Funny nose glasses

It was intended as a simple commercial promoting a baseball giveaway—in which 30,000 Mariners’ baseball fans would each receive a free vinyl M’s jacket when they came through the turnstiles on August 23rd, 1981.

The commercial was written and produced by the person writing this column. At the time, I was a freshly-minted (for breath purposes) producer for KING TV, the Mariners’ broadcast station of the early ‘80’s (carrying a measly 15 games out of 162.)

I thought it would be funny to feature an actual Mariner player as the spokesman—one who starts out doing a straightforward sales job—but is misinformed about what is actually being promoted. The premise had the player pitching a (non-existent) “Funny Nose Glasses Night”—rather than the actual “Jacket Night” promotion. Laughs would hopefully ensue.

I had decided upon funny nose glasses as the ideal bogus promotional item because the very notion seemed absurd. The usual giveaway items were—and are—always associated with the game of baseball itself: Jackets, bats, caps, etc. They are traditional components of the American past time.

But funny nose glasses are…well…funny—in an almost universally accepted way that has nothing to do with baseball. Also known as “Groucho” glasses, they look a lot like the makeup style the most famous Marx brother was known for. Even a humorless college professor could generate student smiles by donning a pair. (In fact, many college professors already look like they’re wearing them.)

Recently, in a simple Google search—not possible in 1981—I discovered an scholarly pyschology article entitled, “The Effect of Groucho Marx Glasses on Depression.” Clearly, if such apparel has the benefit of bringing cheer to unhappy people, the same kind of glasses could certainly provide solace to baseball fans of a struggling team. And the Mariners certainly were in the early 1980’s.

The player chosen for the assignment was a dandy outfielder named Tom Paciorek. He played 18 seasons all told—and the best of them were with the Mariners. One year, he finished second in batting average in the American League.

Paciorek was chosen for the jacket night commercial for two reasons: One, he was a quick study at memorizing copy—and two, he was the only player that would agree to do it.

The Mariners’ marketing people expected me to put together a commercial that would be quick, slick and professional-looking. They settled for just quick.

Still, the estimable Paciorek knocked the spot out in a couple of takes—as I served as director and off-camera announcer. Here it is—in all it’s low-definition glory:

When game night rolled around—at least according to team lore—people streaming into the Kingdome were dismayed when they were handed jackets. “We thought we were getting funny nose glasses instead,” many reportedly said. (Why exactly they were disappointed is unclear. After all, funny nose glasses do a lousy job of keeping a person dry in a rain storm.)

But the Mariners’ marketing department heard so much noise about it that they made a decision: “Let’s actually have a “Funny Nose Glasses Night” next season.”

And so they did.

It happened May 8th, 1982—designed to coincide with the one year anniversary of the night that the same Tom Paciorek hit the first of his two consecutive ninth-inning, game-winning homers against the Yankees.

A crowd of 36,716 showed up for “Funny Nose Glasses Night”—the fourth largest turnout of the season—and a bigger crowd than came for an actual big deal baseball milestone two days earlier: Gaylord Perry’s 300th career win. (He later wound up in the Hall of Fame.)

The Mariners’ manager at the time, Rene Lachemann—even got into the act by wearing a pair of the goofy glasses to homeplate for the traditional lineup exchange. Less well remembered: The M’s lost to the Yankees that night, 9-4.

All these years later—this week in fact—the Mariners are again staging a “Funny Nose Glasses Night.” But there will only be 5,000 pairs given away this time—so the promotion could inadvertently turn into the first ever “Crying Kids Who Missed Out—And Their Parents Are Not Happy About It…Night.”

Footnote: Even though he was as responsible as anyone for that very first “Funny Nose Glasses Night”, Tom Paciorek wasn’t around to be a part of it. By then, he’d been traded to the Chicago White Sox. But that turned out just fine for him—because today he is a Chisox baseball broadcaster.

And speaking of the Windy City, I need to contact someone at the Mariners again—about my idea for “Whoopee Cushion Night.”