My dear uncle, Emmy Award-winning writer-producer Art Baer, passed away in September of 2006. He won an Emmy as part of the writing staff of The Carol Burnett Show, wrote and produced The Love Boat, worked with such renowned personalities as Ed Sullivan, Jonathan Winters and Jim Nabors, and began his career in the days of early sitcoms with such classics as Car 54, Where Are You?, The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, Hogan’s Heroes, Get Smart, The Odd Couple, Happy, Days, The Jeffersons, and so many more. Although my uncle’s career was that of legend, he is remembered not only for his remarkable credits, which fifty years, but for his generous spirit and impeccable reputation.
At age 64, Baer was featured in the 'Faces in the Crowd' section of the October 9, 1989, issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, as a softball pitcher who had won 34 games in a row in a modified fast-pitch league in Los Angeles. Following that article, Baer won another 11 consecutive games, taking his streak to 45. What was not mentioned was that Baer was at least twice as old as most of the other players in the league, and in some case, three times as old.
In 2000, when Baer was 75 and had been retired from softball for a number of years, he decided to come back for one more game, so he could say that he had played baseball in eight different decades. Many of his friends were concerned because no one wanted to see him embarrass himself, or worse. But Baer was determined, and when his mind was made up, there was nothing anyone could do,
So against some strong competition, he went ahead and played one more game. He went two for two from the plate and walked twice, getting on base all four times. As it turned out, there was an injury during the game, but it wasn’t Baer who has hurt. One of his teammates—in his early forties---pulled a hamstring. As he hobbled off the field, Baer looked up at him and said, 'I gotta start playing with younger people.'
The 1989 mentioned that Baer was a 'television writer and producer,' but that was an understatement. With his partner Ben Joelson, Baer won a Primetime Emmy for writing The Carol Burnett Show, was a producer of The Love Boat, and wrote episodes of such timeless television series as The Odd Couple, Get Smart, Car 54, Where Are You, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Happy Days and Hogan’s Heroes, The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, USMC. That is just as Baer wanted it, because while he enjoyed his enormous success in his vocation, sports were his passion.
Baer passed away on his 81st birthday and was laid to rest in his softball uniform. His love of life and people, his sense of humor and playfulness, hiss competitive fire and his generous spirit will remain with everyone who knew him forever.