CLEVELAND: Doesn’t matter the generation, the classic comedy routine “Who’s on First?” has lasted through radio’s heyday, the nascent era of television and — thanks to countless websites — enjoys immortality online.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the humorous back-and-forth gag, with one fan informing another about the odd names ballplayers have. Made famous by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, the banter has Abbott informing Costello about the nicknames — Who is on first, What is on second, I don’t know is on third, etc. Costello takes it literally, gets tied in a linguistic knot, and the audience goes along for the ride.

Thousands of Cleveland fans, of course, are asked the question “Who’s on first?” every time they walk south to Progressive Field near center field. That’s because the 13-character public-art benches spell out the immortal question. They were moved to the other side of Eagle Avenue several years ago as part of stadium renovations. They sit between Eagle Avenue and Bolivar Road.

No known recording exists of the first time the comedic duo recorded it — March 24, 1938. The earliest saved radio broadcast of the routine dates to Oct. 6, 1938, when Abbott and Costello appeared on The Kate Smith Hour. (It’s Smith’s voice, by the way, that fans at Progressive Field can hear in seventh-inning game breaks belting her flagship version of God Bless America.)

An anonymously written item in the Plain Dealer from 1947 says the decision to do the routine that first time was an afterthought:

“Strangely never related before in print, the story of how Abbott and Costello found radio success is a gem. The team was signed to make its first microphone appearance as guest on the Kate Smith Hour. Up to dress rehearsal time, the producer had frowned on all of the script material that Bud and Lou thought would be good for radio. With but one routine left in their bag of tricks, they came to the rehearsal — and were almost not allowed to use it on the air. But time was short. They had to use the sketch, and they did, and it was the routine that has become an indelible Abbott and Costello trademark, their baseball sketch titled “Who’s on First.”

Abbott and Costello used the routine in the 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties. The repartee is between peanut vendor Sebastian Dinwiddle (Costello) and Dexter Broadhurst, manager of the St. Louis Wolves (Abbott).

Note: Nicknames for eight of the players are mentioned; only the right-fielder is unnamed.

Sometimes life imitates art.

The bit eventually found its literal truth when Chin-lung Hu reached first, which he did fewer than 50 times in a five-year Major League career that ended in 2011. Fans, salivating at the photo opportunity at hand, readied phones to capture the back of his jersey to show that, yes, Hu indeed was on first. (Former longtime Dodgers announcer Vin Scully quietly made the call, referring to “shades of Abbott and Costello” after the Taiwanese ballplayer singled on his watch.)

Hu wasn’t the only major leaguer to become a factual footnote of sorts with the routine. The Washington Senators’ Allie Watt, predating the bit by almost two decades, entered a game Oct. 3, 1920, at — appropriately enough — second base. He had a double, an RBI to boot, and that one at-bat sums his enter career. He died 50 years ago.

In the communal nature of burlesque-era gags being passed around and morphed over the years, there is a question as to who actually wrote the routine. But its shelf life endures.

A Los Angeles Times story says Costello guessed the two had done “Who’s on First?” 15,000 times. It was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2003. It was chosen as part of the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest movie lines. Author Cary O’Dell of the Motion Picture, Broadcast and Recorded Sound division of the Library of Congress calls “Who’s on First?” a “comedy sketch based on some complex wordplay.” And it’s part of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

In 2012, Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld revived the skit. It even popped up in recent coverage of the NBA playoffs, of all things. Cathal Kelly, writing in The Globe and Mail during the Cavaliers-Toronto Raptors series, took the latter to task after the Cavs were up 3-0, an eventual sweep in hand:

“We have grown so used to [Kyle] Lowry and [DeMar] DeRozan’s Abbott and Costello routine — one defiant, the other placid, off-setting each other like chalk that enjoys the company of cheese — we’ve stopped noticing that it’s dysfunctional.”

Abbott and Costello are long gone, having died in 1974 and 1959, respectively, but “Who’s on First?” lives.

Happy 80th.