The Baron of Bloopers is pulling off a prank -- as a matter of fact, a batch of pranks -- for fans who enjoy the zany side of the world of sports.
Producer, director, creator and mastermind of many successful blooper and sports videos, 34-year-old Steve Rotfeld next week will release "Baseball's Funniest Pranks" ($9.95, 30 mins.).
Rotfeld thinks that pranks and practical jokes are the "fresh, new and different way" to present the wacky side of sports.
"Maybe we've run the course on the follies-type of TV shows and videos," said the man who's sold more than a million of them. "I have 10 of them out, others have three or four."
NFL Films has nine "Follies" tapes out and two more scheduled in August.
Rotfeld enjoys doing pranks tapes. They present a side of players who don't have to drop a ball or run into a wall to get a laugh.
Three more "Pranks" videos are in the making: "Football's Funniest Pranks" will follow in September, two months later comes "Basketball's Funniest Pranks," and in early 1991, "All Sports Pranks."
Former eccentric major leaguer Jay Johnstone is the host and instigator on the baseball pranks video, which aired as a one-hour syndicated television show a few weeks back. It has has been edited to 30 minutes for this video.
Johnstone's microphone filled with rotten-egg extract and his powder horn bring laughs every time even though the viewer knows what's coming.
In one prank, Dodger manager Tom LaSorda tells two players they've been traded, just for the reaction -- sort of a "Candid Camera" using major leaguers.
In another, the Pittsburgh Pirates set up pitcher Doug Drabek, one of the team's straightest arrows, by packing the trunk of his car with uniforms. The next day, police engaged by the pranksters are all around the parking lot investigating an equipment robbery from the dressing room. When Drabek arrives, he is asked to open his trunk. The cop is about to handcuff the bewildered and mumbling Drabek and take him downtown when he's pointed toward the camera. Instead of cussing, Drabek congratulates all concerned for pulling it off, before vowing, "I'll have my day."
Steve Rotfeld Productions is based in Bryn Mawr, Pa., near where the president and founder grew up. His creations are syndicated and distributed by his father's firm, Berl Rotfeld Productions. Steve joined his father in 1980 after graduating fron Haverford School, the University of Hartford and Brooklyn Law School.
He worked with his dad on the "Sports Legends" series from 1980 through 1986 and was involved with 24 episodes of Bob Uecker's "Wacky World." The Uecker shows were not making money and about to be dropped when Steve acquired them from his father, set up his own company, repackaged them into half-hour shows and marketed them in the re-run market.
Then Rotfeld went to ESPN. "They admitted they were in the market for some bloopers," he said. So Rotfeld created "The Lighter Side of Sports," which has been on ESPN for three years and continues to be one of the sports network's highest-rated non-event shows. This year, Lyle Alzado was signed to take over as the show's host.
Now Rotfeld is putting together four new titles for ESPN's home video division due out in the fall. They are "Unbelieveable Sports Plays"; "More of Amazing Biff, Bam, Boom Anything Goes Sports Bloopers" (a sequel to the original hit, which was given as a premium to new Sports Illustrated subscribers); "Oops, College Hoops Bloops" and "College Football Funnies."
Rotfeld also has "Bloopers International" scheduled for released in July. His earlier releases, in addition to the original "Biff, Bam, Boom," are four Uecker videos: "Bob Uecker Sports Show," "Bob Uecker's Wacky World of Sports, Volume I," "The All New Bob Uecker's Wacky World of Sports" and "Bob Uecker's Wacky World of Sports Tips."
Also, "Sports Blooper Mania," hosted by kissing bandit Morganna; "Greatest Sports Bloopers," hosted by comedian Bobby Kelton; "Lighter Side of Sports Presents Bloopers, Swimsuits, and Superstars," hosted by Johnstone, and "World's Worst Avid Golfer's Tournament." All are priced at $9.95 and can be ordered 215/664-9882.
Rotfeld's staff of six "can produce, direct, write, edit, cut," he said. "Around here we don't delegate. Everyone here does everything. In five years we've established a huge library. We've got tons of cassettes.
"I feel a lot of the funny and zany material comes from sports other than Major League baseball, NFL football and NBA basketball."
As for the future, Rotfeld said, "Things are going to come along. When the light bulb goes on, that's the way we'll go."