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'Give me Hamm on five, hold the Mayo'

Columnist Steve Lange looks at four classic Mayo Clinic references from movies and TV.

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Four of our favorite Mayo Clinic references from TV, movies, and music.

The movie: Airplane!
The reference: Capt. Oveur (played by Peter Graves) is talking to a Mayo Clinic doctor on one of the airport's courtesy phones (and the doc is sitting in front of a shelf lined with jars of mayonnaise). Then, an operator interrupts.

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Operator: Excuse me. This is the operator. Capt. Oveur, I have an emergency call on line five from a Mr. Hamm.
Oveur: All right, Give me Hamm on five, hold the Mayo.

Why this is one of our favorites: I've seen Airplane!—and this is more a brag than a confession—an estimated 150 times, and I still laugh every time I hear that line. I laughed, in fact, just typing it.

The movie: Pride of the Yankees (1942).
The reference: As the Mayo Clinic doctor hesitates in revealing his diagnosis of ALS, Lou Gehrig (played by Gary Cooper) says, "I'm a man who likes to know his batting average. Is it three strikes?"

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The doc confirms Gehrig's worst fears.

"Doc, I've learned one thing," Gehrig says. "All the arguing in the world can't change the decision of the umpire."

Why this is one of our favorites: I've seen Pride of the Yankees—and this is more a brag than a confession—an estimated 50 times, and I still tear up a little bit every time I hear that line. I might have teared up a little bit, in fact, just typing it.

The TV show: "Little House on the Prairie" (1977)
The reference: Here's the plot summary of episode 63, "To Live With Fear:" "Mary gets kicked by a horse. The next day at school, due to stomach pains, she has to forfeit the jump rope competition to Nellie Oleson, who is unsympathetic. Snotty, even. Doc Baker fears the worst, and needs to send Mary to the Mayo Clinic (though I don't even think the 'Mayo Clinic' would have existed when Mary was that young). Mary needs an operation. The hospital bills mount. So Charles takes a dangerous job with a railroad tunneling team, and Caroline takes a job in the Clinic laundry, to earn the extra money they so desperately need."
Spoiler alert: It all turns out OK at the end.
Why this is one of our favorites: Secretly, "Little House on the Prairie"—for all its cheesiness—tugs at my heartstrings. Damn you, Charles, for selling your fiddle to buy Mary a birthday present. And then damn you, Mary, for selling your birthday present to buy back Charles' fiddle.

So, yeah. Charles has to take on a dangerous job, and Caroline takes a job in the Clinic laundry, to afford Mary's care. And Mary had to forfeit that damn jump rope competition to, of all people, Nellie.

The TV show: "The Simpsons" (1991 and 2000)
The reference: At least two episodes of the classic cartoon have referenced the Mayo Clinic.

In the "Bart Gets Hit By a Car" episode (1991), certificates on the wall of Dr. Nick Riviera read, among other things, "Mayo Clinic Correspondence School,'' "Club Med School,'' "Female Body Inspector,'' and "I went to medical school for four years and all I got was this lousy diploma.''

In the episode titled "Mansion Family" (2000), Mr. Burns sits in the waiting room during a visit to the Clinic, and a Mayo doctor comes out to give Mr. Burns his results of his physical.

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Burns: Well, doc, I think I did pretty well on my tests. You may shake my hand if you like.
Mayo doctor: Well, under the circumstances, I'd rather not.
Burns: Eh?
Mayo doctor: Mr. Burns, I'm afraid you are the sickest man in the United States. You have everything.
Burns: You mean I have pneumonia?
Mayo doctor: Yes.
Burns: Juvenile diabetes?
Mayo doctor: Yes.
Burns: Hysterical pregnancy?
Mayo doctor: Uh, a little bit, yes.

Why this is one of our favorites:

Burns: Hysterical pregnancy?
Mayo doctor: Uh, a little bit, yes.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.

Related Topics: PEOPLEODDCHESTERROCHESTER
Opinion by Steve Lange
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Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.
Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.