‘M*A*S*H’: The Clever Way Writers Came Up with Patient’s Names on the Show

by Emily Morgan
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“M*A*S*H,” the popular war-comedy television series that aired from 1972 to 1983, had an interesting connection with another acronym: the MLB.

If you’re a fan of the classic series, you know that the show follows a team of doctors and staff stationed at the “4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in Uijeongbu, South Korea, during the Korean War. In between goofs and gaffs, the show’s serious side would focus on Hawkeye and Hot Lip’s characters as they tend to their patients’ bedsides.

In the “M*A*S*H” writer’s room, the crew had to get creative when naming the fictional patients. If you consider yourself a baseball fan, you may have recognized a few names while watching. During production, the crew would name the various patients that the Army doctors had to treat after famous American baseball players.

One of the “M*A*S*H” writers, Ken Levine, was a lifelong baseball fan. After writing for “M*A*S*H,” Levine became a broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991. Later, he worked for the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres doing their broadcasting. For three seasons, Levine hosted the radio show, “Dodger Talk,” that followed each Dodgers’ broadcast on KABC Radio.

‘M*A*S*H’ Writers Use Baseball Players Names for Patients

During the sixth season of “M*A*S*H,” Levine used his baseball knowledge when he named four patients after the 1977 California Angels roster. In another episode, he also used players’ names from the 1978 Dodgers team.

Levine used names such as “Hough” (Charlie Hough), “Private Sutton” (Don Sutton), “Ferguson” (Joe Ferguson), “Russell” (Bill Russell), “Private Welch” (Bob Welch), “Colonel Lacy” (Lee Lacy), “Private North” (Bill North), “O’Malley” (owner Peter O’Malley), “Corporal Basgall” (coach Monty Basgall) and “Sergeant Jerry Scully” (broadcaster Vin Scully).

However, baseball didn’t just appear in patients’ names. Even the pilot episode for “M*A*S*H,” the show touched on the popular sport. The “M*A*S*H” pilot dealt with Hawkeye as he tries to raise money for his houseboy to attend college in the U.S.

During the episode, Hawkeye and his partner, Trapper John, discuss what they miss most about being home. During the exchange, baseball comes up when Hawkeye asks John, “What does everybody want here? What do these people want more than anything else?”

In the 1983 “M*A*S*H” episode, “Friends and Enemies,” a former Los Angeles Dodger, Jim Lefebvre, makes a guest appearance. In the episode, he played a character named Sgt. Zarilli.

Lefebvre’s character tells Colonel Potter that a friend made a lapse in judgment on the battlefield, resulting in severe injuries. Even though it was a brief speaking role, it wasn’t the first time Lefebvre appeared on camera. From the 60s to the ’80s, Lefebvre made guest appearances on several TV shows that included “Batman,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Knight Rider,” and “St. Elsewhere.”

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