'O'Toole From Moscow' Now Available As A Podcast

Jun 8, 2020

WVXU's revival of Rod Serling's 1955 O'Toole From Moscow show about the Cincinnati Reds is now available on podcast platforms.

O'Toole From Moscow, the Cold War comedy about a Russian Embassy security guard playing outfield for the Reds, premiered on Cincinnati Public Radio March 25.

It's now available at Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, NPR One, Stitcher and the usual outlets. It also can be streamed here on our website. So far 991 people have listened to a stream of the one-hour show since the March broadcast premiere.

Serling, who started his career in Cincinnati in 1950, wrote O'Toole as a TV play for NBC's Matinee Theater. It was telecast only once – live at 3 p.m. on a Monday afternoon – and not recorded, taped or filmed. O'Toole starred Chuck Connors, best known as TV's the Rifleman, as the security officer who thrilled Reds fans with his long home runs.

The "O'Toole From Moscow" cast and crew in the Cincinnati Public Radio studio.
Credit John Kiesewetter

Eight student actors from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music performed the play. Richard Hess, who teaches acting and directing at CCM, directed and cast the show. WVXU's Josh Elstro was the master recording engineer. Reds organist John Schutte provided our ballpark organ music.

Anne Serling, Rod's daughter, flew in from upstate New York to be our O'Toole host and narrator.  Here's a link to my five-minute interview with Anne about her father's shows, his love of baseball, and her memories of her father, who died in 1975 at age 50.

Ann Serling (center) with the "O'Toole From Moscow" cast.
Credit John Kiesewetter / WVXU

Full disclosure: It was my dream for 30 years to find Serling's script and produce O'Toole for the Cincinnati audience. Through my connections with Serling experts and authors I was able to track down the script, and I adapted it for radio.

Rod Serling was hired as a writer by WLW radio/TV in 1950, after graduating from Antioch College.  He moved to Connecticut in fall of 1954 to write for live TV network shows in New York, then relocated to Los Angeles before the 1959 premiere of The Twlight Zone.

O'Toole, set at the height of the Cold War "Red Scare," is about a Russian embassy staffer named Mushnick  being sent back to Moscow from New York because of his high absenteeism due to attending Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field. So Mushnick and a muscular young, naive bodyguard named Joseph Bishofsky (Connors) hopped a train and went as far as their money would take them – which was Cincinnati.

Anne Serling with her father, Rob.
Credit Courtesy Anne Serling

In Cincinnati, Bishofsky went to the Reds office to turn himself in to a bewildered general manager.  Mushnick explained that Joseph – whom he calls "O'Toole" – was an outfielder wanting a tryout. The Reds gave O'Toole a shot, and he ended up being a better slugger than Ted Kluszewski -- until the Russians found him.

Cincinnati Post TV columnist Mary Wood called O'Toole From Moscow "delightfully fantastic" in her review the next day. "The Reds – both Cincinnati's favorite baseball team and the Moscow variety – were mixed up in the most hilarious comedy Rod Serling has written so far," she wrote.