‘Happy Days’: Story Behind the All-Star Softball Team That Played in Major League Stadiums

by Jennifer Shea
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The “Happy Days” cast didn’t just work together. They also played together, as evidenced by their softball hijinks.

The “Happy Days” cast and crew had a softball team. And that team played games in Major League stadiums, according to MeTV. Not only did the team feature actors, writers and crew members, but at some points, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Tony Danza, Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner also joined in.

Their team played prior to Major League Baseball games in stadiums ranging from Wrigley Field and Shea Stadium to Candlestick Park. They also played some games in Japan and Germany.

Marion Ross Said Softball Kept the ‘Happy Days’ Cast Together

Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham on “Happy Days,” credits those softball games with keeping the cast united. The show’s set was not without tensions – for example, Fonzie (Henry Winkler) nearly overshadowed Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), who was supposed to be the star of the show – but they somehow managed to work it all out on the baseball diamond, she told Fox News.

“We had a wonderful softball team because all the boys were very good athletes,” she said. “Ron Howard played right field. Scott Baio was a wonderful first base. Garry Marshall, he loved softball and played first base on a lot of the games.”

“And I had a uniform with my own mitt with my name on it and my own bat!” she added. “And we played so much softball. It kept the cast together. I don’t know if we would have survived if we didn’t have that softball team.”

Ross came to enjoy the baseball games and to take them quite seriously. She said the “Happy Days” team practiced pretty often – if not religiously, at least consistently.

“I’m a 53-year-old woman telling my girlfriends, ‘Sorry, I can’t go shopping because I’ve gotta go to ball practice,’” she recalled. “And we traveled to Germany and played softball with the U.S. third infantry… When that was all over, we all flew to Okinawa and played softball with the U.S. Marines. They thought we were joking, but we weren’t.”

There Were Some Tensions on the Set

“Happy Days” was originally conceived as a show centered around Richie Cunningham. But Winkler was so good at his job and the Fonzie character took off so suddenly that the network decided to elevate Winkler even more.

“They did come to me and said, ‘Well the network would kind of like to change the name of the show to Fonzie’s Happy Days,’” Howard told Entertainment Tonight in 2019. “And I said, ‘Well, I don’t think I wanna be in that show. I wanna be in Happy Days and I think Henry should have, you know, every opportunity to do everything – that’s fantastic – but you know, I signed on for this other thing and I just really don’t wanna do that.’”

Fortunately for the show, producer Garry Marshall wasn’t in on that change. And when he found out Howard was thinking of leaving “Happy Days” over it, he put his foot down.

“I said, ‘Well, I don’t wanna upset everybody and disappoint everybody, and I love Henry and I love the show, but I just, I just don’t feel good about that.’ And he said, ‘It’s not gonna happen then.’ And that was that,” Howard said.

So in the end, the network had to tolerate two stars on equal footing. And the rest, as we all know, is television history.

Outsider.com