Before the Reds open the delayed 2020 baseball season, WVXU will repeat its production of Rod Serling's Reds baseball comedy, O'Toole From Moscow, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 21.
Written during the Cold War, Serling's O'Toole From Moscow is about confusion between Russians and the Reds which results in a Soviet Union embassy staffer playing outfield for the Cincinnati baseball club.
O'Toole premiered on March 25, the evening before the Reds' Opening Day got canceled by the coronavirus. The Reds start their 60-game season 6:10 p.m. Friday against the Detroit Tigers at Great American Ball Park.
Eight students from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music recorded the play in November at Cincinnati Public Radio under the direction of Richard Hess, CCM professor of acting and directing. Anne Serling, Rod's daughter, is host and narrator for the one-hour radio program.
Rod Serling, the Twilight Zone creator who started his career in 1950 at WLWT TV and radio, wrote the one-hour television play for NBC Matinee Theatre after the team changed its name to the Redlegs when "Reds" became headline shorthand for Communists. It was broadcast live at 3 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12, 1955. The performance was not filmed or recorded.
Unlike most of his TV scripts, O'Toole is a comedy. In the play, a Russian embassy worker named Mushnick was being sent back to Moscow from New York for re-education because of his high absenteeism due to attending Brooklyn Dodgers games. So Mushnick and a muscular young Russian bodyguard named Joseph Bishofsky (played by Chuck Connors before TV's Rifleman) hopped a train and went as far as their money would take them, to Cincinnati.
In Cincinnati, Bishofsky went to the Reds offices to turn himself in. Mushnick burst in to explain that Joseph – whom he calls "O'Toole" – was an outfielder wanting a tryout.
The Reds gave O'Toole a shot, and he ends up hitting the ball farther than Reds slugger Ted Kluszewski.
The ballpark music was provided by John Schutte, the Reds organist. Cincinnati Public Radio's Josh Elstro was the master engineer, and inserted the sound effects.
Full disclosure here: I've known about O'Toole From Moscow since 1989, when I first wrote a story for the Cincinnati Enquirer about Serling's life here. It's been my dream for three decades to find and revive Serling's story involving the Reds. I'm also a producer on the show, and adapted Serling's teleplan for radio.
O'Toole From Moscow also can be heard at wvxu.org. It's also available as a podcast from Apple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR One, Sticher, Google Play and Pocket Casts.