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TV Legends: The Twilight Zone Episode That Featured an Actual Dying Man

TV URBAN LEGEND: Rod Serling personally paid to reshoot an episode after it turned out that the original star was slowly dying throughout the episode!

All this month, I'll be spotlighting legends connected to the scariest films and TV shows of all-time!

The Twilight Zone is one of the most acclaimed television shows in the history of the medium. Created by Rod Serling, who was the narrator for the program as well as its executive producer (and the writer of a number of episodes), it originally aired from 1959-1964. The show specialized in dark twists in its episodes, but there were a number of lighthearted ones, as well, to break up what could have been an otherwise grim monotony.

However, it turned out that one of its comedic episodes contained one of the darkest twists of them all!

Season 1's "The Mighty Casey" was the 35th episode of that first season (nowadays, the most you'll see from a network show is 24 episodes. Almost all just do 22. There were 36 episodes in the first season of The Twilight Zone) and it dealt with a fictional baseball team. Here's Serling's opening narration:

What you're looking at is a ghost, once alive but now deceased. Once upon a time, it was a baseball stadium that housed a major league ball club known as the Hoboken Zephyrs. Now it houses nothing but memories and a wind that stirs in the high grass of what was once an outfield, a wind that sometimes bears a faint, ghostly resemblance to the roar of a crowd that once sat here. We're back in time now, when the Hoboken Zephyrs were still a part of the National League, and this mausoleum of memories was an honest-to-Pete stadium. But since this is strictly a story of make believe, it has to start this way: once upon a time, in Hoboken, New Jersey, it was tryout day. And though he's not yet on the field, you're about to meet a most unusual fella, a left-handed pitcher named Casey.

The concept of the episode was a down-on-its luck baseball team whose manager, played by Jack Warden...

decides to employ a robot named Casey, who has unhittable fastballs.

When the league finds out that they have a robot on their team, he is banned, because he isn't human. However, the scientist who created him builds him an artificial heart to make him technically human. The problem is that now that he has a heart, Casey develops emotions and he feels that it unfair for him to compete against humans. He quits.

The team is screwed, but then the manager sees the blueprints for Casey and, as the episode ends, he is shown convincing the scientist to build a whole TEAM of Casey-like robots...

The narration ends:

Once upon a time, there was a major league baseball team called the Hoboken Zephyrs, who, during the last year of their existence, wound up in last place and shortly thererafter wound up in oblivion. There's a rumor, unsubstantiated, of course, that a manager named McGarry took them to the West Coast and wound up with several pennants and a couple of world championships. This team had a pitching staff that made history. Of course, none of them smiled very much, but it happens to be a fact that they pitched like nothing human. And if you're interested as to where these gentlemen came from, you might check under 'B' for Baseball - in The Twilight Zone.

Here's the thing, though, Warden played the manager in all of the episode...except for that scene on the field at the end. In that scene, the manager was played by Paul Douglas, the ORIGINAL star of the episode!

Eight years earlier, Douglas had starred as a manager in the 1951 hit baseball film, Angels in the Outfield...

So he was a natural fit for the role. The episode began filming in September of 1959. It did not air until June 1960. This is because Douglas seemed out of sorts throughout the episode. Everyone figured he was drunk. In reality, Douglas was dealing with an incipient coronary. In other words, he was slowly having a heart attack the entire week of filming! He died one day after filming finished.

Serling felt that he needed to be replaced. CBS, though, refused to pay for re-shoots. Serling, then, paid for the re-shoots himself out of pocket and they brought in a new director because the earlier one had moved on. Every Douglas scene was removed except for that last one, since it was shot from so far away that you can't tell who is in the shot, Warden or Douglas.

It was a cool gesture by Serling, but boy, it's still such a creepy thing to happen.

The legend is...

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of TV.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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