White Sox Future StarsSeptember 26, 2006
As everyone with even the most glancing familiarity with baseball knows, the three figures pictured on this remarkably prescient Topps card from 1980 went on to form one of the most renowned trios of players in major league history, Mike Colbern, Guy Hoffman, and Dewey Robinson spoken of by all in hushed, reverent tones for the way they repeatedly led the previously long-suffering Chicago White Sox franchise to championship after championship, and for the way they brought glamour and excitement to the world of baseball by their various relationships, amorous and otherwise, with Hollywood starlets and heads of state, and for how they changed the way the game was played, the electric Mike Colbern striking first by, in his rookie season, breaking the single-season record for doubles and triples while also shattering the mark for stolen bases by a catcher; the debonair Guy Hoffmann baffling batters with not one but two patented pitches never mastered by another hurler–the Yancey Street Stinker and the Hummingbird Conniption; the charismatic Dewey Robinson closing wins with ferocious alacrity and then celebrating with the mound-launched Dewey Twirl, a physical spasm of such grace and joy and–even after the last of his 447 lifetime saves–such a feeling of spontaneity that it is no wonder it inspired a hit song so contagious and ubiquitous that an all-star lineup featuring Toni Basil, Ron Wood, Billy Ocean, Laura Branigan, and Oates performed a version of it to close Live Aid, global starvation defeated by sheer infectious synth-beated happiness. That performance foreshadowed a shift in the careers of the Big Three, as they will forever be known, from mere baseball superstars to world changers, that latter role reaching its first but very likely not last of its history-book-worthy climaxes when Colbern, Hoffman, and Robinson (the names always mentioned in that order even before poet laureate Robert Pinsky solidified the litany while bringing his dying art back from the ivory tower hinterlands to the spotlit realm of Bruce Springsteen, The Cosby Show, and Mr. T with his best-selling ode to the famous three, “Chicago Stars Incandescent in the Gloom”) made a visit to the Berlin Wall in 1989 and with humor, diplomacy, and all-American chisel-jawed resolve crisply recorded the final three outs of the Cold War. I was tempted to sell this card, by far the most valuable of my collection, around then. After spending some years at an obscure state college adrift in the static of subpar hallucinogens, I was about to receive a diploma with a major in creative writing, my prospects for employment as narrow as if I’d majored in saying what animal shapes I thought I saw in the clouds. But I decided the legendary threesome was not done gathering glory, so I held onto my one and only asset, figuring it could only grow in value, and embarked on a life of thrilling menial labor often punctuated by periods of spirit-emboldening unemployment. All you need to do is pick up a newspaper and see the ever-widening transcontinental influence of Mike Colbern, CEO of Intel Computers, Guy Hoffmann, Nobel Peace Prize-winning solver of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and President Dewey “FDR on ‘Roids” Robinson to see that in this as in all of my major life decisions I have, as Topps did with this card, forecasted the future with pragmatic and sober-minded brilliance.