ABC’s The Goldbergs is an endearing fictionalized version of creator Adam F. Goldberg’s 1980s upbringing in suburban Philadelphia, and it’s had plenty of great sports references over the years, from middle child Barry (Troy Gentile) regularly donning a Flyers’ t-shirt and missing Ron Hextall’s famous goal thanks to dad Murray (Jeff Garlin)’s regular desire to leave sporting events early to beat the traffic to youngest son Adam (Sean Giambrone) visiting a (recreated) Veterans Stadium for a Phillies game and getting separated from Murray to Murray’s fights with rival father Bill Lewis (David Koechner) about the Eagles and Cowboys.
But one of the most interesting running jokes from a sports perspective is about star high school athlete Ruben Amaro Jr., who did actually go to William Penn Charter School (which the school’s William Penn Academy is based on), but graduated a decade before the real Adam Goldberg. He then went on to an eight-year career as a MLB player and a subsequent career as a MLB coach and front office executive (including as the Phillies’ general manager from 2009-15).
On the show, Amaro Jr. is played by Niko Guardado, but Wednesday’s The Goldberg Girls episode brought in the real Amaro Jr. for a brief appearance as his father, Ruben Amaro Sr. The episode focuses on Adam’s mom Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) trying to find friends for her own version of The Golden Girls, and when she tries to rope them into organizing a school ski trip, she turns down Amaro Sr.’s offer to help because he doesn’t fit the Golden Girls mold.
Here’s former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. (playing his father, Ruben Amaro Sr., on tonight’s episode of The Goldbergs) being told to sit down and shut up. pic.twitter.com/gvNjtbSduq
— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) January 4, 2018
“But my son loves that trip!” “And we love Ruben Amaro Jr., Ruben Amaro Sr., but this committee is ladies only.” Nice. This isn’t the only cameo in the episode, either, as the real Beverly Goldberg and her actual friends show up for a diner scene near the end (plus a post-credits discussion of their relationship). But it’s one that’s pretty great for sports fans, especially with the show’s regular references to Amaro Jr. Amaro Jr.’s had quite the run on the show, appreciating Adam’s edits of a basketball game, asking Goldberg sister Erica (Hayley Orrantia) to prom, and even winning the school’s athlete of the year, much to Barry’s chagrin:
It’s pretty cool that Goldberg found a way to work the real Ruben Amaro Jr. into this episode, and it’s a natural fit for the show. The Goldbergs has managed to pull off lots of fun things with references, to have some big-name cameos (such as wrestler Bill Goldberg showing up as the high school coach’s brother) and to incorporate a surprising amount of the actual people depicted on screen. In this case, they managed to do all of those things at once. And hey, if Goldberg wants to include other famous William Penn alumni who weren’t there at quite the right time, there’s always Matt Ryan…
[Matt Mullin on Twitter]