Hollywood Stars charity game has storied history
From Willie Aames to Daphne Zuniga — and another double-A ballplayer named Army Archerd — hundreds upon hundreds of celebrities have played in the annual Hollywood Stars charity game at Dodger Stadium.
The game has roots dating back to the 1930s, thanks to Danny Goodman, a man who planted his feet in baseball and entertainment. Goodman was head of promotions of the Hollywood Stars minor league team and the Pacific Coast League, and also managed concessions for a number of major-league teams across the country.
“He was an original member of the West Coast Friars Club — in fact, his best friend was Ronald Reagan,” says longtime publicist and TV producer Joe Siegman. “Those early games were usually members of the Friars Club playing against each other. Danny told me once one of the more popular formats was the bad guys against the good guys — the guys who played heavies like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, against whoever the good guys were.
“Now fade out, fade in: The Dodgers move out here and he’s hired. He gets Nat King Cole, who’s also a member of the Friars Club and a major Dodger fan, to put the group of celebrities together for a Hollywood Stars game, and then gets the media to put up their all-star team, and it went on like that until the early ’80s — it was the stars against the media.”
Longtime Variety columnist Archerd, who also segued to cover the Dodgers’ first World Series game in Los Angeles in 1959, was one who made the transition.
“I was happy to have played on the team for several years,” he recently wrote at ArmyArcherd.com, “having come up from the ‘minors,’ that is, playing with celebs on the then-Hollywood Stars team(during the PCL era).”
Soon after the Dodgers moved into Dodger Stadium, Cole’s agent, Jack Gilardi (now executive vice president at ICM) and Siegman took over the heavy lifting for the Hollywood Stars game and continued for nearly four decades. Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were among early attendees, and in later years came the likes of Billy Crystal and Kevin Costner. TV stars also were major players.
“We had all the comedians,” Siegman says. “Milton Berle — anybody who was a Friar, they either played in the game or came out to sign autographs with the people. There was less security there in those days; there was practically no security.
“We used to do all kinds of comedy stunts that we planned ahead: running bases the wrong way, dressing up one of the Dodgers in a Hollywood Stars uniform and sending him out to pitch, like Sandy Koufax.”
Siegman and Gilardi’s involvement with the charity game ended shortly after the McCourt family bought the Dodgers in 2004. Since that time, the affair has morphed into a softball game (this year’s takes place Saturday). While the celebrities don’t recall Hollywood’s glory days, the Hollywood Stars game remains a charity event, with proceeds from an auction this week going to the Dodger Dream Foundation, which fosters opportunities for youth in Greater L.A.