Monday, October 14, 2013

Expressions of Weirdness (the Later Years)

I really shouldn’t poke fun.  I mean, there’s no shortage of yearbook horrors, driver’s license abominations, and passport terrors for yours truly.

But, you know, that kind of thing never stopped me before, did it?  Alright, let’s get started!

I'm not even really sure how to describe this one.

You may have heard of this guy before.  I understand he was a really good catcher.  Heck, I even heard a rumor he might make it to Cooperstown someday.

Alright, everybody knows this guy.  Here are a few things you might not know about him however.  In particular, did you know that Johnny Bench was:
  • The valedictorian of his high school class
  • The first baseball player to appear alone on a box of Wheaties 
  • A professional golfer after retiring
  • The lead in a Cincinnati version of Damn Yankees

“Who me?  No, I was just standing here.  Fondlin’ this baseball.  Thass  all.  Why?”

Here’s another guy you may have heard of.  And here are some bits of trivia about Hank Aaron that you may not have:
  • He had seven siblings
  • He was an Eagle Scout
  • He is no longer the first player in the Baseball Encyclopedia
  • There is a book out there called The Ultimate Hank Aaron Fun Fact And Trivia Book
Wondering who beat out Hank?   See below for answer.


“Somebody up there …

You’ve met Bob Aspromonte before, where I made fun of his poses and shared some bio info.  So, here’s some good trivia for him:
  • He was the last ex-Brooklyn Dodger to retire
  • His brother Ken played in the majors as well
  • He went to the same high school as Sandy Koufax
  • His nickname when he played for the Astros was “Aspro”
  • He and his brother own a $15 million dollar company in Houston

… likes me.”

This one is rather ironic, as J.R. Richard is probably best remembered for his unfortunate medical history.   Things started out pretty good for J.R. though.  After never losing a high school game, he was drafted second in the 1969 draft, and made the majors in 1971.  He then went on to lead the league in strikeouts twice and ERA once – all over a period of just two years.

In mid-season 1980, however, he suffered a stroke while warming up.  And that was pretty much the end of what was a very promising baseball career (even though Richard did attempt a comeback with the Astros and also bummed around the minors for a couple of years).

After that – and this may be hard to believe – things actually got a lot worse.  In fact, at one point, J.R. found himself sleeping under a Houston underpass.  He was saved by a local pastor, though, and then became a minister himself.  So, I guess somebody really was looking after you after all, J.R.

Why so coy, Elliott?  Why so coy?

Elliott Maddox was up for 11 years with six teams.  He got over 300 at bats (the mark of a regular for me) in five of those years.  He also hit .300 twice and got 20 stolen bases once.  Similar players include Jo-Jo White, Ted Uhlaender, Dude Esterbrook, and Bris Lord (I did not make that last one up, by the way).

Now, seeing as we seem to be on a trivia roll in this post, I certainly don’t want to leave Elliott out.  Did you know that:
  • He’s another first-round draft pick
  • His team in high school was called the Farmers
  • He once sued the Mets, his employer at the time, for an injury he incurred on the field
  • He worked as an investment banker after retiring from baseball
  • He’s a convert to Judaism (to continue the bris theme)

“Bu’ why?  I’m still a good player.  Really I am.  I ain’t been in the pokey or nuthin yet.  Really.”

So, this guy’s been in this blog twice already, once and twice.  In those posts, I shared some highlights of his rather interesting bio as well as some trivia – but no stats.  

I think everyone knows he’s the last pitcher to win 30.  Some other career highlights include:
  • Going 24-9 the year after the 30-win season
  • Winning the Cy Young Award two years in a row
  • Leading the league in wins, games started, and innings pitched twice
  • Leading the league in HRs allowed three times
  • Leading the league in complete games, but also losses, hits allowed, and earned runs once
And all of that was within the space of ten years!

“Um, E, N … Is that an L?  Okay, W, N …  Z?  Uh, theta?  Er, is that Cyrillic?  I don’t speak Russian, you know.”  Ladies and gentlemen, Cecil “The Optometrist” Upshaw.

Cecil was a pretty promising pitcher.  A sidearmer, he tallied 86 saves over nine years, and was the Braves’ closer for four of those.

He lost a year, though, and undoubtedly affected his career overall with the following major-league stupid-baseball-player-injury incident:

"He and two other Braves players were walking down an Atlanta sidewalk and one of the other players bet him he couldn't jump up and touch an overhead awning. He did reach the awning, but a ring on his pitching hand ring finger got caught on a projection off of the awning and tore ligaments in his hand."  (Wikipedia)

Some other favorites of mine, by the way, are: Wade Boggs’ and his cowboy boots, John Smoltz and his iron, Bob Stanley and his trash, Rich Harden and his alarm clock, and Joel Zumaya and Guitar Hero.  Complete list right here.

Duke is lookin’ so mellow …  Duke, you been smokin’ those funny-smelling cigarettes in the parking lot again?

Duke Sims is another repeat offender.  Just a couple of weeks back, we made fun of his mouth breather tendencies.  I shared some trivia there too, so here are – to paraphrase Sgt. Friday – “just the stats, ma’am”: 
  • 11 years, 5 teams
  • 800-some games, 2000-some at bats
  • One year over 400 at bats, one year over 20 HRs (but, interestingly, not the same year)
  • 6 stolen bases, 16 caught stealing
  • 2 times leading the league, once in errors committed and once in passed balls

“Aw, c’mon coach.  Throw me the ball!  I’m ready.  C’mon!”

So, I’m not sure how ready Bob Hansen really was.  I’m talking 2 years, 2 homers, 2 stolen bases, 149 at bats, and a .242 average.  I must admit, though – this is a great look for a guy who was drafted in the 21st round.  By the way, this was Bob’s only card.

Some other bloggers have pointed out Bob’s resemblance to Ernest Borgnine and Keith Moon.  Along the same rough lines, did you know that Bob also shares his name with a famous serial killer (though the two don’t look a bit alike)?

I don’t know – Chaney doesn’t sound too excited about this.

Darrell Chaney was a light-hitting shortstop who was up for 11 years, seven with Cincinnati and four with Atlanta.  His best year was that first one with the Braves, the year this card was issued.  It was the only year he was a regular, and he set highs for average, hits, runs, RBIs, and stolen bases.  (He also led the majors in errors committed with 37, but let’s just keep that to ourselves, okay?)

After retiring, he was an announcer for the Braves for a number of years.  Currently, he’s a motivational speaker, Sr. Vice President of Sales at Prime Retail Services in Gainesville GA, and Chairman of the Board of Major League Alumni Marketing.

So, see, Darrell?  It didn’t turn out so bad after all, did it?

“I say, old chap, did you just pass some Grey Poupon?”

On the plus side, Bill Greif was the Padres opening day starter for 1974.  He also was a big boy (especially in that era), at 6’5”.

On the minus side, well, there’s actually quite a lot.  He finished his career with a 31-67 record (that’s a .316 “winning” percentage, by the way), and had an ERA over 5.00 for four of the six years he was up in the bigs.  Also, his sole league-leading stat was hit batsmen, in 1974.  

Oh, and he really did look like this.  The handful of cards he was on all look pretty darn goofy.  I can recommend his rookie card and his 1975, but his 1976 is an absolute gem.  Good greif!  

Ever wondered what Bill looks like in mustard yellow? Click here.

Wow, what a look!  This guy looks some spy from the last days of the Ottoman Empire.  All he needs is a black fez and an unfiltered cigarette in his hand.  I can see him walking through the souk in Cairo right now.  He really should be twirling one of those mustachios though, don’t you think?

Okay, everybody knows this guy as Nick Swisher’s father.  Before parenthood, though, it’s interesting to note that Swisher Sr. actually had a major league career of his own.  

Okay, so he only got 1400 at bats.  And he finished with a .216 average.  And he came in 1681st all time on the JAWS rankings for catchers.  And comparable players include Merv Shea, Glenn Borgmann, and Tubby Spencer.

Did I mention he’s Nick Swisher’s dad?

Hmm ... Are Steve and Dave related?

Dave Collins was up in the bigs for 16 years, but played with 8 different teams. It looks like you never quite knew what you would be getting with ol' Dave. I'm talkin' one year at .216 and the next at .318, one year with 60 steals and the next with less than half that.

One thing you could count on more than others though seemed to be speed. Dave finished with not quite 400 steals and - according to Wikipedia - was known as the "fastest white man in baseball" (I kid you not). 

“Whuh?  Did he just say what I think he did?  He can’t say that, can he?”

Now, I like candid shots, but I have to wonder if this is really what they had in mind.  It kind of looks like Kemp might be thinking that the guy on the left might be totally full of crap, off his rocker, entirely too vainglorious and perhaps a tad deranged …

I have mixed feelings about Steve Kemp.  He was one of those veterans that my beloved Pirates signed in the 1980s in a desperate attempt to be any good.  George Hendrick, Lee Mazzilli, and Bill Almon are others (Bill who?).  The Buccos always managed to get these guys just as their careers were going from “downhill” to “over the cliff.”

Up to when he joined the Bucs, Steve had had a pretty decent career.  He was the first pick in the 1976 draft and played just one year in the minors.  His best year was 1979, when he was an All Star and finished with 26 homers, 108 RBIs, and a .318 average.  With the Pirates, Steve hit .250 and .188, with three homers in 252 at bats.

By the way, Steve is Armenian.  Yup, the original family name was Kempinian.  

(Um, I made that last bit up, by the way).

Mug shot and baseball card, all in one!

Fernando Gonzalez was up for six big league seasons, with five teams (including the Pirates twice).  He finished with just over 1000 at bats and 100 RBIs, with a .235 average.  He played all or parts of 13 seasons in the minors.

Fernando liked to supplement his meager salary by holding up convenience stores and dealing drugs.  

(Okay, okay.  I made that one up too.)

Wow!  Rob’s got it all going on, doesn’t he?  Chipmunk cheeks, heavenward gaze, weird eyebrows, brillo hair, cheesy mustache …

According to Wikipedia, Rob Picciolo “was notorious for not drawing bases on balls. In 1,628 major league at bats, he walked only 25 times.”  And that’s exactly what you want to do when you’re a light-hitting middle infielder with a career .234 average, let me tell ya.

Somehow or other, though, Rob managed to last nine years in the bigs.  That’s seven years less, however, than the 16 years he hung on as a coach for the Pads.  

Here’s another post that does a fine job of making fun of our Rob.

Wow!  I’m at a loss for words.

Eric Rasmussen was up for 11 years, but only totaled 50 wins (for a .394 winning percentage).  Some prime Rasmussiana:
  • Legally changed his name from Harold to Eric
  • Major league career was interrupted by some time playing in Mexico
  • Similar players include Elmer Jacobs, Hub Perdue, and Dana Fillingim 
More of ol’ Harold – er, I mean Eric – here and here.

Want some more weirdness?  Check out these dudes.

Answer: Why, Dave Aardsma, of course

* - author has this card


  1. Elliott Maddox was in the first pack of baseball cards I ever bought (1971, when he was with the Senators). It was the Yankees he was with when he slipped on wet grass on June 13, 1975 at Shea Stadium (Yankee Stadium was still being renovated) making a catch in the 9th inning and tore cartilage in his knee. He didn't play again for 15 months, and was never the same. His lawsuit was unsuccessful because it was ruled that he when he took the field, he was accepting the playing conditions.

    The Yankees were so short of outfielders that weekend because of injuries that on June 15 they played Thurman Munson in left, Rick Dempsey in right, and a rookie named Kerry Dineen--in his first major league start and second major league game--in center. And they won.

  2. Cool! Thanks for the details.