IN A STUNNING reversal of form, the Froggy Carr Wench Brigade is apologetic.

The perennial naughty boys (and girls) of Mummery are sometimes blamed for delaying the Mummers Parade, and they are often guilty. Their usual response is a shrug, or maybe an upraised finger. (Guess which finger.)

It's different this year. Last week, city Parade Director Leo Dignam told me that this year's fast parade might have been 20 minutes shorter had Froggy Carr not spent as much time in front of the TV cameras as it takes for a picnic.

This time, Froggy Carr Captain Joe Renzi tells me, they're guilty - but with an explanation.

Before the confessional, the historical: The Frogs' previous personal "best" delay of parade came on Jan. 1, 1995. The parade was moved to Market Street, supposedly because of Avenue of the Arts construction on Broad Street (and partly, I believe, as a city test to see if marching on Market would make for a better, more-marketable parade).

The Frogs were cakewalking west on Market, 360 of them (about half the current number), when word came that police had confiscated the Frogs' beer truck plus the 80 cases of beer (for post-parade use only, you can be sure. Wink, wink).

Then word spread through the ranks that Froggy Carr Captain Mike "Tooth" Renzi had been arrested while defending the beer from the bluecoats. The beer was bad enough, but arresting their captain? Not tolerable. The Frogs sat down on Market and chanted, "We want Tooth!"

With the black-and-white-attired Frogs (their theme that year was "301 Dalmatians") blocking Market, the parade came to a stop, like a frog at a stone wall.

Parade coordinator Kevin Feeley told me that Tooth was arrested because "he was acting like an a--hole." That's illegal in Philly?

With the parade frozen, various city, parade and police officials huddled, and walkie-talkies (few cellphones then) crackled like a fire burning wet wood.

Common sense prevailed, and Tooth was unincarcerated and driven back to Market, where his loyal Frogs stood up, cheered and marched forward.

No apology was forthcoming, and most Frogs blamed the cops for impounding their beer.

It was different this year when I spoke with the new Captain Renzi, brother of Tooth, who is now the club president.

The source of the delay, he says, was the double-decker bus used to transport youngsters. The bus usually rolls a couple of blocks ahead of the mass of the Frogs, while some members walk along with it, causing a division in the Frog ranks. What home viewers saw was a mass of Frogs rushing the cameras - they always do that - then exceeding the 2 1/2 minutes they are allowed - they always do that - and then a second army of Frogs rolled up. About 20 minutes was consumed, and that is not funny.

Renzi apologized for that - that's a first - and said that next year he'll ditch the double-decker and keep the celebrating-on-TV time down to the usual 3-4 minutes. They'll lose points for exceeding the limit, of course, but they're not in the parade to win points. They're in it to celebrate New Year's Day.

While offering his mea culpa, Renzi extended his gloved hand and added one to Cara Liom, the brigade that proceeded Froggy Carr up the street.

"I didn't see it, but someone said some of their kids got run over in the mad rush" by Frogs to get to the cameras.

"I want to apologize," Renzi said.

That makes two. Another Mummical historical moment.

Phone: 215-854-5977

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