Caps off to Frank Deford for two superb pieces that captured the essence of baseball, A Time for All Us Children (March 27) and Spring Has Sprung (April 10). As with eating Cracker Jack, the more you read of Deford's baseball reflections, the more you want. Now, if I could only find the prize.
THOMAS M. FRON
Johnson City, N.Y.
I have never before written a letter to any editor, but your great articles on baseball and, especially, the humor in Frank Deford's April 10 piece on Opening Day conspired to change that. I laughed until I cried, and laughed again. Finally, quietly, I wiped away my tears. I am thankful that I have lived to see many of the wonderful characters and events that Deford described.
ROBERT M. SLATER
Green Valley, Ariz.
As a charter subscriber I guess I've written to you once every 10 years, and each of my letters has dealt with the game of baseball. This time it is in reference to Frank De-ford's story of Opening Day, specifically his footnote reference to Casey at the Bat and his question as to why "Jimmy Blake" of the third stanza became "Johnny" in the fourth. As I remember the poem—and it is one of two or three I have memorized—the lines in the fourth stanza are:
And when the dust had lifted, and they saw what had occurred,
There was Blakey safe at second, and Flynn a-huggin' third.
Blake's first name wasn't given.
San Gabriel, Calif.
?In his book The Annotated Casey at the Bat, Martin Gardner says, "Hundreds of versions of Casey have been printed, and seldom have two been exactly alike." However, he also gives the original of the ballad "exactly as it appeared" in the San Francisco Examiner of June 3, 1888. It was in that version that Blake was first identified as "Jimmy" and then as "Johnnie," the latter name, according to Gardner, being "a printer's mistake." Ernest L. Thayer, author of the poem, later issued a revised version in which Blake was identified as "Jimmy" in the fourth stanza. The reference to "Blakey" appears in what Gardner calls a "corrupted" version, which "introduced many changes...that persisted through most later printings."—ED.
The original shortstop on the Who's on First? team was not "I Don't Care." Because the routine was intended for burlesque houses where blue material was allowed, "I Don't Give a Damn" was the starting shortstop. Only when Abbott and Costello moved into family-oriented vaudeville, radio and movies was I Don't Give a Damn released (or allowed to play out his option) and replaced by "I Don't Give a Darn." Whenever this proved too strong, I Don't Give a Darn gave way to the rookie I Don't Care. Of course, I Don't Give a Damn went to Hollywood and enjoyed a memorable motion picture career teaming up with "Frankly, My Dear."
North Hollywood, Calif.
BEHIND THE PLATE
Congratulations and thanks to Melissa Ludtke for her fantastic feature on baseball's "men in blue" and their relationship with major league catchers (The Despot and the Diplomat, April 10). Once again SI has succeeded in bringing the fan closer to the game.
I realize that booing the umpire is as American as the game itself, but I hope Ludtke's story will help bring the ump the respect we all know he deserves.
PAUL R. POLITO JR.
After reading Melissa Ludtke's article, I'm sure that the former players and coaches who now stay close to the game by umpiring amateur baseball recognize that their problems are similar to those of the umpires in the big leagues. For baseball to remain both fun and competitive at all levels, instant replays, computers and other mechanical devices must never replace the men in blue.
Pueblo Baseball Umpires Association