Knocking Hockey Hall of Famers Down a Peg or Two

There’s a lot of talk today about the class of 2015 being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight. And sure, it’s a great group. Among NHL stars Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Chris Pronger, there is US National Team star Angela Ruggiero as well as builders Peter Karmanos and Bill Hay.

All are clearly deserving inductees, but I’m not here for that. I’m here to knock them down a peg or two.

1997-98 Score - Sergei Fedorov

1997-98 Score – Sergei Fedorov

Sergei Fedorov: I’m not sure celebrating a Stanley Cup win with the Detroit Red Wings is reason enough for that shirt, and those pants, even if it was their first title in 42 years. Hall of Famer yes, Fashion Icon no.

1992-93 Score - Phil Housley

1992-93 Score – Phil Housley

Phil Housley: The Gretzky Jofa is a legendary classic. The one that Housley sports here, even on his way to 97 points, was a disgrace to the game. You can be better, Phil.

1991-92 7th Inning Sketch - Chris Pronger

1991-92 7th Inning Sketch – Chris Pronger

Chris Pronger: Someone on the Peterborough Petes’ staff was clearly angry at Chris in 1991-92, which is why they gave him the biggest helmet and visor combo they could find, like ever. Tough to make a 6-6 guy look tiny, but they found a way.

1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Nicklas Lidstrom

1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom: I actually don’t think it’s possible to make fun of Nicklas Lidstrom. I’m not even mad at him for being Swedish, or playing for the Empire of Evil in Detroit his whole career. Let’s just appreciate this Red Wings retro jersey from before the time when retro jerseys were cool.

Congratulations to the inductees.

Now, If only this baseball superstar, Canada’s Bo Jackson, was going into the Hockey Hall of Fame too:

1990 Score - Eric Lindros

1990 Score – Eric Lindros

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.

Neil Wilkinson, Easton Air and California Cool

1991-92 Score - Neil Wilkinson

1991-92 Score – Neil Wilkinson

I’m not here to talk about Neil Wilkinson’s 460 career games in the NHL, nor am I here to talk about his induction to the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame – in the same class as Theo Fleury, no less.  I’m also not here to talk about his key role in the Minnesota North Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1991.

I’m here to talk about the gloves he’s wearing in this picture from the San Jose Sharks inaugural season, 1991-92 (the year they went 17-58-5, not the next year when they went 11-71-2).  Those teal, black and silver Easton Airs.

If you were ten years old then, trust me, you wanted those gloves.  If you were lucky enough to have these gloves and an Easton Aluminum stick, holy shit, were you ever cool.  Look good, play good, so they say.

Looking Good Losing with the Hartford Whalers

1990-91 Pro Set - Ron Francis

1990-91 Pro Set – Ron Francis

Today, in Uniforms I Miss, the Hartford Whalers.  Whether it’s the green beauty modelled above by Ron Francis, who was pretty good, or the blue one sported below by Robert Petrovicky, who is 41 years old and still plays professional hockey, the Whalers had a great look.

1993-94 Upper Deck - Robert Petrovicky

1993-94 Upper Deck – Robert Petrovicky

A few things that are worth noting about the Whalers franchise:

  • They were originally based in Boston for the first two years of their WHA tenure, throughout which they were known as the New England Whalers.
  • They had a theme song.  It was called “Brass Bonanza
  • They were the first Avco Cup winners as WHA champions in 1972-73, but when the trophy wasn’t yet ready, the team had to use their divisional trophy instead for their celebration.
  • They missed the playoffs in ten of their 18 NHL seasons, but, in a magical run in the 1985-86 season, made it all the way to the second round before losing.  In fairness, they lost game seven in overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, but the point is they were never very good.  But they looked good.

All this and I didn’t even mention the Cooperalls!

Rick Wamsley and Naming Hockey Teams After Yourself

1987-88 O-Pee-Chee - Rick Wamsley

1987-88 O-Pee-Chee – Rick Wamsley

Top Five Things to Know About Rick Wamsley:

1. Shared the William M. Jennings Trophy as a member of the Montreal Canadiens with Denis Herron in 1981-82.
2. Won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.
3. Was part of the 10-player Doug Gilmour trade during the 1991-92 season.
4. Once wore the entire outfit pictured on the card above, including outer pad on his left arm, as an active player in the National Hockey League.
5. Played for both the Hamilton Fincups and, during their only season of existence, the St. Catharine’s Fincups. (NOTE: a Fincup is not a real thing. The Hamilton Spectator tells us that this name is a mixture of the last names of the team owners, Joe Finochio and brothers Ron and Mario Cupido. This is the most important thing to take from this post – a Major Junior hockey team was named after the owners. I need to know if this was an anomaly or if there were more. Don’t worry, I’m on it.)

All About Joe Carter, High Tops and Cool

1992Donruss-JoeCarterHighlights

1992 Donruss – Joe Carter – Highlights

So, 21 years ago tonight, Joe Carter hit a three run home run to win the 1993 World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Just to make that extra clear, I said twenty-one years ago, and 1993 World Series.  If that doesn’t make you feel old, you’re probably not that old.  You can watch it here if you feel like getting a little bit emotional:

http://m.mlb.com/video/v31146769/20-years-since-joe-carters-memorable-shot-in-toronto

I’m not here to get all emotional about that home run and what it meant for baseball fans in Canada, and how we all remember exactly where we were when it happened (Ithaca, New York – and then I was a very obnoxious 12-year-old the next day dressed head to toe in Blue Jays swag).  What I’m here to talk about is how cool Joe Carter looked back then.

I’m not going to get into the Oakleys, the necklace, the one armband, or the batting gloves with the bright red swath.  What I really care about is the cleats.  You see, in 1992 and 1993, we all wanted Reebok Blacktop Pumps or Nike Air Jordans.  But if you were a Blue Jays fan (or, let’s face it, a human being) then, you also wanted high top baseball cleats that almost covered your stirrups completely.  Joe Carter had them, and he was hitting home runs to win the World Series.

And for a little bit of bonus Joe Carter Cool, I present to you this delightfulness courtesy of 1992 Score.  You can see all the cool is exaggerated.  Goodnight.

1992Score-JoeCarterAS

1992 Score – Joe Carter – All-Star

The White Sox and Collars

Tonight, the Chicago White Sox defeated the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the 12th inning.  Tyler Flowers tied the game with a home run in the bottom of the 9th, and then won it with a home run in the bottom of the 12th.  Fairly impressive for someone who wears modernized Chris Sabo goggles.  I mention this, because as a Toronto sports fan, I can relate to the collapse that the A’s are in danger of suffering at the moment, and I am not sympathetic.  They had Moneyball, we have shitty turf.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. 

1981 Donruss - Kevin Bell

1981 Donruss – Kevin Bell

I’m here to talk about one of the things that the Chicago White Sox used to wear.  Modeling the 1980 version of this beauty is former seventh overall pick, Kevin Bell.  (Who? Ya, I don’t know either).  A few notes on what you’re seeing here:

-Untucked shirt
-Collars. Oh, the collars.
-Dark pants/white shirt
-White socks.  Just like the name might indicate.
-The hats. Just yelling “SOX” like it’s no big deal.

Of note, this collared, untucked monstrosity was once also was paired with shorts.

And, there you have it.