Ed Sullivan was always a huge sports fan and enjoyed having famous athletes on his show. The Ed Sullivan Show, being right in Manhattan, was in close proximity to so many great New York sports teams like The New York Yankees, The Brooklyn Dodgers, The New York Jets, The New York Giants, The Harlem Globetrotters & The New York Knickerbockers ( Knicks ). Needless to say, Ed never had a shortage of sports stars on his show.
In 1965, Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Joe Namath was drafted first overall by the AFL New York Jets. Namath became infamous for his bold 1969 proclamation to the media that his team would upset The Baltimore Colts of the NFL in Super Bowl III. Sure enough, Namath delivered on his promise and just 2 weeks later he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for an interview. In this January 26, 1969 clip, Joe Namath talks about all the media hype surrounding him and the Jets’ big win, as well as his upcoming USO trip to visit the troops in Guam, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. While during the interview Joe played down all of the buzz he was receiving, he would later go on to become one of the first professional football players to become a celebrity outside the realm of sports. His appearances in commercials, television shows and movies earned him the nickname “Broadway Joe.”
Ed Sullivan was always a big fan of baseball and with The Yankees being right over in the Bronx, he would often have the star ballplayers make a visit to his show. Ed had all the Yankees greats on The Ed Sullivan Show including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Bill Skowron, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin and Roger Maris. He even invited the ballplayers wives (including Mrs. Lou Gehrig & Mrs. Babe Ruth) on stage as guests of the show. In this clip from April, 13, 1958, Yankees stars Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle & Bill Skowron sing Jack Norworth’s “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on the Ed Sullivan Show. Following the song, Yogi Berra also sends his best wishes out to Roy Campanella of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was badly injured in a car crash earlier that year.
Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson, who broke the baseball color line in 1947 as the first black Major League Baseball player, was a good friend (and sometimes golf partner) of Ed Sullivan. Having only to cross the bridge into Manhattan to get to The Ed Sullivan Theater, the baseball icon appeared on the show multiple times. On this May 20, 1962 episode, Jackie gives some batting advice to the audience (and startles Ed when the host accidentally gets in the way of his swing).