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        A capacity crowd of nearly 100 people packed Pasadena, California’s Ice House Annex on Thursday, March 21, 2002 for the Baseball Reliquary’s All-Star Baseball Comedy Benefit. All proceeds generated from ticket sales went to support the Baseball Reliquary’s Ebbets Field Cake project, a charitable cause which was the subject of much good-natured ribbing by the performers.
        Coordinated by Jack Riley, Chris Epting, and Terry Cannon, the All-Star Baseball Comedy Benefit featured a superlative roster of stand-up comedians and performers, who have distinguished themselves for many years in television, radio, film, and theater. Joining together for this one night to perform a variety of baseball-related routines and anecdotes were, in alphabetical order, Richie Cantor, Ed Crasnick, Ed Driscoll, Jay Johnstone, Steve Landesberg, Tammy Nerby, Jack Riley, Ronnie Schell, Thom Sharp, Tom Tully, Lou Wagner, Fred Willard, and Paul Willson. Gary Owens served as master of ceremonies.

Jack Riley Ed Crasnick Steve Landesberg Jay Johnstone
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Photos courtesy of Larry Goren

        The following review of the event appeared in the April 1, 2002 edition of the Pasadena Star-News. Written by Jim McConnell, as part of his “Then and Now” column, the article is reprinted herewith in its entirety courtesy of the Pasadena Star-News and Mr. McConnell:

by Jim McConnell

        No fooling. The Baseball Reliquary threw out the first pitch of the local baseball season, and it was wild.
        The Pasadena-based, non-profit group is dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history. That, and a lot more, was accomplished recently at the Ice House Annex in Pasadena when the Reliquary staged its first All-Star Baseball Comedy Night.
        The event raised money for the Reliquary’s latest project, a 4-by-5 foot, non-edible cake replica of Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Perhaps more important, the evening reinforced the link between baseball and the arts — in this case, the performing arts.
        It turns out that almost every comedian has a take on the grand old game. And as long as Bud Selig is commissioner and Ruben Rivera is stealing gloves instead of bases, baseball will continue to provide America’s humorists with plenty of fodder.
        So there on the Ice House stage was Steve Landesberg of the old “Barney Miller” TV sitcom as “Bubba,” a burned-out, delusional baseball scout.

Gary Owens Steve Landesberg & Jack Riley Fred Willard

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Photos courtesy of Larry Goren

        In the bit, Bubba’s career arc definitely has crash-landed and he’s been assigned to Finland. But like every scout ever born, he touts the territory, having convinced himself that Barry Bonds is a product of the Helsinki Little League.
        Pressed on this point by interviewer Jack Riley (“Bob Newhart Show”), Bubba further insists that Finland produced a Hall of Fame pitcher.
        “Haven’t ya ever heard of Whitey Fjord?” he drawls.
        Thom Sharp, comedian, actor and lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, took a turn on the stage as well. Sharp’s prized possession is a 1958 Tigers jersey worn by Charlie Maxwell, an artifact he won by aggressively outbidding several other rabid Tigers fans in an auction. Telling his mom of his triumph, she responds, “Is Charlie your size?”
        Ed Driscoll, comedy writer for Billy Crystal, Dennis Miller, Louie Anderson, Howie Mandell and Drew Carey, among others, sympathized with Sharp. Driscoll is a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan. He now is convinced of two things: The team went down the tubes when it placed its top farm team in Hawaii — “What player in his right mind would want to leave Honolulu to play in Pittsburgh?” — and the team’s new stadium, PNC Park, stands for “Pirates Never Compete.”

Thom Sharp Ed Driscoll Tammy Nerby Lou Wagner

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Photos courtesy of Larry Goren

        Then there’s Tammy Nerby, a bright new talent from Minneapolis. She admits she has fantasized about marrying former Twins star Kirby Puckett and having him change his name.
        “Think of it. Kirby Nerby!” she said. “Is that great or what?”
        Nerby also admitted the talk of contraction is driving Twins fans crazy.
        “As a woman, I think I know enough about contractions to know you don’t want one unless it produces a baby,” she said.
        Veteran sitcom star Ronnie Schell portrayed an alter ego, a Dodger Stadium peanut vendor. In the bit, the vendor is worried he might have torn his rotator cuff firing bags of salted treats at fans and concerned he might be sued over the day he filled in for the ice cream guy and beaned a customer with a frozen sundae.
        From there, it got a whole lot crazier at the Ice House.
        Former major leaguer Jay Johnstone told the tale of his encounter with an unyielding nurse at Dodgertown in Vero Beach. He also did a mean impression of Tommy Lasorda, complete with saliva.
        As a special tribute to the Ebbets Field cake, Paul Willson appeared as the reincarnation of Brooklyn Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, “Uncle Robbie.”

Paul Willson & Tom Tully Richie Cantor Ronnie Schell Terry Cannon

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Photos courtesy of Larry Goren

        In the bit, “Uncle Robbie” has been booked on a sports talk show, where he mumbles answers that surely would have gotten him “bleeped” in record time and defends his total lack of knowledge about current major leaguers with the line, “Hey, whattaya expect? I’ve been dead for 50 years.”
        And so it went.
        Veteran comic Fred Willard had his turn at bat. Willard, one of the hottest supporting actors in Hollywood right now for his roles in “Waiting for Guffman” and “Best in Show,” said he once accompanied a fellow actor to a sandlot baseball game at Central Park in New York.
        “The game matched cast members from daytime soap operas against method actors,” Willard said. “The soap opera team could only play a couple innings a day, and the ninth inning had to be on Friday. And the method actors couldn’t play unless they had the proper motivation. As we speak, they’re still at home plate discussing the ground rules.”
        To end the evening, Willard and Lou Wagner jumped on stage and did a snippet of their version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine.
        Although this one isn’t quite ready for prime time, it was both a tribute to a timeless bit and a reminder that “laff” is a four-letter word.
        As the laughs and crowd gradually faded, Riley uttered the mantra of every baseball fan, and every comedian: “Wait ‘til next year.”