#251 – Who’s on First? by Abbott & Costello and John Martz

whosonfirst_catalog_72dpi[1]Who’s on First?

by Abbott & Costello

John Martz, illustrator

Quirk Books

4 Stars

Press Release:  Iconic comedians William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello introduces “Who’s on First”—one of the most famous comedy skits of all time—in the 1930s and continued to entertain with the performance throughout their prolific careers. In the course of the twentieth century, Abbott and Costello’s popular sketch was named the best comedy sketch of the century by Time magazine and the duo was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

This classic routine is now taking on new life as a picture book names Who’s on First?, featuring full-color, retro-stylized illustrations by cartoonist and illustrator John Martz and the rat-a-tat banner of Abbot and Costello’s original skit.  Young readers, baseball fans, and those who read along with them will be delighted by the series of misunderstandings that Abbott (played by a bear) and Costello (played by a rabbit) encounter as Costello joins the baseball team that Abbott coaches and asked to learn the names of his teammates.


John Martz’s illustrated version of this historic routine by Abbott and Costello will bring back memories for many adults, me included.  I loved the dizzying back-and-forth between the comedians and the goofy expressions they made as Abbott tries to tell Costello who is playing first base. Soon, this craziness would include every position but shortstop.  I would laugh until tears rolled down my cheek.  I have always love slapstick comedy.

Now kids get the chance to learn about this famous routine and the two men behind it.  In this delightful picture book version of the routine, Abbott is a big bear and Costello a rabbit.  The two are decked out in red-striped jerseys and red baseball caps.  Abbott is the team’s coach and Costello a newly signed player reporting to play.  Rabbit innocently says,

“Say, if you are the coach, you must know all the players, right?

Well, I’ve never met the guys. Will you tell me their names?”

Abbott says sure and warns Costello that baseball players “have some funny names these days.”  Then he begins at first base,

 “Who’s at first,.  What’s at second.  I Don’t Know is at third.”

Costello looks stupefied and says that was what he wants to know.  Abbott tells him one more time.  Frustrated, Costello asks again,

 “Who’s on first?”                   .                     “Yes.”

“What’s the guy’s name on first base?”    “No!  WHAT is on second base.”

“I’m not asking WHO’S on second!”        “Who’s on first!”

“One base at a time!”

This goes on and on, eventually getting through most of the positions, but Costello never catches on.  He gets more and more frustrated trying to find out those names.


The illustrations catch the crazy routine beautifully. With edge-to-edge color, each page looks bright and fun.  As the two banter aback-and-forth, the player’s pictures appear in a balloon above their name when Abbott tries once again to tell Costello Mr. Who is at first.  Costello’s rabbit makes faces that show the exasperation he is feeling at Abbott’s insistence at playing games rather than telling him the names of his new teammates.

Kids of all ages, especially boys, will love this goofy routine.  The illustrations are secondary to the words, but that is hard to tell when looking at Martz’s characters.  In addition to “funny names these days,” each player has a distinctively unique appearance for a ball player.  All of this will be cause for laughter from your children as you read this book. Who’s on First? is the perfect bedtime story for the young tee ball player or little leaguer in your life.  Your child will have pleasant dreams of manicured green lawns with baseball players readying for the big game, with your child the star of the game, or maybe the coach, or possibly the poor Costello, trying to find out the names of his new teammates and finding frustration instead.  Who’s on First?is a delightfully funny book with illustrations that bring the routine onto a new platform that even the youngest fan will understand and enjoy.

The original routine can be seen here.

Who’s on First?

by Abbott & Costello
John Martz, illustrator   website   youtube    flicker   tumbler
Quirk Books   website
Releases on February  19, 2013
ISBN:  978-1-59474-590-4     
40 Pages
For Ages 7 and up
Also available as an eBook.
ISBN:  978-1-59474-590-5


Copyright ©2013 by Quirk Books
Text:  Copyright ©   by TCA Television Corp. & Diana Abbott Colton
Illustrations:  Copyright ©2013 by John Martz

book donated to library courtesy of author & publisher






11 thoughts on “#251 – Who’s on First? by Abbott & Costello and John Martz

  1. I found a baseball on the field by my house. Mom washed it, bleached it, and scrubbed it with Brillo. Now she makes me fetch it, and gives me Cheerios when I actually bring it back to her. Sometimes, I bring it on the couch and try to hatch it like an egg. I love baseball. And Mom loves that Abbott and Costello sketch! Cool idea for a book.

    Love and licks,


    • Rhythm, you lead such an interesting dog-life. Did it occur to you that your mom washed it so much only to have you cover the ball with slobber? I bet she washed some of the better flavors right off that baseball. As for hatching it, or trying to, I am speechless. If you are ever successful, please let me know.

      That would make for a great picture book. “The Dog Who Hatch a Baseball,” followed up by “The Dog Who Chewed a Baseball Bat,” and “The Dog Who Used A Glove for a Bed.”


    • February 19th is the release date. I think you can pre-order from Amazon to be sure you get a copy, but sometimes the book is out 2-3 days before you actually get the pre-ordered copy in the mail. This is fantastic isn’t it? What a book!

      Giving the review copy to the library is going to be difficult. The librarian will need to call the head librarian so one can hold me down while the other tries to wrestle the book out of the death grip I will have upon it. But they’ll try because they want the book, too. And later, behind locked library doors, they will roll dice to see who gets to actually claim the book. The loser will be required to send an urgent note to the library book buyers to quickly buy several copies before supplies run out. Then, at all 19 branches, there will be tug-a-wars among library staff after hours until one person leaves the building, triumphantly holding the picture book tightly across their chest, safe inside a book bag.

      Children will be required to wait until they inherit their parent’s or grandparent’s copy, having been told for years that Who’s on First? was an “adult picture book” their tender eyes were too young to understand.

      I think I’ll go order a copy. Those librarians at my branch are pretty rough and tough for a bunch of wordies.


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