You can count on a sign commenting on a pun in a Tex Avery cartoon, and “Batty Baseball” is no exception. But in addition to being a gag, the sign may very well have stated a fact.
There’s no writer credit on the cartoon, but the likely storyman was Rich Hogan, who wrote for Avery at Warners and then left to join him at MGM. If that’s the case, he wasn’t with the studio any more when it announced in October 1943 that “Screwball Baseball” (the original name) would be the first release “in a special slapstick series” (as Boxoffice magazine called it) for the coming season. Seems the military had something in mind for him.
Aside from his cartoon credits, there’s not much information around about Hogan. He’s the forgotten man in the story of Bugs Bunny; he received the story credit for the wabbit’s breakthrough cartoon, “A Wild Hare,” in 1940.
Richard Adams Hogan was born in Buffalo, New York on June 7, 1913, the oldest of seven children of John Martin and Florence L. (Adams) Hogan. His father was a customer service manager for Buffalo General Electric Co., active in the Knights of Columbus and Secretary of the Buffalo Golf Club. Hogan’s World War Two draft record states that he spent four years in art school and the New York Times of June 10, 1937 lists his name in a story about graduates of the Pratt Institute. He must have hightailed it to the West Coast soon after that. His first credit on a Warners cartoon is in Frank Tashlin’s “The Major Lied Till Dawn,” released in August 1938 and his last is on Chuck Jones’ “The Brave Little Bat,” released in September 1941. At the time, Hogan was renting a room at the large home of Disney artist David Swift’s parents along with Bob Givens (who drew the first Bugs Bunny model sheet), John Freeman (also at Disney) and Rogers Brackett, at the time a clerk at a movie studio and who was later known for his personal connection to James Dean.
Hogan’s first MGM credit is on Avery’s first MGM cartoon, “The Blitz Wolf,” released August 22, 1942. Four days later, Hogan enlisted. His name appears on several other shorts but then there is a period when there are no writer credits until Heck Allen’s name on “Screwball Squirrel,” put into production next after “Batty Baseball.” Animator Berny Wolf told historian Mike Barrier that Allen replaced Hogan, so it’s possible “Batty Baseball” was Hogan’s last cartoon before his military service.
Hogan re-appears as a storyman after the war, his first cartoon credit showing up on “The Cuckoo Clock,” likely put into production near the end of 1948. His name appears on such great cartoons as “Bad Luck Blackie,” “Little Rural Riding Hood” and “Magical Maestro.” Hogan’s animation career ended when Avery left MGM for health reasons in May 1950. Dick Lundy took over Avery’s unit but Hogan didn’t stay. He settled in Sherman Oaks and got into the real estate and development business with Coldwell Banker. Later, he and his wife Marge had a home in Studio City and the two were part of the San Fernando Valley’s social set through the 1960s. The pair had four children, including a set of twins. Tragedy clouded the twins’ seventh birthday party—Hogan spotted a six-year-old neighbour girl face down in the pool. She was pronounced dead in hospital.
Post-cartoon career newspaper stories refer to him as “Dick” Hogan. Warners animator Phil Monroe did the same in an interview with historian Mike Barrier. In the late ‘30s, there was a contract player at RKO named Dick Hogan. That may be why Hogan went with “Rich” in his on-screen credit.
Hogan seems to have disappeared in the ‘70s—he was divorced late in the decade—and he died in Los Angeles on January 28, 1981 at age 67.