Hall of Fame Dodgers star pitcher Don Drysdale was from Los Angeles but he began in baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. When the team moved West to Los Angeles in 1958, their games attracted many in the movie and television industry, affording Don the chance to dabble in the entertainment field. But Don did more than dabble.
Sometimes as an actor playing a part, other times as himself doing only a cameo appearance, here are some of Don Drysdale’s appearances on television shows and series: THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO (with Robert Culp), THE BOB HOPE SHOW (with Billy Martin, another such special with Jane Russell), LUCAS TANNER, THE BRADY BUNCH, THE DONNA REED SHOW (four episodes), THE RIFLEMAN, MISTER ED, THE JOEY BISHOP SHOW, THEN CAME BRONSON, THE KRAFT MUSIC HALL FRIARS CLUB ROAST OF MILTON BERLE, COWBOY IN AFRICA, THE PAT SAJAK SHOW, THE FLYING NUN, PHILBIN’S PEOPLE, THE DREAM GIRL OF ’67, THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE, THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON, OUR MAN HIGGINS, THE NEW STEVE ALLEN SHOW (with Bob Crane), ALCOA PREMIERE, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, THE DINAH SHORE CHEVY SHOW (with Leo Durocher and Gil Hodges), THE LAWMAN, TO TELL THE TRUTH, TAKE A GOOD LOOK, YOU BET YOUR LIFE, THE RED SKELTON HOUR, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES (with Buddy Ebsen and Leo Durocher), and THE MILLIONAIRE.
Which ball players in the 1950’s and 1960’s were not – millionaires. Back then baseball players needed to work in the off-season. Today, fueled by lucrative TV deals, teams can afford to pay the top stars hundreds of millions. But in 1957 Don Drysdale — the wicked side-armed flame thrower nicknamed “The Big D” — made $7,500. And he was then already a star.
In 1965 the Dodgers won the World Series, and Don Drysdale, together with Sandy Koufax, were going to negotiate together as a team for their new contracts, and sit out the 1966 season if necessary. The twosome stated they were prepared to do movies and TV shows instead of pitching baseballs! One feature film they were going to do was THE WARNING SHOT (1967) with Lillian Gish and David Janssen, who was hugely popular at the time for his TV series THE FUGITIVE. Such talks collapsed, however, when the holdout ended and the two stars re-signed with the Dodgers. They became the first pitchers in major league history to earn more than $100,000 per year. One can only imagine what their skills might command in today’s game.
Drysdale was also cast in such feature films as EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962), YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS (1992), THE LAST TIME I SAW ARCHIE (1961), and GYPSY ANGELS (1990).
In 1987 Don hosted 162 episodes of a nationally syndicated radio program called RADIO BASEBALL CARDS. Many epIsodes were dedicated to the memory of Jackie Robinson.
Perhaps the greatest baseball movie ever made was THE NATURAL (1984) starring Robert Redford. Don Drysdale was not cast in this film, but his Van Nuys High School classmate was the same Robert Redford.
Don Drysdale also enjoyed a career as an outstanding baseball radio/television broadcaster, most notably with the Chicago White Sox, the California Angels, and especially the Dodgers. He was terrific and always a pleasure to listen to.
His great career was cut short after suffering a torn rotator cuff in 1969 forcing retirement as an active player at age 33. His life, too, was cut short way too soon after suffering a fatal heart attack in his hotel room on a Dodgers road trip to Montreal in 1993. The much-missed Don Drysdale was 56 years of age.
Found in his hotel room, among his personal belongings, was a cassette tape recording of Robert F. Kennedy’s victory speech following his 1968 triumph in the California Democratic presidential primary. This was the speech Kennedy made moments before his assassination. As part of that speech, Kennedy had noted that Drysdale had just thrown his sixth consecutive shutout that very evening in establishing baseball’s all-time record for consecutive scoreless innings.