With so much of the recent baseball conversation delving into the solemn and sober issues of steroid use and how the game should react to the problem, I thought it would be nice to throw a lighthearted change-of-pace. Along those lines, this week’s Card Corner presents something a little bit different.
Yes, I admit it. I used to think that former California Angels outfielder Ken Berry (Topps 1972, No. 379)was the same Ken Berry who starred in the 1960s television series, "F-Troop." After all, the actor who portrayed Captain Wilton Parmenter, the shy and not-so-fearless leader of Fort Courage, seemed young enough to be a ballplayer. The show also aired during the fall and winter months, resulting in little conflict with the baseball season, which ran for most of the spring and summer. (As a seven-year-old in 1972, I had no idea that TV series started filming during the summer months, which would have made it difficult for Berry the baseball player to honor his major league schedule with the Angels. To make matters worse, I didn’t realize that "F-Troop" had aired live from 1965 to 1967, and was simply being featured in reruns by 1972. So in theory, Berry the ballplayer would have been filming "F-Troop" in the mid-1960s while still with the Chicago White Sox. All of these revelations are rather embarrassing.)
Captain Parmenter would have made a good outfielder, just like baseball’s version of Ken Berry. (Baseball’s Berry won two Gold Gloves for his defensive play in center field and earned selection to the 1967 All-Star Game. Back in the day, he was referred to as an excellent flychaser.) As the overmatched commander of "F-Troop," Parmenter looked lean and fit, and appeared to have enough speed to play center field. Some of the other characters on "F-Troop" also fit the stereotypes of ballplayers. Sergeant Morgan O’Rourke, played so smoothly by veteran actor Forrest Tucker, would have made a strapping, left-handed hitting first baseman. Corporal Randolph Agarn, as played by the mawkish Larry Storch, would have fit right in as a goofy, wisecracking utility infielder. And then there was Hannibal Dobbs, portrayed by character actor James Hampton of The Longest Yard fame, who would have seemed just right as a slightly daffy relief pitcher.
With or without baseball, "F-Troop" was a solidly good, funny show that was sometimes hilarious. It never would have flown in today’s world of politically correct speech (the portrayal of the Native Americans on the show is considered offensive by many critics). In some ways, it was a latter day "Little Rascals" (another riotous program that is never shown anymore because of over sensitivity and political correctness), but it was still funny, with likeable and sympathetic characters. It just would have been that much better if the Ken Berry who played center field so skillfully for the Angels, White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Milwaukee Brewers had been the same guy who so cleverly played Captain Parmenter on TV.
Bruce Markusen writes "Cooperstown Confidential" for MLB.com and is the author of the upcoming book, Out of Left Field: Unusual Characters in Baseball History.