(This post originally appeared on my personal blog at stacey-rose.com)
When I was a child, I had multiple personalities. No, not in the way that some people have two distinct personalities with different names and different personas, I’m not a soap opera character – even though there are times I wish I were one. It was because I was considered both a girly girl and a tomboy.
In elementary school, during recess, there were some days when I’d play kickball with the boys and then there were other days, when I’d sit and gossip with the girls about those same boys. My dual personality also occurred at home. Sometimes I’d spend the evening watching baseball – and other sports – with my father and I’d also spend time watching soap operas with my mother – both of the nighttime and daytime variety.
Thanks to my mother, I started watching the entire ABC soap lineup as a young girl beginning with Ryan’s Hope at 12:30 p.m and ending with Edge of Night at 4 p.m. In between, there were All My Children, One Life To Live and General Hospital. And by the time 1984 rolled around, General Hospital became the one couldn’t miss and that had to schedule my life around. (Thankfully, I got out of school in time to watch the last hour of the show live. My family was late adapters in the VCR age and we didn’t get our first machine until late 1984.)
While I engrossed myself in the action and adventure story lines involving “super-couples” of the 1980′s like Luke and Laura and Frisco and Felicia, there was one constant force on the show. He may not have been fighting bad guys or traveling to exotic locales for location shoots but he was always there. The character was Dr. Steve Hardy, who was the hospital’s Chief of Staff by the time the 1980′s rolled around, and he was played by John Beradino from 1963-1996. Dr. Hardy was considered the patriarch of the show and was one of the first people to be shown on screen when the show first aired on April 1, 1963. He didn’t actually say the first line of the show which was, “7th floor nurse’s station,” but he did appear in that first scene.
What I didn’t know about Mr. Beradino when I was a child was that before he appeared on General Hospital, Beradino played professional baseball from 1939 – 1952.
Beradino who was known as Johnny Berardino when he played was a second baseman/shortstop. He was signed by the St. Louis Browns and made his major league debut on April 22, 1939. He played with the Browns, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians. His career spanned from 1939 to 1952.
His best year in the Majors was his 1940 season. He hit a career high 16 home runs and collected 85 RBI. The following year he had a career high of 89 RBI and a career high .271 batting average. His playing time would be interrupted by World War II. He’d return to baseball in 1946 but would never match his previous numbers.
Beradino played 66 games with the 1948 World Series Champion Indians. And though his overall career numbers weren’t great .249/.316/.355/.672 – he was below replacement level at -3.5 for his career – he still holds a claim no other major league player can make to this day.
In 1981, while General Hospital was at the top of its game – pun intended – Beradino suited up once again, this time to play Coach Jake Wells in “Don’t Look Back” an ABC network movie about Satchel Paige. Beradino was teammates with Paige in 1948 when the Cleveland Indians beat the Boston Braves in the World Series.
Beradino recalled his playing days with Paige:
“The ballplayers welcomed Satch with open arms. We knew he could deliver,” says Beradino, though he well remembers the discrimination, documented by the movie, that Paige once faced. On trips to Washington, for instance, white teammates were quartered at the Shoreham Hotel, but Paige had to room in the “colored” section of the nation’s capital. “That was a fact of life in those days,” shrugs Beradino. “Satch just took it in stride.” The two, later teammates for the St. Louis Browns, “had a camaraderie,” says Beradino. In fact, when owner Bill Veeck insured Beradino’s ruggedly handsome face for $1 million in a publicity stunt, it was Paige who presciently dubbed him “Hollywood John.”
“Hollywood John” would have the last laugh as Mr. Beradino has the unique distinction of being the only person to have won a World Series ring and to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His star is located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd.
Beradino was once quoted as saying, “I had been contemplating leaving the game [baseball] as early as 1947 to concentrate on acting. Most people don’t realize that I was an actor long before I was a ballplayer. I was one of those brat actors in the “Our Gang” comedies. I always loved acting as a kid.” It’s a good thing Johnny decided to stick it out in baseball for a few more years otherwise he wouldn’t have that World Series ring.
Beradino played baseball in college at USC and was also voted in USC’s Hall Of Fame.
In the time between his playing days and his stint at GH, Beradino starred in a few B movies, some TV series and played a state trooper in the Frank Sinatra film “Suddenly” in 1954.
When General Hospital first started he was one of the main stars along with the late Emily McLaughlin who played Nurse Jessie Brewer until her death in 1991. There were only about seven or eight main characters on the show when it first started so Beradino and McLaughlin carried the show. As the show grew more popular in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s, Beradino’s Dr. Hardy took a back seat to the younger actors on the show. A role he happily accepted.
During his later years on General Hospital, began having a yearly episode that centered around raising money for AIDS that aired every year on AIDS awareness day, December 1st.
The tradition began in 1994 when the writers and producers came up with the idea for the Charity Ball. The storyline centered around the hospital having a yearly ball to raise money for AIDS research – the show itself actually also raised money for various AIDS charities – and the characters would act out skits or sing and dance. It would give the actors on the show a chance to showcase what they were trained to do before appearing on General Hospital.
Some were trained as gymnasts, some were trained as singers and dancers and in one of his last appearances on the show before he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, John Beradino performed “Casey at the Bat” as a part of that storyline.
It was both poignant and perfect for Mr. Beradino to suit up one last time doing both things he loved to do; to act and to talk about baseball.