Monday, July 21, 2008

Jere Interviews The Baseball Bunch

One of my favorite shows as a kid was The Baseball Bunch. Back in the eighties, baseball on a national level consisted of the Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons on NBC and This Week in Baseball. But then the Bunch came along. Imagine a fantasy land where it was always summer and your youth baseball team was coached by a major leaguer, and every week another player would stop by and give you playing tips. And that a magical wizard and a wacky chicken were there to provide insights and antics. That was The Baseball Bunch.

Hosted by Johnny Bench, and featuring other baseball stars of the day ("my" day--woohoo!), plus the San Diego Chicken and the Dugout Wizard played by Tommy Lasorda, the Bunch was conceived in the late '70s, and aired for several years in the early '80s. I can smell the Big League Chew just thinking about it.

As I grew older, I realized that my dream hadn't been to play for the Red Sox as much as it was to have been a part of the red, white, and baby-blue clad TV team called The Baseball Bunch. I also learned that these kids were actors. Some could play ball, mind you, but Sam wasn't really Sam, Michelle wasn't really Michelle, and Andy, well, you get the picture--he was no more real than the Chicken was. Finding this out traumatized me almost as much as when I learned Sesame Street's adults didn't use their real names, either.

But it also led me to wonder about the kids on the show, and what became of them. Last year I found the contact info of Linda Coslett, who played Kate, and it led me to interview her, along with two other original Bunchers who she put me in touch with: Erik Lee, who played Rick, and Ed Tonai, aka Freddie. After going through a move, and after finding out I'd been beaten to the punch, as someone has since interviewed the same three people plus the guy who played the Chicken for a podcast, my project kind of got lost. But now here it is, my Baseball Bunch interview. Before we get to the questions, here's Linda's quick summary of her experience:

"I have not been asked for a formal interview since I was actually on the show - 25 years ago. ... When I was 11, I had longer hair, I was tanner, and MUCH thinner. I still have every bit of memorabilia, including fan mail, letters and Christmas cards Johnny Bench sent, and stuff the players gave me after filming. ... The show began filming in February, 1981. I was 11 going on 12. It was filmed at Palo Verde Park in Tucson, Arizona. I was the only girl that was playing baseball in the Little League at the time and I was asked to come and audition for the part of one of the girls. At first I didn't want to because I had no interest in acting. But when they said they wanted a girl who could play, I decided to try out. I went through 10 or 11 auditions and interviews and ended up receiving one of the parts. ..."

I'll interject here to say she pointed out that one of the other kids came from a talent agency and couldn't act a lick, or play for that matter. I won't name names. Now on to the questions for all three cast-members:

******************

Do you still have your uniform and jacket?

Erik Lee ("Rick"): I do still have the jersey and jacket and other memorabilia, including one of Johnny Bench's autographed spikes.

Ed Tonai ("Freddie"): I still have my jerseys (2), jacket, and cap from the show.

Linda Coslett ("Kate"): Yes, I still have my uniform tops, my jacket, and even my red undershirt we wore under our blue Baseball Bunch shirts. I framed one of my shirts and gave it to my mom a few years back, but the others I still have stored away in my closet.

How did you get the role on the show? How old were you when you started, and how many seasons did you appear on? Talk about the general process of taping and what it was like to do a TV show and meet major leaguers. Had you "acted" before? or since? Linda says some kids were selected because they were good actors, others because they could actually play ball. Did you find that to be true?

Erik: I got the role on the show through an open audition at Palo Verde Park in Tucson, where Linda and I played our Little League games. I was called back to a second reading by director Michael Tollin, and I think that might have been it. I was 12 years old. I appeared for four seasons. It would take an entire day to tape one .5 hour episode. I had never acted before (aside from a few roles in school plays over the years.). So Linda and I must have been in the "ballplayers" category. Hahaha! You should check out a Sports Illustrated review of the show from, I think, April 1982, in which the writer makes some comment to the fact that the kids on the show were all picked from talent agencies. Not the case at all!

Ed: I was living in Las Vegas at the time. I think I was the only kid from outside of Arizona. My father was notified through the Japanese American Citizens League that a baseball themed show was looking for Japanese American kids. I auditioned. I think I was the youngest. I was 8. I got the role. It was probably because I was cute. I think they were looking for Japanese kids to help sell the show in Japan. I don't know if they succeeded in that. I'm guessing no, because I wasn't asked back for the second season. I had never acted before. I've acted since, in a few plays and such. I did a couple of commercials after The Baseball Bunch. I'm the head writer and junior producer for a Seattle area sketch comedy troupe, The Pork Filled Players. As a local occasional fringe actor, I know people who've been on TV, but I don't know anyone else who has been on a Cheerios box. I have a framed Cheerios box in my living room, next to my framed Baseball Bunch poster.

Why were you given fake names? Why couldn't you just use your own name?

Erik: None of my friends ever called me "Erik" again after I became a member of the Bunch. I was "Rick" to them from that point on. ... I never understood people's confusion about our names on the show, I really didn't. Funny you should mention Sesame Street [see intro above]; one of the creative folks behind the show had worked on Sesame Street, which makes sense in terms of the show's wonderful innocence.

Ed: I don't remember why we were given fake names. I recall hearing Pam (I don't know her position, but she was on the crew) saying they tried using the kids' real names in the test pilot, but for some reason it didn't work.

Linda (left, with Tug McGraw and Johnny Bench): It was an instructional show, but at the same time it was 'Television' and acting and all of that. I was one of the oldest on the show at 11/12 years of age, so even with the younger kids, it was no problem having different names.

Was there resentment amongst the kids when one would get a starring role in a skit? Or were you all just happy to be hanging out with major leaguers and just too young to worry about stuff like that? What kind of memorabilia from the players did you end up with? Do you have one most-cherished item?

Erik: I don't remember any resentment at all between the kids. I, for one, was just really, really excited to be hanging out with these major leaguers. One of the coolest parts of the whole experience was playing catch with Johnny Bench and with guys like Tom Seaver, Ted Simmons, et al. While the crew was setting up for the next scene, we would beg them to hit us shots to the fence, where we would make some pretty sweet, over the fence catches. During hitting montages, us Bunchers would head out into the trees behind the outfield fences and catch these 400-plus foot blasts from Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Gary Carter, and all the others with the great free Rawlings gloves that we were provided. It was AWESOME, let me tell you.

Ed: I don't remember any competition for who would get a better role in a scene, but I was only 8 at the time. I was the second youngest on the first season. Jared Holland was a few months younger. I ended up with a baseball signed by a few big leaguers (Tom Seaver, Jim Rice, Johnny Bench, the Chicken). I also got a long-sleeved t-shirt from Johnny, autographed by him. I still have them.

Linda: I have Bench's Cincinnati team jacket from the Reds. I got a little cold in the mornings during filming, and he always put his jacket around me during breaks to keep me warm. At the end of the month of filming, he signed the back of it and gave it to me. I also have Chet Lemon's batting glove, a catcher's glove signed by Johnny and Pete Rose's stirrups from when he played with the Phillies. Some of the players would freely give us stuff, but some would not. I know some of the other cast members got shoes, and gloves and things like that. We didn't pick favorites or anything. It was just up to the player and what he wanted to part with. The castmates never fought over anything.

Linda, talk about your time on the crew after season one.

Linda: I was part of the cast only the first year because between the summer of 1981 and when the crew returned to film in February 1982, I no longer looked like a little girl. Human maturation took care of that...if you know what I mean. However, I was asked to come back and be part of the crew. So every February I got of school for a month and worked on the show behind the scenes. I was lucky to meet every single player that was ever on the show. I still have all their signatures on baseballs and in an autograph book. ... I helped with lighting and the cameramen. I'd help move or adjust big reflectors to get the angle of the sun just right on the actors. Back then there weren't any big lights like they use now. I'd also make sure the cameraman would have enough cord extension if it was a moving shot and also that the cameras were taken care of during breaks and after the day wrapped. I'd also help the other girls (my replacement and Michelle) with their baseball skills.

Did you feel it was unfair that they took you out of the cast due to "maturing"?

Linda: I felt no animosity whatsoever. I was ok with it. They were honest with me and my mom, and I understood. There was absolutely no hard feelings. And when they asked me to still come back and help, I was thrilled.

Everyone, how much time did you spend with each show's star outside of filming? Was each show filmed within a day? How often was filming? Did you realize at first it would be a national show?

Erik: We hung out with the stars at breakfast, between scenes, and at lunch. Each show was filmed within a day; filming was during February. I was told at the outset that the show would be syndicated nationally, and I knew exactly what that meant, which means that I was a pretty serious TV watcher. This is just as cable TV was coming online. My understanding is that ESPN picked up the show for a while and that several of the stadiums would show the program during rain delays, etc.

Ed: As I recall, most of the filming for each episode was done within a single day. I think we took three weeks to do that first season. I think it was shot in January or February, but it was warm enough to swim in the pool. I stayed at the Roadway Inn.

Linda: Occasionally if the star was in town for more than three days to film, we would go out to dinner with him. But usually it was just from 7 am until 6 pm or whenever it got dark. Most episodes were filmed within 2 to 3 days. So we would have one star for Monday/Tuesday. Another one would come in for Wednesday/Thursday and so on. (Filming was) every week day - no weekends. On Saturdays, the crew and castmates would often get together for a fun game of softball. If a star was still in town, they would usually come play too. ... Yes, we were told it was going to be (a national show), but I didn't know it was going to be shown internationally. I have fan mail from Korea and Japan. [Addressed to you or "Kate"?] Both.

Were shows airing while you were filming?

Linda: No. We filmed in February. The crew would then go back to New York, edit the show and do Tommy Lasorda's wizards pieces. The episodes filmed in February were not shown until the middle of summer. We were actually out of school for the summer when the show first debuted.

So Lasorda taped the Dugout Wizard segments separately? Did you ever meet him--did he ever come to one of your tapings?

Erik: We never met Lasorda. What a Wizard he was, though!

Ed: I do not think Tommy Lasorda ever came to Tucson during the filming of the
first season of the baseball bunch.

Did you all hang out with Johnny Bench after the show ever? Were your parents around the set? Were any of them just as excited as you to meet current baseball stars (if they got to meet them as well)? How long did you keep in touch with Johnny, or any of the other kids? Did you ever reunite with him or the Chicken or a major leaguer in any way later in life?

Erik (left): I remember some tremendous nights at Chuck-e-Cheese with Johnny. My father would occasionally hang out on the set. He was most excited about meeting Ted Williams, whom I had the honor of introducing him to, something I will never forget. Williams was in a great mood that day, and had some very complimentary things to say about my swing, which had me really pumped up. I kept in touch with Johnny for a year or two afterward. I went to elementary, junior high, high school, and college with Linda. I would see John Fordney (Sherman), Tom McCabe (Andy), Danny Santa Cruz (Louie) around Tucson at ball games.

Ed: I only remember hanging out with Johnny once outside of the set. I think it was close to the end of the shooting, and we went to some pizza/games place (I thought it was similar to a Chuck E Cheese). Johnny was only recognized by a few. I never saw him again, though he did send me a Christmas card. My dad actually met him again in the 90s, but it was uneventful. ... My dad was from LA, so he was a Dodger fan. Since I was 8, I was a Dodger fan, too. Davy Lopes was one of the guests. I thought Steve Garvey had been scheduled, but couldn't for some reason so Pete Rose did a second episode on playing first base. His first was on baserunning or stealing I think. I don't follow baseball. I was not a particularly good player, and didn't last past tee-ball.

Linda: I kept in touch with Johnny Bench for the longest time. He sent me birthday cards and Christmas cards all through the years. The last time I saw him in person and spent time with him was in 1995. He was calling the World Series on radio and had come to Atlanta. I got tickets to one of the games and drove down from Knoxville, TN (which is where I still live). When I was in the stadium, I tracked him down in the booth. I got a message to him that I was outside and just wanted to say a quick Hello. He came out and met me, hugged me, brought me back into the booth for a while and it was just like we'd seen each other yesterday. He was, and still is, I believe, one of the kindest and genuine human beings I've ever met. We definitely bonded those years in Tucson. I still think of him quite often. ... It's hard to appreciate something as it's happening to you and I remember being 11, 12 years old and thinking "OK, so that guy is named Cal Ripken, Jr, and he's a rookie" and "oh yeah, his name is Willie Stargell...ok I can remember that." It wasn't until I was out of high school before I began to really appreciate who I met and spent time with. Even now I'll catch some special on ESPN or something about Ted Williams or Jim Rice or Steve Garvey and I'll think "hey, I met those guys...how lucky am I." When Tug McGraw passed away a couple of years ago, I was really really sad. The three days we spent together when I was 11 years old is something I will never forget.

What on earth was it like doing bits with the Chicken, and, did he ever come out of character? Did he take off the head and just act normal as soon as they said "cut"? Did you hang out with him off set, and if so, in or out of costume? Did you ever wear the chicken costume?

Linda: Ted Giannoulas did come out of character often. I remember him being very very cute and very very funny. Ted wasn't normal...whether in or out of costume (lol). No one wore the costume...he was very protective of it...as he should be. He was not one to hang out with anybody. I remember him traveling a lot during the filming doing charity work and stuff. I still have a lot of stuff signed by Ted and by The Chicken. He came to Knoxville back in the early 1990s to do a AAA game. I did go to the game and caught his attention. He did remember me and gave me big hug, but obviously couldn't say anything while in costume. I never found him after the game.

Ed: I don't remember the chicken much. I don't remember him AT ALL being out of character or out of the costume. But I was 8. I remember he "swallowed" my little sister's head when she visited the set.

Erik: The Chicken was just awesome. He was a real pro, but he was always cutting up with us. Outside of his trailer, I remember that the Chicken always being in his costume. I for one would never have dared ask to wear the Chicken's costume.

Some of my memories: Ted Simmons saying, "You all wanna be switch hitters, right?" And everyone said yes! Rollie Fingers dressed as an actual fireman. Reggie Jackson teaching about the importance of your "center line." (The buttons on your jersey matching up with your pants zipper. Come on, Reggie.) And of course, Jim Rice hitting the ball really far and the Chicken running all the way to the ocean, finally catching up with it at the end of the show. Were any of these during the time when you were on the show? What were some of your favorite memories with major leaguers?

Erik: 1. Talking with Tom Seaver about ways to improve my throwing motion (he was trying to get me to raise my elbow to increase my accuracy). 2. Standing behind Johnny as he caught for Seaver, who seemed to really throw a "heavy" ball. The force with which his pitches hit Bench's glove was just so impressive. 3. Chatting with Ted Williams and Johnny Bench about my swing. 4. Introducing my father to Ted Williams. 5. Striking out Jim Rice during a hitting scene. He pulled two 600-foot foul balls and then swung and missed at one of my pitches. I didn't even realize it until one of the producers mentioned it to me afterward. 6. Chatting with Cal Ripken. A true gentleman who is rightly revered by fans today for his accomplishments and great personality. So many others.

Ed (left, just to the left of Johnny Bench in his catcher's gear): Of your memories, only the Jim Rice one took place during my season (season 1). Again, I have to apologize, I don't have lots of memories of the show since I was only 8. These major leaguers only hung around to film for one day, except for Pete Rose (2 episodes), and of course Johnny. So I remember Johnny. I seem to recall that Tug McGraw was especially nice for a one-day guy. I barely remember the guests, even... Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw, Pete Rose, Davey Lopes, Bucky Dent, Chet Lemon, Jim Rice, Sparky Anderson... Were there any more that first season? I don't remember a 3rd baseman. We did 13 episodes. Pete did two, Johnny was alone in one. I think we did an episode on Sadaharu Oh without a guest maybe? I don't remember.

Linda: There were 13 shows that first year. My favorites were Tug McGraw and Bucky Dent. Pete Rose was the worst...he was a complete a**hole to everybody on the set, including the kids. The (other) players that really made an impression on me (besides Tug) were: Bucky Dent - I thought he was GOD he was so good looking. Remember I was 11 years old and oh man was he cute. I remember having a scene in a dugout with him about rubbing shaving cream in a glove to help break it in. I was so taken with looking at him, I messed up my lines a few times before I got it right. Mike Schmidt was really nice. He was somewhat shy and wouldn't really talk to us unless we talked to him first. Graig Nettles was really nice too...so was Chet Lemon. Chet gave me his batting glove (that I still have today) from when he was with the White Sox. I remember when Ted Williams came on the show and how everybody was so nervous. He didn't really talk to anyone and no one really talked to him. It wasn't until years later before I understood why that exchange took place the way it did. He was the KING of hitting. Cal Ripken, Jr. was great. He was a kid himself back then and would play around with us during breaks. Dusty Baker was funny. Steve Garvey had hairy Popeye arms.

What was your favorite MLB team and/or players growing up before you were on the show, and after, and now? Were any of the kids real die-hard fans of a team, and extra excited about his/her team's star being on the show, or mad to see a rival team's player? How far did your baseball career go?

Erik: I grew up in Tucson, hundreds of miles from an MLB team and did not really identify with the Southern California teams, for whatever reason. The Big Red Machine was the gold standard, but I lost interest in the Reds after Bench's retirement. However, I was a huge fan of college baseball, as the University of Arizona won three national championships during my childhood (1976, 1980, and 1986). I would follow former Wildcats' pro careers (Francona, Joe Magraine, Kenny Lofton, Chip Hale, Craig Lefferts), but I never really developed a favorite team, which sounds almost un-American, I know. ... I can't claim to have the privilege of being a Red Sox fan, but I really, really respect the club's great tradition. Terry Francona played college ball at the University of Arizona, and he knew my father, Warren Lee, who was head athletic trainer at the U of A from 1968 until he passed away in December 1982. Francona visited me at my house a few weeks after my dad died, something I will never forget.

Linda: I grew up a San Diego Padre fan. Dave Dravecky was it for me. Of course, after the first year, I followed Bench's Reds for a few years. I became a Braves fan in the 1990s when I moved out to Tennessee. Nowadays, I probably root more for the Diamondbacks more than anything. They are located in my home state and my mom, who still lives in Tucson, keeps me up to date on everything. ... I played all the way through the senior leagues and actually one year of "A" ball. I stopped playing when I was 19 and in college. The team was the "A" farm club of the Houston Astros. I played back-up second base and actually got a few hits. After that, I just wanted to concentrate on college academics. I only played softball in high school, not recreationally like I did baseball. Softball wasn't nearly as exciting to me, but it filled my competitive needs.

Wikipedia says, "According to the Jump The Shark website, Jared Holland ('Sam,' season one) attended Kansas State and was a good debater. The same article claims Holland later committed suicide." Is this true? That's really sad if it's true...

Linda: I don't know. I hope it isn't, but I have not heard anything nor have I verified this information. He was a really funny boy. He was a lot like the character "Sam" that he played. Easy going, loved to eat, always was smiling.

Ed: I remember reading that note in Jump the Shark that Jared had committed suicide. I don't know anything about it.

Erik: I really hope that this is not true. I can't quite wrap my brain around that one. Jared was just great to be around on the show.

[Note: I tried contacting K-State about this, with no luck. The mystery remains unsolved. Jared, if you're out there, please let us know. --Jere]

Two final stories from Ed:

"In 2001 the Pork Filled Players went to Oregon State University for a performance. During the Q&A, we were asked if we wanted to go into TV or the movies. My answer to that was basically 'Been there, done that.' And then I proceeded to talk about how I'd been on the internationally syndicated, Emmy-award winning television series 'The Baseball Bunch.' One audience member raised his hand and said 'That was my favorite tv show growing up as a kid,' to which my castmate Aileen said, 'I don't know how we're going to be able to all fit into the car for the drive home now that Ed's head is so big!'

I don't know about the other kids, but The Baseball Bunch got me tickets to the World Series in 1981. I don't know if it was because the Dodgers were my favorite team, or if everyone got to go. I barely remember it, but the Dodgers won and it was cool and watching Dave Winfield take batting practice was also cool."


Linda Coslett teaches social studies and coaches softball at a high school in Tennessee.

Erik Lee is the associate director of the North American Center for Transborder Studies at Arizona State University.

Ed Tonai is a writer/performer in Seattle's "Pork Filled Players" comedy troupe. (scroll down that page for a pic and further down for a bio)


*************************

Okay, so there you have it. A million thanks to those three. A season of a "new" Baseball Bunch has been shot, it seems, and according to imdb.com it will debut in 2008. There also had been talk of getting the old episodes on DVD. Apparently MLB was in the process of digitizing, but I don't know if it's gonna happen. I think we should all call them and demand The Baseball Bunch! Here's the phone number for MLB Productions: (212) 931-7777.

Another rumor is that the show came about as a reason to get kids involved in baseball as a goodwill gesture after the '81 players' strike. Since the pilot episode (with different kids) aired before the strike (the show was hyped in both the '80 World Series program and the '81 All-Star Game program, both of which I won on ebay), and filming of season one started before the '81 season, the rumor can't be entirely true. I asked all three "kids" if they remembered any talk of this, and none said they did. But Wikipedia mentions it, and a recent New York Times blog entry printed it. Don't believe the hype.
Upper left: Linda. Upper right: Erik. South Central: Ed. (All pics here are screenshots, uploaded by me. In a separate post soon, I'll post some video clips from the show.) (Update: Here they are!)

Comments:
Un-freakin'-believable way to start a Monday morning! Thanks.
 
Beyond awesome
 
Being the same age as you, without fail your posts always hit home amazingly. Your writing style combined with your take on the Sox is fantastic. What a great, original interview! The fact that you're not writing for Page 2 on ESPN. is a sin. This combined with your other gems (namely your 'old-timey' wraps) should be seen by all. Good stuff, Jere.
 
Thanks everybody!
 
What ever became of the "new" Baseball Bunch from 2008?
 
From the sounds of it, I'm kinda glad it (seemingly) feel through...

I would love it if they did a new one, but only if it wasn't all text-messagey and LOLcats-y.
 
Great interview! I'm a child of the 80s and I loved The Baseball Bunch. I just finished completely rewriting the Wikipedia article about the show. I watched the old retail VHS tapes of the show (we need DVDs!) and hammered the article out over the last couple of days. Unfortunately I can't use any of the information here since Wikipedia has strict rules about references ("blogs" aren't considered "reliable sources" under Wikipedia's guidelines). I don't have any doubts about the validity of this interview (everything I was able to find about the show verifies what's here), but the rules are in place to avoid the types of rumors and "urban legends" you mentioned above. I don't claim to be a world-class writer, but at least the page for The Baseball Bunch is a legit Wikipedia article now.
 
Glad you re-did that page. And glad you liked my interview.

If that's true about Wikipedia, it's total bullshit. This is a website. You can use websites as sources. The one you used, Justmyshow.com, hasn't even been around as long as mine has. These people did an interview with me. Where was I supposed to put it? Note: I have seen my blog used as a source on a Wikipedia page--Messer Street Grounds. It's in the "external links" section--maybe blogs are allowed there? Check it out.

Also, your TV station info for Hartford is repeated from Harrisburg. If it was on in Hartford, the station would have been WVIT Channel 30. I believe it was. I always had two options for the networks, CT and NY. I definitely remember it being on 4 in NY--could have been on 30 too. I'll let you fix that one, or if don't see it fixed soon I'll do the honors.

Thanks.
 
Thanks for pointing out the Hartford typo. I fixed it. Wikipedia's rules about blogs are basically an attempt to keep the sources "reliable" (which is why IMDb, as a "user generated" database is also not considered acceptable there either). Basically what they're looking for is reliable/verifiable sources such as well-known newspapers, magazines, websites, etc, such as The Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, CNN, etc. As I'm sure you know, anybody can start a blog and say anything they want (I know you're not making this interview up, but the rules are in place to avoid citing sources perpetuating rumors, urban legends, misinformation, etc). It's complicated to explain, but the "External links" sections aren't the same as "sources" on Wikipedia, (although I'm sure there are lots of editors who add links there for that reason). Of course, well-intentioned editors cite invalid sources on Wikipedia all the time (and often get info wrong, such as the Baseball Bunch page simply repeating the IMDb premiere date of 1982, which was off by two years), but the sources, as well as any bad information, eventually gets removed sooner or later, depending on how popular the page is. The only reason I was able to cite the JustMyShow.com interview is because it was an audio interview - The kids aren't well enough known that their voices alone are "verifiable", but Giannoulas is. If it had been a print interview then I wouldn't have been able to cite it.
 
So can't we put a link to my interview in the "external" section?

Also, what if the people interviewed verified that what's written here? It would be very easy. Or would they say, Sorry, it's still on a blog!?
 
The rules for "External links" are somewhat more relaxed than what is considered a "reliable source" (IMDb being one prime example). IMDb is accepted as a standard "External link" on almost ALL articles about films, TV shows, actors, directors, but the information within the text of the article is ideally supposed to be verifiable through another "reliable" source, since IMDb is user generated and often incorrect. External links are basically offered as an "If you liked this article then you might also like..." section, but the factual accuracy of the "External link" site isn't necessarily guaranteed by Wikipedia. In the case of a celebrity "verifying" information on Wikipedia themselves - that's actually a somewhat complicated matter that's come up before. The short answer is 'no'. For example: a star cannot remove information from their biography page if it's cited from a reliable source. Example: if Variety reports that an actress is 45 years old, she cannot go to Wikipedia and remove the information. What she can do is cite another reliable source (such as The New York Times) and then the article might say something like "In 2010 Variety reported that so-and-so was born in 1947. However, in 2011, The New York Times reported her year of birth as 1949. On the other hand, if her Wikipedia biography states that she was born in 1949 and there is NO source cited to back it up, she can easily go in, just like any other editor, and remove/correct the information. In the case of a blog, I'm afraid it's really not acceptable, even if Johnny Bench, himself, went on ESPN and confirmed that everything written here was true. It's not that I don't have faith in the validity of this interview (I found this interview after I'd written the Wikipedia article and you were the ONLY person who didn't simply repeat the incorrect information from IMDb), but if this blog were allowed then that would also mean a blog that says Holland committed suicide (with absolutely no proof) was valid, or a blog that says Bench, Lasorda and The San Diego chicken robbed banks after filming each day, etc, would also be acceptable. Basically, accurate sources are denied in order to keep out the inaccurate ones. Of course there are ENTIRE articles on Wikipedia that cite NO sources at all (The Baseball Bunch article being one of them until I completely rewrote it a few hours ago), but those articles are usually the ones filled with inaccurate information (perhaps with the exception of the ones that are merely "stubs" saying, "So-and-so is an American actress", and then proceeds to simply include a "list" of her films.
 

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