Archive for the ‘Atlanta Braves’ Category

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Tom Paciorek

December 7, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 13 of 25)

(continued from Biff Pocoroba)

I haven’t turned this card over yet. It’s been sitting face up on my desk for a few days. I’ve had a long time to wonder about whether the close-up shot was ordered by Topps so that it would be relatively easy to doctor the card should Paciorek get traded to another team in the off-season. It seems so much like one of those doctored card shots that I had to check Tom Paciorek’s baseball-reference.com player page to make sure that he hadn’t joined the Braves in the offseason, a move that would have necessitated an inexplicably masterful changing of a previous team’s cap to the Braves cap featured here. I could have also flipped over the card to check what team he’d played for during the past season, but as I implied above, I have been experiencing quite a bit of trepidation about turning over this card to look at the back, which presumably would tell me what I learned online: that Paciorek had been with the Braves for a couple years. But someone at Topps seems to have anticipated that Paciorek was the kind of guy who might be moving on real soon, and in truth they only missed on this prediction by a few months, as Paciorek was released by the Braves in May of 1978.

This release marked a turning point in his career. Previously, he’d been a fairly mediocre National League reserve outfielder; from that point on, however, he’d be an American Leaguer known for being a real pro as a hitter, first with the Seattle Mariners, where his improving efforts climaxed with .326 batting average and an all-star game appearance in 1981 (he singled in his only at-bat), then with the Chicago White Sox, where he logged his second and third straight season with a .300-plus batting average and helped the 1983 White Sox to the best regular season record in either league. Paciorek’s success in Chicago allowed him to put down roots that are still apparent to this day (just this weekend I heard Paciorek, who worked as a local broadcaster for quite a while after his playing days were over, on a Chicago radio station putting in the good word for one of the station’s sponsors). In all, the guy that Topps seems to have intuited as not being someone with staying power actually stuck around for 17 major league seasons. In a way, the long and steady and unspectacular career of Tom Paciorek can be seen as the polar opposite career of his older brother John, who has some renown as perhaps the greatest single-game-career player in the history of baseball: in 1963, the elder Paciorek, an 18-year-old rookie, went 3-3 with 2 walks, 3 runs scored, and 3 RBI. The perfection of the day was preserved by the inevitable imperfect twists of life: because of chronic back problems, the promising rookie never made it back to the majors. You never know what’s going to happen.

Which is why I have been reluctant to turn over this 1978 Tom Paciorek card and look at the back. For some time now, I’ve been using the 1978 cards featured on my site as the playing cards in a solitaire game of the Topps back-of-the-card feature from that year, “Play Ball,” and the two imaginary teams involved in the contest, Love and Hate, have reached the ninth inning locked in a 5-5 tie. Hate, the visitor, has loaded the bases with just one out. A big hit now could bury Love. But enough stalling, I’m turning over the card . . .

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(Love versus Hate update: Tom Paciorek’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

***

There’s a good post over at Graham Womack’s Baseball Past and Present site presenting the results of a vote on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. I was one of the participants in the voting, so naturally my first order of business in checking the results was to see which of “my guys” got robbed. The two that jumped out at me first for their failure to make the top 50 in the final balloting were a couple slugging switch-hitters, Reggie Smith and Ken Singleton, who featured heavily in a past Cardboard Gods conversation about underrated players. Singleton, who got on only 5 of the 63 voters top 50 lists, seems to have been particularly slighted. On the other hand, some guys that deserved not only to be high on the list of 50 but also deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion, did rate high on the list (e.g., Raines, Blyleven, Trammell, Santo), and that was nice to see.

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Biff Pocoroba

December 2, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 12 of 25)

(continued from Jamie Easterly)

Every name on my baseball cards mattered. I said every name out loud or whispered it or mouthed it, trying it out, feeling its weight on my tongue. But among all these names, Biff Pocoroba ruled. It was a particularly satisfying and even addictive name to say, so I said it a lot, and it ended up traveling with me through life, far beyond the years when I collected cards. I was a teenager high on bong hits and throwing a Frisbee and the name would come into my head: Biff Pocoroba. I was in my twenties slouching behind the counter at the liquor store where I worked and the name would come into my head: Biff Pocoroba. I was in my thirties, proofreading in my cubicle, and the name would come into my head: Biff Pocoroba. I’m in my forties, and here I am again, thinking about Biff Pocoroba. If I grow to be an old man, I’m sure the words Biff Pocoroba will continue bubbling up into my consciousness long after most other things of the darkening world have shucked off their names.

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According to one particularly influential source, God created everything, but he let the first human handle the creation of words: “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” (Genesis 3:19) This naming separated that first human from everything else in creation, the namer from the named, and also separated the first human from infinity, namelessless, eternity, God. A few lines later in the familiar story quoted above, this mortal separation really gets cooking, and the first guy gets the heave ho from Eden, his intimate connection to the holy world severed. Long story short, humankind then proceeded to suffer and sin and beget and grieve and murder and roam, all along using and creating and developing the names of the world, relentlessly, as if the cause of the first separation from pure holiness could be a way—maybe through commandments, maybe through psalms, maybe through prayers—to somehow return to holiness.

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I never really connected the name Biff Pocoroba with anything in particular beyond the vague recollection that Biff Pocoroba was a Brave, and that he was, like Bruce Bochte with Bruce Bochy, Garry Maddox with Gary Matthews, and John Montefusco with John D’Acquisto, paired up forever in my mind with Bob Apodaca. But from this point on I may associate him with this 1978 card, which subtly draws the viewer into the charged moment of a big league game as well as any card I’ve seen. It has something to do with Biff Pocoroba’s rugged looks, and his tough ready-for-action squint, and his beaten-up turned-around cap and thin, snug chest protector, and the way his chunky mitt catches the sun, but the intimate sensual pull of the card is centered most on the way Biff Pocoroba is tugging upward, almost gently, on the straps of his mask. He is about to pull that mask on and go to work, and the photo freezing him in the moment just before he does so puts us right there, anticipating the way the mask would feel if we were to pull it onto our own face and look out at the whole field in front of us. Biff Pocoroba, in name and in this card in particular, is a way for me to enter the moment—as holy a moment as I can imagine—of a major league game.

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Biff Pocoroba’s name must have been announced during the introductions of players before the 1978 All-Star Game. It was part of the one good month for the 1978 Atlanta Braves, both their sole winning month of the season and the month that saw them send three players to the All-Star game: their star slugger, Jeff Burroughs, their ace, Phil Niekro, and Biff Pocoroba. Biff Pocoroba? Yes, Biff Pocoroba. He’d had a strong 1977 campaign (highlighted by his .290 batting average) and carried the reputation for being a stellar defensive catcher (as attested to on the back of this card: “Biff once threw out 11 consecutive runners attempting to steal”). He probably had a certain glow about him, too, because he was young, just 25, and so the sky could still seem to be the limit. It’s not so hard to imagine Tommy Lasorda, the NL manager that year, scanning the Sunday batting averages as he tried to pull together his list of reserves and reacting positively to the name Biff Pocoraba. He was batting .262 at the All-Star break, a decent enough number for a catcher, especially if you are imagining a cannon arm and many years of better things to come. Of course, there weren’t many years of better things to come. Biff Pocoroba finished 1978 batting .242 and, hampered by injuries, was never a regular in the big leagues again. But by the time he started receding into obscurity, his name had already imprinted itself as something nearly holy to many of us American boys of long ago who will be saying Biff Pocoroba until the maker calls us back into the realm beyond names.

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(Love versus Hate update: Biff Pocoroba’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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Jamie Easterly

November 19, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 11 of 25)

(continued from Rod Gilbreath)

The 1978 Atlanta Braves had, let’s face it, no chance. It wasn’t just that they were bad at hitting (only one team, the Padres, would score fewer runs) or even worse at pitching (they allowed the most runs scored in the league). It was the cap each player had to wear. How could anyone hope to conquer anything with a lowercase “a” on the crown of his head? It was a letter that, if rendered in uppercase, might have stood for the city they were located in, might have, in turn, inspired them to extend beyond their individual limitations to honor that restless growing American metropolis with vibrant expansive glory. But it was a lowercase “a”—the first and faintest official word in the English language, an indefinite article used, according to Webster’s, “when the referent is unspecified.” The example provided by Webster’s for this definition seems telling in terms of the current examination of the 1978 Atlanta Braves: “a man overboard.”

Not the man overboard or that man overboard. Just a man overboard. Nobody  special.

Hope he can swim.

Compounding the ever-present announcement of inconsequentiality that the small “a” provided was the shape of the cap, at least as seen in the version of the cap modeled here by Jamie Easterly. The upper part of the crown bulges as if designed to smuggle a large loaf of decidedly non-nutritious white bread.

Jamie Easterly seems to understand the intimations of being burdened by such haberdashery. To this point in his career, according to the back of the card, his record stands at 5-14 with a 5.59 ERA. Amazingly enough, considering that start, he’ll endure for several more seasons, logging 13 major league campaigns in all. Like most of us, he was never The Man, just a man. Trying to keep from falling overboard.

(Love versus Hate update: Jamie Easterly’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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Rod Gilbreath

November 11, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 10 of 25)

(continued from Asselstine, Royster, Bonnell)

The 1978 Atlanta Braves might have done pretty well in a baseball skills competition, certainly better than they fared in the realm of baseball itself. They had in Phil Niekro the surefire winner of the knuckleball throwing contest, which I picture to be something along the lines of figure skating or diving in that it would have judges weighing in on the performance, in this case specifically on the relative proximity of the competitors’ absurd offerings to the flight of a butterfly. They had a catcher in Biff Pocoroba with a great throwing arm. They had in Jeff Burroughs a guy who could hold his own in a home run derby. They had in young Dale Murphy a Bruce Jenneresque athletic specimen capable of vying for wins in various leaping and sprinting and hurling competitions. And they had perhaps the league’s best collection of sacrifice bunters, boasting not only a roster clogged with utility infielders whose ever-tentative professional survival depended on being able to do “the little things” but more specifically featuring three men who had already or would soon lead the league in sacrifice bunts: Phil Niekro (1968), Glenn Hubbard (1982), and Rod Gilbreath (1976). Baseball itself was really too brutish and crude for the 1978 Atlanta Braves. If only wins and losses had been based in part on how often one of their batters could, with the precision of a master craftsman, use their deadened bat to guide a pitched ball into a small circle near home plate, they might not have been almost instantaneously forgotten.

But baseball is not a skills competition but an arena wherein might makes right, more or less. The team of bunters and competent double-play turners saw their season in microcosm on its last day, when George Foster, arguably the league’s strongest man, homered twice, once in the fourteenth inning, to help the Reds overpower the Braves.

Awareness of that final game of 1978 may have grown recently, for it was the last game in which Sparky Anderson, who died last Thursday, managed the Big Red Machine. I don’t know if Anderson knew that the writing was on the wall as he managed that game. It would be only a few weeks until he was fired, a decision that seems in retrospect both unfair and moronic. In Anderson’s nine-year tenure the team had won two World Series titles, four pennants, and five division titles, and even in the two most recent “down” years of 1977 and 1978 he’d led the team to 88 and 92 wins, respectively. Also, not only did Anderson go on to lead the Detroit Tigers back into contention and, eventually, to the 1984 World Series title, Anderson’s replacement on the Reds was John McNamara, whose managerial career would have proven to be quietly mediocre—as evidenced by his .485 lifetime winning percentage—had he not capped it with a spectacularly bad performance steering the Red Sox toward ruin in the 1986 World Series. Replacing Anderson with McNamara was, as decisions go, like moving from a sturdy mansion to a hut made of duct tape and straw.

But I guess at the time it made sense, which suggests that the decision might have been lurking in the autumn air by the time Sparky managed his last game in a Reds uniform. As already mentioned, the sheer power of the Reds, in the person of their top slugger George Foster, would eventually overwhelm the Braves and send Sparky out on a winning note, but for some time the outcome of the game was in question. In the twelfth, the Braves threatened, though “threatened” may be too strong a word to use given the batters that would be called upon to drive in the go-ahead run. In the twelfth, the Braves kind of waved a wooden spoon around in a vaguely menacing way that probably didn’t scare anybody too much, metaphorically speaking. Speaking more literally, they got a man aboard when Bruce Benedict singled. Sparky’s counterpart and fellow future managerial immortal in the Braves’ dugout, Bobby Cox, elected to insert a pinch-runner for the slow-footed catcher, and Rod Gilbreath entered a major league baseball game for the last time.

Rod Gilbreath had entered the league as a teenager and had played parts of several seasons for the Braves, filling in at second or third, never really catching on as a regular (though, as mentioned, he won the league’s 1976 sacrifice bunting crown, a gaudily bejeweled piece of honorary headgear, at least in my imagination). The 1978 season had been a typical one for him, his average of .245 for the season a shade below his lifetime .249 mark, but perhaps because he was now 25 and no longer quite young enough to show any signs of ever blossoming into something more, and perhaps also because the Braves had other younger players, namely Glenn Hubbard and Bob Horner, who looked ready to become regulars at second and third, and perhaps finally because the 1978 Atlanta Braves were clogged with utility guys like Rod Gilbreath, players who in certain situations and on certain teams would have been useful, even vital, but who because of their great numbers on the Braves combined to turn their individual utility into collective uselessness, prompting the Braves to try something, anything, else. Anyway, one way or another, they gave Rod Gilbreath the heave ho after the 1978 season. He would sign with the Pirates but never make it back to the big leagues. This pinch-running appearance on October 1, 1978, with Sparky Anderson looking on from the opposing dugout, would be Rod Gilbreath’s faint, inconsequential, instantly forgettable swan song.

Gilbreath moved to second on a one-out walk to fellow utility man Jerry Royster. There he would be stranded. First light-hitting Eddie Miller (sporting a .143 batting average) flied out to left, and then one of the youngsters crowding Gilbreath to the sidelines, Glenn Hubbard, fanned. Young, raw Dale Murphy put on the catching gear and took over Gilbreath’s spot in the lineup, and it was over. Whatever would happen beyond that point would not include the 1976 National League Bunt King.

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(Love versus Hate update: Rod Gilbreath’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest)

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Please keep the thoughts coming on the What Are the Greatest Cards of All Time post. Eventually, I’ll try to pull together a post showing the “finalists,” i.e., cards that have gotten multiple mentions in the comments section.

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Asselstine, Royster, Bonnell

November 8, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (cards 7-9 of 25)

(continued from Andy Messersmith)

As of a few weeks ago, I had only a handful of 1978 Atlanta Braves cards—the Bobby Cox card that has now been featured twice on this site and these three repeaters. All the other Braves came to me recently courtesy of Joe Stillwell of STATS, who’d read my past complaints about the mysterious disappearance from my childhood card collection of almost all my Braves and sent me most but not all of the 1978 team. I didn’t notice any absences at first but when I did it made me happy, in that it made the influx of Braves into my collection more realistic. I never got all the cards for any team, so it’s fitting that there are gaps in my collection of 1978 Braves.

There are three missing cards in all, among them the glum team’s ray of hope for the future, Dale Murphy. I’m proceeding through the 1978 Braves in the order in which the players featured appear in the Topps numbering system for that year, and this approach, coupled with Murphy’s absence, has front-loaded the 1978 cardboard version of the Braves’ meager collection of notable players to such an extent that even though most of the cards are still to come there’s virtually nothing left in terms of star power or historical significance or, well, anything much else at all. We’ve already seen the team’s lone Hall of Fame player (Phil Niekro), its soon-to-be Hall of Fame manager (Bobby Cox), its 1976 and 1977 All-Star Game representatives (Dick Ruthven and Willie Montanez, respectively), its sole former MVP and best slugger (Jeff Burroughs), and its trailblazing former ace (Andy Messersmith).

What’s left?

I don’t know. This morning, the first morning of a new week, I meditated. In theory, this is something that I do every day, but the truth is I let days and sometimes weeks go by without taking a few minutes for this practice. When I was younger, I did this zealously, fueled in part by the afterglow of hallucinogens and more generally by the belief that I would soon be perfect and painless. When this vision of permanent spiritual triumph kept failing to arrive, I lost more and more motivation to just sit there and gaze at a wall and breathe. It’s hard to do. It’s always been hard to do. Life is not a championship season.

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Andy Messersmith

October 29, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 6 of 25)

(continued from Jeff Burroughs)

Andy Messersmith had curly hair. I had curly hair. My brother had curly hair. I liked Andy Messersmith.

Andy Messersmith’s curly hair seems to be authentic. One of the most regrettable facets of the experimentation and freedoms of the 1970s was the rise of the male perm. This grooming choice seemed to me at the time and still seems inexplicable. I didn’t like my own curly hair. I wanted to have hair that would allow for a feathered haircut, like Scott Baio or Shaun Cassidy. I couldn’t understand why anyone would willingly change their straight hair to curly hair, especially given that the perm version of curly hair had a tense, unnerved aura about it, as if it was cornered by authorities or verging on a nervous breakdown. Plus, it could only be obtained by spending an inordinate amount of time in a “beauty parlor.” In my town, a popular epithet hurled by tough kids at kids who seemed generally or in that moment less tough was “woman.” As in: “Don’t be such a woman.” Or: “You’re a woman.” I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to invite that kind of eviscerating abuse by doing something as traditionally feminine as waltzing into a beauty parlor to have someone “transform” your hair.

Beyond the gender-identification implications of the perm, there was the simple factor of time spent at the location of a hair professional. I’ve always dreaded going to get a haircut. In fact, at this very moment my hair is long and unruly and, given my advancing age and retreating hairline, I currently look like someone who is not altogether stable, the kind of guy who fingers a half-eaten liverwurst sandwich in his pocket while muttering to himself at the library. Maybe I’m not so stable. Nobody else has problems with haircuts, yet I always put them off as long as possible, reluctant to walk through that door looking like a man who’s spent the last year living in a storage shed and bathing at the gas station. Who wants to waste a free afternoon strapped into a chair making small talk and feeling ashamed?

I don’t know how Andy Messersmith dealt with haircuts. As the 1970s wore on, he seemed to get fewer haircuts, following the trend of the times as his short hair eventually began bulging out from under his cap. I’ve done a fair amount of reading about Andy Messersmith in the last couple of days, and I think it’s possible that getting a haircut, in that it’s a public interaction, is something that Andy Messersmith may have come to dread as the decade progressed. Andy Messersmith was baseball’s first free agent (technically, Dave McNally is thought of as the co-holder of this distinction, but McNally retired upon winning his free agency); free agency changed everything, not least the way fans looked at ballplayers. Here’s what Andy Messersmith had to say about that issue in a 1986 San Francisco Chronicle article (the quote courtesy of an excellent piece on Messermith by Alex Belth):

“I did this free agency thing and that really took care of my career . . . I had always had a good rapport with the fans, especially in Los Angeles. All the energy started turning the other way when I did this thing. . .  Ninety-eight percent of my mail was hate mail.”

The back of this 1978 Andy Messermsith card supports the idea that free agency changed Andy Messersmith’s world for the worse. Before coming to the Braves, he’d been among the best pitchers in the game, winning 20 games in a single season twice, striking out over 200 batters in a single season three times, and posting an ERA of 3.00 or less in all eight of his years in the big leagues. His first season on the Braves was not by any means a train-wreck, but it was his least successful campaign to date, as he coupled an 11-11 record with a 3.04 ERA. In 1977, injuries and apparent stress from not living up to the superstar status that his free agency signing required saw him post his lowest innings and win totals since his rookie season while his ERA ballooned to 4.41.

By the time this card came out, the Braves had sold Andy Messersmith to the Yankees, where his precipitous decline continued. The next season, back with the team that he’d fought to win his freedom from, the Los Angeles Dodgers, proved to be another lackluster affair and was Messersmith’s last.

I didn’t know when I was a kid what Andy Messersmith was going through. The pressure, the hate mail. I just knew that the back of his card said he was a good pitcher and the front of his card showed he had curly hair, like me, so I liked him. I like him even more when I read about what he went through, his attempt to do the right thing (as teammate Mike Marshall told Alex Belth, “Any person with a brain would realize that what we [players fighting for free agency] did was completely legal and appropriate given the situation”) setting him apart from his fans and most of his peers, a target for ridicule and scorn. I like this card of him, showing him in the silly cursive garments of his troublesome freedom, a bad team that had dumped him by the time the card hit the stores. He seems despite it all to still have a gleam in his eye, a curly-headed love for the game.

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(Love versus Hate update: Andy Messersmith’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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Jeff Burroughs

October 21, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 5 of 25)

(continued from Bobby Cox)

Jeff Burroughs, in the context of the 1978 Braves, raises the question of protection. In baseball, the term “protection” is used to refer to how much effect a player in a batting order will have on the way the opposing pitcher treats the player one notch higher in the batting order. When a team is lucky enough to have a good slugger, that team will want to maximize the efforts of that slugger by placing another good hitter behind him in the lineup. With that protection, the opposing pitcher will be less likely to pitch around the slugger. Of course, not all teams are lucky enough to be able to protect their best slugger, leaving the opposition with a simple game plan: don’t ever give the slugger anything good to hit, walk him if necessary, and take a chance on the next guy, the flimsy protection.

In 1977, Jeff Burroughs swatted 41 home runs and drove in 114 runs. In 1978, the National League took the bat out of his hands. Among the players rookie manager Bobby Cox used to protect Jeff Burroughs in the lineup were (on multiple occasions in all cases) Biff Pocoroba, Brian Asselstine, and Rowland Office. Eventually, two very young, erratic sluggers, Bob Horner and Dale Murphy, joined the ragged collection of protectors, but their occasional flashes of power didn’t stop the opposition from taking a wide berth around Jeff Burroughs whenever the situation in the game was the least bit dicey—for the year, Burroughs walked a career-high 117 times, led the National League in on-base percentage, and despite batting .301 with 23 home runs with 30 doubles drove in only 77 runs.

Without protection, what chance have you got?

***

What protects you? This subject has come up before on this site in loose relation to Jeff Burroughs, whose 1974 card caused me to recall that when I worked at a liquor store in Manhattan in the 1990s we had a Jeff Burroughs bat hanging from two nails behind the counter. This was for protection, I guess, though none of us ever used it as such. Sometimes it was brandished for comedic purposes, and then in more solitary, anxious moments it was held, at least by me, as a way to pretend to feel a little more powerful in a setting that could occasionally seem a little scary. We got shoplifters periodically, gangs of street kids who fanned out around the store, some barking questions in our faces (“Yo, you got Alize?”) while others moved quickly up and down the aisles in their parkas, their hands moving fast. There wasn’t much subtlety in their method; it was built on speed, shouting, and menace. To get them out you had to confront them (“You got ID?”), which led to more shouting and menace, the aura of impending violence ratcheting up a notch. They’d be in and out quickly, maybe some bottles gone with them, and after they left I’d move back behind the counter feeling shaken and weak, and I’d pick up the Jeff Burroughs bat and hold it, imagining that I’d handle things differently next time.

One night when we were locking up, I made my co-worker Ngai laugh by updating the old “Another day, another dollar” saying with, “Welp, another day . . . and we didn’t get shot.” At that time I was immersing myself in violent movies of the 1970s, and someone was always getting their brains blown out, often in the very city in which I was living, and occasionally even in a liquor store. It was a small store, and usually there were only two of us on duty at a time. When I started, I was the guy who went out on deliveries, leaving the store under the watch of one guy, either Morty the boss, Dave the adjunct philosophy professor, or Ngai. Ngai was the gentlest and most introspective of the three, a sweet guy whose constant stream of hobbies that he worked on in the back during lulls eventually branched out from the peaceful pursuits of such things as origami, window design, drawing, and tending to bonsai trees to include obsessions with weight training, nutritional supplements, guns, and increasingly complicated and terrifying gravity knives. I didn’t share his interest in any of those violent or nonviolent pursuits and instead got through my hours by reading novels about alienation, staring at baseball games on the little television up front, or dwelling on whatever 1970s portrait of A Man Alone In A Society On The Brink I’d watched the night before. As the years went on, I eventually became the guy who stayed behind at the store while a newer clerk went out on deliveries. I’d sit there behind the counter, the Jeff Burroughs bat close at hand. On many occasions, this thought occurred: If someone comes through the door with a gun, what the fuck am I really going to be able to do with this Jeff Burroughs bat?

Which brings me to this question of protection. It’s a violent world, I guess. I wish I knew kung fu or something. Without it, I guess I’m just hoping to get lucky and get through the day without getting shot.

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(Love versus Hate update: Jeff Burroughs’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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Bobby Cox

October 8, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 4 of 25)

(continued from Dick Ruthven)

Bobby Cox was a manager of the Atlanta Braves for a little while in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before that, he’d been a marginal major leaguer, briefly appearing in some games for the New York Yankees during a rare down time in the history of that franchise. It’s not clear from his short stint with the Braves back when I was a kid if he knew much about managing. The team had been pretty bad for a while, and he wasn’t able to do much to change that, losing 93 games his first season of 1978, when this card came out. He lost 94 games the following year. In 1980, he led the Braves to an 81-80 record, but the next year they dipped below .500 again and Cox was fired. This is what happens to managers. They come and go. My childhood connection to baseball ended during Cox’s doomed 1981 season, when I stopped buying cards, so I’m not sure whatever became of him. Probably he drifted back to the minors or into scouting or left the game altogether to get a job at his brother-in-law’s muffler shop.

Is there any job less stable than that of a major league manager? The great majority of major league managers, guys who come and go so quickly you barely remember they were ever here—like this hazy Bobby Cox character from my youth—makes me wonder about the extremely rare managers who find a way to not only endure but thrive. What is their secret? Everything in life is so tentative and fleeting, and in the major leagues this fundamental characteristic of the universe seems amplified and exacerbated, and yet there are these rare figures in the game who somehow find a way to put down deep, fruitful roots in the most volatile soil around.

Longevity as a manager, which is necessarily connected—given the unforgiving nature of the profession—to consistent excellence as a manager, has to be an important component in deciding on the best manager in baseball history. Maybe it’s the most important component. The tendency in the managerial profession is toward disappointment and disintegration. Who has been the best at transcending this tendency?

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Dick Ruthven

October 6, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 3 of 25)

(continued from Willie Montanez)

The Braves’ trade of their lone 1977 All-Star, Willie Montanez, didn’t seem to help the 1978 Braves. They lost their first three games of the season, won one, lost four more, won two, then lost four more, so at the early date of April 14 the team was 3-11 and already 7 games out of first place. They played close to .500 for a couple months, perhaps convincing themselves that their destiny might be in their control if only they changed a thing or two. At that time, the team echoed the Montanez deal by trading its lone 1976 All-Star, Dick Ruthven, for Gene Garber. This didn’t help either. The Braves treaded water for a while, then in August lost 13 of 15 games. By the first week of September they’d been mathematically eliminated, and they ended the season with a seven-game losing streak to finish in last place, 26 games behind the first place Los Angeles Dodgers.

Meanwhile, Ruthven’s new team, the Phillies, caught fire shortly after his arrival, surging from 2.5 out of the lead to 5 games in front within three weeks of Ruthven’s June 15 acquisition. Ruthven was a big part of the team’s charge toward its third consecutive National League East crown. By the end of the year, the veteran had logged a 13-5 mark from the time he was freed from the Braves. His performance earned him the start in Game 2 of the 1978 National League Championship series. Before getting yanked in the fifth inning of an eventual 4-0 loss to Tommy John and the Dodgers, Ruthven pitched in front of a home crowd of 60,642, roughly 58,000 more than the attendance at the last Braves home game of 1978. 

Ruthven went on to win a World Series ring with the Phillies in 1980. As far as I can tell, he was the only player to appear in a game for the 1978 Atlanta Braves to ever win a World Series ring [update: this inaccurate claim is corrected in the comments section], and I don’t think he can be counted as a full-fledged member of the 1978 Atlanta Braves because he didn’t stick around until the end, when there was nothing to play for.

Even when there was nothing left to play for, at the last home game, 2,560 people showed up. In a certain sense, I count myself among those listless witnesses. Empty seats everywhere. Meandering organ and murmuring. If anything ever mattered, it’s elsewhere now.

****

(Love versus Hate update: Dick Ruthven’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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Willie Montanez

September 28, 2010

1.
Is there an ideal world and a real world? I think Plato was big on advocating for the existence of that duality. Most religions seem rooted in the notion, too, painting human beings as diminished versions of sacred ideals, or even of existence itself as a faint, corrupted echo of the purified afterlife. The most influential modern secular belief system, psychology, also seems to feed into the notion of reality as a dualistic conflict between what is and what could be, the core message being that every human has a “diagnosis” and is thus separated from an ideal state by deeply embedded flaws. Even capitalism, that most materialistic of human systems, uses as essential fuel the concept that there is a perpetual gnawing gap between the real and the ideal, between what you have and what you need. The ideal exists, forever out of reach.

2.
Willie Montanez, despite being the only Brave on the 1977 National League All-Star team, despite finishing that All-Star season with a .287 average with 20 home runs and 31 doubles, despite three straight seasons previous to that of batting over .300, despite fielding his position with skill and style, was in December of 1977 tossed by the Braves into a multi-team transaction of mind-boggling complexity that ended up netting the Braves nothing more than the featureless trio of Adrian Devine, Eddie Miller, and Tommy Boggs. Moreover, the Topps company neglected to break out the paint cans and shift a card version of Montanez over to his new team, the Mets, and compounded that apathy on the matter of Willie Montanez by slotting him into their 1978 set at number 38, one of the few participant in the previous year’s All-Star Game to fail to be honored with a card number ending in zero or five. (Montanez was one of just ten out of forty-nine participants in the 1977 All-Star Game who didn’t get the “zero or five” honor; the others were a mixture of middle infielders, relievers, young guys, and, in the case of the Dodger on the list, the egregiously underrated: Manny Trillo, Garry Templeton, Reggie Smith, John Stearns, Gary Lavelle, Jim Kern, Ruppert Jones, Dennis Eckersley, and Dave LaRoche.)

3.
The Topps version of the 1978 Atlanta Braves differed from the actual 1978 Atlanta Braves, as evidenced here in Willie Montanez’ 1978 card. In that ideal world of the cardboard gods, a world that for a moment is pure speculation of what might be before rapidly migrating to the realm of what could have been, Willie Montanez was a member of the 1978 Atlanta Braves. In the real world, Willie Montanez never spent a moment with the 1978 Braves. With Montanez in 1977, the Braves had lost 101 games; without him in 1978, they lost 93. Meanwhile, Montanez’ addition to the Mets in 1978 cut that team’s 1977 loss total of 98 to a 1978 mark of 96. This is the funny thing about wondering what could have been. Really, the question is moot. No matter where you go or what you do, you’ll lose.

4.
But when you’re a kid, you live for a little while in an ideal world, having not yet absorbed the fundamental inevitabilities. When I was a kid I vowed to remember what it was like to be a kid, because it seemed to me that adults had allowed themselves to let go of that ideal world. I would, I vowed, hold on to that little kid mind forever. Despite this vow, despite—or perhaps in part because—of the exhausting attention I have paid, through twenty-plus years of writing, to the exploration of my memories, my little kid world slipped from my grasp. I got old, timid, worried, grim. If little kid Me met me now, the little kid Me would find old Me to be just the kind of stiff, awkward, hesitant adult who inspired the vow to remember what it was like to be a kid in the first place.

5.
I must have seen Willie Montanez play in the 1977 All-Star game, but the memory didn’t stick, maybe because on such a big night (and the All-Star game was always the biggest night of the summer for me) I didn’t need Willie Montanez. But the next season, when his ideal world version locked him into an apprehensive hunch as an Atlanta Brave, Topps card number 38, I watched him play for the 1978 Mets during my yearly visit to New York to see my dad. He stood out, did Willie Montanez the Met, despite or even because of all the losing, flipping his bat before each of his at-bats and snapping his glove when he made catches at first and in all other ways investing the mundane grownup world of routines and rituals with an unsinkable flair. Adults disparaged his actions on the field, scorning him as a “hot dog,” but kids always loved him wherever he went. He had somehow held onto a version of the game that we recognized, that we were most drawn to, that we needed: All is not lost.

***

(Love versus Hate update: Willie Montanez’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” piece is a statement of the rules, so no addition has been made to the ongoing contest.)

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Phil Niekro

September 22, 2010

Yesterday evening, as I was waiting for a train on the Blue Line at an outdoor station overlooking a highway, I saw a trailer come loose from a large dump truck and careen down the road, the disconnected attachment shooting up an angry plume of sparks as it scraped against the pavement. My train was arriving just as this was happening, so the last I saw was the dump truck moving over and slowing down to the speed of the unhinged trailer, the two wheeled vehicles side by side, one with a driver, one without, traffic already starting to congeal in their wake. On the train ride home, I looked up from my book just once, and it was in time to see two freshly crumpled cars on the side of the highway, the drivers exchanging insurance information grimly. After the train ride, I went to the post office, where all the computers were down and all the priority mail envelopes were gone and all the chained pens were out of ink and a ragged disgruntled line stretched all the way out the door to the parking lot. On my walk home, I watched a black girl in a crowded car scream at a couple white-helmeted Caucasians on bicycles, “Get the fuck out the street!” A few minutes later, a tan woman in a gigantic SUV nearly ran me over while barreling out of an alley and babbling on her cell phone.

So this morning, naturally, I decided I’m going to write about the 1978 Atlanta Braves one card at a time, in order of their appearance in the Topps numbering system for that year. Phil Niekro comes first: Topps 1978 card number 10. His card is one of the few Braves cards for that year given special treatment by the Topps hierarchical numbering system. The scarcity of Braves with cards ending in a zero or a five (an honor bestowed on stars and near-stars) was a big hint that the Braves would be in trouble in the coming year. There were other fairly thunderous omens to that effect. The team was coming off a dismal 101-loss season in 1977 and had been adrift for some years, ever since their anchor Hank Aaron had meandered back to Milwaukee to log a couple last seasons as a designated hitter. What happens when things have been falling apart for so long it starts to feel like the way of the world?

Maybe Phil Niekro knows. By 1978, Niekro had been around for a long time. He was older than all but a handful of players in the game. He had just completed a season in which his prodigious efforts were transformed by the decay of the team into a muddy swamp in which distinctions of good and bad were impossible to discern. In 1977, he had led the league in innings pitched (330) and complete games (20) and collected 16 wins and struck out a career high 262 batters; he also led the league in losses (20), hits allowed (315), walks (164), earned runs (148), and wild pitches (17).

Niekro’s league-topping totals, good, bad, and ugly, derived from a mixture of his peerless durability and consistency, his reliance on the magic and mayhem of the knuckleball, and the putrid nature of the 1977 Braves, who needed Niekro to absorb an abnormally large share of the punishment for their general ineptitude. He was pretty much all they had, like one good soldier in a besieged fort otherwise manned by half-wits and invalids. Soon enough, he’d draw all enemy fire. Soon enough, the walls would cave in.

Niekro’s reaction to all this, at least as far as can be surmised from his photo in this 1978 card, was to stolidly hang in there and take it. The stadium is empty and the future is bleak. But Phil Niekro is not quitting. Phil Niekro will endure.

****

(Love versus Hate update: Phil Niekro’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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Mike Beard

January 11, 2010

There’s one thing you can’t lose, it’s that feel.
Your hat, your shirt, your shoes, but not that feel.
–Tom Waits and Keith Richards

Mike Beard lasted parts of four seasons in the majors. This card may be his high-water mark. After being drafted in the first round of the secondary phase of the 1971 June amateur draft (I don’t really understand the “secondary phase” part of it, but it definitely didn’t translate to dregs: several other players drafted in that phase that year went on to the majors), Beard had reached the majors during a September call-up in 1974 and then had spent most of the season with the Braves in 1975, compiling a 3.21 ERA out of the bullpen, a performance that led to text on the back of this card proclaiming, in perhaps a bit of a stretch, that Beard was “one of NL’s top rookies.” His ERA jumped just over a full run in 1976, and his innings were chopped in half, and in 1977 he lost it altogether, allowing 14 hits and three home runs in just 4.2 innings of work. In his last appearance, he came on in the fifth inning with two outs and the Braves losing 6-1. He allowed a stolen base and a run-scoring single before retiring Al Oliver to end the inning. It was the last major league out he would record. In the sixth inning, before he was sent to the showers, he gave up a leadoff home run to Willie Stargell, singles to Rennie Stennett and Phil Garner, and a run-scoring double to Frank Taveras.  

I never pitched much in my brief but all-consuming childhood baseball career, but I got to try it a couple times. One time, against the bottom of the order of the worst team in the league, I struck out the side to end a game. A tough kid from my school who was watching the game told me the next day, sneering, “You got lucky.” In a later game, as if to prove his point, I surrendered hit after hit. By the time the coach came out to the mound I was crying and begging to go back to a less central and humiliating position. I wish this weren’t true, but that’s what happened. I mention this only to try to use my tiny sliver of experience of getting knocked around on the mound as a way to understand what it might have been like to have been Mike Beard at the very end. But pitching was not my life. Pitching was not something that got me attention in the world and made me feel like I knew what I was doing. I imagine that someone such as Mike Beard who was good enough to get drafted in the first round by a major league team and good enough to make it to the majors and even good enough to retire major league batters for a while has a completely different experience of that moment when outs suddenly seem impossible to come by. For most of his life, for as long as he could remember, the ball felt good in his hand, like something alive and connected to him, an extension of him, something he could make jump and dance. Mike Beard had devoted his life to that feeling. That feeling abandoned him, left him right out there in the middle of everything all alone.

He looks in this card like he was probably able to handle that devastating abandonment when it came. He looks tough. He looks mature too, appearing older than 25, the age he must have been when the photo was snapped. The set of his jaw and the Clint Eastwood squint in his eyes make the goofy 1970s Braves cap on his head seem much more provisional than the man wearing it. (How could anyone have been expected to stomp the competition with that cartoonish and somehow apologetically meek lower-case “a” on the crown of their heads?) The recurring Cardboard God-era theme of players wearing warmup jackets beneath their uniforms is also present here, and in this context it makes the Braves uniform shirt also seem particularly temporary, as if Mike Beard has just pulled the jersey on for a moment before ripping it and the cap off to go to a job interview in an industry that offers more stable employment.

But we never know how stable any situation is. We never know when our pitches will disobey our wishes, or when the ball will be taken from our hands, or when the cap and shirt will be taken from our body, leaving us without any particular allegiance as we enter some new unknown. I have been writing about my baseball cards for about a decade, starting with some handwritten journal entries scrawled by kerosene lantern light in the primitive cabin I lived in for a year back in 1999 and 2000. In 2006 I started writing about the cards consistently and posting the writing on the first location of this site. I don’t know how many cards I’ve written about, a few hundred anyway, but I’ve still only scratched the surface in terms of profiling all the cards in my shoebox. I still have a lot of baseball cards to write about.

But I only have a couple Atlanta Braves left from my childhood. Besides this Mike Beard card, I’ve got a team card from 1980, a 1976 Darrell Evans card, and a 1978 Dick Ruthven card. I think that’s it. I’m sure I had more Braves as a kid than I do now, and I don’t know what happened to them, or to my similarly decimated store of Phillies and Dodgers cards. It doesn’t really matter. I’m coming to the first of many ends.

From very early on in this experiment, within the first week of posts, I began worrying that I’d said all I could possibly say about my cards, about 1970s baseball, and about my own timid, monotonous life. But writing is about as close as I’ll get to being a pitcher, I mean in terms of doing something I love and want to always do and hope never to be stripped of, and it’s also about as close as I’ll get to something like a religion.

As one of the high priests of that religion, Samuel Beckett, once said, “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” The sky is clearing this morning, and the cold snap is easing off just a little. In a little while I’ll start work, my job, grateful I’ve got one, always wary that the corporation’s cubicle-emptying sweep that happened a few months ago might happen again and send me to the street. Everything is always ending. So before I let go of the keyboard for the day I want to imagine Mike Beard in the summer this card came out, June 15, 1976, to be exact, a Braves’ lead evaporating as starter Dick Ruthven falters and relievers Adrian Devine and Max Leon prove incapable of stopping the bleeding. In the ninth inning the tying run reaches first. In comes Mike Beard. He gets the outs. He gets his one and only major league save. I imagine that the ball gets back to him, the ball that perennial all-star Ted Simmons was unable to make good contact with. Mike Beard holds this ball in his hands, the game ball, and feels something he can’t lose.

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Buzz Capra

March 27, 2009

buzz-capra-75

“There have been a lot of players who have had one good season and then were never heard from again. I don’t want that to happen to me.” – Buzz Capra, April 1975

You can tell from this photo, which was taken during Buzz Capra’s one fantastic season of 1974, that Buzz Capra wants it. He’s amped up, alert, aware, ready to fling himself into battle. Itching for it. Let’s go. Give me the ball. Let me show you what I can do.

***

My problem? I never wanted it enough. I loved playing baseball as much as I’ve ever loved anything, but when the pitches started coming at my head and then, as I bailed, breaking over the plate for strikes, I quit. By then I’d become interested in basketball, which I loved playing as much as I’d loved baseball. The head coach at the high school had all the teams at the school do a particular drill during practice: put the ball down on the floor and have players in pairs fight for it. Who wants it more? I wasn’t very good at this drill. Soon, I gave up on climbing the ladder of success in basketball, too. When the going gets tough, I curl into a fetal position. I daydream. I eat potato chips and stare out the window.  Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jerry Royster

November 25, 2008
 Untitled 
The baseball hovering above Jerry Royster’s left shoulder shows the limitations of language. Defining Jerry Royster’s role on a team with a single position, 3B, is like saying that Ben Franklin was a guy who did some newspaper work. It’s true Ben Franklin did some newspaper work, but he did a few other things too.

The comparison between Jerry Royster and Ben Franklin breaks down, of course, when you weigh the relative the importance of the many roles they played. Ben Franklin: discovered electricity, invented bifocals, formed the first public lending library, laid the groundwork for a nation, etc. Jerry Royster: subbed for Rod Gilbreath on occasion, laid down the occasional sacrifice bunt, led the 101-loss 1977 Atlanta Braves in steals, etc.

Even so, there is something entirely admirable in being able to do a lot of things competently. I’ve always been fond of Jerry Royster, as a matter of fact (and of Ben Franklin, too), and perhaps it has something to do with my long-held suspicion that I am useless. I remember, many years ago, in boarding school, playing catch with a friend out by my dorm’s “butt porch” (a cigarette-smoking area for the adolescent denizens of the school; it was a different time). It was late in my time there, the end of senior year approaching. That spring we got stoned a lot in our room and then threw on a record, most often the Dead Set side with “Franklin’s Tower,” put the speakers in the window, and hung out on the butt porch. This particular day instead of just sitting there zoning out we’d decided to play some catch. We started talking about what kind of baseball player we’d be if we could be any baseball player.

I started describing my choice, a player very much like Jerry Royster. A guy you’d barely notice most of the time and then every once in a while you’d stop and say, hey, that guy’s actually fairly useful, in a quiet, unassuming way. This amused my friend greatly.

“If you’re going to be a make-believe player, why would you want that?” he said, incredulous. “If we’re playing make-believe, make me the catcher who hits 80 home runs with 200 RBIs!”

I refused to alter my stance. I wanted to be a utility guy who hit around .260 and could steal you a base.

It couldn’t have been too much longer after this ridiculous conversation that I was expelled from boarding school. I’ve described this whole saga elsewhere, but my “judicial” occurs to me again when thinking of Jerry Royster. The judicial was a hearing where I was supposedly allowed to plead my case for staying in school to a table of students and faculty. If I’d been involved in a lot of different extra-curricular activities or charity work or sports or had had any academic prowess in one or more subjects, or had played a musical instrument, or knew how to use a computer or type or develop photographs or paint a picture or make a ceramic pot or drive or sing or identify any aspect of the natural or physical world beyond that which happened to intersect with the campus frisbee golf course I played incessantly while high, that would have been the time to mention my utility.

I said very little. What was there to say? What I could have done, and probably should have done, was to show off one of my useless skills: the ability to fill out an imaginary baseball roster with some sort of an idiosyncratic theme determining inclusion. An apt team for that situation would have been a team filled with my polar opposites, the Jerry Royster-inspired all-time versatile guy team:

C (and 1B and RF and LF and 3B): Johnny Wockenfuss
1B (and LF and 3B and 2B and RF and CF): Pete Rose
2B (and LF and 3B and SS and RF and CF and 1B): Tony Phillips
SS (and 3B and LF and 2B and CF and C and 1B and P and RF): Bert Campaneris
3B (and 2B and SS and LF and CF and RF): Jerry Royster
LF (and RF and 1B and 3B and CF and 2B): Pedro Guerrero
CF (and SS and LF and 1B): Robin Yount
RF (and P and LF and 1B): Babe Ruth
P (and OF and 2B and 1B): Smokey Joe Wood

****

(Love versus Hate update: Jerry Royster’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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Rowland Office, 1976

September 25, 2008
 Untitled 
One Continuous Mistake: The Cardboard Gods Story (So Far)

Part 2 of 3 (Continued from Skip Jutze, 1976)

I have written about Rowland Office before. But since my shoebox at the time of that writing was sadly and mysteriously lacking a single Rowland Office card, I had to attach my thoughts on the subject to a 1975 Braves team card that included the young outfielder in miniature, sardine-canned in with the other dour blurry figures from that year’s forgettable Atlanta collective. Over a year after that posting, which attempted to describe the strange gleeful hold Rowland Office’s yearly appearances on baseball cards had on my brother and me, and to speculate why all the Rowland Office cards I was sure I had owned as a child had somehow vanished, a reader named Jeff Demerly contacted me and kindly offered to cure the inexplicable Office-less wound in my collection by sending me his double of the 1976 Rowland Office card, shown here.

That was several months ago; I’ve been speechless on the subject ever since. How do you thank a guy for sending you a Rowland Office card? How do you then write about that Rowland Office card, especially since it is exactly how you remember those disappeared Rowland Office cards of childhood? To really get it right I’d have to be eight years old again, in the bedroom I shared with my brother, both of us sprawled on the floor, cards scattered all around us loose and in rubber-banded stacks. One of us holds up a new find, our version of this Rowland Office card, for the other to see. The holder of the card has his lips clamped shut, trying not to laugh until the other has silently mouthed the odd mellifluous name and taken in the strange narrow face.

Looking at the card now, I honestly don’t know what caused us to roll around on our bedroom floor laughing so hard we cried. The name is cartoonish, the face unusually long and thin, the lips pursed as if a sour remark is about to be uttered about the stench of a teammate’s flatulence. I mean, I guess he’s kind of funny looking. But now, weighed down by all my years, I also see a young guy, much younger than I am now, trying to stick in the majors, trying to hold on to the what is probably the only thing he knows how to do. I find myself focusing on his eyes, which seem alert and unsure, like those of a deer ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble. I see a human where once I only saw a ridiculous god, a god who had and still has few peers in my imagined personal Mount Olympus. He was the god of brotherly laughing fits, returning year after year to sacrifice himself in our rituals of mockery and bonding. What could be more important than that? Moments when I was living a shared life with my brother, like when we played catch in the yard, or talked about the Red Sox, or lowered the record player needle onto a new album we’d both been dying to hear, or laughed our asses off over a Rowland Office card, were the best moments of my childhood.

Instead of trying and failing to fully articulate my gratitude for those moments and for the echo of those moments that come to me through these cards, I’m going to wrap things up today by providing what will probably seem to be a nonsensical list of words and phrases. In fact they are some of the Internet search engine terms that brought searchers here, to Cardboard Gods. When I look at the list I recall players I’ve been lucky to spend time thinking about, and I recall stories I told about my life in relation to the players, and I recall stories that readers told in the comments attached to the stories I told. When I look at the list I also see things I would never have expected to see, ridiculous ripples that make me laugh, the world wider than I thought, more full of unanswerable questions and mystery and life. When I look at this list, as when I remember laughing with my brother, as when I remember Rowland Office, as when I opened an envelope from Jeff Demerly and discovered that Rowland Office had once again found his way to me, I smile. We’re all in this together. I get happy.

what is the baseball card where the guy is giving the finger

show me baseball uniforms with brown shirts

bad news bears bob watson let them play

most muscular white basketball player

a couple fornicating on green monster

famous blondes who got pies in face

why not to live in kansas city mullet

game winning bunt gary allenson

what is steve brye doing now

carl yastrzemski kielbasa

what does sixto mean

where is richie hebner

jack clark jerk

bespectacled

fistfight

jutze

(continued in Steve Ontiveros and Doug Capilla)