My friend Joe Ragont, a graphic artist who has done a lot of work for me over the past decade or so, is a huge Cubs fan. It is no secret that I am anything but a Cubs fan. Friendship, however, overrules the angst of baseball rivalry. Joe celebrated his 68th birthday this week and I gave him a baseball book to celebrate. It was a huge book with fascinating stories about the numbers players have worn down through the past 75 years or so. (Until about 1930 no team wore uniform numbers. The Yankees were the first and assigned numbers based on their starting batting order, thus Ruth wore number 3 and Gehrig wore number 4, etc.)

This little birthday celebration got us both dreaming about the season and how teams like the Sox, Braves and Cubs would perform this year. Joe was a bat boy for the 1954 Cubs and knew every number of every player on the roster when I quizzed him on Thursday at lunch.

All of this got me to reading baseball quips today for the sheer fun of it all. My all-time favorite baseball quips come from Casey Stengel (1891-1975), the famous manager. He was good for more laughs than about anyone ever associated with this great game. Here are a few Stengelisms:

"I broke in with four hits and the writers promptly declared thay had seen the new Ty Cobb. It took me only a few days to correct the impression."

"The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided."

On winning the 1958 World Series, over my beloved Braves, Casey said, "I couldn’t have done it without my players."

"You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls."

"Jerry Lumpe looks like the best hitter in the world until you put him in the lineup."

"I was such a dangerous hitter that I even got intentional walks in batting practice."

One living former player, and now Padres broadcaster, Jerry Coleman is almost as funny as Casey. Here are a few of his choicest lines:

"I’ve made a couple of mistakes I’d like to do over."

"Johnny Grubb slides into second with a standup double."

"All the Padres need is a flyball in the air."

"Houston has its largest crowd of the night here this evening."

"The first pitch to Tucker Ashford is grounded into left field. No, wait a miniute. It’s ball one. Low and outside."

But I listened to Harry Caray call games on radio in St. Louis and Chicago for a lifetime and his mistakes were so common that he tops Coleman’s blunders. The difference is one never knew how sober Harry really was at the time.

I am counting the days now till I hear "Play Ball." I bought some White Sox tickets this week and even saw the snow covered U. S. Cellular Field in person. It looked very odd, especially with some seats missing that are being replaced over the winter, but imagination can work wonders for a true fan even on a cold snowy day in Chicago. Spring Training begins in a little over four weeks and spring games in less than six. Winter will end and life will begin again for the fan.

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  1. Steve Scott January 20, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    The Giants signed Barry Zito and he’s keeping his #75. It looks strange on any uniform. My favorite Stengelism is when he was 75 years old: “most people my age are dead at the present time.” I can’t wait for the first spring training game broadcast on radio.

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