Archive for the ‘Toronto Blue Jays’ Category

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Dave Roberts

July 17, 2007
 

Here is the third best of the four major leaguers named Dave Roberts, but the only Dave Roberts he rates higher than was the first Dave Roberts, so a case could be made that this man here is the least of all the Dave Robertses. There was also a guy named Dave Roberts who went to high school with some friends of mine and lurked years later on the fringes of our weekend descents into drunkenness at the International Bar on 7th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan. He seemed to show up out of nowhere late in the night and seemed edgy and slightly unhinged. For a while he was spotted all over the city, taking his place among other alcohol-related spectres such as The Guy Who Materialized Out of the Mists of Shea and The Pittsburgh Steelers Guy and The Raiders of the Lost Arc Guy. Where have they all gone? Where have I gone, for that matter? 

Most recently I have gone to Holland for two weeks, and today because of a nasty trip-ending cold I’m deep in a jet lag/Nyquil haze. Maybe I’ll tell some Holland stories soon, but then again I usually can only write about things so far in the past as to be almost completely gone. I wish I could say more about this Dave Roberts, too, but I’m too foggy. But anyway here he is in a Blue Jays uniform. He was among the first players ever acquired by the Blue Jays, but he never played for them. They picked him up and then returned him from whence he came (the Padres). I wonder if they’d been expecting a different Dave Roberts.

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Rick Bosetti

May 27, 2007
 

I Need You

Chapter Two

Is this really how Rick Bosetti swung? The complete lack of urgency and electricity in his follow-through (by contrast, see a similar moment modeled by the great Dimaggio) suggest a lifeless JC Penney catalog photo rather than a baseball card action shot. Maybe this shot is taken from the end of the 1979 season, one in which Bosetti finished third in the league in outs made. He’d made so many outs at this point that he’d sort of resigned himself to the whole thing.

“Yup,” he seems to be thinking, “there’s another soft useless popup to second base. Guess I’ll trot a few steps toward first to make it look good even though I could just as easily walk back to the dugout right now and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. . . . God, I’m tired.”

Maybe it was around this time that Bosetti began to pursue the quest that would bring him some enduring notoriety. In fact, the case could be made that in this photo he is not gazing out at the puny path of his batted ball but past it, to some as-yet unconquered expanse in the outfield grass.

You see, Rick Bosetti, when he began to realize that he wasn’t bound for Cooperstown, decided he wanted to somehow leave some other kind of mark on the game, and so began urinating in the outfield of every park he played in. By his retirement he claims to have urinated in all the American League outfields. He seems to have done most of his damage before games, but there are some reports claiming that once his project gained some renown he began doing it during games, while pitching changes were being made. Some mention is made of his glove being used to shield himself. As I imagine it, maybe he also squatted down or something. I don’t think the fans were privy to these shenanigans, but surely there must have been some awareness among his fellow players. It must have brightened up many a late-season meaningless blowout.

But anyway, here’s Rick Bosetti in his 1980 card. It was the last year in which my cards had the power to be a whole world unto themselves, a world I could get lost in. Something about Bosetti’s flaccid disinterest epitomizes my baseball card end times. At some point my attitude toward these little colored and number-riddled rectangles ceased to excite me and draw me in. I bought a few cards the following year, but it must have felt like I was inside the passionless follow-through of a failed Bosetti swing. You know: Who cares?

One of the few cards I got in 1981 happened to be another Rick Bosetti. It must have produced none of the old spark. I was 13 by then. I don’t need you, Rick Bosetti.

I needed something else.

(to be continued)

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Bob Davis: Part 4 of 4

November 7, 2006
 

(continued from here)

“People are gonna tell you you’re no good. Don’t listen.” — Jack Kelson to Nick Kelson, American Heart (dir. Martin Bell)

I laughed off Basheer’s advice, politely took my institutional ass-reaming at the judicial, waited a day or two, then when summoned went to see the campus dean, Jacqueline Smethurst, to hear the verdict. She told me I was expelled. I stood up to leave.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Jacqueline Smethurst exclaimed incredulously. “I’m not done with you.

“Sit down,” she ordered.

I sat down.

I wish I didn’t but I did. I hesitated a little, I think, but basically when she said sit down I sat down. Bruce Springsteen’s “Growin’ Up” this isn’t.

Many years of sitting down when asked to sit down went by. In 1999, I moved into a cabin in the woods of northern Vermont. The cabin had no electricity, no running water, a small woodstove for heat, and a big plastic lime-coated barrel for my excrement. I’d found an ad for the cabin-for-rent in a laundromat just as I was realizing that the living situation that I’d recently arranged was going to entail sharing space in a very narrow house with a friendless, jobless man who believed a local health food restaurant was trying to poison him and who began to glare at me with the same vengeful resentment he reserved for his suspected poisoners after I declined his creepily doe-eyed offer to take me to a dowsing convention. In other words, I didn’t enter into My Year in the Woods with quite the same idealistic purposefulness as Thoreau.

But it did appeal to me. I was a fan of Thoreau, after all, and also I guess I hoped the move might stem the slow erosion of meaning in my life. I wanted to live within an adventure. I wanted to once and for all finally figure out The Answer, to have it crashingly bloom in my mind in a spectacular epiphany, and like all addicts of this illusion of future enlightenment I was drawn to the idea that if I could just get away from all the snares of the world I might be able to finally understand the sound of one hand clapping. Or, to switch koans, when that fucking tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, I’d be there to hear it. I’d be no one, nothing but light, and so I would know whether or not that falling tree makes a sound, and the answer would free me finally to a life of calm, clear-eyed bliss.

My friend Charles sent me off to my year of solitary purity with a gag gift of a battery-powered television about the size of two decks of cards. I ended up going through a lot of batteries that year, the television one of my links to the life I could not let go of. I’m not talking about not being able to let go of a connection to the news of the world or to pop culture, but rather not being able to let go of my vices, those little tics and repetitions and brain-numbings that allow me to cross the expanse of a day.

Another vice I cultivated had to do with a small orange plastic propeller toy, also a gift from Charles. You use both your hands to spin the stem of the propeller and it flies through the air for fifteen or twenty feet. It’s the type of thing that a normal person might try a couple times before moving on with their lives, but during my year in the woods I created a golf-like game that involved trying to hit a series of trees around the cabin with the flying propeller in the fewest “strokes” possible. Then, reverting to a practice that devoured huge tracts of empty time in my childhood, I populated the game with an ever-growing catalog of intricately conceived imaginary personalities revered by millions of imaginary fans for their prowess in the hallowed, physically taxing, mentally punishing, spiritually grueling sport of Twirly Propeller.

Instead of writing the novel that ulcerously festered inside me unsaid, or taking assiduous egoless note of the natural phenomena all around me, or resolving to pretzel my stiff, inflexible body into a straight-spined lotus position and chant sutras until the top of my head split open to guzzle nirvana, I enacted Twirly Propeller tournament after Twirly Propeller tournament, each a grueling marathon with several elimination rounds that gradually built to the breathless white-knuckle tension of the Championship Match. I kept in my head the entire history of the sport, all the single-match, yearly, and lifetime records, all the famous rises and falls, all the improbable limping heroic Comebacks from Complete Oblivion. It’s all gone now, of course, that world I Godded. I left that cabin a year after I’d arrived, packing out everything I’d packed in except a very full barrel of shit.

But anyway, finally, here is Bob Davis with a big wad of tobacco in his right cheek. My final time-wasting pursuit in the cabin was to occasionally randomly select and study a baseball card from the collection of mine that had been recently unearthed during the emptying of my family’s storage unit. This card was one of the first and for some reason among the most haunting of my random selections. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because Bob Davis’s expression seems like that of a man who’s trying to remain cheerful in spite of the tiny constant ringing noise that’s made his sanity into a thin, fraying, tightly stretched rubber band. Or maybe it’s because of the clammy gray catacomb-like background, such a stark contrast to the overwhelmingly predominate baseball card backdrop of blue sky as to suggest something about Bob Davis’s extremely peripheral, ogre-like isolation on the far fringes of major league baseball. Or maybe it’s because of the discovery I made that Bob Davis shares my birthday.

The impact of that last discovery was initially jarring because of the implication that I was in some deep, psychic way connected to the man shown here clinging to the thin pleasure of his tobacco cyst as if the faint buzz it provides is a small fragment of a shipwreck on the wide sea. Such a connection made sense in a lot of ways, really, especially in light of the fact that I probably followed the discovery of Bob Davis’s birthday by clinging to one of my own jagged shards of driftwood, maybe authoring some third round Greater Omaha Open Twirly Propeller action, maybe watching insect-sized Jennifer Aniston and insect-sized David Schimmer cavort across my tiny TV screen until that horrible, inevitable moment when the batteries died.

But a secondary impact of the discovery has crept up on me in the following years. I wonder more and more why it took me until I was a thirty-two-old man shitting in a barrel in the woods to find out that there was a Cardboard God who shared my birthday. I’d always believed that as a child I’d spent hour upon hour scrutinizing every detail of every card. But this is obviously not so. Even my baseball cards are strangers. Even my childhood is expelling me.

Maybe life is just a series of expulsions. You get expelled, you start to rise and move onto the next thing, and then something like doubt starts in, a voice aiming to corrode, to diminish.

Where do you think you’re going?

Sit down.

I’m not done telling you all the things you don’t know, all the many ways you’re powerless.

For 38 years I’ve sat back down. From here on out I say Suck my fucking dick.

I’m standing up.

 
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Bob Bailor: Part 1 of 4

November 2, 2006
 

Here is Bob Bailor with a big wad of tobacco in his left cheek. Bailor was acquired by the Blue Jays in the glorious ritual of detritus-sifting known as the expansion draft. Just prior to an expansion draft, the established teams in a league reserve all the players they want and haul a couple peripheral guys out to the curb like one of them is a milk crate full of burnt-out Christmas lights and the other’s a knobless television with a “FREE” sign taped to the screen.

In fact, Bailor was the very first pick of the Blue Jays in the 1976 expansion draft, the best of the entire flea market heap except for Ruppert Jones, who was the first pick of the other expansion team, the coin-flip-winning Seattle Mariners. This photo, adorned with the rookie-team trophy, shows Bailor just after he has ridden the slow, low-tide, styrofoam boogie-board wave of expansion draft acceptance to a mildly successful season, the utility man somehow amassing enough bloop singles to hit .310, a mark he would never again come close to. The faintly troubled expression on his face seems to imply that he may on some level understand that his best days are already behind him.

He did stick around for several more years, however. Not that I noticed at the time, having loosened my grip on the Cardboard Gods, but by 1983 he was still barnicled to the leaky hull of some lousy team or other when I followed in the footsteps of my brother and went away at age 15 to Northfield Mount Hermon, a boarding school in western Massachusetts. This change for me was severe. One day I was the sole inhabitant of a rural, socially retarded kingdom of daydreams, solitaire Strat-o-matic baseball, and WKRP in Cincinnati-based masturbation, and the next day I was stiffly traversing a rolling green campus of solemn ivied buildings and sharp-witted upper-middle-class Izod-clad sophisticates in Spandau Ballet haircuts who had long ago lost their virginity on the sunsplashed decks of Nantucket sailboats. Initially, my only way of dealing with the terror of the situation was to seize hold of the strong resemblance I had at that time to my brother. You’re just like your brother, I was told repeatedly, often as a filler for the uncomfortable silences that seemed to follow me around like a force field.

I wasn’t crazy about being an echo, but I think I realized that being an echo was better than being nothing at all, especially if it was the echo of the brother I had always idolized. He had done well at the school, or so I thought, playing on the varsity basketball team, acing English papers, serving as an official Student Leader of his dorm. Years later, I found out he carried an ineffably deep loathing of the memory of himself at that school. During his two years there, he had forced his unruly collection of adolescent hurt, yearning, and anger inside the borders of a desperate impersonation of a well-adjusted high-achieving paragon of old-money virtue. So it turns out I was impersonating an impersonation, and probably the thinness of such an endeavor is part of whatever gnawed at me from the inside out at that school.

I gradually moved from mimicking a mimic to my second and final way of dealing with my identity or lack thereof at the boarding school: inebriation. It’s tempting to identify the first step along this path (which ultimately led to my expulsion) as the night some 18-year-old classmate got a ride with a day student across the border into Vermont to buy booze and some friends and I all got ecstatically smashed. But actually my first experience with a substance-caused rush at the school was earlier than that, and it was with Bob Bailor’s drug of choice, chewing tobacco. My friend Bill and I tried some Copenhagen one night at the library during “study hours” and it made us stumble around and giggle and nearly vomit. Bill, perhaps with an eye toward one day bridging the wide chasm that seemed to divide us from the hundreds of dazzlingly pretty girls of the campus, didn’t cultivate the nauseating habit, but for some reason I did, at least for a couple years. That first year of the lip-bulging, cup-full-of-brown-spit vice must have been the most disgusting to onlookers, in large part because I still wore braces.

 

(to be continued)

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Otto Velez

September 19, 2006

There was something sturdy and elemental about Otto Velez. I have no memory at all of him as a Yankee (apparently he made three plate appearances in the 1976 World Series, striking out each time), but as soon as he became a member of the first Blue Jay team he somehow seemed to have always existed. All the other Blue Jays flickered half-formed like figures on the malfunctioning pads of the Starship Enterprise transporter room, not quite here yet and not even somewhere else. But Otto Velez was undeniably here. If not for him, I don’t think anyone would have ever believed there was such a thing as the Toronto Blue Jays.