March 09, 2008
This oral history begins in the unforgettable summer of 1986, when the Super Mario Brothers struck a blow for Italian plumber rights and the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears taught everyone how to shuffle. In Los Angeles, the Tommy Lasorda-managed Dodgers were getting ready to follow their '85 NL West title with a disappointing 73-89 campaign that produced only one lasting memory — "The Baseball Boogie."
Although the players didn't know it at the time or even get paid for their efforts, the Dodgers' satin-jacketed team dance party would become a Internet sensation more than 20 years later ...
Here, from the Dodgers' camp in Vero Beach, is a first-hand recounting of The Baseball Boogie. Just what were these guys thinking? ...
Ken Howell, '86 pitcher and current Dodgers coach: The Bears did the Super Bowl Shuffle, so we came out with this thing. It was supposed to be something that was going to kick off the baseball season. (Pitcher) Jerry Reuss went and found a production company and hooked everything up.
Rick Honeycutt, '86 pitcher and current Dodgers coach: I can't remember exactly where we taped it, but it was in Hollywood somewhere. I guess it was hard to avoid doing stuff like that when you were playing in Los Angeles.
Howell: It took about three days with the lyrics and then the video. It seemed like everyone was doing videos back then. We thought, 'why not us? 'I thought it’d be huge, but I didn’t think it would take 20 years.
Mariano Duncan, '86 infielder and current Dodgers coach: I can't remember why we even did that thing. We must
have just wanted to have some fun. We had a lot of fun with that team, both on and off the field.
The video's production values left more than a little to be desired. There was also the challenge of getting baseball players to sing and dance, although it did not seem to be a problem for Pedro Guerrero. The taping process was a slow one with the final session lasting until six in the morning.
Honeycutt: None of us were dancers or singers or actors by any means. I guess that’s why it took so long.
Howell: We all sang the song in our own tone and our own pitches and they chose the parts that they thought matched to the voices. Those are all our own voices. I know it looks like it’s lip-synced, but it’s not. They just didn’t do a good job of matching up what we recorded to how our mouths were moving on the video.What left an even bigger impression were the dancing moves of some players, particularly Orel Hershiser, who was coming off a 19-3 and 2.03 ERA season in 1985. However, those stats didn't earn him a reprieve from the teasing of his teammates.
Howell: Well, his name is Orel, so come on, what do you expect? When I look back at that video, I think: "What move was he really trying to make?" He was dancing like he had roaches in his pockets.
Duncan: When we started to make that tape, the producer wanted to see how everyone moved. That’s why you see us guys — Reggie Williams, Pedro Guerrero and myself— in the front. You can see a little rhythm.
Honeycutt: There’s a part where I’m talking and I’ve got my leg on a chair. Then I did this 360 spin and got my leg back on the chair. The guys (on the current Dodgers team) thought that was pretty athletic. They said, “Show us that spin again.”
(But) I said, “That was 22 years ago. I can’t do that anymore.”
Duncan: When I see Orel and Honeycutt trying to dance, it just makes me laugh. It’s still funny to see that.
The wardrobe for “The Baseball Boogie” is one of the best aspects of the clip Each player wore his white baseball pants and had his choice of a pastel-colored satin jacket.
Joe Torre, current Dodgers manager: (Those jackets) were something I was very familiar with. You’re talking about my time back then.
Nomar Garciaparra, current Dodger: When I saw those jackets, I just felt embarrassed for them.
Howell: I probably had the first pink Members Only jacket … But don’t get mad about those colors. Think about the choices I had. Pink, yellow and light blue. It’s not like one of the other ones was going to make me look masculine.
Honeycutt: I think mine was fuchsia or something like that. Actually, I don’t know exactly what color it was. I don’t think you’d call it purple.
Duncan: Oh my god, yellow jackets? When I see myself in that tape wearing that yellow jacket, I just don’t understand how I ever wore that thing.
Howell: At the time we did it, it was what was going on. Me and Dunc had the long Jheri curls with the mullet in the back. That was a pretty happening look back then.
A notable absence in the video is Lasorda. Even though he was the king of commercials, the Dodgers manager didn’t approve of his players taping a video in the middle of the season.
Howell: Tommy was a little bit upset because the timing wasn’t right. It was right in the middle of the season. The next day we had a day off and he said if we had time to shoot a video, we had time to work out.
Lasorda: You’re damn right I did. I asked all of them, “Do you want to be an actor or do you want to be a ballplayer?”
Howell: So we had to go straight from the video to a workout on our off day.
Lasorda: I ran those guys into the ground.
Because the team finished second-to-last in the NL West in '86, the video did not experience a long shelf life, nor was it immediately entered into pop culture history like the "Super Bowl Shuffle." It wasn't until late in 2007, when the video was posted on YouTube, where it quickly became an Internet sensation. Howell believes it was leaked by someone close to the '86 squad.
Then, during the first week of the 2008 training camp, Torre called the team into a meeting room to watch an MLB "security video." Once everyone entered, he showed the Boogie instead.
Torre: It's nice to laugh at ourselves, which is basically what we were doing.
Duncan: I didn’t even remember that video until Brad Penny started teasing me out of nowhere about how “Baseball been’s berry berry good to me.” Then my fiancee called me from Toronto and said she and all her friends had seen it. I'm thinking, "Oh, great."
Honeycutt: I got a text from one friend that said, “I saw your video. I’ve got no words.”
Howell: The sad part is that I guess there was some disputes with the contract and we never got paid for it. That’s the first time I’ve ever acted like an idiot for free.
Honeycutt: The only thing we're getting now is grief.
Got tips and such for 'Duk? Email firstname.lastname@example.org