His name is Mouth McGarry. He's the manager for the Hoboken Zephyrs, a pathetic gang of bumbling incompetents masquerading as a baseball team. Out of desperation, he gives an unlikely player a shot on the pitcher's mound.
That pitcher is Casey, who throws a ball so fast it sets the catcher's mitt on fire. He's an instant sensation and, much to everyone's surprise, the team starts winning games and captures the eye of the nation. However, disaster strikes when Casey gets beaned... and his secret gets out. Without giving too much away, it's safe to say that Casey isn't entirely human.
"The Mighty Casey," which first aired 50 years ago tonight, was written by Rod Serling and directed by both Alvin Ganzer AND Robert Parrish. Wait, why two directors? And for that matter, why does the episode have TWO production numbers (3617 and 3687)? The answer is both fascinating and tragic.
Originally actor Paul Douglas was cast in the lead role of Mouth McGarry. Douglas appeared in several noir films in the mid-40s (including Panic in the Streets and Fourteen Hours), but was probably best known for his role in the original Angels in the Outfield in 1951 before moving into steady work in various anthology series on TV. After principal photography on "The Mighty Casey" was completed, Douglas sadly died of heart failure. The episode was supposed to air around Christmas 1959, but was postponed while Serling and Cayuga Productions figured out what to do. The solution was unique: out of respect for Douglas' memory, the entire episode was essentially reshot, with Jack Warden (previously seen in "The Lonely" earlier this season) taking over the Mouth McGarry role. It should be noted that CBS refused to foot the bill (which exceeded $20,000.00), so Serling stepped in and, through Cayuga, absorbed the cost. What a guy.
Unfortunately, the finished episode isn't particularly engaging, which makes one wonder if Serling's altruistic solution was ultimately worth it. It's intended as a light comedy, but many of the jokes fall flat. The problem lies with Serling's script (would he have ponied up the twenty grand if it'd been a Matheson or Beaumont script?). It's not a total loss, but it's pretty pale next to the rest of season one. It's a mild diversion at best and, if nothing else, at least it isn't abrasively awful like "Mr. Bevis" is.
Next week: The Twilight Zone airs it's very first repeat, and it's a good one. Saddle up and tune in, cowboy.