Luis Tiant

April 1, 2008

Say you were ten years old. Say your house was robbed. Your Chips Ahoys, your money, your television, your Kiss records, your baseball cards: all stolen. Say the robber kicked you in the nuts and left laughing. Say as you were curled on the floor in pain your mom looked down and told you she had decided to leave to go live in the robber’s glittering house of riches. You would not believe it. You would never believe it. And so this uniform, this cap, this team name on both the front and back of the card, the transactional note on the back that noted the signing by this team of this player in November 1978, a mere month after this team kicked childhood in the nuts, it’s all just an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke. I don’t believe it. I’ll never believe it.


  1. 1.  its odd when that happens, Marichal was a Dodger at one point also, weird.

  2. 2.  1 : Leave it to Jackie Robinson to take the high road, retiring instead of joining the Giants.

    This type of thing doesn’t hurt like it used to. I’m not saying the Tiant thing ever happened, but if it did it would be the worst, followed by Wade Boggs in pinstripes up on a horse. Clemens? Somehow him in pinstripes just seemed right. And I’ll never say a bad word about Johnny Damon.

    Back when it did hurt more, I used to repeat to myself (like bloody-faced LaMotta telling Sugar Ray Robinson “You never got me down, Ray. You never got me down.”): You never got Yaz. You never got Yaz.

  3. 3.  My friend Mike and I used to set up in the street in front of my house and would take turns pitching. One of us would pitch and the other would catch. We used either a spaldine or a tennis ball. We each tried to replicate Tiant’s unusual wind up and pitch. He was still with the Sox at the time. I think we both have permanent elbow damage from the experience.

  4. 4.  Joe, that’s no laughing matter. It may be true that TINSTAAPP, but Carmen Ronzonni was considered to be a player with a future in the late 1970s. He didn’t have the pure stuff of, say, Amanda Whurlitzer, and his progress was difficult to chart because he too had a fondness for El Tiante’s delivery, among many notable big-league hurlers of the era. Only the timely intervention of coach Mike Leak kept Ronzonni’s arm from falling completely off prior to a key contest in the Astrodome. Perhaps the damage was already done, though, as Ronzonni never could find the mechanics with which to impress scouts after that early success.

    It’s a cautionary tale for us all, really.

  5. 5.  4 : Some theorize that Ronzonni’s pitching career guttered when he began to focus too much on his hitting after his improbable inside-the-park home run bailed out his own mediocre pitching efforts in the Astrodome. He also, after that game, seems to have begun insisting on an undue reliance on the hidden ball trick. Hecklers chanting “Chachi’s Better” may also have adversely affected him.

  6. 6.  Rogre Angell wrote a brilliant bit on Tiant’s motions: http://tinyurl.com/2mnx5b.

  7. 7.  I’m just now coming to terms with Mike Mussina in a Yankees uniform, which for me means that I don’t start cursing and questioning his manhood every time I see him on TV.

    It’s worth noting that the Yankees are 0-for-7 in World Championships since he arrived, though.

  8. 8.  I’m a White Sox fan. We don’t really have any rivals, but seeing Frank Thomas in another uniform is still a kick in the balls for me.

  9. 9.  As an A’s fan, I have no idea what any of you are talking about.

  10. 10.  9 Seeing Eddie Collins in a White Sox uniform must have hurt.

  11. 11.  growing up with the big blue wrecking crew, seeing steve garvey in the “taco bell” padres uniform was really tough for me. then he set the nl consecutive games record at chavez ravine and went deep off lee smith a year later while greg brock was doing not much of anything.

  12. 12.  10 : Al Simmons, too.

  13. 13.  what’s that you say?

    BRYAN TROTTIER coached the Rangers???

    and ERIC LINDROS was his first line center?


    where the f@*%# are my chips ahoys?

  14. 14.  [10}, 12 Don’t forget about Dario Lodigiani.

  15. 15.  I know this doesn’t count as a free agent moving to the hated rival, but every time I see Mike Piazza in another uniform and now headed to the Hall of Fame in 5 years, I get real sad. That’s a big what could have been in my life.

  16. 16.  The first time this happened to me was Tommy John. I actually have an autographed baseball with Tommy John on one side and Steve Yeager on the other. Then John went on, post eponymous surgery, to pitch for the hated Yankees.

    A friend of mine did ask me recently if I felt weird about Joe Torre managing the Dodgers. Against this theme, I don’t (at least, not because he managed the Yankees).

    Part of that is the salve for this: Joe Torre didn’t personify as a Yankee to me (Jeter does, Posada does, Munson, Randolph, Dent, Nettles, Guidry, and anyone from ’77/’78 does). And I doubt very highly that anyone thinks of Luis Tiant as a Yankee.

    Just like no one thinks of Marichal as a Dodger.

  17. 17.  Dewey and Pudge too. It still stings to think about Evans in that ridiculous Orioles getup.

  18. 18.  Honestly, as a kid this probably hurt, but now I’m like, so what? Tiant never won anything with the Yankees. He pitched pretty well his first year, going 13-8 with a 3.96 ERA, but the Yankees finished fourth anyway. The next year he went 8-9 4.89 and didn’t appear in the playoffs, which the Yankees lost in three straight games to the Royals. He was done as an effective pitcher, appearing in nine games with the Pirates the following year and 6 with the Angels the year after that. Now he does Spanish-language radio commentary for the Sox and sells Cuban sandwiches at Fenway Park.

    The Indians got the young, fireballing Tiant; the Red Sox got the crafty, wily vet spinning World Series gems. The Yankees got an overpaid, over the hill rotation filler during the interim between their last two dynasties. Let it go.

  19. 19.  18 : Yes, good point, his lack of impact for the Yankees does indeed make the whole thing a lot easier to swallow in retrospect, but here as elsewhere on the site I was trying to accurately relate my childhood feelings: When I first saw this card way back when it stung. I’m too young to remember Sparky Lyle on the Bosox, so it’s the first time I’d seen a beloved player show up in pinstripes.

  20. Three events made Luis Tiant’s brief stay with the Yankees very memorable: His Yankee Franks commercial in which he wore a Hawaiian style shirt while grilling hotdogs on a grill; his flinging of his glove into the stands in anger after being removed from a game at Yankee Stadium by then-Yankee manager Dick Howser; and, most importantly, his head bowed, sobbing, on the pitcher’s mound before the first game at Yankee Stadium after the death of Thurman Munson, during the pre-game “moment of silence” that turned into a loud (but respectful and totally appropriate) 10-minute long spontaneous ovation by Yankee fans. Note, this was NOT the “Bobby Murcer” game, but the game prior to Munson’s funeral.

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