Jim Mason

June 27, 2008


The monotony of it all. Stand up, sit down, eat, sleep, shit. I have to shave again soon. I have to go buy bread. I have to put on my shirt and bent-brim hat and pants. I have to pretend I’m in the middle of something and not failing, getting older, drifting toward the margins. Nearing an inconsequential release. I’ve seen all the episodes. Everything’s a rerun. An infinite loop. No beginning or end. No story at all. And you’re asking me to smile?


  1. 1.  Not only that, I have to dress up in this clown suit with a bright red-white-and-blue belt.

    And the cap messes up my Garveyesque hair.

  2. 2.  He looks just like he played.

  3. 3.  In 1975 he got 223 at bats despite hitting .152. He lasted four more seasons after that somehow, even though he never climbed above .200 in any of them.

    I don’t know how this fits into the existential quagmire that is Jim Mason, but to quote the back of his baseball card: “Had distinction of hitting Homer in only World Series plate appearance. It came for Yankees, October 19, 1976.”

    The Yankees lost that game 6-2, the third of four consecutive losses to the Reds.

    Days later he was left unprotected by the Yankees and taken by the Blue Jays with the 30th pick in the 1977 expansion draft. He only lasted 22 games in Toronto before being sent back to the red-white-and-blue-belted franchise he broke in with.

    I’m too lazy to check, but my guess is that he’s the only player to appear in the inaugural season of both the Rangers (1972) and the Blue Jays (1977). That’s something. Isn’t it?

  4. 4.  3 You are correct, sir.

    (Correct in that Jim Mason was the only player on the ’72 Rangers and ’77 Jays. Incorrect, perhaps, in.re. that being something.)

    My copy of the Complete Handbook of Baseball 1977 also includes these tidbits on Mason:
    * “Target of boos from Yankee fans all season, so new address may help him fulfill early promise.”
    * “He played in famous final game in RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C., Senators’ last game in capital.”
    * “Resembles Gomer Pyle.”
    * “Won first-string shortstop job from Gene Michael, lost it to Fred Stanley.”

    Boy, there’s mediocrity in a nutshell.

  5. 5.  He was the only one, yes.

    They can’t take that away from him.

  6. 6.  1 Even worse, it’s not a belt, but one of those polyester-looking little league elastic pants. Poor Jim Mason. His expression really does say it all.

  7. 7.  This is the exact same stance/expression that my then 8 yr old daughter would make when I tried to pitch a Wiffle ball to her. Note the reverse-wristed, tomahawk-inevitable, “Can I please go inside and finish watching Rugrats?” style. I know that Mase raked from the left side, but imagine how hilarious this picture would be if he was actually right-handed. “Oh, you want to take my picture? Now? Pffftt…shoot already, Ansel Adams.”

  8. 8.  Jim Mason can die satisfied, as the verb “rake” has now been used to describe his hitting.

  9. 9.  In Mason’s defense, it’s not easy to hit with both feet pointed at the pitcher.

  10. 10.  Every time you put up a card, Josh, I’m not sure which year the card is from. They are all pretty much messed up in my head, though I think 1975 was the year they had the two-toned colored boarders, and the 1974 set at a particular kind of line around the image, with curved corners.

    The mystery of not being able to put a year to the card, at least not right away, drives something deep inside to a sense of nostalgia. I’m pretty sure that 1976-1979 were the first times I actually bought the cards when they came out (or had my folks buy them, but whatever). And those cards, just the image, the borders, the Topps logo, the bands of color… they really register for me. Even if you put up a card from one of those years and wrote nothing, I might get something evoked…

    Thanks, Josh.

  11. 11.  9 : I also like how the prominent “350” distance marker just off his right hip not only shows him to be facing the wrong way but also seems to comment on, perhaps even mock, his chances of ever again launching a ball beyond that distance (even when facing the right way). And in fact, after this card came out, the owner of the greatest slugging percentage in World Series history never did get another round-tripper.

    10 : I know what you mean. Even after I’d started this whole project it took me a little while to be able to immediately place each year (except for ’74 and ’75, which I’ve always been able to identify at first glance).

  12. 12.  FYI: Some interesting comments have recently been appearing on older posts:

    Doug Bird (Royals), Pete Lacock and Dick Pole (Behold the Unsortable), Bert Blyleven (Rangers), and Craig Kusick and Tony Solaita (Blue Jays).

    Also, the recent Hall of Fame discussion in the comments for Tommy John, 1980 (Yankees) continues to chug along.

  13. 13.  Has the slick-fielding, weak-hitting shortstop become nearly, if not totally extinct in MLB? If totally extinct, who do you think was the last survivor? Was it Rey Ordonez?

  14. 14.  13 : Definitely on the endangered species list. But the Red Sox had a guy a couple seasons ago, Alex Gonzalez, who was of that species. Adam Everett also qualifies as a weak-hitting, slick fielding shortstop.

    As for Jim Mason, he was weak-hitting, but I don’t know how slick he was in the field. I don’t understand the range factor stat enough to apply it with any confidence, but it seems to my untrained eye that Mason’s range factor stats were in the fair to middlin’ range (scroll down on his page at br.com: http://www.baseball-reference.com/m/masonji01.shtml). He also seemed somewhat prone to the error. Also, for what it’s worth (a lot, to me) his Strat-O card in the ’70s online game lists him as something like a 3e32.

  15. 15.  14 Mason really had no business being a major leaguer for as long as he did, did he?

  16. 16.  13 If Cesar Izturis can’t hold down a starting job, then I would say yes.

  17. 17.  14 : If he hit like that as a 3e32, he didn’t deserve to be on a AAA ballfield. That’s repugnant.

    I think he was better than a 3e32 though… looks to be a basic, major-league average SS, which obviously means he could really pick it.

  18. 18.  17 : I just checked and 3e32 is in fact his defensive rating in the 1970s Strat game. Out of 93 eligible shortstops in that game (including guys like Brett and Schmidt who of course had other primary positions), Mason’s rating is tied for 37th, so in that sense he could be considered to be an above average shortstop for his day, and an above-average major league shortstop is of course a god of fielding compared to the rest of us butterfingered humans.

    He was also the highest rated fielder among lefty shortstops (not counting Roger Metzger, who dabbled in switch-hitting). I wonder if the mere idea of him being left-handed added some years to his career.

  19. I remember one year while he was with the Yankees, the first day of spring training he went into the cage to take batting practice and he swung at missed at like the first 20 pitches in a row that he saw. In batting practice, mind you.

  20. He played his last handful of games with the Expos, which seems about right.

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