Reds slugger Ted Kluszewski, seen here on his 1953 Bowman card, may have been an inspiration for Rod Serling’s 1955 teleplay OToole from Moscow.

The Major League Baseball season was to have begun tomorrow but obviously has been postponed due to the ongoing health crisis. Baseball fans can get a taste of the National Pastime tonight and moving forward by listening to Cincinnati Public Radio’s 91.7 WVXU and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music’s collaborative reboot of Rod Serling’s O’Toole from Moscow. Serling’s teleplay originally aired on NBC television in December 1955. It appeared on a Monday afternoon at 3:00 PM, was not taped or recorded in any way, and then disappeared entirely.

The project is a thirty year labor of love from Cincinnati Inquirer journalist John Kiesewetter, who worked for that newspaper for four decades before getting downsized in the parched landscape that is our sadly disappearing local journalism. Rod Serling lived in Cincinnati for a brief time after attending school at Antioch College seventy-five miles or so down the road. Upon graduation Serling earned his bones in local Cincinnati broadcasting. He soon moved his growing family to Connecticut to break into the big time in New York. The Twilight Zone began in 1959. O’Toole is set in the Cold War and premised on confusing the Cincinnati baseball Reds with the Communist Soviet Reds. Serling’s teleplay is all the more fitting because Cincinnati has a great baseball heritage; the Reds are the first professional baseball team, having begun play in 1869.

Mr. Kiesewetter searched for decades to find the lost script and when he found it in the archives retooled it for radio. He had the blessing of Rod’s daughter Anne, who narrated the radio presentation. I am curious to see how it has all turned out. Though he was remarkably witty and quite the jokester off-camera, comedy was was never Rod Serling’s forté. Kiesewetter actually acknowledges that in this podcast but says the O’Toole is an exception. I have no reason to doubt him and look forward to the broadcast. It is great too that there is something new relating to Rod Serling right now; Carol Serling, his widow and the matriarch of the family, died earlier this year. I met her at the Twilight Zone Conference in Ithaca in October 2009 and she was most gracious. That O’Toole was completed with the participation of their daughter Anne makes it that much more meaningful.

O’Toole from Moscow debuts March 25 at 8:00 pm Eastern time. In the local Cincinnati area check it via radio at either WVXU 91.7 or WMUB 88.5. Outside Cincinnati one can also online at Cincinnati Public Radio’s 91.7 WVXU. After tonight’s initial broadcast the show will be archived online and also distributed across the country to National Public Radio stations.

(image/Metropolitan Museum of Art)