Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Max Patkin, August 5, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - Early career in baseball / developing a reputation as a comedian

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Patkin, I know that you started out in the Wisconsin State League, in the Minor Leagues.

Segment Synopsis: Patkin describes his early career in baseball, as well as the beginnings of his reputation as a comedian.

Keywords: Baseball games; Batting practice; Clowns; Comedians; Contracts; Farm clubs; Fastballs; Greenbay (Wis.); Harry Grabiner; High schools; Injuries; Joe Brown, Jr.; Jonesboro (Ark.); Pitching; Prep schools; Scholarships; Scouts; Waterloo (Iowa); Wisconsin Rapids; Wisconsin State League

Subjects: Baseball players; Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Chicago White Sox (Baseball Team); Comiskey, Charles A.; Major League Baseball (Organization); Minor league baseball.; Philadelphia Phillies (Baseball Team); Pitchers (Baseball); Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball teams); Wounds and injuries.

00:06:50 - Playing baseball in the navy

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Partial Transcript: But then I signed up with the navy, at the end of '42.

Segment Synopsis: Patkin discusses playing baseball in the navy, how he first became involved with it, and some of the players he played with and against.

Keywords: Barney Bukowsky (??); Bone spurs; Cancer; Chief specialist of athletics; Doctors; Eddie Pellegrini; Garvey; Honolulu (Hawaii); Hugh Casey; Marvin Felderman; Military service; Navy; New Caledonia; PI school; Utility players; Vern Olsen; Vinnie Smith

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Catchers (Baseball); DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999; Great Lakes Naval Training Center (Great Lakes, Ill.).; Pearl Harbor (Hawaii); Reese, Pee Wee, 1918-1999; United States. Navy.; World War, 1939-1945

00:11:27 - A comedic game pitching against Joe DiMaggio

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you have a little bit...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin describes a game in which he pitched against Joe DiMaggio, and his comedic reaction to DiMaggio's hitting a home run off of him.

Keywords: 7th Air Force; Bill Holland; Bob Dillinger; Charlie Silvera; Comedians; Comedy; Dancing; Disco; Disco dancing; Exercising; Hitters; Hitting; Hobbies; Home runs; Humor; Innings; Joe Gordon; Mike McCormick; Red Roughing (??); Runs; Walter Judnich

Subjects: Baseball players; DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999; Major League Baseball (Organization); New York Yankees (Baseball Team); Pitchers (Baseball); United States. Navy.

00:16:05 - Becoming well known for comedy / playing table tennis against Bobby Riggs

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Partial Transcript: And from that day on, the generals and the different commanding officers on the island heard about it.

Segment Synopsis: Patkin tells how he became famous as a comedian when he was in the navy, at least among other military men. He also talks about playing table tennis against tennis player Bobby Riggs, and how Riggs ended up owing him a lot of money because of it.

Keywords: Autographs; Baseball movies; Betting; Bill Dickey; Buddy Blatner; Card games; Cards; Dancing; Elmer; Elmer the Great (Film); Hustlers; Joe Brown; Money; Movies; Ping-pong; Professional tennis; Public relations; Servicemen; Table tennis; Tennis

Subjects: Baseball players.; Basketball.; Major League Baseball (Organization).; Patkin, Max.; Pitchers (Baseball).; Riggs, Bobby, 1918-1995.

00:22:47 - Friendship with Bobby Riggs / being mistaken for Ray Bolger

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Partial Transcript: And the funny bit is that he got shipped out, and as he got shipped out, because he had gone on the radio...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin continues to discuss his friendship with Bobby Riggs during and after World War II. He also tells a story about how he was mistaken for Ray Bolger, who was a well-known entertainer at that time.

Keywords: Bob Crosby; Broadcasts; Captain Lewis; Comedians; Dances; Dancing; Exhibition games; Humor; Jackie Cooper; Radios; Ray Bolger; South Pacific; Tennis comedy; Tennis players; University of Hawaii

Subjects: Baseball players; Riggs, Bobby, 1918-1995.; World War, 1939-1945

00:26:50 - Baseball career directly after World War II

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Partial Transcript: Okay. What, when the war was over, what happened to you?

Segment Synopsis: Patkin talks about returning to baseball after the end of the war. He tells how his old injury kept him from being able to pitch.

Keywords: Baseball games; Frank Parenti; General managers; Greenbay (Wis.); Joe Frazier; MVP; Mike Garcia; Most valuable player; Pennant; Pittsfield; Ray Boone; Roommates; Scouts; Sumter (S.C.); Training; Wilkes-Barre Barons (Baseball team); Wisconsin Rapids

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball--Management; Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Rosen, Al; Wilkes-Barre (Pa.).; Wounds and injuries.

00:29:58 - Career as a serious pitcher

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Partial Transcript: ...Did you meet with Bill Veeck before he, you...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin states that most of the time when he pitched, he did so as a serious player, not as a comedian. He also continues to elaborate on his injury, which made pitching difficult for him.

Keywords: Al Schacht; Comedians; Dick Porter; Harry Grabiner; Humor; Pitching; Rotator cuffs; Spring training; Tendonitis; Wilkes-Barre Barons (Baseball team)

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Pitchers (Baseball); Veeck, Bill; Wilkes-Barre (Pa.).

00:32:59 - Wilkes-Barre baseball players / cultural changes in Minor League baseball

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Partial Transcript: Let me go through a few of the players I think you may have played with at Wilkes-Barre...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin talks about some of the players he knew at Wilkes-Barre, and how Minor League baseball especially has changed culturally since he was a player. He mentions the marital status of players as an example of this change.

Keywords: Bakersfield; Dale Lynch; Dick Kokos; Harrisburg (Pa.); Joe Tipton; Johnny Blatnik; Marriage; Mike Garcia; Money; Playing managers; Post-war era; Ralph Waighol (??); Relief pitchers; Spring training; Wilkes-Barre Barons (Baseball team); Wisconsin State League

Subjects: Baseball players; Catchers (Baseball); Minor league baseball.; Outfielders (Baseball); Pitchers (Baseball); St. Louis Browns (Baseball Team); Wilkes-Barre (Pa.).

00:37:38 - Traveling with a Minor League team / first thoughts of having a comedic career

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Partial Transcript: We played fifteen men, and we traveled with the worst buses you ever saw.

Segment Synopsis: Patkin elaborates on the difficult travel conditions for Minor League teams. He shares how several people tried to persuade him to pursue a career in comedy, and tells a story about "coaching" an exhibition game at the Valley Forge General Hospital.

Keywords: Air conditioning; Al Schacht; Baseball games; Buses; Coal dust; Comedians; Dick Porter; Exhibition games; Fans; Harrisburg (Pa.); Hospital patients; Hotels; Joe Tipton; Mike McNally; Motels; Patients; Radio announcers; Soot; Texas; Trains; Travel; Uniforms; Valley Forge (Pa.); Valley Forge General Hospital; Wilkes-Barre Barons (Baseball team)

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball team owners; Baseball--Management; Minor league baseball.; Philadelphia Phillies (Baseball Team); Pitchers (Baseball); Wilkes-Barre (Pa.).; Wounds and injuries.

00:44:12 - Joining up with the Cleveland Indians

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Partial Transcript: But then I went back to Wilkes-Barre, after that show, and, uh, they gave me the night...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin tells how he came to do his comedic routines for the Cleveland Indians.

Keywords: Al Simmons; Baseball presidents; Coaches; Coaching; Comedic routines; Comedy; Dave Cohen; Earl Mack; Exhibition games; Harrisburg (Pa.); Humor; Jackie Price; Joe Tipton; Lawyers; Max Patkin Night; Mike McNally; Money; Release

Subjects: Boudreau, Lou, 1917-2001; Cleveland (Ohio); Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Mack, Connie, 1862-1956; Veeck, Bill; Wilkes-Barre (Pa.).

00:49:01 - First game performing for the Cleveland Indians

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Partial Transcript: And the first day that I joined the ball club, I'll never forget it. Incidentally, he gave me...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin remembers his first game coaching and performing for the Cleveland Indians, including how Babe Ruth made a surprise appearance on the field.

Keywords: Al Schacht; Baseball fans; Coach's contracts; Contracts; Fans; Money; Personal contracts; Salaries; Stage fright

Subjects: Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Cobb, Ty, 1886-1961.; Gehrig, Lou, 1903-1941.; Harder, Mel; Major League Baseball (Organization); Ruth, Babe, 1895-1948.; Speaker, Tris.

00:54:21 - Imitating player Frankie Crosetti

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Partial Transcript: And then I'd go into Detroit with the team, and Jackie Price would perform before the game.

Segment Synopsis: Patkin tells a story about how he imitated player Frankie Crosetti on the field and talks about how Crosetti reacted to this.

Keywords: "The Crow"; Banquets; Baseball gloves; Comedians; Comedy; Frankie Crosetti; Imitations; Innings; Phil Rizzuto; Short stops; Superstitions

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball coaches; Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999; Greenberg, Hank; Williams, Ted, 1918-2002

00:57:36 - Bill Veeck as a promoter / Veeck's current (1984) activities

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about Bill Veeck. How did you get to know him, and what kind of person is he...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin talks about Bill Veeck, who was the owner of the Cleveland Indians while he (Patkin) worked for the team. He talks about his personality, some of the promotions that he did, and his current activities now that he is retired.

Keywords: Amputations; Finley; Fireworks; Gun mounts; Joe Engle; Military service; Milwaukee (Wis.); Parties; Promoters; Promotions; Rudie Schaffer; Sports shirts

Subjects: Baseball team owners; Bougainville Island (Papua New Guinea)--History--1941-1945.; Chicago (Ill.); Chicago Cubs (Baseball Team); Chicago White Sox (Baseball Team); Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Minor league baseball.; Veeck, Bill; Wounds and injuries.

01:00:42 - Changes in baseball / other baseball comedians

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Partial Transcript: I was with the Indians for two seas-- oh, a year and a half. I was with him in Cleve-- St. Louis...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin describes some of the ways that baseball has changed while he has been a player and entertainer, including playing styles and the advent of Astroturf. He also mentions other baseball-related entertainers who worked during his early years as a comedian.

Keywords: Al Schacht; Artificial turf; Astroturf; Baseball cards; Baseball gloves; Baseballs; Billy Mills; Eddie Gaedel; Entertainment; Grass; Home runs; Indianapolis Clowns (Baseball team); Indoor baseball parks; Jackie Price; Johnny Jones; Memorabilia; Performance; Pre-game shows; Specialists; Strength; Tradition

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball gloves; Baseball players; Kansas City Monarchs (Baseball Team); Minor league baseball.; Negro leagues.; Pitchers (Baseball); Synthetic sporting surfaces.; Veeck, Bill

01:04:36 - Getting permission to perform during baseball games

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Partial Transcript: ...That was my act, and I had no choice. I'm not a pregame show act, and I still to this day...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin talks about the difficulty of convincing the managers of various teams to let him perform during the games, rather than before them, as was common for comedy routines at that time.

Keywords: Baseball fans; Baseball games; Comedians; Comedy; Eddie Gottlieb; Entertainers; Entertainment; Fans; Gabe Paul; Hall of Fame; NBA; Performing; Pregame shows

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball umpires.; Baseball--Management; Cincinnati Reds (Baseball Team); Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Major League Baseball (Organization); Minor league baseball.; National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.; National Basketball Association

01:07:27 - Comedic routines involving baseball players

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Partial Transcript: As a clown or a comic, your basic goal was to entertain people.

Segment Synopsis: Patkin describes some of his on-field comedy routines, many of which involved the players themselves.

Keywords: "Clown Prince of Baseball"; "Game of the Week"; Al Schacht; Baseball bats; Bathing caps; Bathing suits; Batting; Buddy Blatner; Catching; Clown coaches; Clowns; Comedic acts; Comedy; Entertainment; Innings; NBC; Pacific Coast League; Pants; Restaurants; Shirts; Slapstick; Titles

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball umpires.; Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Dean, Dizzy, 1910-1974.; Reese, Pee Wee, 1918-1999; Wounds and injuries.

01:12:28 - Traveling for performances / first and third base coaches

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Partial Transcript: ...Stop and think. Thirty nine years, over four thousand performances, millions and millions and millions of miles...

Segment Synopsis: Patkin tells how much he has traveled over the years to perform, discussing some of the more difficult traveling situations he has had. He also discusses the difference in importance between the first and third base coaches.

Keywords: Airplanes; Baseball fans; Buses; Cabs; Coaching; Fans; Fayetteville (Ark.); Fires; First base coaches; Little Rock (Ark.); Oxygen masks; Pitches; Signs; Taxis; Third base coaches; Traveling

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball coaches; Burn out (Psychology)

01:16:18 - Rules for on-field comedic performances / meeting Gene Autry

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Partial Transcript: Were there any rules that, guidelines that you were given by Cleveland management at the time?

Segment Synopsis: Patkin talks about some of the guidelines he was given when performing for the Cleveland Indians. He also tells how he got to meet actor Gene Autry.

Keywords: Gene Autry; Guidelines; Johnny Berardino; Ned Garver; Newspapers; Pat Buttram; Pennants; Rules; Third base coaches

Subjects: Baseball coaches; Baseball players; Boudreau, Lou, 1917-2001; Chicago White Sox (Baseball Team); Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Major League Baseball (Organization); Paige, Satchel, 1906-1982; St. Louis Browns (Baseball Team); Veeck, Bill

01:20:12 - Being thrown out of baseball games

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Partial Transcript: Have you ever been thrown out of a game?

Segment Synopsis: Patkin describes some of the games he has been thrown out of and why. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: "Boudreau shift"; Al Barlick; Baseball games; Cal Hubbard

Subjects: Baseball umpires; Boston Red Sox (Baseball Team); Chicago White Sox (Baseball Team); Major League Baseball (Organization); Minor league baseball.; New York Giants (Baseball Team); Williams, Ted, 1918-2002