WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 — Baseball is the most talked and written about of all sports. Below are 20 of my favorite quotes of all time. Some might be from before your time, but they are all gems.
1. “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” That was “Wee Willie” Keeler explaining the secret of his hitting prowess after setting a record in 1896, for his 45 game hitting streak, which stood until 1941, when the record was broken by “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio.
2. “I should of stood in bed,” complained boxing manager Joe Jacobs about the bitter cold weather for the opening game of the 1934 World Series between the Saint Louis Cardinals “Gashouse Gang” and the Detroit Tigers.
3. “I’d rather be lucky than good,” said Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez about the “breaks of the game” on any given day.
4. “A ballplayer should quit when it starts to feel like all the baselines run uphill,” said Babe Ruth as he neared the end of his career.
5. “Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League,” wrote sports editor Charlie Dryden in the San Francisco Examiner, in 1909.
6. “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken feathers,” lamented Joe Kuhel upon being fired as manager of the bottom-dwelling Washington Senators, in 1949.
7. “Young man, if that bat comes down, you’re out of the game,” yelled umpire Bill Klem when an angry batter tossed his bat 20 feet in the air upon being called out on strikes.
8. “I ought to break this trophy into 32 pieces,” graciously said number 42, Jackie Robinson, upon receiving the award for outstanding play in 1947.
9. “The Hell with Babe Ruth!” shouted Japanese soldiers on Guadalcanal during WWII, in retort to the American G.Is insulting their Emperor.
10. “I had a better year,” Babe Ruth told a reporter who asked why his salary was higher than that of the president of the United States.
11. “He would be the league’s best pitcher if the plate was high and wide,” wrote Bob Cooke, sportswriter for the Herald Tribune, about the wildness of a Dodgers pitcher.
12. Asked how he enjoyed rooming with Babe Ruth, “I room with his suitcase” answered Ping Bodie, whose real name was Franceto Sanguenitta Pizzola.
13. “A hotdog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz,” said legendary film star Humphrey Bogart.
14. An anonymous taxi driver in Manhattan gets credit for this one. Being told by a passenger who hopped into his cab that the Dodgers had three men on base, he asked, “Which one?” This was because the previous day (Aug. 15, 1926), two “Bums” had been called out when three players tried to occupy third base at the same time.
15. “The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing.” So said Dizzy Dean the day after being hit in the head by a pitched ball in the1934 World Series.
16. Asked to make a comment upon the death of his long-time teammate Joe DiMaggio, baseball’s premier philosopher, Yogi Berra, said: “He was the best living player I ever saw.”
17. “I always had to be right in any argument I was in,” Ty Cobb said, “and I wanted to be first in everything.”
18. “A bad call in baseball is one that goes against you,” read a TV Guide article.
19. “I’ve never left a game before it ended,” said Richard Nixon. “You never know when there could be a big turnaround in the game.”
20. “Some day I’m going to have to stand before God,” said Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, “and if He asks me why I didn’t let that Robinson fellow play ball, I don’t think saying ‘because of the color of his skin’ would be a good enough answer.”
These, then, are some of my favorite baseball quotes. Watch for an upcoming column called, “20 More Favorite Baseball Quotes.” Meanwhile, feel free to let me know some of yours favorites. Until then see you in the bleachers.
Vance Garnett’s writings have appeared in major newspapers and magazines. They have won the praise of such luminaries as the legendary Paul Harvey, White House speechwriter/columnist William Safire, and Mr. Shirley Povich, dean of American sportswriters.
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