If you’re old enough to have been watching Saturday Night Live in the late Seventies you might have been watching Episode 5 of Season 4 when it first aired on November 11, 1978. (I am and I was.)
Buck Henry was the host. The Grateful Dead were the musical guests. And, there were several classic skits — including one at the end that introduced what would become a famous TV catchphrase.
The sketch takes place at a meeting of the St. Mickey’s Knights of Columbus.
After dealing with a few business items, the organization’s leader, played by SNL cast member John Belushi, announces that the club would have a special guest speaker that night.
Dan Aykroyd, playing the Knights’ treasurer, notes that the group had to go into debt to pay the speaker’s steep $900 fee.
Belushi then introduces this special guest: “the immortal” Chico Escuela, a former all-star baseball player for the Chicago Cubs who came to the US from the Dominican Republic.
After being introduced, Chico — portrayed by SNL cast member Garrett Morris — gets up, stands at the podium and says in a thick Hispanic accent:
“Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias!”
Then he sits down.
Astonished by the brevity of this $900 “speech,” Belushi’s character asks: “Is that it Chico?”
Chico thinks about it a second, gets up again and adds: “Keep you eye...keep you eyes...on de ball.”
After which, he sits down again.
Belushi says sardonically: “Thank you, Chico. You’ve been an inspiration to all of us.”
Three weeks later, during the December 9, 1978 episode of SNL, Morris’s Chico made a second appearance and repeated his line “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” several times — making this the night on which it gained official catchphrase status.
In that episode (Season 4, Episode 8), the host was Monty Python star Eric idle. Kate Bush was the musical guest. Dan Aykroyd performed the insanely funny skit in which he plays a frantic Julia Child, who bleeds to death after cutting her finger. And, Don Novello showed up as Father Guido Sarducci.Weekend Update segment with Jane Curtin, who announced that he had been hired as the Weekend Update sports commentator.
After being introduced by Jane (this time as a former New York Mets ballplayer), Chico says:
“Thank you. Thank you, berry, berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you, Hane.
[A photo of major league player Pete Rose, who had recently signed a four year, 3.2 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, appears behind Chico.]
Pete-ee Rose...Baseball been berry, berry good to Pete Rose. Three-point-two-million-dollar para Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle, you bet. Thank you berry, berry much.
In foot-ball... I don’t know football. In Dominican Republic, football is — how you say, Hane? Um, Oh! Soccer! Your football... I don’t know.
In National Hockey League... I don’t know hockey.
In baseball… Baseball been berry, berry good to me! Thank you berry much. Thank you. Thank you berry much. Hane? Thank you, Hane.”
Hearing Chico’s fact-challenged report, Jane responds sarcastically: “Great job, Chico. I’m glad that we haven’t hired just another stupid ex-jock sportscaster.”
Morris went on to appear as Chico Escuela eight more times before leaving the Saturday Night Live cast in the summer of 1980.
Each time, he repeated “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!”(sometimes written as “Beisbol been bery, bery good to me!” and in various other ways). It remains one of the most famous of the many memorable catchphrases created by SNL.
* * * * * * * * * *
Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook group.
Related reading and viewing…