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Ed Figueroa

June 4, 2010

“I didn’t know what the heck I was doing [in Vietnam], but I was there. I learned that life, it’s beautiful to be alive. I saw a lot of people dead there. When I got out of there, I was happy I was out, happy I was alive.”  -Ed Figueroa

That quote, from a 2008 Daily News article by Anthony McCarron, fleshes out the stat line for 1969 on the back of this card. (The card merely states “IN MILITARY SERVICE” for that year.) Figueroa had already spent three years in the minors before that year, and when he got home from serving with the Marines in Vietnam, he spent several more years in the minors. In all, it took him eight years, with nine minor league teams, to reach the majors, and he didn’t spend an entire season in the majors until 1976, a full decade after signing his first professional contract. I’ve written some before about Figueroa’s short, quiet span of excellence with the dynastic Yankees, so all I’ll add here is the added appreciation for him (grudging, of course, since he is a Yankee) that I got this morning upon looking at the long, winding road on the back of this card. (The back of the card also features a retroactively ironic trivia cartoon relating that “Fergie Jenkins was 1st Canadian pitcher to win 20 games in a season”; the year after this card came out, Figueroa became the first, and still only, Puerto Rican pitcher to win 20 games.)

As for the front of the card: For some reason he looks to me like he’s about to break into a stiff sales pitch for one of those ads you might see just after returning home from a night at the bar and just before falling into boozy unconsciousness. I don’t know if he ever got any endorsement deals, but if he did, considering his low profile on a team of loud, colorful characters, don’t you think that they’d have to have been the kind that aired late at night? “Oh . . . hello. I did not see you come in. Hey, now that you are here, let me tell you about this really groovy new mustache-sculpting tool that has changed my whole outlook on life.”

***

Well, maybe I’m prone to imagining versions of Ed Figueroa because he made some headlines yesterday in the imaginary world over at Play That Funky Baseball, the site currently replaying the 1977 season in serial novel form. The biggest story of the resurrected season so far has been Rod Carew’s 46-game hitting streak, which came to an end yesterday at the hands of Figueroa and the Yankees.

***

And speaking of baseball replay, I have an article up on the Huffington Post that bloviates with varying degrees of coherence about the current Joyce-inspired clamor for the expansion of the use of instant replay for umpiring decisions.

***

Finally, just a reminder that I’ll be sitting behind a table, or perhaps standing periodically, at a bookstore in Chicago tomorrow. Here are the details:

SATURDAY, JUNE 5TH, 3 PM CENTRAL
Barbara’s Bookstore @ Macy’s, 111 North State Street, Lower Level, Chicago, IL
Author appearance and book signing.
Free and open to the public.
For more info call: 312.781.3033

Please see my “book tour events” page for more details about other upcoming events, including a June 10 appearance in South Pasadena, a June 12 appearance in San Diego, and a June 13 appearance at the Printer’s Row festival in Chicago. 

9 comments

  1. Liked the Huffington piece Josh although as an adopted Tigers fan (I live in metro Detroit) I wish Selig had engaged in some ‘divine intervention’ and overturned the call. While that would have removed the beauty of imperfection it might also cut the chance that replay is instituted.

    I thought the coolest thing about it all was how Galaragga and Joyce handled it. Galaragga will still be remembered for having thrown a perfect game. In addition he’ll be remembered for having acted with more dignity that night than some athletes show in an entire career. He just smiled after the blown call; Joyce immediately apologized after seeing the replay.


  2. I remember Figueroa as being a fairly popular player when I was a kid. Not a star or big personality like Reggie, or Munson, but just a guy you could set your watch by. You felt good with Figgy on the hill. Then it went south quickly and by the middle of 1980, he was gone. He was an overnight sensation at 26 and out of the majors at 32.

    As Neil Young once famously wrote to Stephen Stills: “Funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach, Neil.”


  3. Galaragga and Joyce really have been great from the start of the whole mess. Joe Posnanski had a great post about that:

    http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2010/06/02/the-lesson-of-jim-joyce/

    Posnanski also has a good follow-up post about how expanded replay is inevitible:

    http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2010/06/03/the-inevitability-of-replay/

    He’s not crazy about it, but unlike me in my Huffington Post article, he doesn’t try to flail insanely against the inevitability.


  4. I don’t think I can speak highly enough about the Huffington Post article. That is just absolutely, positively, extraordinarily spectacular writing.


  5. I appreciate that, williemayshaze. I took a look at some reader comments replying to the post over there, and the article, which is intentionally weird, didn’t seem to be landing. (I don’t blame anyone for being baffled or even annoyed by it–it’s an opinion piece without a clear opinion.)


  6. Typical of our disappointing (so far) ’77 Yankees: Figueroa not only kills Carew’s streak, but his team manages to suck enough at the plate against the inexplicably employed Paul Thormodsgard (!) to lose the game. Even in fantasy, they’re the bane of my existence.


  7. I agree with Willie that the Huffington Post article was outstanding. I particulary liked the paragraph that includes “long, looping, allusive sentences that suddenly veer off target.” So perfect. So what makes your writing a blast!


  8. Yeah, let me add to the chorus of huzzahs for the Huffington Post piece. I’m amazed that people didn’t “get it.” It made me laugh out loud in spots.


  9. I disagree about the mistakes. The point of having an umpiring system is to get the calls right, not to inject some “human element” in the game – the entire game already is a “human element.” The human element should be the mental and physical efforts of the ballplayers. There are always going to be mistakes, but it is reactionary to try to preserve everything the way it was in the 1970s. Why not correct a mistake if you have the chance?

    That said, umpires are like closers without the glory. Every great closer will have a monumental collapse or two in their career. However, they will still have a chance at glory by winning a championship. Many great umpires have a major blown call, but no one will ever talk about that really great call they made somewhere else in their career.



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