Sunday, July 5, 2015

Yankees film in Fort Lauderdale - Safe at Home!

The Yankee baseball team held Spring training in Fort Lauderdale during the 1960s after local hotelier Bob Gill encouraged the club’s owner, Dan Topping Sr., to come to the growing city. Stories about team legends Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford abound and firmly claim a place in this city’s celebrity history.

Part of Yankee history includes filming of the kid’s movie Safe at Home! in 1961 in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano. Hollywood, as captivated as the nation was with Roger Maris’s successful bid to break Babe Ruth’s homerun record during the 1961 season, thought a movie with Mantle and Maris would be a hit. (Where the Boys Are also filmed in Fort Lauderdale, was released in 1960).

Local public relations guru, Jack Drury, who played a small part as a police officer, arranged for the film crew to stay at the beach side Trade Winds Hotel (later associated with the wild Candy Store and its wet T-shirt contests).  
Trade Winds Hotel (built 1940)
The movie starred Mantle, Maris, Don Collier, Patricia Barry, William Frawley (of I Love Lucy fame) and Bryan Russell as the kid who told friends he knew the players, but did not. Team Manager Ralph Hauk also appeared. According to Drury who has written about Fort Lauderdale’s celebrity past, it was Frawley’s last feature film.

By all accounts, working on the film provided Spring training diversion for players. Mickey Mantle claimed he forgot a few of his lines but wasn’t concerned because “they didn’t want me for my acting ability.”

Safe at Home!, while not a box office hit, was continuation of a Hollywood tradition featuring sports stars in their productions; Babe Ruth appeared in 10 films, Olympian swimmer Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan in a number of films and the tradition continues …

Safe at Home! Is available to rent or purchase from Amazon. See below.

Sources:
Drury, Jack. Fort Lauderdale, Playground of the Stars (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2008).
IMDB.org
Sun-Sentinel, Apr. 21, 1989



Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Filmed in Fort Lauderdale, Yankees in Fort Lauderdale, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford William Frawley, film researcher Jane Feehan

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