Lee LacySeptember 2, 2009
Before the 1976 season, the Dodgers shipped two of the more versatile Cardboard Gods, Jerry Royster and Lee Lacy, to the Atlanta Braves, which is kind of like pawning your poncho and your Swiss Army knife just before setting off to hike the length of the Appalachian Trail. At that time, the Dodgers boasted what would become the longest tenured infield in major league history—Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey—so maybe the team felt it’d be okay without much in the way of reinforcements at those spots. Also, the multiplayer trade involving Lacy and Royster made the Dodgers younger and, presumably, more durable in the outfield, the team exchanging 34-year-old Jimmy Wynn for 27-year-old Dusty Baker.
Halfway through the season, the Dodgers apparently realized their mistake and swapped struggling former Cy Young-winning reliever Mike Marshall to the Braves for Lacy and Elias Sosa. Though Lacy’s contributions as a pinch-hitter and backup in the outfield and infield were unable to put the Dodgers over the top in their battle with the Reds for the division crown that season, it was one of only two years in a six-year span in which he didn’t make it to the World Series. I doubt you think of him if and when you ponder the Dodgers pennant-winning teams of 1974, 1977, and 1978, or of the World Series-winning Pittsburgh Pirates of 1979, but Lacy was on all those teams, and he was far from just a passenger. He played all over the field every year and hit with some power and had, for a player who spent most of his career as a utility man, a notably high lifetime batting average of .286.
After playing in four World Series in six years, Lacy receded from center stage, due to the flagging abilities of the Pittsburgh Pirates and of his last team, the Baltimore Orioles, which he joined just as they, too, started to decline from their 1970s and early 1980s golden age. But he seemed to get better and better, and he even somehow got faster, the man who averaged a little over four steals a year in his twenties somehow swiping 40 bases in 121 games when he was 34. His ever-strengthening ability to rocket line drives all over the field finally allowed him to become a full-time player in his mid- to late 30s. His high in plate appearances came when he was 37 years old.
I vaguely remember this later version of Lee Lacy. I was no longer buying baseball cards, but I’d catch his name in a box score or in the Sunday averages once in a while. It mystified me. It–
Ah fuck it. Can you believe I’ve been working on this Lee Lacy profile for three days? The first paragraphs came about fairly easily, career summary spieling that they are, wikipediarrhea, and since then I have been trying to reach for something at the end, some poetic or philosophical flourish connecting the career of Lee Lacy to some part of my own life, or to Human Life in General, but each attempt was worse than the last, one hackneyed blues guitar lick after another that I’ve already played a thousand times before on this site. I have to go to work soon. Last night I had to stay very late at work proofreading and then waited a long time for a bus on Golf Road in the dark and while I was waiting I wanted to kick in the plexiglass window of the bus shelter, which would have been impossible, but nonetheless I wanted to try but I didn’t because I am 41 years old and cars were streaming past on Golf Road and I didn’t really want to be a 41 year old man kicking a plexiglass bus shelter window on fucking Golf Road. I wish I were younger. I wish I could smash my hackneyed guitar to pieces and have a whole new song hatch from the wreckage. I wish I could find some way to work Lee Lacy’s full first name, Leondaus, into the mix. But the only wish that can come true at this narrow moment is the small ingrown wish of the quitter, which in this case would be: I wish to be done trying to write something about this particular baseball card. I wish to press the “publish” button and go take a dump. And so I fucking shall.
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(Love versus Hate update: Lee Lacy’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)