- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2001

In his new book, "Hardball on the Hill: Baseball Stories From Our Nation's Capital," which will be published April 2 by Triumph Books, author Jim Roberts relates a couple of amusing jokes told by former president Ronald Reagan, who used to recreate Chicago Cubs games in the 1930s before Hollywood and politics crooked their fingers.
According to Roberts, founder and president of the Radio America news network, Reagan offered this goody during a Washington speech in 1975: A new father didn't know how to change a diaper, so his wife explained it like this: "Pretend the diaper is a baseball diamond. Fold second base until it touches home plate, and lay the baby's bottom where the mound would be. Now bring first base, third base and home plate together and fasten with a safety pin… . One more thing: If it starts to rain, the game isn't called you just start over."
And this: After watching a rookie center fielder commit several errors, rock-rumped manager Frankie Frisch snatched the glove away and snarled, "I'll show you how to play this position." The next batter hit a line drive that Frisch missed, falling down in the process. Whereupon, he threw down the glove and yelled at the rookie, "You've got center field so screwed up, nobody can play it."
And you thought the Gipper was a football guy.

Bad call

News item: Major League Baseball to conduct demonstrations of the "new" strike zone for the media in Florida and Arizona.
Comment: With apologies to Washington's slate jazzmeister, Duke Ellington, it don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing.

No Gretzky comeback

You won't find many NHL owners this side of Mario Lemieux lacing up and taking a turn on the ice. But when the Phoenix Coyotes' big boss skated onto the ice one day last week, the players stopped and stared.
Of course, he was Wayne Gretzky.
"It was a blast," Gretzky said after his 20-minute first skate with players since his retirement two years ago. "It was nice to get back out there and have a little fun. I'll do it again soon and whenever I get the chance."
Rookie defenseman Ossi Vaananen said he felt a little weird because "this man I watched and idolized on TV, all of a sudden he's right there in front of me."
Naturally, Gretzky's outing prompted the question of whether the Great One might emulate former archrival Lemieux, who is knocking 'em dead with the Pittsburgh Penguins once more this season.
Gretzky's answer was short and sweet: "Not a chance."
Aww.

Maz enjoys his dream

On Tuesday, Bill Mazeroski of everlasting Pittsburgh Pirates fame was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. After that, other tributes just came flooding.
Both Pittsburgh and Bradenton, Fla. the Pirates' spring training home proclaimed a Bill Mazeroski Day. Pittsburgh also decided to rename a street in Mazeroski's honor outside new PNC Park. The street that runs along the west side of the stadium will be changed from the Avenue of the Pirates to Mazeroski Way. And Aug. 10 will be Bill Mazeroski Day at PNC Park five days after he is enshrined at Cooperstown.
"This is all a little too much," Mazeroski said. "It's just hard to believe that all this is happening to me. Everything has been like a dream."
That's only fair because Mazeroski's ninth-inning home run that beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series still seems like a dream to Pirates fans with a little gray in their hair and a nightmare to old Yankees supporters.

Eminently quotable

Former Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach, on whether Troy Aikman should retire after being dropped by the Cowboys: "I really feel there's something in your gut that has to tell you when to retire. It really is an instinct inside. It's something you can't talk someone out of." …
Former Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox catcher Charles Johnson, on returning to the Florida Marlins after his best offensive season (.304, 31 home runs, 91 RBI): "It's a totally different role from what I had here before. I was in the eight hole and focused on catching. Now they're looking for me to drive in runs and do my thing offensively, which is great for me. I'm excited about it."

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