Comedian Bob Einstein died yesterday. You may remember him as his alter-ego Super Dave Osborne, a character he created in the ’80s that was inspired by Evel Knievel. But the opposite. Every stunt Super Dave tried ended up in catastrophe and pain.
Einstein got his start as a writer on the Smothers Brothers show and soon was writing for just about every great show in the ’60s and ’70s. Oh, and he was Albert Brooks’s brother.
Most recently, Einstein had a recurring role in HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, from Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, as the surly Marty Funkhouser. And that’s where the baseball connection comes in. (Seeing as how there is no Rangers news, this is the most relevant baseball story of the day. And it’s a darn good one.)
In an episode shot in May of 2003, Bob Einstein’s character invites Larry to join him at a Dodgers game. They shot it at Dodger Stadium during an actual game.
That night, some seventeen miles away, a sixteen-year-old girl named Martha Puebla was gunned down right in front of her house. She was the only witness to two murders committed by a guy named Mario Catalan.
Police arrested Mario Catalan’s brother, Juan, for the murder of Martha Puebla. He had a pretty powerful motive—getting rid of the only person who could put his brother behind bars. Worse for Juan Catalan, the police had an eyewitness who identified him as the shooter.
It seemed like just another sad case of stupid people doing stupid things. Except Catalan insisted he was innocent.
Of course he did.
He was tossed in jail just the same.
Six months went by, stuck in maximum security awaiting his trial and inevitable death row sentencing, when one day Catalan was talking to his girlfriend on the prison phone and she suddenly recalled that the murder he was accused of was the same night as the Dodgers game he attended with his six-year-old daughter. She had kept the ticket stubs. They had proof.
But the prosecutors weren’t buying it. A spent ticket stub wasn’t proof he actually attended the game. Anyone could have given his girlfriend those stubs.
Trying to prove his innocence, Catalan’s lawyers poured over all the footage from the Dodgers broadcast that night. They found Catalan but the resolution was too poor to prove it was him. Prosecutors weren’t buying it.
That’s when Catalan remembered, hey, wait a minute, there was a film crew shooting that same night, coincidentally in the very same section he was in, and they were shooting with that Super Dave Osborne guy.
It didn’t take long for his lawyers to discover HBO had permits to shoot Curb Your Enthusiasm in Dodger Stadium that night. HBO gave them permission to look through the raw footage and, lo and behold, there was Juan Catalan with his daughter just like he said. Clear as day. They were heading back from the concession stand right as Larry David walked in front of them. It wasn’t scripted. It was a happy accident. It was fate.
Prosecutors, never wanting to admit a mistake even if it convicts an innocent man, argued that Catalan had plenty of time to attend the game and leave early enough to still commit the murder. Sounds ridiculous just writing that.
Of course, raw footage has time codes on it that tell what time it was shot. That, along with cellphone calls Catalan made from Dodger Stadium before, during, and after the murder put that theory to rest.
The judge let him go.
In an even more tragic twist, the arresting police officers admitted later that they had made up the eyewitness who they said identified Catalan, in order to frame him. (One of those two men is still a police officer today.)
Super Dave Osborne unwittingly pulled off his best stunt ever. He helped save an innocent man from the electric chair.
Rest in peace, Bob Einstein. You were one truly funny man.