Old MacDonald Had A Curve

Old MacDonald Had A Curve was a live television play aired August 5, 1953 as part of the Kraft Television Theatre series. Of Rod Serling's early teleplays, most notably Requiem for a Heavyweight and Patterns, it is one few comedies he ever sold to television. The play starred Olin Howlin and Jack Warden and was directed by Harry Hermann.

Plot Synopsis

Old Mac Donald Had a Curve tells the tale of an ambitious ex-major-leaguer, Firebrand Lefty MacDonald. Maxwell “Mac” MacDonald was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Nationals before the First World War, but presently he’s living in the Carterville Home for the Aged. Mac, who could be described as an Apollonian player if it weren't for his constant exaggerations of his past glories, is determined to play ball again, and refuses to die slowly in the nursing home. Meanwhile, the current Nationals manager, Mouth McGarry, the publicist, Resnick, and the owner, Bertram Beasley all debate what is to be done about the ten game losing streak their team is stuck in. They decide they need a pitcher, a good pitcher who can win a few games for the team. Back at the nursing home, Mac dislocates his shoulder during a game of horseshoes, and suddenly he is able to throw any object at a curve of 360°. With dreams of his past fame and glory, and a newfound curve ball, Mac decides to try out for his old team. Mouth, a typical hot-head manager, gives the old man a tryout begrudgingly, but fails to pay attention as Mac strikes out their best hitters. When his younger players tell Mouth what happened, the Nationals scramble to sign the sixty-seven year old man. They decide that even if he can’t run the bases, he will at least strike out any batter at the plate.

With a media blitz, Mac is signed to the team, and the spectacle of the old man warming up is enough to draw a crowd. Though Mac is never used on the field, the team starts to pull itself out of its funk and win some games. When the Commissioner orders McGarry to put Mac in a game or let him go, Old MacDonald finally takes the mound. However, poor Mac tosses the rosin bag a little too hard and ends up popping his shoulder back into place. His first pitch barely makes the plate.

When Mac returns to the home, he’s depressed. He feels like he’s let everyone down, but really, he’s been an inspiration to his fellow residents. Mac gives all the money he earned with the deal to the Center for the Aged, content with having used to be Firebrand Lefty MacDonald. Until he dislocates his shoulder again, and gets his curve back.


There's obvious connections to later films, such as The Natural or The Rookie or even Rookie of the Year, dealing with aging in the sport of baseball. While Mac often becomes the butt of "Mouth" McGarry's insults ("MAC: Used to pitch for Brooklyn--'fore the war. MOUTH: Yeah? Which war? The Civil War?) He also gets a ribbing from his fellow residents at the old folks home, who seek to deride his past accomplishments by pointing out his rather trumped-up claims.

There's also the idea of baseball becoming a bit of a sideshow at work in this play. While The Nationals do sign a 67-year-old player, they don't play him, they use him as an attraction to boost attendance, which he does.

Finally, there's the universal ideas about aging gracefully. Mac learns to cling to his memories for his sake, not to try and impress everyone else. When he's humbled at the end of the play by losing his pitching arm, he realizes that at least he had a shot, and he proved to himself and everyone else that he could do it. When he stopped talking and simply acted, he felt better about himself, and his fellow residents felt better about themselves as well.

External links

  • Old MacDonald on IMDb
  • Rod Serling on IMDb


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