Abbott & Costello routine on baseball a hit!
Here’s a trivia question: Who were the first non-baseball people to be elected to the baseball Hall of Fame?
If you answered Abbott & Costello you would be absolutely correct. You might be asking why that comedy duo would be so honored. Ever heard of “Who’s on First?”
Abbott & Costello’s most famous routine was “Who’s on First?” The sketch is about Abbott identifying baseball players on a team for Costello. However, their names as well as their nicknames can be thought to be non-responsive to Costello’s question. For example, when Costello answers that “Who” is on first, meaning that the first baseman’s name is “Who,” Abbott is thinking that Costello does not really understand the question instead of thinking that the first baseman’s real name is “Who”.
The comedy duo made the routine part of their act, and it was a hit in 1937 when they performed it in a touring vaudeville revue called “Hollywood Bandwagon.”
In March 1938, merely a month after Abbott and Costello joined The Kate Smith Hour radio program cast, they performed “Who’s on First?” for a national radio audience.
President Franklin Roosevelt was a huge follower of the duo and the sketch. The routine was also performed in the 1940 film One Night in the Tropics as well as in the 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties.
A gold record of “Who’s on First?” was put in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York in 1956. In fact, a video of Abbott & Costello performing the routine plays non-stop on screens at the Hall of Fame.
An enormous amount of notoriety has been bestowed on the skit. For example, a Who’s on First? Board game was distributed in the 1970s. In 1999, Time magazine named the routine Best Comedy sketch of the twentieth century. In 2005, the American Film Institute included the line “Who’s on First?” in its list of the 100 most memorable movie quotations.
So now, what are the player’s names? The first baseman is “Who,” the second baseman is “What,” third baseman “I don’t know,” pitcher is “Tomorrow,” catcher is “Today,” left fielder “Why,” center fielder “Because,” and the shortstop is “I don’t care” (also, “I don’t give a darn” or “I don’t give a damn”).
With each of the Abbott explanations, Costello is confused and frustrated. Finally, at the end of the routine, Costello seems to have caught on.
There is doubt as to who actually wrote the sketch. The obituary of writer Michael Musto states that shortly after Abbott and Costello became a team, that they paid him $15 to write it. However, songwriter Irving Gordon is often given credit for writing it. The author’s identity will probably never be known.
Then of course is the amusing story about the Los Angeles Dodger announcer Vin Scully. There was a Dodger player in the 2007 season named Chin-Lung Hu. In a game that year, Hu singled. Scully then said, “Ok everybody, all together…Hu’s on first!”
As for “Who’s on First?” collectibles, a 1956 Abbott & Costello signed “Who’s on First?” record album sold for nearly $2,600. For that price at least it came with an album cover.
How about a couple more trivia questions. This one should be easy to answer. Which position was not named in the sketch? Of course, it was the right fielder. Ironically, in the board game, the right fielder is named “Nobody.”
Finally, and this is a real tough one. What is the team name on the uniforms that Abbott & Costello are wearing during the routine? I’ll give you a hint…don’t confuse them with the St. Louis Cardinals. The answer is the St. Louis Wolves. Told you it was difficult.