Rick’s Cafe: Andy Taylor and the call at home — was Opie really out? Our investigation may shock you
Jul 19, 2012, 7:30 PM EST
When one reflects on all the good that the late Sheriff Andy Taylor has done for the town of Mayberry, it boggles the mind. Without him that tiny hamlet would have been wiped off the map in a tsunami of crime and malfeasance: by my count he foiled seven bank robberies, caught six escaped fugitives and busted 23 confidence men in his 12 years in office — not to mention limiting Barney to one bullet, which no doubt saved countless lives.
But sadly, all of this was forgotten in an instant when the entire town viciously turned on him in one hoary incident. It was Mayberry’s most shameful moment, when an entire community turned to The Dark Side. And even with the sad passing of Sheriff Taylor last week, the scars persist there to this day.
The date was Oct. 3, 1966, and for some reason it was still baseball season in North Carolina. Mayberry was playing arch rival Mt. Pilot in “The Championship Game”, which is all the exact information we have. But one assumes it was the District Finals — the first step on the road to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Needing an impartial umpire, the community recruited Andy, whom they trusted impeccably. In my opinion he deserves a statue for one act alone: saving the community from Aunt Bee’s kerosene pickles two years before, which he selflessly consumed himself so others didn’t have to. That’s like throwing yourself on a grenade.
Cut to the bottom of the sixth, and Mayberry is down by one run with two out, no one on. Opie Taylor then lashes a ball to left, which sails over the outfielder and bounces to the fence. It’s unclear who was coaching third, but Opie isn’t looking anyway — with Willie Mays ambition but Boog Powell speed, Opie attempts to stretch a triple into a home run … with disastrous results for Mayberry. The throw from left and Opie arrive at the plate at the same time, and after a dramatic slide, Andy calls his son out.
Chaos ensues. Here is that moment, captured on film:
In the huge kerfuffle that erupted, we notice several things:
Mayberry coach Goober Pyle grabs Andy and spins him around (above) — surely an offense that warrants a lifetime ban from youth sports, and perhaps a week in jail. And just how did Goober get this job? What are his credentials? Was there a background check? Was Ernest T. Bass unavailable?
That Mayberry banner must have taken weeks to make. I see that Mt. Pilot arrived in style in an Econo-Line bus, and I also see that Floyd got a front-row seat. But who’s that fine tomato seated next to him? Thankfully this was before TMZ.
Let’s look at that play again. Hard to tell where the plate is, but it looks like the catcher is doing a pretty good job of blocking it. It’s quite possible Opie never reached home — that’s a pretty weak slide.
Here we see the other side of Aunt Bee — the dark, vicious side she only shows during sporting events, and when stubborn stains will not wash out of certain fabrics. Poor Andy — there are so many “accidents” that can occur in the home. Do you really want to anger a woman who has access to toxic cleaning liquids and also prepares your food?
Mayberry Field: the Camden Yards of its time.
The result of all of this, of course, is that Andy is instantly ostracized by the community for costing Mayberry the game. Shunned by all, including his own son, he becomes a virtual leper. He’s welcome only at the barber shop, where Floyd’s eyesight is so bad he cannot distinguish large shapes. Andy is the most despised man in Mayberry.
But Howard Sprague, who is covering the game for the local newspaper, saves the day. In a hard-hitting editorial, Howard shames the townsfolk who have been giving Andy a hard time, reminding everyone that it’s only a game, and for God’s sake have some perspective. And since as County Clerk Howard had access to everyone’s tax returns, that did the trick. Andy was accepted again.
But then, in an M. Night Shyamalanian twist to our story, it seems that “camera bug” Helen Crump somehow was able to snap a photo of the play at the plate. Even though the scene was chaos and no one in their right mind would have chosen to view the biggest moment in Mayberry youth sports history through a tiny lens. And in another miracle, Helen managed to get a crystal-clear photo of the play. Look at the quality — she invented Instagram!
You see, it appears that Opie was safe all along. But Helen keeps the evidence to herself, not wanting to reopen a Pandora’s Box of hatred. If that photo ever got out, not even Howard’s magic typewriter could save Andy. The answer was simple: the truth must be covered up.
Sadly, it is always thus.
But wait … let’s take a look at the photo placed alongside a still of the play from the video:
Nothing alike! Not only is the slide different, but the photo looks posed. And close inspection seems to show that Opie is wearing a batting helmet in the photo, where in the screen shot he’s wearing a cap. Helen’s photo is some sort of cheap forgery … she also invented Photoshop!
No doubt this was done to have something to hold over Andy — a little insurance in reserve to liven up the marriage negotiations. And even after they do get hitched, who needs a prenup when you’ve got evidence like this tucked in a safety deposit box down at the Mayberry Bank?
Helen is always thinking. Never cross her.
Conclusion: Opie was out. Andy got it right, and all these years he’s been wrongfully accused of blowing the call. I’m glad that he can finally be exonerated, and his record wiped clean of its only black mark. That is, if you don’t count this:
“The Ball Game” first aired in Oct, 1966, in the seventh season of The Andy Griffith Show. It was co-written by Ron Howard’s father, Rance Howard.
Rick’s Cafe Americain appears on Thursday. Contact: Rickchand@gmail.com. Twitter: @Rickchand.
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