Master impressionist Darrell Hammond, best known as the longest-tenured "Saturday Night Live" cast member in the show's illustrious history, has imitated more than 100 celebrities during his storied career.
Hammond is probably best known for his hilarious depictions of former President Bill Clinton, but let's not forget he does a pretty spot-on Bob Costas as well.
Anyone would surely agree with that. Well, except for the actual Bob Costas, who humorously squashed any notion of Hammond's mastery of the famous sports broadcaster when the two met on the set of Costas' HBO show "Costas Now" several years ago.
"He comes up to me and says, 'You've got the great [Ted] Koppel, the great Clinton,'" Hammond recalled. "'You've got the great [Al] Gore. But you can't do me. You've tried to do me. But you failed. Utterly.'"
Upon further review, Hammond's impersonation of Costas bashing Hammond's impersonation of Costas (following us?) is pretty good. It's also front and center of the latest edition of "Express Written Consent," a cheeky new MLB.com venture that brings nontraditional broadcasters into the booth, to have a go at the pastime that's evolved alongside the national pastime: calling the game.
Hammond, who spent his time in the booth at Yankee Stadium with MLB.com's Jeremy Brisiel during a Mets-Yankees Interleague game, is barely tied to sports in his professional life. His most famous impressions are of politicians (Clinton, Gore, John McCain), actors (John Travolta, Sean Connery) and media men (Regis Philbin, Chris Matthews, Koppel).
But dig a little deeper, and it's apparent Hammond has a strong connection to sports, and especially to baseball. For example, did you know he was a high school teammate of former big league catcher and current Giants manager Bruce Bochy? The two were coached as teenagers by Hammond's dad.
Here's something else we didn't know before: the 6-foot-4 Bochy was, as a 16-year-old, "tiny," according to Hammond.
Back then, Bochy had big feet and the oversized melon that eventually became one of his signature traits when he entered the big leagues as a catcher. (Truly. Bochy's hat size is the stuff of legends. It comes up in conversation in at least a dozen Spring Training camps while the coaching staff is being sized for caps on Photo Day.) But other than his extremities, Bochy was a little guy who no one thought would amount to anything athletically.
"My father was watching him play catch, warming up, and I said, 'I think you're wrong about this kid, I really do,'" Hammond said. "'Look at how he throws.'"
Long before he "discovered" Bochy, Hammond became hooked on baseball for the same reasons most boys loved the national pastime in the 1950s and '60s -- a love for Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle.
A native of Melbourne, Fla., Hammond acknowledged that while he was a Braves fan first, "I was always fascinated by Mickey Mantle. He was the first guy that gave me an emotional experience with baseball," he said.