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These baseball flicks score home runs

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Dear Ken: I always loved the old Gary Cooper film about N.Y. Yankee great Lou Gehrig called “Pride of the Yankees.” What would be your top five favorite baseball films?

Whew, that’s a toughie because I like sports films and I love baseball. My own personal lists change from time to time, but for now here are the top five in my lineup.

1: “Sandlot,” mainly because the story came right out of my own boyhood of the 1960s. 2: “Field of Dreams,” a wonderful baseball fantasy that’s really about the father-and-son relationship. 3: “Talent for the Game,” overlooked by most but a remarkable tale about a baseball scout who finds an overlooked phenom. 4: “The Natural,” another fantasy but a story that remains pure gold with golden boy Robert Redford. 5: “Bang the Drum Slowly,” I don’t want to give away the plot but this is all about friendship and bonding between athletes. It can make a grown man cry.

Dear Ken: I was always a fan of Animal Planet’s “The Crocodile Hunter” that starred the late Steve Irwin. It was such a tragedy when he died from the sting of a manta ray. I know he was Australian. How did he meet Terri, his American wife?

I was fortunate to interview the Croc Hunter several years ago and asked him the same question. His wife to be, Terri Raines, had started an operation called Cougar Country where she rehabilitated predatory mammals in her hometown of Eugene, Ore. She vacationed in the Land Down Under and was at a crocodile demonstration at the Australia Zoo, when Irwin spotted her. “Our eyes met, and we were love struck on the spot. I jumped over the fence and we started talking,” Irwin told me. “It was just love, and we got married. Bingo!"

Dear Ken: When you see folks drinking whiskey at the bar in cop shows and in saloons on westerns, what are they really swigging. It can’t be the real deal.

You are right. The prop men fill those bottles with tea. For beer they use near-beer or non-alcoholic beer. For wine they use sparkling grape juice and for champagne, they use ginger ale.    Dear Ken: Several times my mom has referred to a trio known as Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Who were they?

These were the stars of a children’s show that aired on ABC in the mid-1950s. Kukla and Ollie were puppets, a bald-headed, round-nosed little man and a scatterbrained dragon with one tooth, respectively. They were manipulated and voiced by puppeteer Burt Tillstrom. Fran was the straight man, the lady involved in their discussions and antics. 

If you have a trivia question about actors, singers, movies, TV shows or pop culture, e-mail your query to Ken Beck via www.sherlocksbooks.com where you can also find classic films and TV shows on DVD or visit Sherlock’s Book Emporium in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Ask Ken Beck

Journalist Ken Beck, a longtime resident of Wilson  County, has recently become a contributing writer for Main Street Media and its local newspaper, "The Wilson Post."

Earlier this year Beck concluded a 31-year career with "The Tennessean" where he edited the Nashville paper’s “Sunday Showcase” entertainment magazine for 25 years. Besides interviewing stars of film and television, Beck wrote Tennessee travel and feature stories and a popular Q&A entertainment column.

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