In honor of baseball season, I have to share this toothy photo of my grandmother Mitzi Cummings with Wallace Ford and Jack LaRue having a fabulous time at Wrigley Field for the 1935 Screen Stars Comedians vs Leading Men Baseball Game, a charity fundraiser for what was then Mount Sinai Hospital. Mitzi wrote about all the fun in her wonderful Photoplay column, but as you can see, a more glamorous photo was used.
The event began just the year before and was such a huge success it became a much loved annual fixture. Dubbed “The World’s Greatest Baseball Game,” with hunky leading men, top comedians goofing off, gorgeous screen sirens, and other VIPs, the game play was probably not by the book but the antics had the crowd screaming.
Here’s some hilarious British Pathe footage from the 1938 and 1939 games, which included Mary Pickford, Joe E. Brown, Shirley Temple, an extra large baseball bat, and even an electric scooter:
The 1940 game had a crowd of 38,000 and included Marlene Dietrich, Helen Parrish, Paulette Goddard, and Linda Darnell waving from convertible cars, and Milton Berle as announcer. Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Leo Carrillo, Chico Marx, The Ritz Brothers, and others fronted up for the comedians’ team.
The roster for the leading men included Tyrone Power, Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers, and John Wayne. But it was Boris Karloff, making a surprise appearance as a monster robot and frightened the leading men into fainting spells, who stole the show. You can imagine all of Los Angeles could hear the hoots and laughter coming from Wrigley Field.
I’m not sure when the games stopped but inevitably that must have come, and with it the end of an era of good natured competition, all in support of a great local cause.