Berardino Hoping for Supporting Role in Winner’s Circle – Twice

June 23, 1948

Dinner and a movie is always a good date, but Tuesday evening it doubled as team bonding for the Cleveland Indians.

After the Indians welcomed new southpaw pitcher Sam Zoldak to the Tribe with a 5-2 victory over the Yankees yesterday afternoon, the team took their families to a preview showing of “The Winner’s Circle.” This movie isn’t just any picture, however, as one of the supporting actors is Tribe middle infielder Johnny Berardino.

Berardino plays the role of a horse trainer in the picture, a supporting role that he played last offseason. He’s as excited about the release of his movie nationwide this month as he is about being a Cleveland Indian and their pennant hopes.

“It’s a story about a thoroughbred, and it’s a pretty good show,” Berardino said. “I think the racing fans will like it. In fact, it was reviewed by members of the New York Racing Commission and they were crazy about it. Probably because there is no love interest nor any gambling in it.”

The movie features actors Jean Willes, Morgan Farley, Johnny Longden, Robert S. Howard, William Gould and Berardino. The biggest star of the movie is not any of the actors, but the horse.

“The story has an unusual twist,” Berardino said. “A narrator records the thoughts of this horse from the time he is born until he wins the big race. You don’t see the horse speak, of course, but the narrator does make it seem quite realistic. Tries to express how a horse must feel during his training period and so on.”

“Then there are flashbacks in which actual scenes of great races of the past are dubbed in. You see pictures of Man O’War and of Whirlaway and of Stymie. It’s a true racing picture and the horse is the real star. I just have a supporting part.”

This is Berardino’s first feature film as an adult, but he has been in entertainment and films nearly his entire life. During the silent days, Berardino had several bit roles in “Our Gang” comedies. He’s currently signed to a seven-year contract with Richard K. Polimer, who produced the picture. He met Polimer, a former literary agent, while in the Navy. After the war, Berardino found Polimer in hopes of furthering his acting hopes.

“When this racing picture came along, Polimer was going to give me the leading part, but he had so few experienced actors that I had to take the role of the trainer. He might do a sequel to the same show next fall and if he does he has promised me a better role.”

After the season, Berardino plans to return to Hollywood and learn to produce pictures with Polimer. During the making of “The Winner’s Circle,” Berardino did his acting, but assisted behind the scenes in order to learn everything he could about the film making industry. Most scenes with Bob Howard and Johnny Longden were shot at Santa Anita racetrack in three days. The crew had to hustle, or their budget would have been exploited.

“Production is a marvelous field today,” Berardino said. “If you get the right script and the right financial backing you can do all right. I’ve learned a lot with Polimer. I was with him from the time he made out his budget until he shot the last scene of the picture. In a few years I think I’ll be on my own.”

Berardino doesn’t plan to return to Hollywood until late October, though, because he’s in the midst of another supporting role with the Indians. The backup middle infielder for the Tribe plays behind All-Star leads Lou Boudreau and Joe Gordon. Indians President Bill Veeck acquired Berardino from the St. Louis Browns last December for George Metkovich and $50,000. Metkovich was returned to the Indians on April 20 of this spring, and Cleveland sent another $15,000 to complete the trade.

“I wanted to be with a winner and I told Bill DeWitt (general manager of the Browns) that,” Beradino said. “DeWitt asked me what club I would like to play with and I said Cleveland. I thought last year the Indians were a better than a fourth place ball club. I didn’t think they could make a deal with Cleveland but he did and I’m very thankful.”

Berardino primarily was a starting second baseman for the Browns both before and after the war, but preferred to have a lesser role on a better team. St. Louis had a deal in place to trade him to Washington, but Berardino said he would not play for the Senators and would pursue acting instead if he was dealt.

“A fellow never gets to know how good he really is by playing with second division clubs and especially with the Browns,” Berardino said. “And he certainly never gets any recognition. Remember Harlond Clift who was with us at St. Louis? He hit 34 home runs one year and what did it get him? The next season people would point him out as that third baseman with the Browns. What’s his name?”

While no one wants to see Boudreau or Gordon injured, Berardino already has filled in for Gordon for a week quite admirably. Gordon was sidelined with back issues from May 25 to June 4. While he was out, Berardino was 11-for-38 (.289) at the plate in his absence. He’s hitting .350 with a home run and six runs batted for the season.

He was the talk of many trade talks prior to the June 15 trade deadline, but the Indians did not want to part with their silver screen star. Their plans for him include a supporting role on the screen in June and on the field through October.

With some luck, both roles will result in The Winner’s Circle.


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