The double plays executed in A League of Their Own may be impressive, but they can’t compare to the one that takes place every day in the cramped L.A. office of the film’s writers, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who work ”head to head, word by word, line by line,” says Ganz. And with a string of smashes, like last summer’s City Slickers, they rarely drop the ball. The two have been friends since the early ’70s, when Mandel was a stand-up comic and Ganz a writer for TV’s The Odd Couple and Happy Days. They became partners after Ganz hired Mandel to write for Laverne & Shirley, then moved to the big screen with 1982’s Night Shift, directed by Happy Days‘ Ron Howard. Their collaboration with Howard continued on Splash (1984), Gung Ho (1986), and Parenthood (1989).
After working with Richie Cunningham, making League with Laverne DeFazio proved a major league contrast. ”If you hang around Ron for a half hour, you say, ‘This guy’s got it wired,”’ says Ganz. ”If you hang around Penny (Marshall) for a half hour, you say, ‘Oh, there’s no hope here.’ Because that’s what she’s saying. But she’s also got it wired.”
Their next project, Billy Crystal’s Mr. Saturday Night, will feature their first screen appearance together. ”You’re going to see history being made,” Mandel says. Adds Ganz: ”We play comedy writers. A big stretch for us.”