- - Thursday, July 21, 2016

This weekend, thousands of baseball fans will descend on Cooperstown, New York, for the induction ceremonies at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

They’ll enjoy seeing Hall of Famers around the small town, and watching the induction ceremonies of greats like Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr.

In between, they’ll likely tour the Hall and Museum — and see the great artifacts — plus have a few laughs, courtesy of the great comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

Sixty years ago, the gold record of the greatest comedy skit of all time — “Who’s on First” — was donated to the hall, and remains part of the exhibits, playing continuously on speakers on the third floor of the museum as people pass through.

So while people are walking through the “Sacred Ground” section of the museum, featuring a ticket booth from Yankee Stadium, a turnstile from the Polo Grounds, and Walter Johnson’s locker from Griffith Stadium, they’ll have a few laughs when they hear this:

Costello: 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.

Costello: The guy playing…

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: Look, you gotta first baseman?

Abbott: Certainly.

Costello: Who’s playing first?

Abbott: That’s right.

Costello: When you pay the first baseman every month, who gets the money?

Abbott: Every dollar of it.

Costello: All I’m trying to find out is the fellow’s name on first base.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The guy that gets …

Abbott: That’s it.

Costello: Who gets the money …

Abbott: He does, every dollar. Sometimes his wife comes down and collects it.

Costello: Who’s wife?

Abbott: Yes. What’s wrong with that?

Costello: Look, all I wanna know is when you sign up the first baseman, how does he sign his name?

Abbott: Who.

It stands today as the best – and most cherished – comedy routine in history, and is as much a part of baseball culture as “Take me out to the ballgame.”

The skit was created as a tribute to Hall of Famer, Joe DiMaggio, according to Costello’s daughter Chris, whose biography of her father, “Lou’s On First,” co-authored with Raymond Straight, has been reissued as an eBook for the 80th anniversary of the forming of the legendary comedy duo.

“That routine brings in more fans every year,” Chris said. “It is an honor. Years from now when we are gone that routine will still be remembered. It makes the whole family feel good.”

You would think growing up as the daughter of Lou Costello would be one comedy skit and pratfall after another. Not the case.

“Dad was just Dad going to work,” she said. “He was just a character. When you are young, you don’t comprehend it. I think I appreciated the work much more as an adult than as a child. He was a great dad. He was a lot quieter at home. But you put a kid around him or cameras around him, he became that character.”

This character – playing for fictional St. Louis Wolves – was a special one.

Chris said that her parents were good friends with Joe DiMaggio and his first wife, Dorothy Arnold. “They would pal around a lot,” she said. “Dad was an avid sports fan.”

Derived from an old English burlesque routine, “Who’s the Boss,” Lou and Bud wanted to do something baseball related for their friend DiMaggio. “It was Bud, Dad and John Grant who was their head comedy writer, who contributed the dialogue to it,” she said.

It nearly didn’t make it on stage.

Chris tells the story of how her father first tested it on his young cousin, Lou Rege.

“Dad wanted to get some feedback,” Chris said. “So his cousin comes over to the house, and dad and Bud are in the basement and perform the whole routine. Dad looked at Lou (Rege) and asked, ‘What do you think?’”

Cousin Lou folded his arms and told Abbott and Costello, “Ain’t gonna fly. Ain’t gonna fly. Don’t do it.”

Fortunately, they didn’t listen.

No one could have predicted, though, that decades later, “Who’s on First” would be as much a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Babe Ruth bat or Brooks Robinson glove.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide