Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thorn: If Who’s on First, Who’s in Write?

When I published this classic in The Armchair Book of Baseball in 1985, I prefaced it by writing:

This classic assault on sense and syntax is generally associated with Abbott and Costello, who, having performed it in the 1945 film Naughty Nineties, are presumed to have written it. They didn’t. Who did? Naturally.

I went on to say that the skit was of anonymous authorship, as were some 2,000 other stock burlesque bits in Abbott and Costello’s repertoire. Afterwards, however, I learned that they aired “Who’s on First?” as far back as 1938, when they performed it on Kate Smith’s radio show, and that the skit had an author: Irving Gordon (1915-96), a versatile fellow who also wrote Nat King Cole’s 1951 hit song, “Unforgettable,” as well as “Prelude to a Kiss” for Duke Ellington, “What Can I Tell My Heart?” for Bing Crosby, “Throw Mama from the Train” for Patti Page and—in a song title for Billie Holiday that puts one in mind of “Who’s on First?”—the strangely populated “Me, Myself and I.”

Presumably not this one.

The District Attorney Posted: January 13, 2012 at 11:02 AM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: special topics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Dale Sams Posted: January 13, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4036210)
   2. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4036220)
in a song title for Billie Holiday that puts one in mind of “Who’s on First?”—the strangely populated “Me, Myself and I.”

Jeez, DA, if you're going to mock the title, at least give us a link to the real version.
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4036239)
Irving Gordon's authorship of the skit is far from clear. Many people have claimed authorship.

He did, however, write "Delaware"
   4. The District Attorney Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:22 PM (#4036246)
Not mocking! De La Soul is awesome.
   5. Bob Evans Posted: January 13, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4036251)
He did, however, write "Delaware"


   6. Bruce Markusen Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:07 PM (#4036308)
"Who's on First" still plays regularly in the Hall of Fame Library--customers just have to push a button to start the video--and it's still funny after 5,000 listens.

Now, I wouldn't want to listen to it continuously throughout the day, but hearing it every once in awhile is still amusing. The timing of Abbott and Costello, along with their ability to keep constant track of the names, is nearly flawless. There is one point where Costello almost forgets the name of Abbott's character, named Mr. Broadhurst, but he recovers just in time. Remarkable.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:20 PM (#4036332)
To be clear, he wrote the lyrics for Prelude to a Kiss.
   8. Howie Menckel Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:25 PM (#4036342)

As long as Hu's not on short, you're ok.....

   9. OsunaSakata Posted: January 13, 2012 at 02:40 PM (#4036359)
While "Who's on First" was funny, it really wasn't about baseball, unlike George Carlin's difference between football and baseball routine. However, if it's done right, riffing off Who's on First can be hilarous, even today.
   10. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 13, 2012 at 03:15 PM (#4036392)
There was a Kids in the Hall skit where they start off doing the bit but then Dave Foley says, "wait, I understand the confusion here" and then proceeds to explain the joke, much to the chagrin of Kevin McDonald who then calls him the "worst straight man ever."
   11. Eugene Freedman Posted: January 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM (#4036431)
De La Soul is awesome.

If you like that alternative hippy rap. Not I. Couldn't stand them or Tribe then and still can't. Although I can't stand anything other than underground now.
   12. Vance W Posted: January 13, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4036577)
If Irving Gordon really did write "Who's on First" and "Unforgettable" he deserves to be much more famous than he is.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.



<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF


Thanks to
for his generous support.


You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogIndians shut out Cubs in World Series Game 1 |
(30 - 3:21pm, Oct 26)
Last: zonk

NewsblogOT: NBA 2016-17 Preseason Thread
(314 - 3:21pm, Oct 26)
Last: jmurph

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 10-26-2016
(5 - 3:14pm, Oct 26)
Last: vortex of dissipation

(71 - 3:13pm, Oct 26)
Last: zonk

NewsblogAre statheads responsible for the most exciting postseason in years
(38 - 3:10pm, Oct 26)
Last: What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?

NewsblogThe Big League Prospect Who Became a Mob Hit Man - The New York Times
(25 - 2:48pm, Oct 26)
Last: Lassus

NewsblogMLB cancels its Dominican showcase after players protest an international draft
(1 - 2:41pm, Oct 26)
Last: dejarouehg

NewsblogDave Dombrowski explains how he is reconfiguring Red Sox’ front office|Full Count
(6 - 2:37pm, Oct 26)
Last: Jose Remains The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

Gonfalon CubsGame 1 Feelings
(54 - 2:31pm, Oct 26)
Last: What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?

NewsblogOTP 2016 October 24: Breitbart Radio Exclusive: Curt Schilling Joins Breitbart News Rotation Weekdays 9AM to 11AM ET
(566 - 2:22pm, Oct 26)
Last: Bitter Mouse, Space Tyrant

NewsblogCubs-Indians World Series Game 1 draws best game 1 overnight rating since 2009
(5 - 1:57pm, Oct 26)
Last: Traderdave

NewsblogOT: October-November 2016 Soccer Thread
(75 - 1:05pm, Oct 26)
Last: jmurph

NewsblogThe Human Splinter
(3 - 1:04pm, Oct 26)
Last: Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 1998 Discussion
(24 - 11:49am, Oct 26)
Last: Tubbs is Bobby Grich when he flys off the handle

NewsblogHarry Caray Surprises Jimmy Kimmel - YouTube
(5 - 10:52am, Oct 26)
Last: The_Ex

Page rendered in 0.1730 seconds
47 querie(s) executed