Randy Niemann

December 18, 2007

I decided to start the day by writing about Randy Niemann because of his mustache and his expression and his pose and his uniform and my indecisiveness and my lack of any other plan and my inability to make a plan or if a plan is made to stick to it and because over a year ago I started writing about baseball cards and when I started I did it every day and wrote about cards chosen at random and over the months stopped writing every day and wrote not at random but after long consideration and with thought toward big pretentious far-ranging essays and now I just want to get back to the basics and also on top of that I wonder almost every day and have wondered almost every day even since the beginning if I was done with all this, if it had run its course, if I was utterly out of things to say about baseball cards. But writing about a baseball card is just like anything else. It is like getting out bed in the morning. It is like going to a job. It is repetitive. It is boring. Existence, man, fuck. Yes, but still we go on. We have pebbles in our pockets. We have scraps of paper. We have nothing. We have Randy Niemann. I have been writing about this for 4 minutes. I wanted to write without stopping for 10 minutes. I do that sometimes when I have really reached the end of inspiration, when I just sit and stare and find myself waiting around for lunch and then dinner and then death but I don’t really want to die. I want to live! I like life. I love life. I do not want life to end. I want to keep writing about Randy Niemann forever. There is a Russian novel in me about Randy Niemann, I swaear. I mean swear. I cannot spell but there is no time! The mustache is well groomed and contributes to a face that seems to hold some anxiety and some irony too. You want me to throw that pitch? That pitch will not succeed but what the hell I will try.


  1. 1.  One of the lesser-celebrated 1986 Mets as the we’re-getting-blown-out-here reliever and Game-2-of-a-double-header starter. He’s been with the Mets ever since as an organizational pitching coach, bullpen coach, mustache coach etc.

  2. 2.  I kinda know how you feel:


  3. 3.  Congrats by the way on keeping this thing up for a year.

    I guess it was around this time a year ago I first discovered the Gods. I got so enthralled I went back into the archives and read the entire thing from the beginning sitting here at work like I am now. You have my OK to continue this for another 25 or 30 years.

  4. 4.  I started watching baseball as a White Sox fan in 1983 and 1984. I remember being surprised when I found out Randy Niemann wasn’t a rookie prospect, but that he’d been around for a few years. The Sox traded the great Miguel Dilone to get him. My Baseball Encyclopedia only went up to 1980, so I knew Dilone as a .341 hitter with a lot of speed. It turned out Niemann wasn’t worth a .341 hitter who stole bases. His non-prospectness didn’t bother me as much as Rusty Kuntz never becoming a star.
    According to baseball-reference.com, the White Sox traded Niemann for Gene Autry, who was 77 at the time.

  5. 5.  1 : Niemann topped his feat of anonymity in ’86 by being an even lesser-celebrated member of the ’87 champ Twins.

    2 : Thanks for passing that along, Jon. Makes me feel better.

    3 : Thanks for the encouragement, mbtn01. Still plenty of cards left in the shoebox…

  6. 6.  4 : “According to baseball-reference.com, the White Sox traded Niemann for Gene Autry, who was 77 at the time.”


  7. 7.  Yeah, if you want to be a writer, sometimes you just have to write. The other day, I was trying to write something about the Dan Haren trade, and I couldn’t think of anything, so I just started typing without thinking, and out came some words about a movie I had just seen, and lo and behold, it became a metaphor for the Haren trade and the next thing you know I had the big long essay I had been stuck on all weekend. I don’t know how that happened, but maybe your style is rubbing off on me, Josh.

  8. 8.  7 : I really enjoyed that fairy tale-real world-horror story essay, Ken.

    I am going to write “type without thinking” on a post-it and attach it to my computer so I can remember it when necessary. Of course at some point I’ll crumple it up in disgust, beat my head against a wall, eat a huge lunch, fall asleep, wake feeling awful, and try again.

  9. 9.  I found Cardboard Gods through Baseball Think Factory a few months ago. I got tired of BTF a while ago, but I still come back here.

  10. 10.  Salut, year one.

    Can we make requests? Maybe a request week?

  11. 11.  Fantastic. Boy, am I enjoying the Toaster this morning. First, a great analysis on DodgerThoughts, and now, a great pick-me-up on CardboardGods…

    Now, I absolutely must conduct some Monte Carlo simulations.

  12. 12.  Those Astros uniforms back then were preposterous.

  13. 13.  I always wondered what Groucho Marx would look like in a 70’s Astros uniform. Where’s his cigar?

  14. 14.  10 : “Can we make requests? Maybe a request week?”

    My experience thus far with requests is that I can’t deliver on them. I choke. So I’m hesitant to guarantee a timely response to any requests, but with that said I’d love to hear any and all shout-outs to the heroes and ciphers of yore. Who knows, maybe I’ll rise to the occasion.

    12 Your comment appears to have been cut off, Psychsound, so allow me to fill in the missing element:

    “Those Astros uniforms back then were preposterous[ly amazing].”

    Much better!

  15. 15.  My ten year old self remembers thinking he was THE scrub of the ’86 Mets. Now he looks pretty damn good. Extra points for the ‘stache that will not die. Now a permanent fixture of the Mets pen. Hilarious.

    And please, give us more glorious shots of the fantastically craptacular orange Astros. Jose Cruz? Dickie Thon, or even a Nolan Ryan?

  16. 16.  Josh,
    Have you ever heard from a player who was the subject of one of your essays? You would think eventually some former player is compulsively Googling himself.

    Heck, that’s how Buzzie Bavasi tracked me down.

  17. 17.  16 : Bob, I have not. The closest I’ve gotten is messages from acquaintances. I’ve wondered about it from time to time, envisioning an uncomfortable encounter, like when Bart Simpson made the mistake of making one of his crank calls during the episode in which Moe’s was transformed into a wildly popular establishment (fortunately something Cardboard Gods has thus far avoided, preserving my invisibility as a crank-blogger):

    Moe : Flaming Moe’s.

    Bart : Uh, yes, I’m looking for a friend of mine. Last name Jass. First name Hugh.

    Moe : Uh, hold on, I’ll check. [calling] Hugh Jass! Somebody check the men’s room for a Hugh Jass!

    Hugh : Uh, I’m Hugh Jass.

    Moe : Telephone. [hands over the receiver]

    Hugh : Hello, this is Hugh Jass.

    Bart : [surprised] Uh, hi.

    Hugh : Who’s this?

    Bart : Bart Simpson.

    Hugh : Well, what can I do for you, Bart?

    Bart : Uh, look, I’ll level with you, Mister. This is a crank call that sort of backfired, and I’d like to bail out right now.

  18. 18.  Think Kirby Puckett was pissed in ’87 that he had to play on the same team as the dude who wrote “Short People”?

  19. 19.  josh, if you ever run out of baseball cards i got a couple big boxes i can send you….and maybe a box of old playboys too…you could write about centerfold fantasies or something….

  20. 20.  ” but with that said I’d love to hear any and all shout-outs to the heroes and ciphers of yore.”

    A few years out of your timeframe, but once a week I still ask myself “What would Steve Balboni do?”

  21. 21.  20 : Oh, man, I love Steve Balboni. He’s come up before (if you search Cardboard Gods for Balboni in the Google search window in the sidebar, a few Balboni mentions will come up). I may have already mentioned this elsewhere, but years ago my brother and I wrote him and his wife wrote us a really nice letter back, including a couple baseball cards personally signed by Balboni himself. Incredibly, I do not know where my signed Balboni is. Maybe my brother has it… Crap, now I’m depressed.

  22. 22.  That’s the Eli Manning face!

  23. 23.  The thing I find most remarkable about this card is Randy Niemann’s signature of his last name, how it starts out with some flair and effort, and then just sort of peters out into a flat line. Maybe like the pitch he’s about to throw, and maybe like the swing the batter will take at it, and then maybe like the resulting high chop grounder that becomes a seeing-eye single by dribbling into a dead spot no-man’s land between infielders.

  24. 24.  Well said, CMcFood

  25. 25.  I wrote a blog post at ShysterBall about Josh Towers in which I ripped him for his weird approach in the Yankees-Jays bean ball wars last summer. The title of the post was “Josh Towers: weakest man alive.”

    While obsessively looking at my stat counter a couple of months ago, I noticed that a google search for “Josh Towers” from a Las Vegas IP address hit that page. Towers lives in Las Vegas, so even though it could have been anyone, I like to pretend that it was him. I waited a couple of days for an angry email but it never arrived. In hindsight, I am happier that he didn’t email me because the thought of Josh Towers’ impotent rage at some low rent blogger like me makes me laugh a little.

  26. 26.  Thanks Josh, a compliment from the Master is very much an honor. Congrats on the one year anniversary of CG. Keep up the good work, your writing is fantastic and touches many people.

  27. 27.  22. That does remind me of the Eli Manning face. To me Eli always looks like he has a bad stomach and is either on the verge of throwing up, or of spending a significant amount of time sitting on the throne.

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