A Major League Baseball Star Inspired A Major Change To M*A*S*H

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Written By Sedoso Feb

As Gelbart explained, “Somewhere around the end of the second or the start of the third year, we decided to cut down on the amount of drinking, especially in The Swamp. Don Newcombe, former Dodger pitcher and spokesman for alcohol abstinence, made a strong pitch about not letting such popular characters be seen imbibing either to celebrate or to drown their sorrows.” The result was not to make all of “M*A*S*H” go cold turkey but to minimize the frequency with which alcohol appeared on the show. This way, the show wouldn’t be ignoring the realities of military experience, but wouldn’t be glorifying the act for viewers at home. He continued:

“While it is true that an awful lot of drinking goes on in the military, Newcombe’s point was well-taken. While our characters obviously did not go on the wagon, we had them stop climbing on to it a bit less frequently. As one who has seen close up and personal the awful human toll that alcohol can and does extract from its abusers, I have never doubted that we made the right choice, but it was sure fun writing dry martini jokes.”

Chances are, viewers at home didn’t even notice the change. There’s even an episode in season 8, “Bottle Fatigue,” where Hawkeye decides to quit drinking for a week after charging up a massive bar tab and annoys the crud out of everyone with his sanctimonious attitude about the whole ordeal. It’s one of the funniest later season episodes of the series, and even features a guest appearance by Shelley Long a year before she’d land the role of Diane Chambers on a very alcohol-centric series, “Cheers.”

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