Doug Jones: Closer, All-Star, Moustache.

1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Doug Jones

1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Doug Jones

There is a lot of 1992 to discuss here. I’ll start with the moustache. Thick and rich, getting in the way of food and drink… that’s what a real man’s moustache is supposed to look like. I’m told that he looks “like a vacuum cleaner.” I had to have that one explained to me, but think about it, it kinda makes sense. It would literally take me 17 years to grow anything close to that.

There are also the sunglasses. If you were into baseball in the early 1990’s and you didn’t want a pair of sunglasses like those, I’ll bet you didn’t even care about life. The strap on the sunglasses, you’ll notice, holds them securely in place while a glorious mullet is allowed to flourish. The sunglasses were for the business, and the flow was for the party.

Along with great fashion sense, Doug Jones was actually one of the best closers in baseball for a time, a five-time All-Star, and finished his career with 303 saves, playing for seven teams, most notably Cleveland, Houston and Milwaukee.

The card above (O-Pee-Chee Premier… classy) shows him when he was about to have the best season of his career with Houston in 1992, after his worst season with Cleveland in 1991. He had lost his closer’s job and got sent to the minors for a bit. But then he came back in September, started the only four games of his career, and was pretty decent (3-1 record) before being released and signing with the Astros in the offseason.

He also pitched in the Major Leagues until he was 43 years old. Could he have done that sans moustache? I doubt it.

Winfield Wanted Noise, Edwin Wants Calm: The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays

1989 Fleer - Toronto Blue Jays

1989 Fleer – Toronto Blue Jays

That was fun, wasn’t it?

The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays took us on a ride that we haven’t experienced as Blue Jays fans – or Toronto sports fans in general – in a long time. Way too long, really. Even though some of us had grown up with some decent teams in Toronto, 1993 was a generation ago now, and our kids will see 1993 like we saw 1967 – except standard definition rather than black and white.

I’m not even sure we knew how to handle it anymore, all the stress and anxiety, the scheduling conflicts with our real lives and forced conversations with bandwagon jumpers in our social circles, but I think we’ve learned that winning is something we can get used to again as adults.

2015 sure didn’t start the way we wanted, when Marcus Stroman came down off that mound in Dunedin and tore his ACL. He said he’d pitch again this year, but we didn’t really believe him. It all looked lost from the start.

The season didn’t end the way we wanted, either, because by the time they’d made it to the playoffs, we’d decided that wasn’t enough. We wanted it all. Six games in the ALCS wasn’t a World Series title, and we wanted that.

But, you can’t always get what you want, they say, and the part between the beginning and the end sure was a lot of fun. When the sting of the loss to Kansas City fades, we’ll look back on 2015 with a lot of pride.

Above all else, even when we’ve forgotten all the details, there will always be Jose Bautista’s bat flipping, pitcher-staring, beer-throwing ridiculousness against Texas in the ALDS. Dave Bidini put it absolutely perfectly on his one45everyday site about how that moment was the one Toronto needed when he said this:

“Toronto hasn’t had many Jose’s. We’ve had gentle Mats Sundin and salt of the earth Wendel and the Robbie Alomar’s wattage. We’ve had wordless Roy Halliday and good guy Tim Horton and the ghost of Dave Keon. We’ve never had an angry vengeful superstar; at least no one as angry or jilted as Jose Bautista is and will be evermore.”

2015 Topps Heritage - Jose Bautista

2015 Topps Heritage – Jose Bautista

He’s completely right. That’s the face of this team, and that’s who we are now. We’re going to be the team that nobody likes. We’re not the feel-good Chicago Cubs or the everyman Kansas City Royals. We’re arrogant and angry and obnoxious, we yell a lot and wear our blue hats everywhere we travel with this team. We need to stop throwing stuff on our plastic grass field, but we know that now. In 1992, Winfield wanted noise, but in 2015, Edwin told us to calm down. It’s different here now. Toronto the Good maybe still, but also Toronto the Rowdy.

It sure does suck at the moment, though, right? It doesn’t feel good to lose, although you’d think we’d be used to it by now. But at the end of the day, when you really think about it, 2015 was absolutely good enough, for the Toronto Blue Jays, and us as their fans. But it was only good enough if there is more to come. There has to be more to come. 2015 can’t just be a blip on the radar. It has to be the start of some consistent winning.

Sure, it’s a bit sappy, but I’m going to close with a quote by Tom Boswell from Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary – because really, let’s be honest. I’m just going to miss watching these guys play.

“I’ve always thought that the six months during the baseball season, there was something in the day that wasn’t there the other six months in winter. It was not that you had to listen to the game, but that you could if you needed it.”

Apparently there’s a hockey season starting now. I’m going to try to get excited about it until pitchers and catchers report in February.

The Chicago Cubs, Back to the Future and Blue Pyjamas

Well, a lot of what I believed in came crashing down around me today. See, today was the day Marty McFly got to the future in Back to the Future Part 2. It’s now October 21, 2015. We don’t have hoverboards. We don’t have flying cars. We don’t have self-drying jackets or self-tightening shoes or fax machines in every room of our houses… which is the one thing I was really counting on. Above all else, the Chicago Cubs will not win the 2015 World Series, so the predictions of Robert Zemeckis et al were just hollow and empty.

I’m left alone in the dark, shattered, wondering what it all means, and I lost a lot betting on the Cubbies. That Gray’s Sports Almanac is full of shit.

1981 Topps - Ivan DeJesus

1981 Topps – Ivan DeJesus

Like anyone else, I usually try to find the silver lining in the dark clouds. That silver lining is the baby blue pyjamas that the Cubs wore in the early 1980’s. The best part about these pyjamas is how high you can wear the pants. You can see here how Ivan DeJesus is doing everything he can to pull those elastic waist paints up to his nipples, just like Grandpa would. Another silver lining is that in January 1982, DeJesus would be traded by the Cubs to the Phillies for Larry Bowa and some kid named Ryne Sandberg. I guess that turned out alright.

Bottom line is it’s good to see the Cubs back on the map of successful teams in baseball. They’re being built well and they’re going to be around for a while this time, I think. And I’m rarely wrong.

George Foster, Aviators and Accusations

1986 Topps - George Foster

1986 Topps – George Foster

There are a lot of things I wish had carried over from baseball in the 1970’s and 1980’s to the present day. I could do without all the cookie-cutter stadiums, AstroTurf and scandals (well, I’m sure there will always be those), but there are a lot of things I would have liked to see in today’s game.

One of these things is a sense of style like the one George Foster had. George is pictured here late in his career with the New York Mets. You see, George is wearing aviator sunglasses during the game. Not fancy Oakleys, not those flip down ones they wear in the field. Just pure classic aviators. That’s a whole new level of cool that I know I could never pull off.

George hit 52 home runs in 1977 in Cincinnati, which was the last time anyone hit 50 until Cecil Fielder in 1990. In between, though, he left Cincy in a bit of a huff, and then played the race card with the New York Mets, even though they replaced him with Kevin Mitchell and had Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden as their marquee players. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. That Kevin Mitchell.

Sometimes you gotta be able to let go, George, but don’t ever let go of that style.

Gary Pettis, Pac-Man and the Fountain of Youth

1985Topps-GaryPettis

1985 Topps – Gary Pettis

Take a look at this card. You might be wondering if Gary Pettis won a contest at his elementary school where the prize was the opportunity to appear on a Topps Major League Baseball card. The answer is no, that is not the case.

Gary Pettis was, in reality, 27 years old in 1985. However, that’s not him on the card. It’s his little brother Lynn, who was actually 16 at the time the picture was taken. Can you imagine pulling that off as a 16-year-old? I’d obviously get as many of them as I could and sign autographs for everyone I met, everywhere I went.

I don’t know anything about Lynn Pettis other than about his appearance on this card and clearly his legendary status at his high school, but his brother won five Gold Gloves. Not bad.

Gary was also nicknamed Pac-Man because of the way he ate up ground balls in the outfield. For you kids out there, Pac-Man was a video game of some note in the 1980’s. Look up some pictures, it’ll make sense.

Also, great job catching that one, Topps. Gold star performance.