A lot of people will tell you that television has never been better than it is now. They have a point. Between the gobs of money being funneled into it by streaming services like Netflix, and big-time movie stars showing up in fancy prestige dramas, and the sheer number of quality options out there for the audience to choose from, it’s an exciting time for the business in a lot of ways. We can kind of become immune to it all sometimes, I think, just because it’s all been happening so much for a few years now, but it’s still pretty incredible to think about. So there’s that.
But there’s also this: In a 1963 episode of Mister Ed, a horse hit a home run off of Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, so modern-day television can go screw.
We should back up, though. Some context will help. And by “some context,” I mean “a brief discussion about how profoundly weird Mister Ed was.” It was a show about a man who had a mischievous talking horse and tried to hide it from everyone. Also, the horse was a genius. Also, the horse was named Mister Ed, which is a kind of hilarious thing to name a horse, if we’re being honest about it. Especially since the main human character is named Wilbur. Wilbur is a better horse name than Ed. I have always said this.
And it’s not just the premise that was weird, which, again, it was, incredibly, in a “this sounds like the plot of an Adult Swim cartoon that people on Reddit are very passionate about for some reason” way. The individual episodes are madness. Wild, unhinged madness, often involving Mister Ed doing people things and/or being a real jerk. Look at this brief list of actual episode descriptions from the show’s Wikipedia page.
- “Mister Ed feels unwanted and attempts to become the first horse astronaut in space.”
- “A magician’s elephant that Wilbur takes in drives Mister Ed crazy with his antics.”
- “Zsa Zsa Gabor is in town to film a western but is fearful of horses. She overcomes her fear of horses and plans to take Ed to Australia.”
- “Ed decides he feels rejected and unwanted so he joins the beatniks on the beach.”
- “The Posts buy Kay a cockatoo for her birthday. Ed gets it into his head to liberate the bird and the entire animal shelter in the style of Abe Lincoln.”
- “Ed pretends to have the mumps in order to compete for attention with a neighbors’ baby who is attracting the attention of the Posts and the Kirkwoods.”
- “Kirkwood goes over the line in playing with pool sharks so Ed comes to his rescue.
- “Ed desires to learn how to fly an airplane.”
And so on. There’s another one that reads “To teach Ed a lesson, Wilbur locks him in his stall so he can’t steal any more brownies and warm baking pies out from the kitchen window,” which would be goofy enough on its own even if the episode wasn’t titled, I swear to God, “Ed’s Tunnel to Freedom.” When your parents and grandparents tell you the shows you like are too weird and disturbing, please remind them of this. It’s not like there were hundreds of channels, either. There were, like, four. There were maybe 70-80 shows total at the time and one was about a devious talking horse who tunneled out of his stable to steal pies. The Greatest Generation, indeed.
So with all that in mind, the fact that Mister Ed also hit a home run off of Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax isn’t really all that crazy. Again, in context. And we’ll get to it in a second, I promise. But I’m sure there’s a tiny voice in your head asking what kind of narrative gymnastics one even has to do to put a talking horse in position to hit a home run off of Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, and buddy, you should listen to that voice because it is asking exactly the right questions.
The episode starts with Mister Ed watching a Dodgers game in his stable. He is mad because the Dodgers are bad. He looks like this, which is perfectly normal and would not cause concern at all if someone stumbled across him watching a baseball game.
Mister Ed knows how to help the team, because Mister Ed is an expert on hitting. This is not explained in any way. It’s like everyone just said “Well, of course Mister Ed knows how to hit” and moved right along. And thank God they did, because it allowed them to skip straight to the part where Mister Ed (a horse) calls the operator and has her patch him through to the phone in the visitor’s dugout in Candlestick Park in San Francisco (where the Dodgers are playing) so he can give tips to the team’s manager (Leo Durocher, as himself) during the game, which work so well that Durocher invites him (Ed, a horse, who is pretending to be Wilbur) to Dodger Stadium to provide more. Every part of this is perfect.
(This is not the only phone-related hijinks Ed gets up to in the episode. Wilbur was originally supposed to go to Palm Springs with his wife for the weekend, but Ed called the house phone from his stable and pretended to be a motor lodge employee who was passing along a dangerous weather report for the area. Also, at one point Ed says some smartass comment and Wilbur replies “You are begging for a spanking. And you’ve got a lot to spank,” which has nothing to do with anything, but it is very disquieting and I needed to share it with someone.)
And that brings us to this:
I want to stress here that Wilbur brought a horse into the stadium and onto the field. I do not want us to brush past that. A man showed up at the gates of Dodger Stadium with his pet horse and the stadium staff let them in. Between games of a doubleheader. And Wilbur justifies it to Leo Durocher by saying the horse is “kind of [his] good luck charm.” Which means that, as far as Durocher knows, this guy hacked into the dugout phone to second guess his coaching staff and then showed up to a meeting with a good luck horse. Any reasonable person would have had Wilbur committed, justifiably. I love this so much I could explode.
Anyway, as you can probably guess, Ed secretly passes the tips to Wilbur via signs and lip-reading (of course) and they all work spectacularly and immediately, with slumping players now mashing dingers left and right in batting practice. But there’s a catch: Everyone is fawning over Wilbur, and Ed — a notoriously jealous mess — gets ticked off, so he walks over to the batter’s box and picks up a bat with his teeth. The players, all a little cool about any of this business, suggest it would be a fun photo op if Sandy Koufax — who is pitching batting practice between games of a doubleheader, because sure — tosses him a pitch.
And this brings us to Mister Ed hitting a home run off of Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax:
A few notes in closing:
- I hid the fact that it was an inside-the-park home run from you on purpose, because it was important to me that you see it with fresh eyes
- THE CATCHER
- THE SLIDE
Television has always been good. Let no one tell you otherwise.
A very special thanks to Rob Friedman for posting this on Twitter to remind everyone of its existence