Luis Gomez

January 9, 2008

Is life a battle between good and evil or an inconsequential rest stop between oblivions? Consider Luis Gomez, the benchwarmer, waiting slack-armed for his turn in the batting cage, where he will likely have only enough time to momentarily practice bunting before a Blue Jay regular commands him to step aside. As he waits for this truncated, ignominious turn, two blurry figures hover above his narrow shoulders, each figure perfectly positioned to whisper influence into an ear. But what could these indistinct spirits possibly have to say to Luis Gomez? In his 8-year major league career the utility infielder batted .210 with a .261 on-base percentage and a .239 slugging percentage. He never hit a home run. He stole 6 bases but was thrown out trying to steal 22 times. Once he was called on to pitch in a bullpen-savaging blowout. He gave up three runs in one inning. In his final game he batted 8th in the order, just above the pitcher’s spot, for a lineup that was 1-hit by Mario Soto. The last of Gomez’s fruitless at bats was a popup that whimpered to extinction in the glove of the opposing shortstop. He stands here somewhere in the middle of that featureless career, waiting for a couple weak swings in the cage, and the two entities hovering near his ears seem incapable of making themselves understood. They will only mutter incomprehensibly as they fade, the two voices indistinguishable from one another, no guidance, no angel and devil, no choice between paths, no paths at all, or maybe infinite paths, all of them leading to dissolution.


  1. 1.  I love it when the card companies choose a photo of the player doing something mundane, or even failing in some way (like the Brady Anderson card I posted to my blog this morning, incidentally). It makes me think that just maybe there are real people like you and me working to produce these cards, and that they have a sense of humor.

    Of course, this style really took off in the 1990s, and Upper Deck has a lot to do with that. But off the top of my head, some of the goofiest cards I’ve seen include Kevin Brown wearing a throwback uniform for the Rangers and sporting an eye-black beard (1994 Score), Orel Hershiser apparently helping re-sod the turf before a road game (1994 Stadium Club), and Doug Jones working a camcorder during BP (1993 Upper Deck).

  2. 2.  During the “great” Yankee run a few years back, they had a few Luis Gomezes on their team. Andy Fox and/or Clay Bellinger if I remember right. Neither of these guys did much of anything, and between them they probably have 6 WS rings, and were on the field for the celebrations. (If I’m wrong, I didn’t look it up.)

    When everyone compares players, and uses “rings” as a unit of comparison, I tend to bring up these two, and ask if their ornamentation makes them better than someone like Ernie Banks.

    (If you didn’t realize, this is a topic that fires me up. I still think Chamberlain was better than Russell, regardless of rings. And I’m not talking Joba.)

    I expected a Goose card today. Bert was robbed again.

  3. 3.  2 : “I still think Chamberlain was better than Russell, regardless of rings.”

    Wilt was astoundingly good, but basketball is a little different than baseball in the amount of influence one guy can have on his team winning. So I consider a guy who led a team to 11 titles in 13 years astoundingly good, too, and not just good and lucky.

    “I expected a Goose card today. Bert was robbed again.”

    Congrats to Goose (see sidebar under Chicago White Sox for an older post festooned with his mug), wails and protestations about Blyeleven, Trammel, and especially Tim Raines. But I decided to not add my own hot air to the post-HOF bloviating, mainly because my depressed thoughts today are mostly about my childhood hero Jim Rice, and I’ve already pontificated about him (around last year this time) and am not really in the mood to get into it again this year.

  4. 4.  I particularly enjoyed this post.

  5. 5.  Updating the voting for Best Everyday Player of the 1970s (from Monday’s post):

    Morgan: 8.5 votes
    Reggie: 8.5 votes

    Bench, Singleton, Rose: 2 votes each
    Stargell, Carew: 1 vote each

    So I guess it’s still up in the air.

    Also, there are some new comments on some older posts: see Pete Rose (as a Red), Larry Biittner, J.R. Richard 1978, and (to weigh in on whether disco in fact sucks) Fred Howard.

  6. 6.  Wow, I didn’t even see those little shoulder-phantoms until you mentioned them. Then it was like one of those magic-eye pictograms–pop!

    I have never, actually gotten a magic-eye to work properly, and am advancing the analogy solely based on second-hand (second-eye?) information. I am permanently resentful of anyone who has ever gotten the magic-eye to work and seen the whale or the lollipop or whatever.

  7. 7.  I don’t know if the voting’s closed by now, but I’ll toss my hat into Johnny Bench’s ring.

  8. 8.  One of the best posts in ages. Love that uniform. Miss the old bird logo and the bizarre font of the back of the uniform.

  9. 9.  Recently, I met a guy who’d be worthy of Cardboard Gods if you only hadn’t stopped collecting in 1981, since he played in the early 80s. I didn’t really know him as a player, but when I met him, I still got all nervous and, well, fan-like, even though it was in a work setting. It caused me to wonder if having a middling career not worthy of much fame was better than no career at all, and I decided it must be, given the thrill it gave me to meet someone who went to the bigs.

    The above post makes me think otherwise.

  10. 10.  6 I could never see the images in the magic-eyes until I walked into an office that had one framed, behind glass. I knew the trick was not to focus on a the picture, but I could never do it. With the glass, however, I could see my own reflection, which is a very good focal distance for magic-eye images. Voila. If you still use a CRT for a monitor, you can see on-line magic-eye images the same way.

  11. 11.  I have not posted to BT in probably two years but this card did the trick.

    This is the most ridiculous and the most wonderful baseball card I have ever seen and you absolutely nailed it.


  12. 12.  I don’t know what it is — maybe the oddly fitting uniform with the high waistline — but this card suggests to me a JV ballplayer standing outside the cage, waiting somewhat resentfully for the turn he probably won’t get.

    Kinda like Linus Van Pelt waiting at the tennis courts in “You’re A Good Sport, Charlie Brown,” if anybody remembers that.

  13. 13.  Luis Gomez was the star quarterback at my alma mater, Belmont High in Los Angeles. He attended UCLA on a baseball scholarship, and played freshman basketball with Bill Walton.

    According to BaseballLibrary.com, in 1975, while with the Twins, he set an ML record of playing in 89 games w/o an extra base hit.

  14. 14.  I would take Luis Gomez’ career. Ever since I read somewhere that in the clubhouses they keep large barrels of bubble gum and beef jerky and ice cold beer in coolers, I have always related that to the wonderment of making it in the big leagues rather than the money you earn. Kind of like the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Even though he struggled for most of his career, I am sure that those struggles were the most accomplished the guy probably ever felt. But maybe my perspective is that of someone who probably never had a chance of making it in the big leagues. For Luis Gomez, who was probably growing up, the best athlete around, he may have expected more from his career.

  15. 15.  I think it’s the proverbial angel and devil on either shoulder, with one telling Luis, “Take steroids” and the other countering, “But that’s cheating.”

  16. 16.  15 : If so, I think it’s safe to say the angel won that argument.

    I wonder if such inner arguments were occuring at that time (1979); I think there are some who say that there were.

    I also wonder who the Jackie Robinson of steroids was. I’m not at all saying the guy I’m about to mention should have any suspicion thrown his way, but the first guy I remember being suddenly, you know, huge, was Brian Downing. He was like one of those inflexible plastic He Man dolls, especially with his awkward-looking facing-the-pitcher batting stance.

  17. 17.  I’m new and this is the best goddamn website out there.

    Wasn’t Brian Downing the geek who wore glasses?

  18. 18.  Welcome aboard, Haus. As I remember it, Brian Downing was the geek who wore glasses who after getting sand kicked in his face sent away for Charles Atlas’ Dynamic Tension booklet and grew muscles and went back to the beach and punched out his former bully. Or at least improved his ability to hit home runs. Check out the “before and after” quality of his power stats from the ’70s and the ’80s:

  19. 19.  Brian Downing does seem like the perfect steroid suspect. He was injured in 1980, then 1981 was the strike year. In 1982 he started hitting home runs all of a sudden at age 32. I remember him hitting a home run that put him into the top 100 at the time (baseballreference.com says he’s #143 now) and he talked about how he didn’t have any power at all until his 30s. Nobody would say that about himself now.

  20. 20.  To be fair, Downing did show flashes of power in a couple part-timer seasons early in his career before blossoming into a lock for 20-plus homers in the ’80s. Also, he could have just been what everyone thought he was back then–a weightroom fanatic–and nothing more. Nobody was really pumping iron back in those days, so when someone did they stood out.

  21. 21.  Well, you’ve put the kiss of death on Downing’s Hall of Fame chances.

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