"Yes, you say that now, Willie, but back in 1968—dammit, Willie, couldn't you have stretched just a little bit and said, 'They're scared to get it up that high' or something, I don't know, just anything not to leave me dangling...."
"Yeah, man, I was wrong. It's been bothering me all these years, and I'm glad to have this chance—"
"So, if an RBI is a ribby, is a BFP a biffpy?"
In the early '70s I began to get acclimated, thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bob Veale yelling that he was going to reach down somebody's throat and pull out his liver. Manny Sanguillen limping around doing his impression of Roberto Clemente. Clemente self-diagnosing his stomach pain as bad blood that had traveled there from an injury in his wrist. Richie Hebner telling of his off-season job as a grave-digger: "One woman, they forgot to take off her wooden leg, and we had thrown several shovels of dirt on her already when somebody came up and said we have to get her back out so they could get her leg." The Pirates were forever hurling ethnic slurs at one another and lifting one another off the ground. Steve Blass tied his necktie so that it was about half the normal length and informed a flight attendant, "I'm the one in the short tie." And they seemed not to mind my being around, even after I reported on a group entertainment of theirs that relied upon the element of surprise.
"I can pick up three men," Tony Bartirome would say.
"Naw, you got a bad back," someone would respond.
"I mean it. I'll bet a hundred dollars."
Finally, after a lot of arguing and money-waving back and forth, Bartirome would get a new team member to lie on the floor, and then he would direct two heavy guys, say Willie Stargell and Dock Ellis, to lock their arms and legs around the new teammate's. Dave Giusti would get down to judge whether all three would in fact clear the floor at once.
"All right," Bartirome would say. "When I say strain, you strain. Strain."
Stargell, Ellis and the pigeon would brace themselves.