Friday, July 3, 2015

mfc Chico Escuela & SNL '78 Tribute

Garrett Morris introduced Chico Escuela to the Mets universe on November 11th, 1978. The character first appeared on Saturday Night Live in a St. Mickey's Knights of Columbus sketch with Dan Akroyd and John Belushi. Garrett's Chico, a retired baseball player, was the guest of honor at the meeting.

Belushi introduced him as "The immortal Chico Escuela", a former all-star baseball player who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and played Major League ball for the Chicago Cubs. 

Chico, who spoke very little English, was being paid $900 to give a speech at the event.

This was his speech:
"Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias!"

 He then returned to his seat. 
After being prodded to say more by Belushi's character, Escuela got up, returned to the podium and added, 

"Keep you eye, keep you eyes, on de ball."

Then he returned to his seat.

If I'm going to speculate about Escuela's fictional history I would have him coming to the Mets from the Cubs in early 1971, and it is reflected in his 1971 mfc/O-Pee-Chee issue baseball card.

So Chico was introduced to our universe, but he was not yet a player for the Mets. How about that? We'll get into it after I say a few words about Saturday Night Live, circa 1978.
And when I say "a few words" you should know by now that you probably wanna grab a snack because I will just go on and on and on....

Reporter: "In a moment, Lee Harry Oswald, the man police say shot President John F. Curry, will be brought down this corridor toward a waiting car and then transported to Houston County Jail, where he will probably remain until his trial. 
 Uh -- there seems to be some, uh, activity now -- yes! There's Oswald now. Now, police claim that they have an airtight case against him. Oswald's motive appears to have been jealousy -- evidently, the handsome young president had been having an affair with Oswald's wife, the beautiful Boshai ballerina, Marina Harry Oswald. Of course, uh -- police have the gun -- Oswald denies ANY knowledge of this. And, uh -- he will be under, uh -- heavy and federal state guard -- 

Wait! A man just jumped out the crowd -- an overweight man has --"


These were the prime days of NBC-TVs Not Ready For Prime-Time Players. John Belushi was still alive and the troupe, which debuted with Saturday Night Live in 1975 (initially called NBC's Saturday Night), was almost intact. All were still aboard with the exception of Chevy Chase who had left the ensemble show early in 1976 during the 2nd season. Now in its 4th year SNL was reaching it's zenith in popularity.

1978 would bring us such SNL classic sketches like The French Chef with Dan Akroyd's profusely bleeding Julia Childs. 

(interesting side note: The French Chef skit was written for the previous weeks show as a skit for guest host Walter Matthau. It was cut for time and added to the following weeks show with Akroyd playing the now famous role) 

The Coneheads, who were rookies in 1977, were going strong. In '78 they were visited by Frank Zappa. Georg Festrunk and Yortuk Festrunk were two wild and crazy guys who also first surfaced the year before. Steve Martin performed King Tut for the first time in 1978.
 Nick "Winters"  the  lounge singer performed the theme from "Star Wars" on January 28th, 1978. Nick always had a different 'seasonal' last name (i.e. Winters, Summers, Springs, etc.) or sometimes a surname more specific to the sketch ("Nick Sands" &"Nick Slammer"). Although he would perform at such unfortunate gigs as airport bars, prisons, and dives, he would always sing his heart out.

Dick Herkiman was pretty much just Nick in the shower.

1978 was the first time Belushi shouted
Cheezborger...No Coke! Pepsi!" in the Olympia Cafe.

 Mr. Bill (SNL rookie year 1976) was still being squashed regularly.
 Mr. Bill came to life in 1974 when Walter Williams created a short film starring a Play-Doh doll named Mr. Bill. His homemade movie, a parody of bad animation, won a contest held by “Saturday Night Live” in its first season. Mr. Bill became so popular that he spent seven years on SNL, and his appearances grew to 11 spots a season at his peak.

Weekend Update's classic Point/Counterpoint debuted on April 22, 1978, and for the first time Dan Aykroyd called Jane Curtin "an ignorant misguided slut."

 Jane Curtain was known as the normal one in the cast. On the show she frequently played straight-woman characters, often as a foil to John Belushi and Gilda Radner. Curtin anchored SNL's Weekend Update segment in 1976–77, and was paired with Dan Aykroyd in 1977–78 and Bill Murray in 1978–80. 

Guest host Eric Idle said that Curtin was "very much a 'Let's come in, let's know our lines, let's do it properly, and go' ... She was very sensible, very focused", and disliked the drug culture that many of the cast participated in. Show writer Al Franken stated that she "was so steady. Had a really strong moral center, and as such was disgusted by much of the show and the people around it"

"The Mets lick Montreal and more, after this word from our sponsors"

In the same show that Aykroyd first called Curtin an "ignorant misguided slut", Don Kirshner (long time SNL band leader Paul Shaffer) introduced brothers Jake and Elwood Blues, The Blues Brothers, who performed "Hey, Bartender".

The Blues Brothers spun off to recording (A Briefcase Full Of Blues-1978) and movie fame (The Blues Brothers-1980) and were the first SNL characters to make the transition to the big screen. They were also the last to do so until Wayne's World made it's debut on SNL in 1989 (the movie was released in 1992). The Coneheads were made into a movie in 1993, many years after they last regularly appeared on the show (The Coneheads are currently appearing in some very funny TV commercials for State Farm Insurance).

When I first saw the Blues Brothers I remember thinking: this is the coolest! This is the perfect bit for Belushi and Aykroyd. I bought A Briefcase Full Of Blues the week it came out on vinyl. I didn't exactly play it out, I think that my heavy rotation leaned towards Peter Gabriels 2nd album, Gerry Rafferty's City to City, Billy Joels 52nd Street, Sir Army Suit by Klaatu and The Who's Who Are You ('78 was also the year that Warren Zevon, my namesake, became an Excitable boy). But I did play Briefcase quite a bit. All the songs were great. This wasn't a comedy album. This was some excellent asskickin' live music.

The great Gilda Radner was still with us and doing classic characters like Roseanne Roseannadanna, who became a regular Weekend Update correspondent in 1978. Roseannadanna made her first appearance in 1977 doing a fake commercial called
"Hire The Incompetent".

At the shows inception in 1975 she was the first performer cast. Radner had a busy year in 1978. She did the voice work as the lead witch in Witches Night Out, an animated television Halloween special that premiered on NBC October 27.

She played as herself on The Muppet Show and she appeared in a cameo role, playing Mrs. Emily Pules in THE RUTLES: All You Need Is Cash, the classic mockumentary from Monty Python's Eric Idle and Neil Innes which was released in 1978.

Side note: A number of SNL'rs appeared in the Rutles first TV special. Lornes Michaels played a Rutles merchandiser. Dan Aykroyd played Brian Thigh (ex-record producer who turned down the Rutles). Bill Murray was Murray the K superstar D.J., and John Belushi was Ron Decline, the most feared promoter in the world (pictured with his henchmen, Franken & Davis).

To cap off her year in 1978 Gilda won an Emmy Award in for her work on SNL.


The Nerds: Lisa Loopner (Gilda) and Todd DiLaMuca (Bill Murray) were introduced in 1978.

Todd's name was originally given as "Todd LaBounta", but was changed in later sketches after legal action was threatened by a real person with that name. When the earlier LaBounta "Nerd" sketches were re-run on repeat SNL broadcasts, the audio was re-edited so that Todd's last name was not heard.

Jane Curtin's Joan Face, The Franken and Davis Show (Senator Al Franken & the late Tom Davis), Don Novello's Father Guido Sarducci,  all hit our TV sets for the first time in 1978.
Since his rookie year Father Guido Sarducci has had 31 appearances on SNL, the most of any of the recurring characters not in the regular cast.

 Bill Murray, now Weekend Update's co-anchor along with Jane Curtin, interviewed a choking Elizabeth Taylor (John Belushi) on the same show that Chico Escuela debuted in as a lodge guest. SNL was on top of it's game.

 A month later on December 8th, 1978 Escuela would appear as the new sports correspondent on Weekend Update. Monty Python's Eric Idle hosted this episode with a very artsy appearance by musical guest Kate Bush. I won't get into the list of musical guests in 1978. As with the hosts, I would go on way too long yakkin' about 'em.

This time Chico Escuela would be introduced as a retired baseball player who played for the New York Mets ! Woo-Hoo!!

Here is the script for Chico's first Weekend Update on December 9th, 1978.
 Ironically it involves baseball great Pete Rose who just recently confirmed that he will never come clean and in not doing so by now, will never get into the Hall Of Fame. At least during his lifetime, quite possibly forever.

Jane Curtin: Now, we'd like to welcome a new member to our Update team, the former All-Star second baseman for the New York Mets, Chico Escuela. Welcome, Chico. [Chico clears his throat, photo of smiling Chico Escuela in baseball uniform and holding a bat] Chico will be covering the sports scene for Weekend Update. [applause for Chico, a Dominican ballplayer who sits opposite Jane - he has a thick Dominican accent and speaks very little English] 
Chico Escuela: Thank you. Thank you, berry, berry much. ... Base-ball ... been berry, berry good to me. ... Thank you, Hane. ... [Photo of major league ballplayer Pete Rose] Pete-ee Rose ... Base-ball been berry, berry good to Pete Rose. ... Three - point - two - million - dollar para Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle, you bet. ... Thank you very, very much. 
 [National Football League schedule is shown] In - foot-ball ... I don't know - football. ... In Dominican Republic, foot-ball is -- how you say, Hane? Um - Oh! -- soccer! Your football-- [pause] I don't know. ... [Hockey graphic] In National Hockey League ... [shakes his head] I don't know hockey ... [applause, photo of smiling Chico again] In base-ball-- Base-ball been berry, berry good to me! ... Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. [applause] Hane? Thank you, Hane. 
Jane Curtin: [genuinely enthusiastic] Great job, Chico. I'm glad that we haven't hired just another stupid ex-jock sportscaster....

Escuela's catchphrase became kinda famous in no time at all after that: "Beisbol beeen bery, bery good to me!"

Chico's next SNL appearance was on January 27th, 1979 where he extolled the virtues of keeping your eyes on de ball.

On the February 17th, 1979 SNL Weekend Update Esquela reported on his intention to return to major league baseball, attempting a comeback with the New York Mets at age 41.
In 1979 Garrett Morris and the SNL crew traveled to St. Petersburgh Florida to film the segments.
Bill Murray, the book, & Ed Kranepool.
In spring training of 1979, Chico's unsuccessful comeback attempt was documented on several Update segments. Without these on the field interviews by Bill Murray, with the inclusion of Mets players playing along, Chico's legendary place in Met history would be a footnote. The one joke Weekend Update bits would not have been enough. These filmed clips from Florida turned Escuela into classic stuff. Murray set it up by reporting that shortly before his arrival Escuela wrote a tell-all book entitled Bad Stuff 'Bout the Mets. 

This is really what caught my sense of humor. I thought the name of the book was hilarious and I was so thrilled as a Mets fan that SNL was sending them up this way. I was really down on the Mets after trading Tom Seaver in 1977, and I turned my back on the team. These spring training reports helped me in finding my way back as a fan. Actually, just the fact that Chico played for the Mets was the reason I was endeared to Escuela. The book and these filmed segments just cemented it.

The book was molded after Jim Bouton's Ball Four, but a spoof expose in which Chico dished on his teammates little known behind the scenes antics. Tom Seaver took up two parking spaces. Yogi Berra was "a berry, berry bad card player." Ed Kranepool "once borrow Chico's soap and no give back." 

The comeback: Escuela's 1980 mfc baseball card.


Chico Escuela's 1972 mfc baseball card.
Below is Chico's 1972Blue mfc card.

Could there be a character like Chico in today's uptight society? I don't think so. And this was an African American man playing a Dominican. A retired Hispanic ballplayer with limited command of the English language. And the only sport he knew anything about was baseball. That's it. That was the joke. 

Now,  they were poking fun at Escuela's limited knowledge of English, and in a way, of all Dominican Republic ballplayers who had not learned the language, yet made good money playing baseball in America.

 And it WAS funny. I laughed, you laughed, Dominican Republic ballplayers laughed. In the late 1990's Cubs pumped up slugger Sammy Sosa used Escuela's trademark line, "Beisbol beeen bery, bery good to me!" in a joking manner a number of times in post game interviews.

No one screamed racism or anything like that. I think the only one I've ever heard complaining about the Escuela character was Garrett Morris himself, who was very dissatisfied with his place on the show and expressed the opinion that he was usually typecast in stereotypical roles. And this is true, he was. But back then people had the ability to poke fun at each other and nobody did it better than SNL.

Seems to me that people in America can longer laugh at themselves these days, and that's a real shame.

"Now there's a whole network devoted to that."


I wasn't aware of the Topps Archives SNL cards from 2011. I collected cards heavy (off & on) in the early 70's, late 80's and early 90's. I've always grabbed a few packs of Topps a year, just to see how they look, maybe get a Mets player, but from around 1993 to just recently I didn't pay any attention at all to these side sets. The first Archives cards I ever bought were in 2013, and I loved them. 1972 & 1985 designs (among others) were nostalgically thrilling to see, with current ballplayers pictured. Those cards were a big influence in my dabbling in custom cards and the creation of this blog.

 I like these.
 I love that they show a sense of humor. Father Quido Sarducci playing for the Holy Smokes. Nick Summers on the Loungers! Ha! Some might think "Now with Angels" on Chris Farley's card inappropriate. I don't. I think it's beautiful. The Merry Christmas/Dick In A Box card is classic. I'm a little surprised Topps had the balls to release that one. Bravo Topps. 

The use of highlight cards was a great choice and I have only seen the ones pictured here. I hope there are many more of those. These are all the SNL card images I could find online. I looked pretty hard and could not find a checklist. There would have to be a Chico Escuela card, I would think.

Most of these cards were shared by
Thank you :)


 The Chico Escuela Wiffleball League
Looking for footage of Chico's appearances on youtube (none to be found -thanks NBC) I came across the Chico Escuela Wiffleball league video. I got a kick out of this. Reminded me of the days my brothers and I played wiffle ball in the back yard. I looked for part one but could not find it. I'd like to thank Garrett Henson for making and sharing this video.


Have a happy and safe Fourth of July everybody!!!!



Many SNL photos used were from the Vintage Everyday blog. Thank you.

Much information was found at  Saturday Night Live Transcripts.



  1. Oh man, I wanted to look into picking up some of those SNL Archives cards. Bummer they're not real! Still cool, though.

    Great post.

    1. Great Post! I love the cards, and the trip back through time.

      (And Leonard Pinth Garnell NEVER gets enough mention. "There, that wasn't so good, was it?")

    2. Thank you Jim. I should have made a whole card for Garnell. I tried but it didn't come out bad enough.

  2. Those were the days. In some way, a part of me is still waiting for another "Killer Bees" sketch; about to give up hope I suppose.

  3. "Bad Stuff About The Mets" was mocking "The Bronx Zoo" written by Sandy Lyle. You know, that other team across town. And the fictional book was supposed to be making fun of Reggie and Billy and Cliff Johnson fighting Goose Gossage in the showers and all their craziness.

    1. Great piece of info to add to the record. Thank you.I do believe you mean "Sparky", although Lyle did throw like "Sandy"(Koufax) in limited amounts.