Imagine a gathering of 1960s icons that included Stan Musial, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
When a recent Twitter post by Just Baseball Photos @Baseball_Photos displayed a picture of those athletes and entertainers together at a 1964 Friars Club roast, I wanted to research it and share what I learned in this blog post.
The black-and-white photo, reproduced here, shows (from left to right) Dodgers publicist Danny Goodman, Musial, Mays, Sinatra, Koufax and Martin (the latter in a classic pose, with cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other).
They were among a bevy of baseball and entertainment celebrities gathered at the Friars Club in Beverly Hills on Nov. 10, 1964, for a testimonial dinner in honor of Musial, the Cardinals standout who had retired as a player a year earlier. Less than a month before the gala, the Cardinals, with Musial in the front office as an executive, had clinched the 1964 World Series championship against the Yankees.
The Friars Club, founded in 1904 in New York City, primarily attracted comedians and entertainers as its members and became best known for its bawdy celebrity roasts. A Beverly Hills branch of the club opened in 1947.
The dinner for Musial attracted a stellar group from the baseball and entertainment worlds.
Among the baseball celebrities joining Koufax and Mays in honoring Musial were Don Drysdale, Leo Durocher, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Vin Scully and Duke Snider.
Sinatra and Martin were joined by personalities such as Gene Autry, Milton Berle, Arthur Godfrey and master of ceremonies George Jessel.
Following the standard Friars Club format, several of the entertainers took turns on the dais poking fun at the honored guest.
(An example of the cutting humor was this line from Godfrey about Musial’s restaurant in St. Louis: “After eating there, I can understand why Stan came all the way to Los Angeles for a meal.”)
The highlight of the evening came when Sinatra and Martin “ran through a half-dozen song parodies filled with jabs at Musial,” The Sporting News reported. The Rat Pack duo’s special lyrics to popular tunes were so risqué that none “is in danger of ever being published,” wrote Sporting News correspondent Bob Hunter.
Sinatra and Martin ended on a high note with a duet to the tune of the song “The Lady is a Tramp.” Changing the lyrics to salute Stan the Man, Sinatra and Martin made the signature line, “Mr. Musial, you’re a champ.”
The Sporting News observed, “Musial received several standing ovations, the final one lasting for a lengthy period after he had responded to the barbs and roasts with a witty, humble speech of thanks.”
In opening his remarks, Musial said to the celebrity club members, “It’s been a great evening and it’s great to be with such famous and good friends _ even if they don’t know a darn thing about baseball.”