Some anniversaries are heartfelt. Others denote an important benchmark. This anniversary is neither of those things. Instead, the anniversary I speak of today should hopefully tug at your funny bone.
On this date 37 years ago, Bill Murray, then an newscaster on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update", revealed to the world that lovable and English-deficient All-Star second baseman Chico Escuela, played by Garrett Morris, would hang-them-up and end his quixotic comeback to the Major Leagues. As we came to understand, a screamer off the bat of Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey struck Escuela below the belt. That batted ball had rendered him irreversibly infertile.
On that day, Baseball was not very (berry, berry) good to Chico.
For old fogies like myself, Chico Escuela should bring a big smile. He first debuted on Saturday Night Live on November 11, 1978 as part of a sketch featuring a meeting of the St. Mickey's Knights of Columbus. If memory serves correct, Dan Akroyd and John Belushi were at the head table to introduce the guest of honor - "The Immortal Chico Escuela".
The retired Dominican ballplayer was asked to give a speech to attendees at the Knights of Columbus for the then large sum of $900. So, he was introduced and proceeded to utter only these words in the most stereotypical Hispanic accent imaginable:
"Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias!"Having felt a bit jilted, Belushi's character prodded Escuela to say more. So he did:
"Keep you eye, keep you eyes, on de ball."And that was it. Soon thereafter, Chico returned to the SNL on the "Weekend Update" and would repeat the phrase that would make him a legend. He would say:
"Baseball been berry, berry good to me."Over the ensuing several years we would receive word about how Chico was doing; primarily on the "Weekend Update" sketch. He attempted an ill-advised comeback that ended in tragedy (as described above) and was even hired as an anchorman on the "Weekend Update" sketch.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any videos of the SNL skit announcing his retirement or his introduction to the sketch show (help a brother out YouTube), but I did find an complete transcript of the Steve Garvey incident online (isn't the internet great?). Check it out below, via SNL Transcripts. I only share the portion relevant to Chico Escuela.
Bill Murray: Well, it looks like age has finally caught up with Chico Escuela. The 42-year-old former Met made the Mets' Spring Training, but once the season began, it was a different story.In honor of the legendary Chico Escuela I made the above fantasy card for him. I used a couple photos grabbed from Baseball-Birthdays.net and a Mets wiki, and the 1983 Topps Baseball card design.
As if his entire body betrayed him, Chico looks spastic and bewildered, both at bat and in the field. Ground balls that Chico would have easily gotten in his prime, eluded him and contributed to the Mets' slow start this season. Although the crowds were always behind the former hero, he never ceased to disappoint them. As the spirit was willing, Chico's arms, legs, eyes and reflexes were shot to hell.. and then, this.. [ baseball hits Chico in the crotch ] ..to add insult to injury, a crushing blow off the bat of Dodger Steve Garvey. After being revived, a now sterile Chico Escuela informed the Mets that he was quitting baseball. Thus ends the inspiring saga of Chico Escuela. Chico will rejoin us here at the "Weekend Update" desk as soon as he catches his breath. Jane?
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