BYPLAY: Sing One Happy Song, Johnny

He is, quite simply, the best catcher in baseball history, after which simplicity ends when one considers Johnny Lee Bench of Binger, Okla., and Cincinnati. "Binger," Bench says, with only the smallest curl of smiles, "is easy to find. It's half a mile back of Resume Speed."

Bench is powerful, handsome, poised, witty and possessed of an exceptional intelligence. "I was valedictorian of my class at Binger High School," he says. Again the small smile lights his broad face. "Of course, you can ruin that by writing something else. There were only 21 in my graduating class."

At the age of...

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