Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Van Lingle Mungo Centennial

by Scott Hall
Special events are often planned around the 100th birthday of famous people, but there probably aren't many big celebrations today of the life of Van Lingle Mungo (right).  He was born on June 8, 1911, in Pageland, South Carolina and died there in 1985.  He was briefly famous as a pretty good major league pitcher, most notably with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1930s.  In 1942 he won 11 games for the Minneapolis Millers. Along the way he met the late Otey Clark (below).  Otey was a frequent guest on KAXE's "Sports Page" in the 1980s and '90s.  He said Mungo was a spitballer and and an ornery character.  The following entry from the Wikipedia account of Mungo seems to confirm that:

"Stories and anecdotes about Mungo tend to emphasize his reputation for combativeness, including episodes of drinking and fighting. The most widely told story concerns a visit to Cuba where, supposedly, Mungo was caught in a compromising position with a married woman by her husband. Mungo punched the husband in the eye, leading him to attack Mungo with a butcher knife or machete, requiring Dodgers executive Babe Hamberger to smuggle Mungo in a laundry cart to a seaplane waiting off a wharf in order to escape the country."

Jazz pianist, Dave Frishberg, grew up in St. Paul in the 1930s and '40s.  He remembers Mungo and many other big league players from those days, and used some of their names for all the lyrics of one of the greatest baseball songs of all time, "Van Lingo Mungo".  Dave also wrote "The Sports Page", the title song for our sports show on Thursday mornings.

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