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Hey Readah! Hum Readah!

April 12, 2004
April 12, 2004

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April 12, 2004

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Hey Readah! Hum Readah!

Take in an eight-year-olds' baseball game this spring and
something will smack you right in the face.

This is an article from the April 12, 2004 issue Original Layout

The silence.

Where's the chatter? Where's the Nobatta nobatta nobatta ...
swing!?

Where's the catcher giving the nonstop Come kid, hum kid, you
chuck kid, you and me kid, powder river kid!?

Where are the songs that made no sense?

Pitcher's on his rocker,

Kissing Betty Crocker!

Or...Little baby batter

Can't control his bladder!

When I was skipper of the world-famous Nuts (team cheer: Goooooo
Nuts!), any player who couldn't hit or field had better be
chattering at least, and that meant most of them. Chatter means
players are behind each other. It also means a kid has his head
in the game, as opposed to standing at second base wondering how
many Estes D-model rocket engines he would have to duct-tape to
his butt to get himself to the moon--while a lovely double-play
ball trickles by unheeded.

(Unfortunately, by the time the Nuts turned 13 and 14 and started
shaving, the chatter got a little out of hand. One time our
shortstop hollered, "Hey, your mama has a toll-free number!"
Didn't go over big in the Catholic Youth Rec League.)

Plus, chatter gave a coach an extra language to convey subtle
messages. Hum kid! Rock and fire, kid! (Please get this one all
the way to the plate. Our catcher went home an hour ago.) Have an
eye, kid! Have an eye! (Please don't swing. Your only chance to
reach base this season is to walk.) You and the mitt, kid! Just
you and the mitt! (Please throw a strike this inning. I've got
theater tickets at seven.)

Of course, chatter rolled out of the tobacco-strewn pieholes of
many coaches at 56,000 bps whether they had anything to say or
not. A buddy of mine had a coach who would holler this before
every pitch: Hinkahduh hinkahduh, hum that rock! My buddy says it
took guys on the team two weeks to realize that Hinkahduh was not
the last name of the pitcher.

But these days, the only chatter you ever hear about is the kind
picked up by CIA operatives.

Not sure what happened to chatter, except that some youth
baseball organizations began thinking of it as "unsportsmanlike."
Wayne Christensen, who runs a huge league in Knoxville, Tenn.,
and the newsletter Baseball Parent, came out a while back and
said that even Hey batter, swing batter! was cruel and unfair.

Please.

Judge: Now, Mrs. Finsternick, explain to me why you're suing the
Little League for $3.2 million?

Mrs. Finsternick: Your honor, the other team was constantly
yelling, "Rally! Rally! The pitcher's name is Sally!" It caused
my poor Justin to develop LOSER--Low Self-Esteem Reflux!

Unsportsmanlike? Gag me. A coach screaming, "Come on ump! Open
your eye!" is unsportsmanlike. Chatter is the music of youth's
innocence. When I was seven, this was our idea of a brutal
insult: We wanna pitcher! Not an underwear stitcher!

Or...Hubba hubba hubba, ding ding ding, pitcher's got an arm,
like a washing machine.

Devastating.

If these brie-eating foofs like Christensen get their way, kids
will be hollering stuff like, "Hey batta batta batta ... enjoy!"

Or...We wanna pitcher

To know that we love

And accept him

Regardless!

Another thing that maybe killed chatter was that big leaguers
stopped doing it. Before 1960 chatter was as common as clubhouse
cigarettes, but then crowds got too big and noisy for players to
hear it. Besides, opponents had the same agents and were swapping
wives, and chatter just kind of keeled over and died.

Too bad. Wouldn't it be great if big leaguers today would
chatter? Imagine the possibilities....

Hey, kid, knock him down--he's a voluntary tester!

He can't go deep on you, kid, his parole bracelet will go off!

Maybe even a little song....

Your shoes are wack

Your game is agin'

Your agent sucks

At arbitration!

I think it would be nice if chatter were brought back not only in
baseball, but also in all walks of life. Wouldn't it boost your
average real-estate agent's day to know that when he went into
his office, his colleagues were chanting at his phone...

Hey, client, client, client ... rrrrring!

It would even be useful to have a little chatter in bed, too,
wouldn't it? You know, to hear your partner going ...

Hubba hubba ding ding!

Whole town knows

You're the king!

Or...Little wood, kid! Little wood!

Better than having to think about Estes D-model rocket engines.

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER

I think it would be nice if chatter were brought back not only in
baseball, but also in all walks of life.

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to
reilly@siletters.com.