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Death of a Subterranean Engineer.
November 14, 2003

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

Art Carney recently passed away at the age of 85. When I think of Art Carney, I can't help but think of Ed Norton – the funniest TV sidekick ever (with the possible lone exception being Barney Fife).

The Honeymooners was and is one of the greatest television comedies of all time. Jackie Gleason was terrific as Ralph Kramden, but Art Carney made the show. Just bursting through the apartment door with a jovial "hey, hey, Ralphy boy" made me laugh out loud. Still does.

 
 


Teaching Ralph how to Mambo, showing him the correct way to address a golf ball – "helloooo ball", chasing after his lost dog Lulu in his sleep while Ralph tries to corral him from the neighborhood rooftops, are all classic Norton escapades. Though Art Carney will be missed by those who knew and loved him, Ed Norton lives on in late night reruns and in our memories.

But as much as I enjoy watching the 50-year old sitcom, as much as Ralph and Ed make me laugh – no matter how many times I've seen the same episode, I really have no desire to acquire Norton's trademark hat or the familiar tee shirt and vest he wore each show for my personal memorabilia collection.

Those items belong in some television hall of fame. On display somewhere for Honeymooners' fans everywhere to see. The same goes for anything – anything – that has to do with Babe Ruth and baseball.

Some genius at the trading card company Donruss came up with the bright idea of cutting up a 1925 Babe Ruth New York Yankees game jersey and distributing one inch swatches of the priceless uniform in packs of the company's baseball cards. What a brilliant idea.

Take an irreplaceable piece of baseball history and tear it up the way you would an old tee shirt to make dust rags. Has the sports memorabilia craze gotten so out of hand that owning a few fibers of the Babe's jersey is preferable to viewing it in tact at an exhibit?

Here's a case where Major League Baseball should have stepped in, gave Donruss the quarter million dollars they paid for the jersey and had it hung in a display case in Cooperstown where it belongs.

You wouldn't slice up the Mona Lisa and sell one inch pieces of the masterpiece just to give the public the opportunity to own a da Vinci. And you wouldn't take the original Bat Mobile to a chop shop so Gus – who likes to come to dinner wearing a cowl – can hang the caped crusader's carburetor on the wall in his den.

I wonder how long it will be before someone comes up with the bright idea of making authentic Ted Williams toothpicks out of one of the Splendid Splinter's old bats. Talk about kicking a guy when he's frozen and headless.

And if the high-tops Johnny Unitas wore when the Colts beat the Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship game are in such high demand, what a windfall it would be to sell off each shoe, each shoelace and each studded cleat separately.

I once stood in line at a department store for hours to get the autograph of the great Willie Mays. That was a long time ago but I remember the experience like it was yesterday. Now if I can only remember where I put the piece of paper with his signature – I'm sure it would fetch a nice piece of change on E-bay. Maybe more if I cut it up and sell it one letter at a time.

Ralph once cautioned Alice to remember that "you can't put your arms around a memory" to which she replied "I can't even put my arms around you" – that line cracks me up every time. Thanks to Donruss, nobody can get their arms into the sleeves of Babe Ruth's 1925 New York Yankees game jersey because it's in 2,100 pieces. That's a shame.

There are laws against desecrating the American flag and you'd probably get in big trouble if you climbed Mount Rushmore and chiseled off a piece of Thomas Jefferson's nose. There are rules that guard against a sanitation company using the Grand Canyon as a garbage dump and nobody's dumb enough to try and swipe a couple of bricks from the Washington Monument.

So how is it that there is no legislation in place to keep some dope from destroying one of the few remaining mementos of an American legend?

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