Don Stanhouse, 1977

December 4, 2008
My fandom has been and most likely always will be one defined in large part by substantial distance. When I was a boy, I used to fantasize that one day the great gap between me and the players I idolized would be closed. The central fantasy in what was actually a foggy cluster of vague fantasies was the one that began when I sent a letter to Carl Yastrzemski, asking for his autograph. As the months and years went by without a reply, I came to accept that a reply would never come while simultaneously fantasizing about a preposterously familiar reply: a long personal letter from Yaz, or a phone call, or even a visit.

As I got a little older, edging into my teen years, my prevailing fantasy shifted to a bizarre hope that one day while shooting baskets alone on the hoop in my family’s driveway in rural Vermont, a passing limousine would slow to a stop so that its passenger, Dr. J, could (depending on how deeply I wanted to escape my life at that moment) ask me over to chat for a few minutes or go have some Burger King with him or sign me up to an NBA contract. I’m not really sure why I imagined Dr. J in the limousine and not a member of my favorite team, the Celtics, but it might have something to do with the mythic aura that surrounded the Doctor in my youth. He was a storybook figure, magical and legendary, and slipped easily (much more so than the pasty grunting lurching figures clad in Celtic green) into the realm of fantasy.

I wish I could say I long ago surrendered this kind of fantasizing about the gap closing between me and my gods, but when I got married in Chicago a couple years ago I included several members of the Boston Red Sox (who I had learned would be in town that day to play the White Sox) on the invite list. I am not insane, at least not yet the kind of insane that requires a padded cell, so I did not actually expect any one of them to attend the wedding or respond to the invitations, but still I found myself at times in the customarily stressful lead-up to the Big Day imagining myself at some point during the reception leaving the spotlit side of my bride to share a few private edge-of-the-room man-to-man words with the Red Sox’ captain, Jason Varitek.  

Anyway, Manny and Youk and the rest of the gang were not among the loved ones at my wedding, so I have still never had any contact with the athletes I root for or mock or look to for guidance. All my life I’ve been talking to the gods with no response. But recently, on this site, one of the gods spoke back. Below are the two messages from the world I’ve never known except from far, far away (and given the enigmatic and/or threatening nature of the messages, far, far away is where I’ll stay unless perhaps the gap is bridged by a punch in my face). Preceding the two messages is a comment that the Cardboard God seems to be referring to when he mentions “votes.” (No one else had mentioned any voting, but there had been other disparaging comments from disgruntled Dodgers fans.)

19. 68elcamino427
Stanhouse gets my vote for most “spaced out” Dodger of all time. 

Thank you for all of the votes! I have been booed by 55,000 drunk, angry, rain soaked Yankee fans and there is not much you can say that will hurt my feelings. YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME…….BAM! 



  1. 1.  Oh my goodness, that is hilarious. Considering that you’ve provided your real name and the city in which you live, I wouldn’t imagine you’d be that hard to find. I’ve exchanged cordial emails with former Orioles Dick Hall and John O’Donoghue (the 1993 vintage), but this is in a stratosphere all its own.

    Kudos, Josh. I think I’m going to be mentioning this post on my own blog soon.

    PS: Assuming that those comments are from the true Don Stanhouse (and who would pretend to be him?), I find it incredibly funny that he went by the derogatory nickname that Earl Weaver gave him.

  2. 2.  This is great.

    Hi, Don!

  3. 3.  I have very vivid memories as a 10 year old of Stanhouse warming up in the 1979 Series and the announcers going on about his nickname “Stan the Man Unusual” and having my father explain it to me. The way they talked about him, I assumed he was unhinged, then I’d look back at the screen and his hair was all over the place and they’d discuss his control, and I was sure his pitching control somehow was related to an inner wildness. The ’79 Series was the first one I watched in its entirety, and Stanhouse was one of my vivid memories.

  4. 4.  Maybe Dave Goltz will pop in next.

  5. 5.  I half expect redsoxfaninpinstripeterritory to do a search and announce that Stanhouse never pitched on a rainy night at Yankee Stadium before a capacity crowd.

    The messages seem to contradict each other… the first claims that nothing you can say can faze him, while the second seems distinctly fazed.

    If FULLPACK tracks you down, Josh, ask him about the “Launching Pad” at Olympic Stadium, as previously referenced in this blog.

  6. 6.  5 : “The messages seem to contradict each other… the first claims that nothing you can say can faze him, while the second seems distinctly fazed.”

    I like how the shift from unfazed to fazed, if that’s what actually happened, mirrors the shift to ALL CAPS.

    I’ve been thinking he would be a very interesting interview, in some ways the quintessential Cardboard God. Consider:

    1. He came up through the system of the best team of the early 1970s (A’s).

    2. He played for one of the worst teams of the decade (the Rangers), who then got good with the arrival of Billy Martin. Also while on the Rangers he was on hand for 10 cent beer night.

    3. He played for the only team from that era that no longer exists (Les Expos).

    4. He played for arguably the best team, start to finish, of the decade (the Orioles).

    5. And on top of all that, he was FULLPACK.

    I hope he finds me so I can ask him about all that before he punches my teeth in.

  7. 7.  Hey Ladies, How You All Feelin’ Tonight?

    That shit is priceless.

  8. 8.  “5. sly jones
    I half expect redsoxfaninpinstripeterritory to do a search and announce that Stanhouse never pitched on a rainy night at Yankee Stadium before a capacity crowd.”

    Ha ha!!!

  9. 9.  “spaced out”
    Dodger Stadium 1980 – Day Game – Wish I could remember the exact date.
    We had good seats – the “company seats” that were on the first base side – on the field right at the pitcher’s mound – about 15 rows from the visitor’s dugout.
    I was supposed to take customers to this game, but instead invited a few of my old buddies from school to attend.
    Undoubtledly we had passed the silver hitter around before entering the stadium which only served to enhance the hilarity of what was about to unfold before our eyes during the “pre-game entertainment”

    Batting practice was wrapping up and Stanhouse emerges from the Dodger’s dugout and he is walking about in a random fashion both antimated and jocular in his actions with all whom he comes into contact with.
    However, everyone on the field seemed to be doing their best to ignore him.
    So Stanhouse wandered near the batting screen and the next thing you know – he’s climbing the screen … and higher and higher he climbs … and he’s not coming down … and one coach and then another are standing beneath the Fullpack trying to talk him down.
    And the more they plead … the more it seems Stanhouse is enjoying his new found power.
    He was up there … way up there … clinging onto that screen for awhile.
    The creases on the inside of my fingers began to ache in empathy as time wore on.

    Never before or since have I seen anything like it in a ball park, but it did make me think about Jimmy P.

    Soon enough Don was relaxing in his pool in Las Vegas – collecting his Dodger checks.

    So FULLPACK you get my vote dude.

  10. 10.  Gods may not answer letters, but they do answer blog posts. Even if it sometimes takes six months.

  11. Since he does have the lead quote on this blog, I thought you might be interested in this Baltimore Sun article on Stan the Man Unusual.


  12. What follows is a true story. It all happened yesterday, Halloween 2011.

    So, I’m sitting at my laptop preparing to send my daily “COUNTDOWN TO CLEVELAND INDIANS FANTASY CAMP” email…. “ONLY 75 DAYS…”. Sports Center is on in the other room. I’m barely paying attention as the names Vick, Tebow, Polamalu drift through the air. Then another name hits my ear. La Russa. “Tony La Russa has just announced his retirement 3 days after leading his St. Louis Cardinals to the world series.”

    I grab my phone and compose a quick text to my friend Scott Bailes. You may recall Scott (LHP) from his playing days in the 80s and 90s with the Indians, Angels and Rangers. He is a current employee of the Cards AAA ball club, the Springfield Cardinals.

    Me (10:24 am): just heard that tony la russa announced his retirement. now there’s the job opening for you!

    SB (10:25): did you hear about the titanic or the hindenberg?

    Me (10:29): love the celine dion song (my heart will go on). puts a lump in my throat.

    This nonsense goes on for quite a while, eventually including references to Miley Cyrus and her dad’s hit song “Achy Breaky Heart” (this song DOESN’t put a lump in my throat), Davey Crocket, Howdy Doody, Bob Feller,…. And on, and on and….

    SB (11:00): Babe Ruth just passed away, 60 years ago.

    Me (11:04): someone shot President Lincoln!

    Me (12:37): Christopher Columbus just discovered a New World… 519 years ago. thought you’d want to know.

    SB (12:40): Tony LaRussa just retired

    Me 12:41): no way! what next, we put a man on the moon?

    O.K.. I think you get the picture. We’re a couple of idiots.

    Me (5:43): dressing up as tony la russa 2night… wearing street clothes… he hung up his uniform you know.

    SB (5:50): He is doing a great job managing the white sox. Bailes 10 Schubert 1

    Scott is pretty clever for a ball player. He came up with that joke in only seven minutes.

    Moving forward, I am out on the the front porch with a scotch and a caldron full of Twix, Snickers, Kit Kats, etc.. The first trick or treaters are moving around the street in the near-darkness. Dodging the ghosts, power rangers, and ninjas is a husband and wife. They are out for an evening walk. They look to be in there mid 70s. I do not recognize them.

    As they pass on the side walk in front of me, I can not control myself. “I love your costume,” I say.

    They are not in costume.

    “Excuse me,” the man replies. They pause and look up at me where I stand on the porch in the glow of 9 jack-o-lanters.

    “You are dressed as Tony La Russa, aren’t you?”


    “Do you know the name Tony La Russa?”

    “Sure,” he says.

    “Did you hear he retired today? Hung up his uniform. He’s probably dressed just like you are.”

    “Wait there,” he asks. “I want to tell you something.” He walks through the fallen leaves. As he arrives at the front steps I can see he is smiling.

    “My grandfather spent most of his life in baseball. He was a player with the Cleveland Spiders, the White Sox, St. Louis Browns and a few others. He coached in the big leagues, and eventually ended up a scout with the St. Louis Cardinals.”

    “My jaw dropped. “You’ve got to be kidding. What was your grandfather’s name?”

    “Joseph Sugden. You can look him up.”

    I did.

    And you should too.

  13. Josh– I love your book! Do you know the hilarious Scott Bailes card (Score 92, #331)? Great range off the mound. Nice shoes! As Scott tells it, Score sent a young woman photographer to shoot the angels. It was her 1st time doing a baseball card shoot. A bunch of the players did goofy stuff, including Jim Abbott who donned full catchers gear and had his picture taken squatting behind the plate. Don’t know if Abbott’s card ever got printed and distributed.

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