George Bell, Josh Donaldson, MVP’s, and Purple Butts

Today, Josh Donaldson was named the American League Most Valuable Player, making him the first Toronto Blue Jay to win the award since George Bell in 1987. I decided to share a few quick facts about each of these great players, to help give us all a better understanding of two of the most significant players in team history.

There are some similarities, some differences, but overall, you’ve got some dudes that can do baseball things really well and cause some shit at the same time.

1987 Fleer - George Bell

1987 Fleer – George Bell

George Bell, 1987 AL MVP:

1. Was called Jorge Bell until about 1985.
2. Feuded mightily with Jimy “One M” Williams when the manager tried to make him a Designated Hitter against his will.
3. Apparently had a purple butt that he wanted fans to kiss.
4. Was a 5.0 WAR player in 1987, his AL MVP year.
5. Stolen from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 Rule 5 Draft

2015 Topps - Josh Donaldson

2015 Topps – Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson, 2015 AL MVP:

1. Played the majority of his games at catcher until 2011
2. Became a legend when he said, “this isn’t the try league, this is the get it done league. Eventually, they’re gonna find people who’ll get it done.”
3. Apparently wanted the Anaheim California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they’re called, to suck his cock.
4. Was an 8.8 WAR player in 2015, his (first) AL MVP year.
5. Stolen from the Oakland Athletics for a Canadian fellow with a lot of tattoos and some other stuff.

There, now you know.

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

Joe Torre, Playoff Droughts and Being Uncomfortable on Photo Day

1981 Fleer - Joe Torre

1981 Fleer – Joe Torre

With Game 5 of the World Series going tonight at Citi “I Wish They Still Called It Shea Stadium” Field, I thought I’d talk about the Mets a little. And in this case, someone that a lot of people forget was a Met for a while.

Joe Torre, who looks wildly uncomfortable here on 1981 Fleer cardboard, transitioned directly from being a player with the Mets (1975-77) to being a manager, and actually spent 18 days as a player-manager before retiring as a player. I think Joe’s discomfort on photo day that year comes from the fact that he knew he’d end up being a legendary Yankee manager someday, and the Mets uniform felt unnatural. I don’t even like the Yankees and I know that’s probably a cold hard fact.

Torre actually played the sixth most games in baseball history without ever making it to the playoffs, and then managed another 1,901 with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals before finally being part of a playoff team with the Yankees in 1996, when they won their first World Series in 18 years. That’s over 4,100 Major League Baseball games before getting to the playoffs even once. That’s the equivalent of over 25 seasons. 

If that doesn’t give you hope, you’re probably a Cubs fan.

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.

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.

Stormin’ Gorman Thomas and Truck Stops

1986Topps-GormanThomas

1986 Topps – Gorman Thomas

I know what you’re thinking, and no, this picture was not taken at a truck stop in the movie Smokey and the Bandit and photoshopped onto this baseball card. This is actually what Gorman Thomas looked like near the end of his Major League Baseball career.

Outside of Mike Schmidt, who you might have heard of, nobody hit more home runs than ol’ Stormin’ Gorman between 1978 and 1983. Schmidt had 220, Thomas had 197. Not bad.

Now, I found a few clips here that will make you really understand Gorman Thomas. The first two are courtesy of the crew at Disciples of Uecker:

“They come to see me strike out, hit a home run, or run into a fence. I try to accommodate them at least one way every game.” – This is a quote from Gorman himself, and it makes me long for a simpler time.

“In Okrent’s account, it’s easy to understand why Gorman Thomas was such a fan favorite in Milwaukee. Thomas drank beers with tailgaters in the County Stadium parking lot, had a beer gut, and smoked Marlboros.” – I’ve never been to Milwaukee, but this pretty much embodies everything that I hope and dream Milwaukee stands for. I want Milwaukee to be a city from a simpler time and I don’t care if they’re mad at me for wanting that.

Now, this is from Wikipedia, a fairly popular website that you may have encountered:

“At present, he works under a personal services contract with the Brewers to make appearances in the community and welcome visitors to Gorman’s Grill at Miller Park.” – Basically, he’s a mascot for a restaurant/bar at a Major League Baseball stadium. This is literally my dream job. I want to meet this man and learn from him.  He also wore the shit out of that hat.

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.)

On Borje Salming, Skate Cuts and Bad Letters

8889Esso-BorjeSalming

1988-89 Esso – Borje Salming

Borje Salming was a great hockey player.  He was a trail blazer, one of the first Swedish players to make an impact in the NHL.  But, I’ll tell you, that sat very poorly with seven-year-old me.  Very poorly indeed.

Let me explain.  The card you see above was issued by Esso during the 1988-89 season and went into an album called the “Esso NHL All-Star Collection.”  All of this was pretty much the coolest thing ever.  I took the cards and the album everywhere and read the articles hundreds of times.  As an aside, to this day I’m convinced that “the computer at NHL headquarters was in danger of overheating because of the extra demands Gretzky’s statistics placed upon its circuits,” because an article called “The Gretzky Era” inside told me that was the case.

Anyway, I was not thrilled with the fact that Borje Salming was Swedish.  I wanted him to be Canadian.  So, I scratched out “Kiruna, Sweden” in the album and wrote in “Canada.”  That seemed to make it better.  Imagine if that logic worked – our Canadian national teams would never lose another game.  I was clearly a genius, even at an early age.

Now, with the perspective of a (fairly immature) adult, I am proud of the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs were once forward-thinking enough to give a Hall of Famer like Borje Salming a chance to come to North America.

Three quick things about Borje, while we’re on the subject:

1. During the 1986-87 season, he took a 200-plus-stitch cut to the face from a skate cut in a scramble in the crease and now, years later, looks exactly like a former hockey player who once took a 200-plus-stitch cut to the face from a skate.
2. He had originally been suspended for the entire 1986-87 season for admitting he had tried cocaine.  The NHL later realized that it was the 1980’s, and they did not want to have to suspend everyone, so they shortened his suspension to just eight games.
3. He now runs an underwear company called Salming Underwear.  True story.

Can we also talk about the A on those 1980’s Leafs jerseys?  What was that all about?  Has anyone ever seen a letter A that looks like that anywhere else, ever?  Didn’t think so.

At least the Leafs look good losing now.