Several noteworthy events occurred on this date in history: Richard “The Lionheart” was crowned King of England (1186) as was Richard III (1483), the notorious pirate Captain William Kidd was finally captured (1699), Babe Ruth hit the first-ever homerun in the first-ever MLB All Star game (1933), and The Naughty Nineties made its theatrical debut (1945).
The significance of that last event may not seem as obvious as the others. The Naughty Nineties didn’t win any Oscars, nor did it fair particularly well at the box office. It wasn’t even one of the top 100 grossing films for that year.
But the film is nonetheless noteworthy because it included what Time called ”The Best Comedy Routine of the Twentieth Century”—Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First.
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had been performing their signature skit for years on stage and radio. The Naughty Nineties marked the first time the full version of Who’s on First appeared on film. This now-famous movie clip plays continuously at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Abbot and Costello are a great example of teammates using their differences as assets to advance a common objective.
Abbott was tall and slender. He had a deep, mature, masculine voice. He was neat and together. Contrastingly, Costello was short and pudgy, spoke in a high-pitched voice, and often looked disheveled. Yet their differences were eclipsed by a commitment to a common objective that facilitated their chemistry—make the audience laugh.
The tandem’s comedic success stemmed from their ability to play off their differences. Abbott’s straight-lacedness provided the perfect balance to Costello’s tomfoolery, and vice versa.
Sometimes team members get wrapped up in comparisons. They get frustrated by their differences instead of embracing their commonality. When teammates prioritize their shared commitment to their teams’ primary objective, their differences can become assets rather than liabilities.
For example, the thoroughness of the team’s methodical plodder can prevent the high-energy go-getter from hurting the team with an overzealous mistake. Similarly, the team’s stoic can remain objective and prevent the team’s nurturer from making emotional decisions.
Being a good teammate means recognizing and valuing the different talents other team members bring to your team, especially when those talents are different than yours.
It is serendipitous that Abbott and Costello put Who on first and What on second, because that is what good teammates do: They put their who first and their what second. A good teammate’s who is their team, and their what is their self-serving agenda.
In the Abbott and Costello skit, Who’s on first, What’s on second, and I Don’t Know’s on third. When teammates put their who first and their what second, I do know the entity that follows—team success.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.