|Jack Warden, Abraham Sofaer, and Robert Sorrells|
"The Mighty Casey"
Season One, Episode 35
Original Air Date: June 17, 1960
Mouth McGarry: Jack Warden
Casey: Robert Sorrells
Dr. Stillman: Abraham Sofaer
Monk: Don O'Kelly
Doctor: Jonathan Hole
Beasley: Alan Dexter
Commissioner: Rusty Lane
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Directors: Robert Parrish and Alvin Ganzer
Producer: Buck Houghton
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
And now, Mr. Serling:
"This locker and liniment emporium houses a major league baseball team known as the Hoboken Zephyrs, all of which by way of introduction to next week's show, a wild and wooly yarn about the great American pastime. It's called 'The Mighty Casey' and it's all about a left-hander who pitches like nothing human simply because he isn't. Mr. Jack Warden takes us into the stadium next week for nine fast innings on The Twilight Zone."
Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"What you're looking at is a ghost, once alive but now deceased. Once upon a time it was a baseball stadium that housed a major league ball club known as the Hoboken Zephyrs. Now it houses nothing but memories and a wind that stirs in the high grass of what was once an outfield, a wind that sometimes bears a faint, ghostly resemblance to the roar of a crowd that once sat here. We're back in time now when the Hoboken Zephyrs were still a part of the National League and this mausoleum of memories was an honest-to-Pete stadium. But since this is strictly a story of make-believe, it has to start this way: One upon a time in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was tryout day. And though he's not yet on the field, you're about to meet a most unusual fella, a left-handed pitcher named Casey."
A scientist and inventor, Dr. Stillman, invents a robot named Casey. In an attempt to test Casey's skills, Stillman strikes a deal with Mouth McGarry, the manager of the Hoboken Zephyrs, a dreadful team on a tremendous losing streak. Stillman discloses to McGarry the true nature of Casey and after seeing what Casey can do from the pitching mound McGarry, as desperate as he is, agrees to put him on the team.
Casey is an instant sensation. He pitches shutout after shutout and nobody from any opposing team can figure out how to hit his impossible pitches. The Hoboken Zephyrs zoom into fourth place and make national headlines. Then tragedy strikes and Casey is hit in the head with the baseball, landing him in the hospital where it is quickly discovered by the team doctor that Casey has no heartbeat. He has, in fact, no heart. The commissioner of baseball is brought into the situation and he consults the rules, which state that a team is made up of nine men. It seems that without a heartbeat Casey isn't a man and is disqualified from any further play.
McGarry appeals to Stillman and the inventor agrees that he can give Casey a heart. Soon after, Casey returns to the team fully healed and with a new beating heart that members of the team can hear pounding away in his chest. Casey is reinstated with the league and put back on the mound for the Zephrys. Unfortunately, there is a side effect involved in giving a Casey a heart and it quickly becomes apparent. Casey no longer strikes out opponents but throws easy pitches that batters hammer away at, sending the Zephyrs right back on the path of a losing streak. Stillman explains to McGarry and the rest of the team that Casey's newly installed heart has built a great deal of compassion within the robot and that Casey no longer can bear to strike out opposing batters. With his baseball career effectively washed out, Casey states that he intends to go into social work where he can help people.
As a consolation gift, Stillman give to McGarry the blueprints to Casey and it doesn't take long for it to dawn on McGarry that there is a very real possibility of creating an entire team of incredible robots.
Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"Once upon a time there was a major league baseball team called the Hoboken Zephyrs, who during the last year of their existence wound up in last place and shortly thereafter wound up in oblivion. There is a rumor, unsubstantiated of course, that a manager named McGarry took them to the West Coast and wound up with several pennants and a couple of World Championships. This team had a pitching staff that made history. Of course, none of them smiled very much but it happens to be a fact that they pitched like nothing human. And if you are interested as to where these gentlemen come from you might check under "B" for baseball, in the Twilight Zone."
"The Mighty Casey" is an episode marred by a series of unfortunate events. Firstly, the episode is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and, as we here on the Vortex have stated again and again, this type of episode almost always came across as patently unfunny. Rod Serling and other writers for the show would continue their attempts to bring the comedic touch to the series and they would almost always fail in these attempts as the screwball style of comedy simply had no place on the show. "The Mighty Casey" is a particularly dreadful example of this type of show and is arguably the worst single episode on The Twilight Zone until the arrival of producer William Froug to close out the latter half of season five with a bevy of deplorable and detestable episodes.
Secondly, the episode had to be filmed twice as little to no footage from the first production and filming of the episode is known to have made it into the final cut seen today or to even still exist at all. The reason for the reshoot of the episode was the death of actor Paul Douglas, who portrayed Mouth McGarry in the first shoot, directed by Alvin Ganzer. Douglas, who had little to no experience in comedic roles and who also found the script unfunny, took the job chiefly because of a personal invitation from Rod Serling. Both Serling and Douglas were familiar names on the live anthology show Playhouse 90, Serling as a writer and Douglas as an actor, and this certainly also had much to do with it. Serling's only major reservation about hiring Paul Douglas was the aging actor's propensity to drink heavily. Serling contacted Douglas's agent about this and was reassured that Douglas no longer had a drinking problem. Satisfied, Serling went ahead and green lit the production.
When Serling began to view the daily rushes from the shooting, he begins to believe he's been lied to about Paul Douglas's drinking because the actor looked haggard, mottled, and high in color. Douglas also had trouble delivering his lines, even brief passages, without running out of breath. When Serling contacted Douglas's agent to complain, the agent again guaranteed that Douglas was not drinking. The truth was much more tragic. Only a handful of days after the completion of photography for the episode, Paul Douglas died. The symptoms that Serling viewed on the daily rushes were those of heart failure and not excessive drinking. As Serling morbidly stated, "we were watching him literally die in front of us."
Devastated, Serling avowed to himself that he wasn't going to send out this knuckleball comedy of an episode with a well respected actor slowly dying on camera. Still, he was obligated to show CBS something and, after showing the completed episode, told the executives for the network that this wouldn't air as an episode and that it would have to be reshot in its entirety. CBS agreed that the show wasn't funny just not in the same way Serling intended. They seemed to have no problem with the fact that Paul Douglas died shortly after the shoot and they were unwilling to part with the additional money required to reshoot the episode.
According to Marc Scott Zicree in The Twilight Zone Companion (revised ed. Silman-James, 1989) Serling put $27,000 of his own money on the line to recast, reshoot, and re-edit the entire episode. Director Robert Parrish was brought on for filming duty and actor Jack Warden was brought in to assume the role of Mouth McGarry. The planned airing date of the re-filmed episode was pushed back from December to the following June and the reshoot attempted to be as efficient as possible. Little remained on the cutting room floor and nearly all reshot footage was left in to fill the time length required by the episode.
Martin Grams, in his book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic, reprints several unused or alternate intros, outros, and promos that, for one reason or another, were unused in the final cut of episodes. Most of these unused passages are of insignificant variation and are of little interest. Rod Serling's unused promo for "The Mighty Casey," however, is of interest because of the fact the death of actor Paul Douglas necessitated the change. The unused promo is as follows: "Next week we take you into a state of wonderful confusion. The late Mr. Paul Douglas stars in a play we call 'The Mighty Casey.' Bring your imagination as we recount for you the trials and tribulations of a major league ball club called the Hoboken Zephyrs, a put upon manager, and the most fabulous baseball pitcher you'll ever watch in action. Next week on the Twilight Zone, 'The Mighty Casey.'"
The result of Serling taking the initiative to fund the reshoot from his own money was that CBS would forever after had their eyes glued to the financial books and constantly pressure Rod Serling about the budget for the series, a problem that the creator of the show often spoke about in a negative way.
It would have been difficult for an episode with a fantastic script to come out of the other side of the catastrophe that was the production of "The Mighty Casey" with any semblance of its initial impact or resonance much less an episode that purported to be humorous but came off only as, at best, amusing. By all indications, "The Mighty Casey" was a bad episode with Paul Douglas in the lead role and Alvin Ganzer behind the camera. With an under budgeted, rushed, and poorly edited reshoot, the episode comes off simply as an unfunny, uninteresting blemish on the face of a show generally held to an exacting, high standard. It is perhaps because of the unfortunate events that characterized its production that "The Mighty Casey" has not simply been forgotten altogether.
--Rod Serling apparently found enough fascination in the story of Casey to make it the very first teleplay he adapted into prose form for the three book short story series he wrote based on the show. "The Mighty Casey" can be found in Stories from the Twilight Zone, originally published by Bantam Books in April, 1960 and reprinted numerous times thereafter.
--Actor Jack Warden also starred in the earlier season one episode, "The Lonely."
--Director Alvin Ganzer also directed the season one episodes, "The Hitch-Hiker," "What You Need," and "Nightmare as a Child."
---Director Robert Parrish also directed the season one episodes, "One for the Angels" and "A Stop at Willoughby."
--"The Mighty Casey" was adapted as a radio play for The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas and starred Paul Dooley.