played collegiately at Campion college in Wisconsin, and, in a different scene, says that Campion "used to have some pretty good football teams before all this two-platoon stuff."   Two-platoon football started in the Big 10 about 1943. The trade they are trying to work out with the Russians is described as being "just like the Cubs and the Phillies."  Peck says that "all I can figure to do with these buzzards is just keep punting and wait for a fumble."  When Ebsen asks if the Russians get dirty, are we going to have to get dirty, too, Peck responds "only in case of a tie."

            The clues that we get about the game include:

1)     That Vic Raschi is starting,

2)      For the Yankees,

3)     Against the Red Sox,

4)     That the Red Sox were leading 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth,

5)     That the Yankees take a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth,

6)     That Berra struck out with two men on base,

7)     That the Yankees eventually won the game, 7-6 in ten innings, and

8)     That at one point, apparently the bottom of the eighth, Mantle hits a drive to deep center with the bases loaded, Woodling scores, and "Martin’s trying to get home". 


No Red Sox player is mentioned by name, or if he was I didn’t catch it.  The clue about Billy Martin trying to score on a Mickey Mantle drive is a major separator.  While Martin did sometimes bat first or second for the Yankees in 1953, it happened that in all of the games that sort of match this description, Martin batted 6th, 7th or 8th, below Mantle in the order, out of sequence to be on base BEHIND Gene Woodling with Mantle at bat.  

If you look up IMDB for the movie and click on Mel Allen, you get an uninterrupted series of mistakes.  It identifies him as the "World Series game announcer".   Of course, it isn’t a World Series game.  But the complete description of Mel Allen’s contribution to the movie is:


  • [last lines] 

Himself (World Series Game Radio Announcer) [through a radio on a table near Colonel Van Dyke]  We interrupt this program for an announcement from American Military Headquarters here. The return of Corporal John J. Leatherby of Toledo, Ohio who was picked up by the Russians ten days ago has been affected through regular channels. The promptness with which the Russians responded to diplomatic conversations is interpreted by many here as still further indication that they are now genuinely anxious for the resumption of normal, peaceful relations with the Western Powers.

[the final scene fades out with Sousa's joyous Stars and Stripes Forever] 


It isn’t a World Series game, this entire scene has NOTHING to do with Mel Allen, it does not interrupt the baseball game, the final score of which has been given in the previous scene, and this is NOT Mel Allen who makes this announcement, nor is it Mel Allen who is interrupted for the purpose of making the announcement.   The IMDB, like the captioning, is being added 60 years after the fact.  They’re playing catch-up, and they’re kind of lost in the swarm of details. 

At the moment when a double agent is betrayed, somebody says something that sounds like "she was a Dodgers’ fan anyway", but the closed captioning cuts out at that moment, as if they couldn’t tell what was being said, either, and after listening to it several times I can’t tell for sure if that’s what was said. It’s an interesting take, sort of suggesting that she deserved what was coming to her because she was a Dodger fan anyway. 

There clearly is no game that exactly fits all of the things that are supposed to have happened in the game, but there are two games that come closest.   Those two games are April 28, 1953, and May 10, 1953.   April 28 was the only game the Yankees won in 1953 by a 7-6 score, and it was in ten innings, but the game was at St. Louis.  May 10, the Red Sox led 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, and some other things fit.  Vic Raschi did start both of those games.   But it clearly is not one specific game.  Thanks for reading. 



COMMENTS (12 Comments, most recent shown first)

I had a similar thing happen-I was watching an episode of Mannix (I Think? might have been another cop show)--from 74. And you get to hear Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game from that August. I never bothered to track it down but it was def. a 'real game' not something they had Vin do for the show. Kinda neat.
10:08 AM Dec 8th
Ah. Thank you, Maris.
4:37 AM Dec 7th
July 26 vs. Detroit
12:22 PM Dec 6th
Also, I'm unclear what Bill means when he says Raschi is "going tomorrow" but then cites him pitching. Is that all in one scene? I listened to a little of the movie on YT. One additional note, they say Martin was tagged out at home. He was only tagged out at home once in 1953 according to BR.....not sure what game.
4:09 PM Dec 5th
Could Mel Allen’s commentary be, for some reason, edited from multiple games?
12:32 PM Dec 4th
Could Mel Allen’s commentary be, for some reason, edited from multiple games?
12:30 PM Dec 4th
As a Padre devotee for five decades, I can confirm that rooting for the dodgers is, in fact, criminal and unforgivable. The first letter of the name of that team, however, should never be capitalized. It's a lower-case "d," as in, "F*ck the dodgers!"
6:52 PM Dec 3rd
Up there with your best Tracers!
Including about the closed-captioning.

"Spinal meningitis" has been known to be transliterated as smilin' mighty Jesus, although perhaps not in closed captioning.
5:52 PM Dec 3rd
Sept. 26, 1953 has some similarities. Extra inning game, Raschi starting against Boston, Yogi struck out with two on.
4:36 PM Dec 3rd
Within the last year, I read an article about a guy who does this (researches games playing in the background of movies and tv shows). He has quite the following. I can't seem to remember where I saw it.
4:01 PM Dec 3rd
Obviously not Fritzy Ritz.
2:42 PM Dec 3rd
If Martin was hitting 8th and Mantle third, Billy could have been on base when Mickey was hitting. The real problem is Woodling usually hit 5th or 6th that year.
9:06 PM Dec 2nd
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