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Baseball--It's a Grand Old Game: Take It With a Grain of Laughter

April 28, 1985|United Press International

NEW YORK — No sport has produced as much humor as baseball.

From the farm-breds of the 1920s and 1930s who traveled the trains to the modern Wall Street brokers who flit around the country in jets, baseball people have always viewed their sport with a special charm.

Some experts theorize that it is a device to relieve the tension of the long season and others suggest different reasons. No matter. Such as follows has served to brighten sports pages for as long as the game has been played.

The young pitcher was about to make his first start for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s. For a while he paced up and down the dugout. Then he sat alone with his thoughts. This was a big chance and he was nervous.

Manager Charlie Dressen was a man who believed the players were mere pawns who acted out his thoughts. He went over to the kid and put an arm around him.

"Don't worry, son," he said. "Just hold 'em for a few innings and I'll think of something."

This was the spring of 1936 and Manager Joe McCarthy of the New York Yankees was having his first look at rookie Joe DiMaggio. McCarthy and a few newspapermen sat in the dugout in St. Petersburg, Fla., and watched with admiration the young player's graceful mannerisms.

DiMaggio hit a succession of line drives in batting practice. Then he loped to the outfield and shagged flies across a wide range. Occasionally he rifled one-bounce throws to the infield.

"He looks good," said one newsman. "But with that wide stance, can he bunt?

"I'll never know," said McCarthy.

All-time home run king Hank Aaron was always being razzed as a young player for two reasons: (1) he shifted his weight to his front leg as he swung his bat and (2) he always batted with the label up.

Asked for an explanation of the latter, Aaron turned his sleepy eyes on the interviewer and answered, "I don't go up to the plate to read."

Dizzy Dean, a 30-game winner for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934 and a great pitcher until he injured his arm in 1937, had a running humorous relationship with Frank Frisch, the irascible manager of the Gas House Gang.

"You're a lazy bum," Frisch once shouted at Dean during a clubhouse meeting. "I told you to pick a hero and imitate him. All you do is sit around the dugout shooting off your mouth."

"I done what you said," answered Dean. "I picked you."

"The first rule of baseball," counseled Uncle Wilbert Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles in 1892, "is if at first you don't succeed, try the outfield."

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