He just can't kick the baseball habit

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Baseball been very so-so to me

All-Star day seems an appropriate time to come clean about a dark secret. Not simply that I was once a Mets fan. It's worse than that: I can't seem to kick my baseball habit no matter how hard baseball -- and the Pirates -- try to cure me of it.

Baseball got to me early. I grew up in New Jersey, a New York Giants fan. (That's baseball Giants, I must explain to you children out there.) It could have been worse. I could have been born a loud-mouthed Brooklyn Dodgers fan or a smug Yankee rooter with no sense of life's tragic dimensions. My choice of family was vindicated when the "Jints' " Bobby Thomson ("The Staten Island Scot") hit his miracle home run. Life was basically good.

The magical trips to the Polo Grounds in Harlem never lost their luster. Those cosmic Giant-Dodger struggles gave weight and drama to listless summer nights.

Then, greed reared its ugly head, and my world was turned upside down. In 1957, the Giants, following the lead of the hated Dodgers, moved to California. This was betrayal on a monumental scale. I was just a kid. I took it personally. Baseball was sending me a message: Get lost; and if you can't, don't get hung up on loyalty.

Rooting for the Yankees was out of the question. I had values, after all. So I swore off the game. Five years later, the Mets came bumbling into existence. Tired of baseball limbo, I threw in with them. They were a glorious new species -- an inept band of non-threatening New Yorkers. Success seemed out of the question. Besides, there were no sparks.

As I made my way into adulthood and moved around the country, it became clear it was a marriage of convenience. On settling in Pittsburgh, I dumped the Mets. The Pirates were a franchise you could cozy up to -- lovable, storied, schooled enough in loss to appreciate success. I wanted stability in my baseball life grounded in genuine affection of the death-do-us-part variety. Now it's been 28 years, and there have been more downs than ups. I'm holding up my end, but we've been reduced to "Well, we have the best park in baseball." Which is quite a bit really, and so I'll be watching tonight, despite the big money and sheer incompetence that is killing baseball in Pittsburgh and infects the game down to the once innocent pastimes of collecting autographs and baseball cards, because, despite it all, baseball is such a great game.

It's still funny

Abbott & Costello's classic baseball routine runs about five times longer than the excerpt here. For complete text go to baseball-almanac.com/humor4.shtml.

Costello: Well then who's on first?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: I mean the fellow's name.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The guy on first.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The first baseman.

Abbott: Who is on first!

Costello: I'm asking YOU who's on first.

Abbott: That's the man's name.

Costello: That's who's name?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: Well go ahead and tell me.

Abbott: That's it.

Costello: That's who?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: All I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name on first base.

Abbott: No. What is on second base.

Costello: I'm not asking you who's on second.

Abbott: Who's on first.

Costello: What's the guy's name on first base?

Abbott: No. What is on second.

Costello: I'm not asking you who's on second.

Abbott: Who's on first.

Costello: I don't know.

Abbott: He's on third, we're not talking about him.

Costello: Now how did I get on third base?

Abbott: Why you mentioned his name.

Costello: If I mentioned the third baseman's name, who did I say is playing third?

Abbott: No. Who's playing first.

Costello: What's on first?

Abbott: What's on second.

Costello: I don't know.

Abbott: He's on third.

Costello: There I go, back on third again!

Abbott: What do you want to know?

Costello: Now who's playing third base?

Abbott: Why do you insist on putting Who on third base?

Costello: What am I putting on third.

Abbott: No. What is on second.

Costello: You don't want who on second?

Abbott: Who is on first.

Costello: I don't know.

Abbott & Costello: Third base!

The golden age of baseball nicknames

From "Anthem" by William Wallace

Schoolboy, Sheriff,

Rajah, Duke,

General, Major,

Spaceman, Spook.

The Georgia Peach, The Fordham Flash,

The Flying Dutchman. Cot.

The People's Cherce, The Blazer. Crash.

The Staten Island Scot.

Old Folks, Old Pard, Oom Paul. Yaz.

Cowboy, Indian Bob, Chief, Ozark Ike.

Rawhide, Reindeer Bill. Motormouth. Maz.

Pistol Pete, Jungle Jim, Wahoo Sam. Spike.

The Mad Hungarian.

Mickey, Minnie.

Kitten, Bunny.

Big Dan, Moose.

Jumbo, Pee Wee; Chubby, Skinny.

Little Poison.

Crow, Hawk, Goose.

The Splendid Splinter. Pruschka. Sparky.

Chico, Choo Choo, Cha-Cha, Chub.

Dr. Strangeglove. Deacon. Arky.

Abba Dabba. Supersub.

Bubbles, Dimples, Cuddles, Pinky.

Poison Ivy, Vulture, Stinky.

Jigger, Jabbo, Jolting Joe

Blue Moon, Boom Boom

Bubba, Bo

The Great One

Roberto Clemente: "Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.''

Broadcaster Vin Scully: "Clemente could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania."

Baseball and Writing

(From a poem by Marianne Moore)

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting

and baseball is like writing.

You can never tell with either

how it will go

or what you will do;

generating excitement --

a fever in the victim --

pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.

To whom does it apply?

Who is excited? Might it be I?

Contact us at pleo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112.


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