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Holy sports themes, Batfans

Alfred John Ferrara (The Bull) was a major league baseball outfielder with the Dodgers, Reds and Padres. His batting average over eight big-league seasons was .259, but in 1967 he belted 16 home runs in just 347 at-bats. You should see his Strat-O-Matic dice baseball card.

Just as cool, perhaps even cooler, is that during the 1968 season, Al Ferrara appeared in the final episode of the “Batman” TV series before it was canceled. (He would later turn up as a contestant on “Match Game ’74” with Gene Rayburn, listing his occupation as “freelance piano salesman.”)

In “Minerva, Mayhem and Millionaires,” Ferrara played Atlas, one of three Greek goons employed by guest villainess Minerva/Zsa Zsa Gabor at her health spa catering to Gotham City’s rich and famous. Atlas and the Greek goons wrestle Batman and Robin into Zsa Zsa’s persimmon pressurizer.

Holy pressure cooker!

But the Dynamic Duo gets out of the pickle because Batman had the foresight to slip a couple of Steam Neutralizing Batpellets into his utility belt.

I know now these things because my lovely wife stocked my Christmas stocking with “Batman — The Complete Classic Batman Collection” boxed set of digitally remastered DVDs that recently came out.

It was the ideal gift for any pre-pubescent child of the Sixties who grew up watching the Caped Crusaders lock horns with the nefarious super criminals of Gotham City’s underworld, before putting out a saucer of milk hoping to attract Julie Newmar in her skintight Catwoman costume.

Widescreen TVs and high-definition were made for TV’s Catwoman.

Before going straight to the Catwoman episodes — but only after watching Adam West do the “Batusi” with the beguiling Jill St. John in the 1966 series debut — I couldn’t help but notice a recurring sports theme in the “Batman” TV series.

Season one, episode five for instance. It begins with The Joker pitching in a ballgame in the Gotham prison yard, and escaping over the wall via this giant spring-loaded device when one of his pitches explodes at home plate in the manner of a Nolan Ryan fastball.

This might have been where the expression “going yard” originated.

A month later The Joker was back, fixing the big high school basketball game between Woodrow Roosevelt High and Disco Tech by snapping an incriminating photo of the WRHS players clutching the answers to final exam questions obtained via a rigged milk vending machine.

I believe this was how Cincinnati got into hot water with the NCAA when Bob Huggins was coach.

During season three there’s a boxing-themed episode as The Riddler kidnaps the champ, Kid Gulliver, portrayed by a young James Brolin. The Riddler brainwashes Kid Gulliver into throwing his next fight which Millionaire Bruce Wayne, chairman of the Gotham City Boxing Commission, watches on TV at stately Wayne Manor.

This leads to Bruce Wayne’s alter ego (spoiler alert), Batman, fighting The Riddler’s alter ego, purported Southwest Asia champion Mushy Nebuchadnezzar.

Batman wins of course, but only after The Riddler controlled the early rounds when a giant magnet under the ring — operated by TV host Betsy Boldface — attached to metal filings on Batman’s boxing boots, rendering him a stationary target.

This might also explain how Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas in Tokyo.

Another episode cast former light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore as Everett Bannister, head of the Everett Bannister Koin Machines Company, who is robbed by a medieval Robin Hood-inspired crook called The Archer, played by Art Carney.

If the writers really were thinking, they would have had The Mongoose — a far better name for a super criminal than The Archer — knock out Jackie Gleason’s sidekick with a solid right hook. THWACK-ETH! And away we go!

I also noticed the name of Jim Lefebvre in the credits following an episode in season two. Lefebvre was the Dodgers second baseman during Batman’s heyday; he played “Across,” one of The Riddler’s henchmen (the other henchman — there usually were two along with an attractive moll sporting a beehive hairdo — was called “Down”).

I do not know if Jim Lefebvre could act because this was the episode in which John Astin played The Riddler — Frank Gorshin and his maniacal laugh were holding out for more money — and so I fast-forwarded through it.

Roland La Starza was a heavyweight contender who once gave Rocky Marciano a hell of a fight for about six rounds. That was his claim to fame, until he played Cappy in “Batman” alongside Dr. Jervis Tetch, aka The Mad Hatter.

The Hatter had this awesome Super Instant Mesmerizer that would pop from his hat. It now dawns that also could have been what neutralized Mike Tyson against Buster Douglas, because Iron Mike wasn’t carrying an Antimesmerizing Batdeflector.

I’m sure there were other sports references that I haven’t gotten to because — Holy Flat Rear End, Batman! — 18 DVDs is a lot to get through in one sitting. Plus, there are extras in the box, including the original script from the episode where The Joker goes yard. It comes with a signed letter of authenticity from Adam West that begins “Greetings, loyal Batfans.”

As Julie Newmar once said in her skintight Catwoman outfit, “Purrrrr-fect!”

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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