One of Baseball’s All-Time Funny Men [4th Inning]
Watching baseball played on astro-turf inside a dome just isn’t the same as when it’s played on freshly mowed grass outdoors in the sunshine. There being so many outdoor baseball enthusiasts, my friend Julian was able to organize fans – of both sexes – by the bus load for weekend baseball treks to Milwaukee and Chicago. We’d leave from Midway Shopping Center at 10 a.m. on a Friday, stop at the Leinenkugel Brewery for the tour and free beer, tailgate and attend a minor league game in Madison on Friday night, be at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon, Comiskey Park Saturday night and a Brewers game on Sunday, telling baseball stories all the way. That’s how I met Al Milstein, one of baseball’s all-time funny men, on the bus getting us to name the all-fish team: Rainbow Trout, Catfish Hunter, Mudcat Grant, etc.
The Twins would have a “Fan Appreciation Nite” the last home game of the season and give away a brand new car to one lucky ticket holder. Kent Hrbek, the Twins great first baseman, was making extra money doing radio commercials extolling the virtues of Kennedy Transmission. Turns out Hrbek was the one on the mound after the game to give away the keys and Milstein was the lucky fan whose ticket had just been drawn. The mic was on for the presentation. As Hrbek handed over the keys, Milstein said loud enough for everyone in the park to hear, “Guess I know where I’ll take it if the tranny goes.” Hrbek goes “Huhhh?”
Later, Mike Veeck, owner of the St. Paul Saints Baseball Club, the son of Bill Veeck, and just as much of a baseball maverick as his dad, hired Milstein to do the “color” at Saints games. Al would be up in the booth with the guy announcing the game to add a little color. This particular night Veeck had brought in a mime crew to mime the game of baseball between innings. About the middle of the 4th inning it was clear the mimes were doing a poor job of being entertaining, the crowd seemed restless, and so Al brought the house down when he announced, “A mime is a terrible thing and a waste.”
Tomorrow: Tossing Marshmallows