A columnist’s end-of-the-year grab-bag

Being that we are midway into December—just 11 shopping days until Christmas—this will be my last column of the year. Before I begin the column itself, I would just to give my genuine and profound thanks to all of you who have read, commented upon, shared or otherwise been part of the column this year. Like many of us at Hardball Times, this is a hobby for me, and being able to share that with an audience is deeply rewarding.

Moving on, frequent readers might note that when attempting to demonstrate a player’s greatness, I will often indicate how far ahead of the second place competitor he is, and how that compares to the distance from second place to another one. For example: in 2004 Barry Bonds drew 232 walks, 105 more than second place Todd Helton. That’s the same difference as from Helton to Wily Mo Pena, who was 145th in the NL in walks.

You see how that works? Well, this column is by far the strangest one I’ve ever written, a hodge-podge of concepts, little bits and pieces and a true story. And the distance between this and the second strangest column I’ve ever written is as greater as the difference between the second strangest and, in all candor, the least strange. So on that note, let’s begin!

Six Word Biographies

Many people, at least in the pretentious circles in which I run, are aware of the Six Word Memoir. Taking its inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s famous, if possibly apocryphal, six word story (For sale: baby shoes, never worn) it asks people to write a memoir in the same length of time. Taking my inspiration from that, I present here a series of ten Six Word Biographies about some of the game’s notable figures:

Barry Bonds: Home run king, but controversy reigns

Jeffery Loria: While his riches grow, fans vanish

Jim Rice: In the Hall of Fame? Really?

Joe Jackson: Tragic figure, brought it on himself

Old Hoss Radbourn: Pitching was good, Tweets are better

Bud Selig: Runs game worse than combs hair

Nolan Ryan: Seven times, no hits: pretty good

Roger Maris: Home run stress makes bald man

Bill Veeck:
At ballpark, no idea too crazy

Mariano Rivera: Too great for six words alone

Limericks

You all know what a limerick is, right? Well, here are three of them I composed when I got caught in the subway without a book once:

On Joe Mauer:
There once was a catcher from Land o’Lakes
Whose hitting gave pitchers the shakes
His glove it was Gold
His pitch calling bold
But it’s too bad about all the money he makes

On Alex Rodriguez:
He started his career as a shortstop
Then in New York to third base he did hop
In the fall of 2009
His bat was better than fine

But otherwise he’s a postseason flop

On Manny Ramirez:
At the plate his performance is uncanny
Line drives to knock a pitcher on his fanny
In the field he’s crap
Often taking a nap

But that’s just Manny being Manny

A (this column was too) Short Story

When I tell people that I write a baseball column, they occasionally—very occasionally, but still—mistake for me Buster Olney or Ken Rosenthal or something, and ask what players I’ve met, what they’re like and so on. Of course, I can count the baseball players I’ve met on one hand and the ones I’ve met in my capacity as a columnist on my tail.

All of which is a long way of saying that the only player I’ve ever spoken to for any length of time was “Super” Joe McEwing. McEwing was one of those play-everywhere/hit-nowhere types, who spent most of his career with the Mets.

image
“Super” Joe McEwing (US Presswire)

My meeting with McEwing started rather unremarkably: I was walking home from school in the fall, sometime shortly after the end of the World Series, when I saw a sign in the window my local Gristedes: Today! Meet Mets’ Star Joe McEwing, or similar words. Being that this was an uncommon occurrence (in fact, I cannot remember seeing a player there before or since) I went in. This began one of the stranger experiences of my life. Before I tell this story, I am going to preface it by saying that everything in here is true, or at least exactly how I remember it.

For reasons unknown, the supermarket had put McEwing way, way, in the back of the store, near the freezer cases, so Joe was sitting there wedged between the Red Baron Pizzas and Lean Cuisines. Compounding this, although the store set up a table for McEwing—upon which was a comically high stack of Joe McEwing photos waiting to be autographed; Joe McEwing hasn’t signed that many photos in his entire life—they failed to provide a chair, so he was sitting on cardboard boxes filled with, I suppose, Red Baron Pizzas and Lean Cuisines.

I believe the look on McEwing’s face at this point is now used in many dictionaries to supplement the definition of “malaise.”

To his credit, McEwing was very friendly, asking my name so that he could personalize my requested autographed photo. I thanked him and started to leave. At this point, it occurred to me that I was not exactly holding up a crowd of would-be autograph hounds. In fact, the only other person in the section was an older woman who seemed to be debating asking the player to move so she could reach the Lean Cuisines.

Next, I asked McEwing if he would mind signing a photo for a friend of mine—a big Mets’ fan—and he did. This whole process had taken maybe 45 seconds, but seeing no one else around, I figured I would stay and make small talk with an actual Major League player.

He and I made awkward chit-chat for almost 10 minutes—during which time I learned that being a Major League player is fun, but being away from one’s family is not—until a boy of maybe 10 started to nervously approach the table. McEwing, by now clearly desperate for human contact with anyone who wasn’t me, all but grabbed the kid and signed a picture for him. Never one to miss a hint, I wished McEwing well, and went on my way.

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