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The Classic Abbott & Costello Baseball Skit!

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Named in 1999 as Best Comedy Sketch of the 20th century by Time Magazine Who's on First? is a legendary comedy routine made famous by the comedy team of Abbott and Costello, and for which they are arguably now best remembered. The premise of the routine is that Abbott is identifying the players on a baseball team to Costello, but their nicknames can be interpreted as non-responsive answers to Costello's questions.

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Click to listen: Who's On First?

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If your looking for the text of the skit - we've transcribed it for you below. You'll get an appreciation of just how skilled Abbott & Costello were if you print it out and go through the routine with a friend! Lots of laughs!


From the 1947 Show
ABBOTT: Well Costello, I'm going to New York with you. You know Bookie Harris, the Yankee's manager, gave me a job as coach for as long as you're on the team.
COSTELLO: Look Abbott, if you're the coach, you must know all the players.
ABBOTT: I certainly do.
COSTELLO: Well you know I've never met the guys. So you'll have to tell me their names, and then I'll know who's playing on the team.
ABBOTT: Oh, I'll tell you their names, but you know it seems to me they give these ball players now-a-days very peculiar names.
COSTELLO: You mean funny names?
ABBOTT: Strange names, pet names... like Dizzy Dean...
COSTELLO: His brother Daffy.
ABBOTT: Daffy Dean...
COSTELLO: And their French cousin.
ABBOTT: French?
COSTELLO: Goofe.
ABBOTT: Goofe Dean. Well, let's see, we have on the bags, Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third...
COSTELLO: That's what I want to find out.
ABBOTT: I say Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know's on third.
COSTELLO: Are you the manager?
ABBOTT: Yes.
COSTELLO: You gonna be the coach too?
ABBOTT: Yes.
COSTELLO: And you don't know the fellows' names?
ABBOTT: Well I should.
COSTELLO: Well then who's on first?
ABBOTT: Yes.
COSTELLO: I mean the fellow's name.
ABBOTT: Who.
COSTELLO: The guy on first.
ABBOTT: Who.
COSTELLO: The first baseman.
ABBOTT: Who.
COSTELLO: The guy playing...
ABBOTT: Who is on first!
COSTELLO: I'm asking YOU who's on first.
ABBOTT: That's the man's name.
COSTELLO: That's who's name?
ABBOTT: Yes.
COSTELLO: Well go ahead and tell me.
ABBOTT: That's it.
COSTELLO: That's who?
ABBOTT: Yes.
COSTELLO: Look, you gotta first baseman?
ABBOTT: Certainly.
COSTELLO: Who's playing first?
ABBOTT: That's right.
COSTELLO: When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?
ABBOTT: Every dollar of it.
COSTELLO: All I'm trying to find out is the fellow's name on first base.
ABBOTT: Who.
COSTELLO: The guy that gets...
ABBOTT: That's it.
COSTELLO: Who gets the money...
ABBOTT: He does, every dollar. Sometimes his wife comes down and collects it.
COSTELLO: Whose wife?
ABBOTT: Yes.
ABBOTT: What's wrong with that?
COSTELLO: Look, all I wanna know is when you sign up the first baseman, how does he sign his name?
ABBOTT: Who.
COSTELLO: The guy.
ABBOTT: Who.
COSTELLO: How does he sign...
ABBOTT: That's how he signs it.
COSTELLO: Who?
ABBOTT: Yes.
COSTELLO: All I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name on first base.
ABBOTT: No. What is on second base.
COSTELLO: I'm not asking you who's on second.
ABBOTT: Who's on first.
COSTELLO: One base at a time!
ABBOTT: Well, don't change the players around.
COSTELLO: I'm not changing nobody!
ABBOTT: Take it easy, buddy.
COSTELLO: I'm only asking you, who's the guy on first base?
ABBOTT: That's right.
COSTELLO: Ok.
ABBOTT: All right.
COSTELLO: What's the guy's name on first base?
ABBOTT: No. What is on second.
COSTELLO: I'm not asking you who's on second.
ABBOTT: Who's on first.
COSTELLO: I don't know.
ABBOTT: He's on third, we're not talking about him.
COSTELLO: Now how did I get on third base?
ABBOTT: Why you mentioned his name.
COSTELLO: If I mentioned the third baseman's name, who did I say is playing third?
ABBOTT: No. Who's playing first.
COSTELLO: What's on first?
ABBOTT: What's on second.
COSTELLO: I don't know.
ABBOTT: He's on third.
COSTELLO: There I go, back on third again!
COSTELLO: Would you just stay on third base and don't go off it.
ABBOTT: All right, what do you want to know?
COSTELLO: Now who's playing third base?
ABBOTT: Why do you insist on putting Who on third base?
COSTELLO: What am I putting on third.
ABBOTT: No. What is on second.
COSTELLO: You don't want who on second?
ABBOTT: Who is on first.
COSTELLO: I don't know.
ABBOTT & COSTELLO: Third base!
COSTELLO: Look, you gotta outfield?
ABBOTT: Sure.
COSTELLO: The left fielder's name?
ABBOTT: Why.
COSTELLO: I just thought I'd ask you.
ABBOTT: Well, I just thought I'd tell ya.
COSTELLO: Then tell me who's playing left field.
ABBOTT: Who's playing first.
COSTELLO: I'm not... stay out of the infield! I want to know what's the guy's name in left field?
ABBOTT: No, What is on second.
COSTELLO: I'm not asking you who's on second.
ABBOTT: Who's on first!
COSTELLO: I don't know.
ABBOTT & COSTELLO: Third base!
COSTELLO: The left fielder's name?
ABBOTT: Why.
COSTELLO: Because!
ABBOTT: Oh, he's centerfield.
COSTELLO: Look, You gotta pitcher on this team?
ABBOTT: Sure.
COSTELLO: The pitcher's name?
ABBOTT: Tomorrow.
COSTELLO: You don't want to tell me today?
ABBOTT: I'm telling you now.
COSTELLO: Then go ahead.
ABBOTT: Tomorrow!
COSTELLO: What time?
ABBOTT: What time what?
COSTELLO: What time tomorrow are you gonna tell me who's pitching?
ABBOTT: Now listen. Who is not pitching.
COSTELLO: I'll break your arm, you say who's on first! I want to know what's the pitcher's name?
ABBOTT: What's on second.
COSTELLO: I don't know.
ABBOTT & COSTELLO: Third base!
COSTELLO: Gotta a catcher?
ABBOTT: Certainly.
COSTELLO: The catcher's name?
ABBOTT: Today.
COSTELLO: Today, and tomorrow's pitching.
ABBOTT: Now you've got it.
COSTELLO: All we got is a couple of days on the team.
COSTELLO: You know I'm a catcher too.
ABBOTT: So they tell me.
COSTELLO: I get behind the plate to do some fancy catching, Tomorrow's pitching on my team and a heavy hitter gets up. Now the heavy hitter bunts the ball. When he bunts the ball, me, being a good catcher, I'm gonna throw the guy out at first base. So I pick up the ball and throw it to who?
ABBOTT: Now that's the first thing you've said right.
COSTELLO: I don't even know what I'm talking about!
ABBOTT: That's all you have to do.
COSTELLO: Is to throw the ball to first base.
ABBOTT: Yes!
COSTELLO: Now who's got it?
ABBOTT: Naturally.
COSTELLO: Look, if I throw the ball to first base, somebody's gotta get it. Now who has it?
ABBOTT: Naturally.
COSTELLO: Who?
ABBOTT: Naturally.
COSTELLO: Naturally?
ABBOTT: Naturally.
COSTELLO: So I pick up the ball and I throw it to Naturally.
ABBOTT: No you don't, you throw the ball to Who.
COSTELLO: Naturally.
ABBOTT: That's different.
COSTELLO: That's what I said.
ABBOTT: You're not saying it...
COSTELLO: I throw the ball to Naturally.
ABBOTT: You throw it to Who.
COSTELLO: Naturally.
ABBOTT: That's it.
COSTELLO: That's what I said!
ABBOTT: You ask me.
COSTELLO: I throw the ball to who?
ABBOTT: Naturally.
COSTELLO: Now you ask me.
ABBOTT: You throw the ball to Who?
COSTELLO: Naturally.
ABBOTT: That's it.
COSTELLO: Same as you! Same as YOU! I throw the ball to who. Whoever it is drops the ball and the guy runs to second. Who picks up the ball and throws it to What. What throws it to I Don't Know. I Don't Know throws it back to Tomorrow, Triple play. Another guy gets up and hits a long fly ball to Because. Why? I don't know! He's on third and I don't give a darn!
ABBOTT: What?
COSTELLO: I said I don't give a darn!
ABBOTT: Oh, that's our shortstop.

More Info

"Who's On First?" is descended from turn-of-the-century burlesque sketches like "The Baker Scene" (the shop is located on Watt Street) and "Who Dyed" (the owner is named Who). By the early 1930s, a "Baseball Routine" had become a standard bit for burlesque comics across the country.

Shortly after Abbott and Costello teamed up, they honed the sketch, using the nicknames of then-contemporary baseball players like Dizzy and Daffy Dean (and their alleged French cousin, Goofé) to set up the premise. Later, burlesque producer John Grant, who became the team's head writer, helped them refine it further. By 1944, Abbott and Costello had the routine copyrighted.

It was said that Abbott and Costello had performed "Who's On First?" 15,000 times in their careers, and rarely was it performed the same way twice. Once, they did the routine at President Roosevelt's request. It was featured in the team's 1940 film debut, One Night in the Tropics. The duo reprised the bit in their 1945 film The Naughty Nineties, and it is that version which is considered their finest recorded rendition. They also performed the routine numerous times on radio and television.

In 1956 a gold record of "Who's On First?" was placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame museum in Cooperstown, New York. A video (taken from "The Naughty Nineties") now plays continuously on screens at the Hall.

In 2005 the line "Who's On First?" was included on the American Film Institute's list of 100 memorable movie quotes.

The names given in the routine for the players at each position are:

  • First Base: Who
  • Second Base: What
  • Third base: I Don't Know
  • Left field: Why
  • Center Field: Because
  • Pitcher: Tomorrow
  • Catcher: Today
  • Shortstop: I Don't Give a Darn

The name of the shortstop is not given until the very end of the routine, and the right fielder is never identified, though an interpretation of the transcript could give his name as Naturally.

Abbott's explanations leave Costello hopelessly confused and infuriated, until the end of the routine when he finally appears to catch on. "You got a couple of days on your team?" He never quite figures out that the first baseman's name literally is "Who." But after all this he announces, "I don't give a darn!" ("Oh, that's our shortstop.") That is the most commonly heard ending, which varied depending on the perceived sensibilities of the audience. The even-milder 'I Don't Care' was used in the version seen in the film The Naughty Nineties. A recording of the obvious 'I Don't Give a Damn' has also turned up on occasion.



Some of the text above is from our friends at wikipedia.org

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