Natalie Wood and Ron Swoboda

I have shared this story before, but not yet with this group. People who know me know that I love movies and I love baseball. For the most part these interests do not overlap — One day I’ll watch a movie, and the next day I’ll watch a baseball game, but rarely can I do both at the same time.

About a year ago I was watching Penelope, a delightful madcap romp from 1966 starring Natalie Wood, one of my favorite actresses from the past. I had never seen the movie before.  And then, this scene, with Wood and Peter Falk, happened.


You can see enough of the wrapper (time 0:45 to 0:55) and the card backs (1:33 to 1:45) to confirm that this was a pack of 1966 Topps cards. This was also the first year that Ron Swoboda got a card to himself.

The entire movie is fun, but this scene alone is priceless. This is the card that Penelope found at the top of her pack.



Author: Mark Armour

Long-time SABR member, founder and past chairman of the Baseball Cards Committee, founder and past chairman (2002-2016) of the Biography Project, current President of the SABR board of directors, author of several books and dozens of articles on baseball. See

9 thoughts on “Natalie Wood and Ron Swoboda”

  1. For years– no, decades– I’ve been coming up with baseball references of all kinds in films that otherwise have nothing whatsoever to do with the sport. They are endless– and I was especially delighted to learn about the Wood/Swoboda/PENELOPE connection. I’d never seen the film, and took a look when it recently aired on TCM. And when Natalie comments about Ron’s card, for me this nicely connects the reel world and the real world…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been noticing baseball cards in television shows. Blue Bloods used cards in an episode, as did Criminal Minds, The Goldbergs, The Wonder Years, McGyver, and others, I’m sure.


    2. For those of you who don’t know, Rob is the master at movie-baseball connections (and lectures on film history at SUNY-Albany). So I am particularly proud that Rob appreciated this observation when I told him last winter at the NINE conference. I will be looking for more!


  2. Interesting that in this film Natalie Wood’s character needs bubble-blowing lessons. Twenty years earlier in “Miracle on 34th St.”, her character Susie has to tutor Kris Kringle himself on how to blow a bubble.



    In one scene, about an hour in, Natalie Wood ( Penelope ) and Peter Falk ( Lt. Bixbee ) are talking when she asks if she could have some of his bubble gum where he hands her a pack of baseball cards to which, on opening it and looking for the stick of bubble gum, she sees a baseball card and says, ” Who is Ron Swoboda ?” … A few minutes later, as they depart, she says, ” May I keep Ron Swoboda ?”, walking away with the pack of baseball cards.

    Liked by 1 person

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