By In Stuff

Who is at the Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As a father of two young daughters who care absolutely nothing about baseball, it’s important to cherish the few bright moments. There was the time I overheard my older daughter, Elizabeth, explaining to a boy her age what a closer is. There was a time I saw my younger daughter, Katie, trying to read the back of a baseball card.

And it just so happened that two great little baseball discoveries happened over the weekend.
First, I taught them the oldest joke on earth, the joke of the talking dog.

Second, I got to see them fall under the spell of “Who’s on First.”

You, of course, already know the story of the talking dog, but to set it up, I’ll give you a rendition. A man shows up at “America’s Got Talent” — you have to freshen up the setup for the 7- and 11-year-old audience — and announces that he has the world’s first talking dog. He is greeted with some skepticism, but this is America’s Got Talent, so they let him on stage.

“OK, Buster, talk to these fine people. If a surface isn’t smooth it’s …”

“Ruff,” Buster barks.

“Right! Rough! That’s amazing, isn’t it folks?”

The people begin to get a little antsy, so the man immediately says, “OK, they weren’t impressed with that one, Buster. Let’s pretend you’re my contractor. I’m noticing water dripping everywhere. Where would you begin looking?”

“Ruff,” Buster barks.

“Yes! Of course! You’d start with the roof! I’d hire Buster any time!”

Now, there are a few audible boos, which seems to fluster the man. “OK, Buster, they’re still not impressed. It’s time for the big one. I know you’re a big baseball fan. Tell me, who is the greatest baseball player of all time?”

“Ruff!” Buster barks.

“Babe Ruth! Absolutely! I don’t even think there’s an arg …” but by now the people have booed him off the stage and security has kicked them on to the street. After they dust themselves off, Buster turns to his owner and says, “You think I shoulda said DiMaggio?”

It’s old but it still gets the kids — at least my kids. But here’s the best part: My girls know NOTHING about baseball. If asked to name three baseball players, the only names that reliably might come to mind would be Babe Ruth, of course … Willie McCovey (from a “Wonder Years” baseball card episode) … and Mike Sweeney, whom Elizabeth got to meet and instantly loved. So they wanted to tell the joke back, but they couldn’t quite remember “DiMaggio.”

So the punch line I taught them is to have Buster turn to his owner and say: “You think I shoulda said Barry Bonds? I expect most people will discount his numbers because of the PED accusations.”

* * *

The wonder of watching my girls watch “Who’s On First” the first time was to see how it slowly, every so slowly, mesmerized them. It starts off so plain. OK, fine, Who is on first, What is on second, I Don’t Know is on third. I get it. Some wordplay. Big deal. I don’t know how your kids are, but my girls are quick to pronounce pretty much anything: Boring. It’s like there are boring rays shooting off everywhere, and they keep getting hit. The backseat of my car — especially since my wife has been driving it lately — overflows with their favorite books and crayons and dolls and magnetic things where you can put dresses on pictures of models and various electronic marvels and every Happy Meal toy that McDonald’s ever gave out and the wardrobe that can transport them to Narnia and three Oompah Loompahs and a pony that never grows up and magic ruby red slippers and flubber and two Snuggies and E.T. and a lamp that may or may not have a Genie in it.

“I’m bored,” they whine 15 seconds into any drive, every single time. That’s how long any bit of entertainment has to hold their attention. Fifteen seconds. They would have given up on Moby Dick two syllables into “Ishmael.” So when they started watching “Who’s on First,” they were so ready to move on to the next thing. But then, the bit starts doing its magic. The rat-tat-tat of the thing starts to get them smiling. The absurdity starts to create this beautiful comic tension.

Who’s on first?
The guy’s name on first?
The guy playing first base
Your first baseman.
What are ya asking me for?

As the crescendo keeps building, higher and higher, more and more ridiculous, Lou Costello getting madder and madder, the smiles turn to chuckles, turn to giggles, turn to laughs. It’s such an amazing moment to watch your children fall for something that you fell for so many years ago. To see them get scared by the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz, to see them laugh at “Put the candle back,” in Young Frankenstein, to see them do the Michael Jackson Thriller dance … these are what make all those “I’m bored” complaints worthwhile … or, if not worthwhile, at least sustainable.

After they watched it, once, twice, a third time, I explained to them again that I was going to the winter meetings where players might be traded. So, of course, they asked me to write a blog post about what would happen if someone traded for Who and What and other players.

So, dumb or not, a father will do pretty much anything for his daughters:

GM: I’m going to give you a scoop because I like you. We’re going to make a big trade. It’s not final yet but it’s really close.

Reporter (excitedly getting out notebook): Great. OK. You traded for who?

GM: Right. So you heard. I didn’t realize that it was already making the rounds.

Reporter: Heard what?

GM: Wow, you are really on this. You hanging out with Rosenthal?

Reporter: On what?

GM: Yes. Wow. Good job. We thought we’d kept that part quiet for sure. But yes. We got him.

Reporter: Got who?

GM: Yes, well, as you know, he was the key in the trade.

Reporter: Who was the key part of the deal?

GM: Right. But it’s a pretty involved trade. We got four other players.

Reporter: Four other players and who?

GM: Yes. I was surprised St. Louis gave up on him.

Reporter: Gave up on who?

GM: Exactly. Our scouts think he has three or four good years left.

Reporter: Who does?

GM: Yes.

Reporter: Wait, I’m confused. Who has three or four good years left?

GM: Yes. Well, we think so. Others might disagree.

Reporter: Disgree with what?

GM: No, we think our reports match up pretty well with other teams on him.

Reporter: What reports?

GM: Yes.

Reporter: Wait, a minute. What?

GM: Yes. And we got someone to play left field, which was a big priority this meetings.

Reporter: Who?

GM: No we’re keeping him at first base. We thought about moving him but we don’t think he’s fast enough for left.

Reporter: Who?

GM: Right.

Reporter: Who?

GM: He’s slowed down considerably.

Reporter:  Who has slowed down?

GM: Exactly.

Reporter: Um, your new left fielder?

GM: Why.

Reporter: Our readers would like to know.

GM: Why.

Reporter: Well, they’re interested in the club. Can you tell me off the record?

GM: I’m telling you on the record.

Reporter: OK. He is …

GM: Why.

Reporter: Because it will make the story stronger.

GM: Why.

Reporter: Do you not want to tell me who is playing left field?

GM: I told you already, Who is too slow to play left.

Reporter: OK, wait, so you’re putting who in left?

GM: No we most certainly are not. Not with his speed. Look, do you want this story or not?

Reporter: Yes.

GM: So let’s get through this already.

Reporter: OK, so you won’t tell me your new left fielder?

GM: Why.

Reporter: You don’t have to tell me.

GM: I’ve been telling you for 10 minutes.

Reporter: Any other players in this deal?

GM: We got a pitcher, Tomorrow.

Reporter: Pitcher of tomorrow? Is he not ready to go?

GM: Oh, he’s ready, he’ll pitch Opening Day.

Reporter: He’ll pitch Opening Day?

GM: Yes.

Reporter: So what’s the pitcher’s name?

GM: What will not pitch. Are you nuts? He hasn’t pitched since high school.

Reporter: Who hasn’t pitched since high school?

GM: I don’t think he ever pitched at all.

Reporter: Who?

GM: No. His arm has always been a liability.

Reporter: Who?

GM: Right. I think he was always a first baseman. Even in high school.

Reporter: Who was?

GM: Yes.

Reporter: OK, wait a minute. I’ll write this down. Wait, first, you traded who?

GM: No, we didn’t trade him, we just got him.

Reporter: Who?

GM: Right.

Reporter: OK, forget the players you traded. We’ll get those later. I think I’m getting this. Tomorrow is the pitcher you got. Got that. And you got a new left fielder …

GM: Why.

Reporter: Because you needed one.

GM: Yes.

Reporter: And you got a second baseman. What’s his name?

GM: Yes.

Reporter: And this mystery first baseman.

GM: Who.

Reporter: The first baseman.

GM: Who.

Reporter: Whatever. So I’m only counting four players. Who is the fifth?

GM: Jeff Francoeur.

Reporter: OK, now, I don’t understand this trade at all.

* * *

The best part is this: I have just walked through the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, where the winter meetings are being held, and there were a whole bunch of baseball writers talking to a whole bunch of baseball insiders. And their conversations, at least in passing, sounded almost exactly like this.

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23 Responses to Who is at the Winter Meetings

  1. ABH says:

    I love “Who’s on First,” and I am rarely amused by takeoffs on the original, but you did this so well I was cracking up the whole way through. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I shared “Who’s on First” with my then-9-year-old son two summers ago and it’s become a favorite of his that he insists on hearing in the car on the way to every baseball game, so I know exactly the feeling of watching a child appreciate its genius. Another great job, Joe.

  2. Reviewer says:

    Love this. Thanks Joe

  3. I need to give that movie Young Frankenstein another shot….

  4. Jonathan says:

    And somehow, Frenchy gets brought into the whole thing…brilliant!

  5. Dave says:

    Wonderful, Joe. Terrific punchline.

    Buddy of mine tells about how he showed “Who’s on First” to his twins a few years back. One of of them got the joke a little ahead of the other and started in on the other so it’s playing out on their sofa as well: “Who!” “I don’t know!” “Third base!”

    Says he was laughing so hard he had tears rolling down his cheeks.

  6. Unknown says:

    The way I see it you’ve wanted to do a take on “Who’s On First” for a long time but could never justify it as a reasonably serious journalist until you came up with the line about your daughters making you do it. I’m starting to wonder if you even have daughters 🙂
    At any rate, it was hilarious!

  7. Marty Winn says:

    Loved the Frenchy ending.

  8. Anthony says:

    This is why you’re the greatest, Joe.

  9. njwv says:

    One of these days there will be a firstbaseman of Chinese origin named Hu. I just hope I live to see that day.

  10. rcharbon says:

    You had me at Francoeur.

  11. “The catcher?” Because. “Why because?” You have to have a catcher, or Tomorrow will see a lot of passed balls.

  12. Sven Pride says:

    It was completely believable until you said Jeff Francoeur.

    • Rob Smith says:

      It’s amazing how Francoeur has gone from “The Natural”, the guy making it big in his home town (where he was already a HS legend). The guy who won two Baseball and two Football State titles. The guy who hit HRs (including a state title winning 3 run tape measure HR), played outfield and threw 95 MPH bullets as the closer (including closing out a title). The guy who played safety and wide receiver (and always had key TD catches and interceptions played in the local media) and was recruited at safety by Clemson… who he turned down because he was drafted first by the home town Braves. The walk off HR in one of his first games. The big first season (2nd half). A good, not great, follow up season…. and married his High School Sweetheart. Now he’s kind of a joke. It’s weird how this went.

  13. Crassus says:

    Joe, please tell me that the Royals aren’t trading Wil Myers? There are too many similarities between Royals trades and Hewlett-Packard acquisitions.

  14. Rob Smith says:

    I hesitate to bring this up, but Eight is Enough (old show, I know) actually had a decent parody of this with bands (Yes, The Who, etc.). I laughed at your new version of it too. With the complexity of some trades, some conversations might sound exactly like that!

  15. Big Ski says:

    Looking forward to when my boys get a bit older so I can watch “Who’s on First?” with them. Great stuff Joe

  16. Unknown says:

    Joe: you are right…it is the world’s oldest joke…and my daughter (who is 30!) and I tell it to each other all the time. We also made up a variation: “What is the shortest book in the Bible” (dog) “Ruth!” (dog, outside) “Do you think I should have said Obediah?”

  17. ballsteidhe says:

    Love that post, Joe. All of it. Great parody, especially the Frenchy reference 🙂
    Just by the way, this reminds me of the Vin Scully – Chin Lung Hu bit I’ve searching for a long time now. Any chance you know where to find it?

  18. mahoffmansts says:

    Omg the tears are rolling down my face!

  19. The people begin to get a little antsy, so the man immediately says, “OK, they weren’t impressed with that one, Buster.


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