I think of an anecdote as a short, catchy story, the kind pastors love to insert in just-the-right-spot to pep up a sermon. The word comes from the Greek and literally means "things not given out," or in other words, "unpublished."

Winston Churchill called them "the gleaming toys of history." They are hard to define, but we all know a good one when we find one. Here are some of my favorites, for what they are worth...

*During the 1957 World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and the New York Yankees, slugger Hank Aaron came up to bat. Yogi Berra, the Yankee catcher, noticed he was holding the bat wrong. "Turn it around," he told Aaron. "So you can read the trademark." Hank never looked back, but said, "Didn't come up here to read. Came up here to hit."

And brother, did he hit.

...

*A patient afflicted with chronic depression called on the famous British physician John Abernethy. After examining him, Dr. Abernethy said, "You need amusement. Go down to the playhouse and hear the comedian Grimaldi. He will make you laugh and that will be better for you than any drugs." The patient said, "I am Grimaldi."

Great comedy is said to emanate from great suffering.

...

*Franklin Adams belonged to a poker club that counted among its members an actor by the name of Herbert Ransom. It was said that whenever Ransom was dealt a good hand, you could tell it in his face. In light of that, Adams proposed a new club rule: "Anyone who looks at Ransom's face is cheating."

What does your face reveal about you?

...

*For the first half of the 20th century, George Ade was a popular humorist and playwright. Once, after delivering an after-dinner speech that went over well, a famous lawyer followed him on the program. He thrust his hands deep in his pockets and said, "Doesn't it strike you as a little unusual that a professional humorist should actually be funny?" When the laughter subsided, George Ade said, "Doesn't it strike you as a little unusual that a lawyer should actually have his hands in his own pockets?"

And what are your hands doing these days?

...

I've told this one to whatever doctor was examining me at the moment:

*Konrad Adenauer, chancellor of West Germany when he was in his 90s, was being examined by his doctor. "I'm not a magician," the medical man said. "I cannot make you younger." "I haven't asked you to," said the chancellor. "All I want is to go on getting older."

...

*The Greek general and politician Alcibiades was telling Pericles, who was 40 years older than he, how to govern Athens effectively. Pericles was not amused. "Alcibiades," he said, "when I was your age, I talked just as you do now." The younger man said, "How I should like to have known you when you were at your best."

When are you at your best?

...

*Another kingdom had just been conquered by Alexander the Great's mighty army. The defeated king, Porus of India, was brought before Alexander and asked how he would like to be treated. He said, "I would like to be treated like a king." Alexander said, "Do you have nothing else to request?" Porus said, "Nothing. For everything is comprehended in the word 'king.'" Alexander restored all the lands of Porus to him.

Alexander was a sucker for a great line. What connects best with you? And think of all that is comprehended in "King of Kings."

...

*A friend of Muhammad Ali grew tired of his boasts and claims that he was the greatest. He said, "How are you at golf?" Ali said, "I'm the best. I just haven't played it yet."

Does your mouth write checks you can't cash?

***

The radio comedian Fred Allen was noted for his off-the-cuff witticisms. Once he appeared on the Tonight show, hosted by Jack Paar who idolized him. Paar gushed, "You are my God!" Allen said, "Five thousand churches in New York and you have to be an atheist!"

Once a script for a proposed show was returned to Allen from his bosses at the network. Blue pencil notes were everywhere, with suggestions to delete this and change that. Allen looked at it and said, "Where were you fellows when the paper was blank?"