Monday, December 19, 2011

Cap, Backwards ('50s Version)

Sometime in the 1980s, wearing a baseball cap backwards became something of a fashion statement.  I’m not totally sure what it was stating (“I’m a moron”?), but, hey, that’s fashion for you. 

Previously, that look had been reserved for catchers and village idiots.  (Note that there may have been some overlap between these two groups.)  Images of convicts and bakers also come to mind.   Suffice it to say, it’s not a good look. 

So, here’s a look at some bearers of the tools of ignorance … and of a really bad fashion statement.

See what I mean?  It’s pretty obvious Matt’s no brain surgeon.  I can see him changing my oil though.

Yes, this is the famous Matt Batts.  With a name like that, you know he’s going to grace this blog again.  Like here and here!

Don was probably about 20 in this photo, and definitely looks it.  He actually made his MLB debut at age 18, sitting on the Reds bench for a couple of years as a classic bonus baby.

Even as an older player, though, Don Pavletich was never anything more than your standard backup catcher.  He played 12 seasons, mostly with the Reds, never getting more than 250 or so at bats in any one of them. 

The upward angle of the camera, the lighting from below, and the slight nimbus behind Smokey (and, of course, Smoky's classic smirk) are what make this one.  Pretty genius, if you ask me. 

Forrest Harrill “Smoky” Burgess was born in Caroleen, NC.  It’s a tiny town on the way to nowhere, but boasts two other major leaguers, Don Padgett and Claude Crocker.

Smoky was definitely the star though.  A decent catcher, he was probably one of the best pinch-hitters of all time.  His pinch-hitting abilities earned him an All-Star berth and induction into the Cincinnati Reds and NC athletic halls of fame. 

I probably should have made a whole post for Smoky.  I do mention him in posts on more head wear and the ravages of age, as well as one pointing out his uncanny resemblance to Rush Limbaugh and Son of Sam. 

Aw, come to papa! 

If Ray’s looking a little grandfatherly in this one, there’s a good reason.  This card (it’s a ’51 Bowman) represents the last year of a 14-year career.  That’s a lot of foul tips! 

Iron man Ray also just happened to have set the then NL record for consecutive games caught (233, in the mid ‘40s).  Mueller wrapped up a pretty decent career with an all-star nomination and a no-hitter (catching it, not pitching it).

The glasses, the ears, the backwards cap …  It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.

Interestingly, Steve turns out to be the brainiac in the bunch.  Before joining the Senators for four years in the early 50s, he got a degree from George Washington.  After his short stint in the majors (58 games, lifetime average of .159), Korchek returned to GW, got his PhD, and became a college president.  Who’d a thunk it?

Make sure to check out next week's post, where we look at 1952, an especially good year for backward caps.  Oh, and the look was still popular in the '60s as well.

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