America’s hipsters and post-ironic trust fund kids may be growing out their mustaches now, but baseball players of the 70’s had little idea of how their ‘staches (which were considered masculine) were actually a cultural influence initiated by gay culture. Dennis Eckersley no doubt had the most famous mustache in Oakland A’s history, (besides Rollie Fingers) and unlike most players in the 90’s, kept the mustache until it became hip again and still wears it today.
Starting with the ’60s, when hippie culture and gay culture seemed to collide, facial hair really got out of hand, as gay beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his bushy face exemplify. In 1969, with gay liberation after the Stonewall Riots, those on the front lines were the drag queens without a hair on their faces and the hippie types who wanted to buck the establishment and had nothing to lose. Again it was the smooth and the hairy in perfect harmony.
Things started to change in the ’70s, as the proliferation of gay porn, the popularization of disco (a gay sub-culture) and an exploding gay culture gave birth to what is known as “the clone look,” which started with super-popular gay porn star Al Parker. You couldn’t swing a handbag on The Castro without hitting a guy with a mustache, and everyone felt the need to conform because not only was it a way to spot other gays but it was the beauty ideal, and something that was considered masculine. Gay icons like Freddie Mercury, the Village People, and John Waters were all known for their iconic mustaches.
A landmark film from 1972 was Deep Throat, which made perhaps up to $600 million (no one really knows the exact figures…probably not even the mobsters who backed it) and kicked off the era of ’70s “porno chic.” Along with the other major male porn stars of the time, like John Holmes and Ron Jeremy who made mustaches synonymous with sleazy sexual appetites, perhaps leading to their public decline in the gay community and lending itself towards a more “macho” mainstream appetite.
The 1990’s unfortunately became a fallow time for mustaches, which were associated with the past two decades and seen as cheesy and unhip. Now, of course, they’re making a huge comeback with today’s cool kids, who reach back for the circa-1900 look and who have a keen taste for irony since they can’t define their own media-obsessed generation by any clear materialized pop-cultural definition.
After the earth dies, some 5 billion years from now, after it’s burned to a crisp by the sun; there will be worlds, stars, galaxies coming into being, and they will know nothing of a place called “Earth.”
Sometimes when the stresses of life are getting to me I try to remember the above quote and how it applies to the meaningless of everything I do. I admit, sometimes it works, but mostly not.
The economic disarray, joblessness, and overall feelings of hopelessness in this country is akin to Karl Marx slapping me in the face and telling me, “I told you so.” I know that if I don’t kiss up to my boss–leading to an immediate termination–I could end up like one of the homeless folks that I see outside of my second story window. (I have nicknames for two: one is the “predator” because of his ass length dreadlocks and likeness to the alien in the movie of the same name, and the other is “Old Yeller” because he loves to drink beers next to the Starbucks garbage can and, well, scream at the garbage can before he passes out in front of it.) And as I’m daydreaming one day while being inspired by these gentlemen, my mind wandered to a time that had been long erased from my rotted cerebrum–a time when the only thing you had to worry about was school, when you were finally going to get laid and your measly pittance of a weekly allowance.
Carney Lansford was the third-sacker for the A’s during their dominating run in the early 90’s and one of my favorite players. His nerdy glasses and un-ironic mustache (I always thought guys did this because they had thin upper lips) gave him a comforting “cool dad” like quality. After tinkering a bit with batting stances, my 13-year-old self decided that Mr. Lansford’s hand jerky style was the one I’d mimic while rocketing balls off the cyclone fence intertwined with branches and leaves. (my cousin and I thought this made it look more like Wrigley) He was also part of the team that won the ’89 World Series, which was the last time the boys in green even came close to sniffing a title. (’06 ALCS doesn’t count as we were swept by the Tigers and weren’t even supposed to go that far) I sat there, lost in a myriad of unspoken emotions and feelings that had rushed to me in a fruitful and happy wave, and suddenly a burst of terrible 80’s classic rock comes pounding out of my clock/radio. Time to go to work. I must cut this story short, good reader… wage slavery calls.
Mark McGwire, my childhood, and why he should be in the HOF despite the “Boomers” that keep him out.
It’s strange; when most baseball fans talk about iconic cards of their youths they will usually cite a 1952 Mickey Mantle, 1968 Nolan Ryan or even a 1984 Don Mattingly rookie. That is all well and good; I enjoy baseball’s past and have spent countless hours and even days researching it. The most iconic card in my youth, however, was the 1987 Topps Mark McGwire.
You see, he was my favorite player on my favorite team; that’s not much of a stretch for a kid growing up in Northern California. When I look at this funky piece of cardboard with a blurry photo of a young, lanky, hunchbacked McGwire with the tacky, 1970’s Dad’s den border, I feel that it represents a couple of things that my generation encompassed so well–mass production and the willingness to do anything at all costs to achieve economic success in an era of unemployment and despair. (In this case “success” can be translated into “baseball success” through PED’s which equals economic success, my generation didn’t have the leisure of the metaphorical PED in the workforce due to the “Boomers” taking all the corporate sectors that they inherited overseas in order to pay the rabble pennies on the dollar. In effect, fucking over China, Indonesia and El Salvador’s working poor and their own people as well. We are forever destined to bat .260 and never have a set position…so much for the “hippy generation.”)
“Popularity of era” is a part of becoming a HOFer…that is why Mark McGwire should be in there. PED’s or not, he was a HUGE part of those 90’s Athletics teams that people love and will talk about forever. Not to mention the class he showed to Roger Maris’ family when he broke the home run record.. (who was vilified as well by the fascist MLB brass…the asterisk instilled by then commissioner Ford Frick still has not been removed due to Maris breaking the record in the then-newly instilled 162 games. The feeling and overall jealousy of the new generation (now old as dirt or perhaps dead…do you see a running theme here?) was further recognized when HOFer Rogers Hornby said, “It would be a disappointment if Ruth’s home run record were bested by a .270 hitter”. Isn’t it strange how the players in an era with the least talent in an era where they didn’t even have to face black players are the biggest shit talkers!?)
There is a lot of talk about Tim Raines for the HOF..let’s get real…his stats are solid and then as the 90’s become a reality he becomes sort of hanger-on and a non entity. No one cared outside of Montreal. (and then again...they didn’t even care) It’s akin to giving the handicapped kid a pat on the back.
It’s all about IMPACT, era and the impact of that specific era. Just ask Derek Jeter, who was never even close to being the best player on his team, (or Pee Wee Reese for that matter.) yet Jeter will be a first ballot HOFer based on “good looks,” a great interview and a legion of mooks from Brooklyn who think they can be an MLB player because he did it. (Miguel Tejada was infinitely better in his prime.)
Here’s what I remember:
Multi-ethnic “sources” saying over half the players on every team used, and that MLB even tacitly encouraged it. I remember a reporter mentioning McGwire having androstenedione displayed openly in his locker, then said reporter getting raked over the coals by players, other reporters, and even the commissioner of baseball–Bud Selig.
Players linked to steroid use have been resoundingly rejected by Hall of Fame voters in recent years, shunned as synthetically enhanced frauds. But drawing an integrity line in the sand is a tenuous stance at a Hall of Fame with a membership that already includes multiple cheaters. Baseball has always had some form of hypocrisy when it comes to its exalted heroes. In theory, when it comes to these kinds of votes, it’s true that character should matter, but once you’ve already let in those who cheated, how can you exclude anyone else?
Here are a few:
Gaylord Perry (class of 1991) had a disregard for the rules that was far more patent and unashamed than any steroid user. Perry doctored baseballs with spit, Vaseline and other substances to confound hitters. All of baseball knew what Perry was doing even if he never admitted it — until writing a tell-all book after his retirement.
Don Sutton (class of 1998) Late in his career, Sutton was often accused of scuffing. In 1978 he was ejected and suspended 10 days for defacing the ball, but when he threatened to sue the National League, he was let off. Was teammates with Gaylord Perry for a while. “He gave me a tube of Vaseline,” joked Sutton. “I thanked him and gave him a piece of sandpaper.” Umpires took the allegations seriously, and sometimes gave him a good going over. Once, he left a note inside his glove for the men in black. It said, “You’re getting warm, but it’s not here.”
Whitey Ford (Class of 1974)… Ford used his wedding ring to cut the ball, or had catcher Elston Howard put a nice slice in it with a buckle on his shin guard. Ford also planted mud pies around the mound and used them to load the ball. He confessed that when pitching against the Dodgers in the 1963 World Series, “I used enough mud to build a dam.” He also threw a “gunk ball,” which combined a mixture of baby oil, turpentine, and resin. He kept the “gunk” in a roll-on dispenser, which, the story goes, Yogi Berra once mistook for deodorant, gluing his arms to his sides in the process.
Things are becoming a bit strange in the baseball world due to the advent of the internet and the basic human emotion of being a follower in a world of followers. (or they may do it to seem intelligent; I know this blog has been attacked by many lard-ass “experts,” with mustard stains running down their shirts, living in their mom’s basement and if they’re lucky MAY have a book published with a small run that no one will read.) I’m starting to see a lot of followers who have no ideas of their own embrace idiotic “statistics”, nostalgia where there never was any, forced moral platitudes and just overall madness. I would die of shock if anyone had an original idea that was absolutely and irreducibly their own. Let’s hope the future generation/s gets it right when the novelty of being angry about a specific (and fun!) era finally dissolves after the Boomer HOF voter generation is finally dead. I have a feeling that the children of the future, because of their gradual and inevitable loss of civil rights, may find fault in the faceless men in the ivory tower who cashed in their billions and instead find compassion for the men simply trying to please them.
Poised between going on and back, pulled Both ways taut like a tight-rope walker, Fingertips pointing the opposites, Now bouncing tiptoe like a dropped ball, Or a kid skipping rope, come on, come on! Running a scattering of steps sidewise, How he teeters, skitters, tingles, teases, Taunts them, hovers like an ecstatic bird, He’s only flirting, crowd him, crowd him, Delicate, delicate, delicate, delicate – Now! –
People wax nostalgic about Ty Cobb and the other dead beat- dead ball honkies….but make no mistake, if my man Rickey was around and even ALLOWED to play with those bigots he would have stolen 2000 more bases. Now before anyone gets crazy about an era they’ve only READ about, let me explain–In the dead ball era it was damn near prerequisite for someone to steal. If you had less than 50 in a season, you just weren’t that good. (apparently they didn’t give a shit about sabermetrics, as in 2010 in the American League there were 1505 stolen bases and only 540 caught stealing. A success rate of 73.6% which is almost 22% higher than in 1927. And 1927 was a high year as the success rate for a SB in that era was usually well under 60%…. Ty Cobb’s stolen base percentage for his career was probably around 67 percent.) Of course, there is always the argument that the era that I speak of had a lackadaisical attitude towards balk calls and other mound chicanery… and that is true, yet I find it hard to believe that an inferior athlete such as Babe Ruth, whos home run trot is famous for its daintiness can actually have 123 career swipes…a mere 77 behind Jose “robo-athlete” Canseco. What the fuck is going on here? This sport makes as much sense as a 40-year-old divorcee in Ibiza….entertaining, wealthy, fun to look at, yet ultimately a head shaking affair.
Ahhhh…but isn’t life itself a head shaking affair? How can you make sense of the serial killer, religion, black holes, or the time I vomited on the subway.
….and by you I mean YOU…the reader. You don’t know shit. Admit it. You will want to fulfill your need to be “the correct party” and regale me with NUMBERS. I don’t need numbers….I’ve seen the greatest base stealer of ALL TIME in my life time, and until they put robots on the goddamn field that will never change.
“What passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human […] is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.”
David Foster Wallace
I’m listening to the birds outside and enjoying the Southern California sun, (it’s 81 degrees at I type this) and doing my typical routine of laughing at people who are freezing their collective asses off in cities where it’s snowing — and life is just generally miserable. (Hello New Jersey!) The vodka tonics have been swallowed, and in heroic fashion, I’m scheming and contemplating how I could possibly live in a disposable culture without having to be a miserable wage slave, when it hits me: whats up with that Mark McGwire guy? I mean, I knew what was UP, but it just seemed to me that the larger than life baseball player was kind of a futz when it came to his interests or personal life. (C’mon, don’t judge. I mean, entertainment is just the opiate of the masses…or something like that.) After a quick bathroom break and zoning out session, I found out that this guy went to high school in La Verne, Ca. called Damien high. (I am a child of the 80’s, so the first thing that charges through my cerebrum is the television show Laverne and Shirley, and the brilliant 1976 flick, “The Omen,” where the catalyst is a child of the anti-christ. This McGwire fellow is looking ALOT more interesting now…and wasn’t the culture of those times a bit more tactile than today?)
Movies and sports are ardently disposable, yet they create the most passionate disciples. Science has trumped GOD over and over again, but you don’t see people wearing t-shirts with some random fucking scientist on it, you see people thinking and talking about McGwire because he could do something arbitrary, yet entertaining. I don’t give a shit about the guy doing steroids: my main concern is what music he was listening to in 1981 while a senior in high school. Since he was a suburban jock living in a cultural void, he was probably listening to this:
All in all I was just trying to pull the veneer aside. (while tossing back a few) I was having an imaginary conversation with myself: you want a cigarette? (quaff) Yes, I prefer menthol these days. (quaff) Jesus fucking Christ, I hate bad tippers. (quaff) Ever notice how people don’t pay attention to a goddamn thing? (quaff) Acceptance is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.(quaff) People who tip bad do this because it isn’t to their immediate and unequivocal satisfaction. (quaff) ZZZZZZZZZZ
1986 And The Rest Is History…….. by Scott Guilmette
You can’t really fault Jackie Moore, the 1986 Opening Day Manager of the Oakland Athletics; the pitching on that team was suspect at best. The Athletics had a decent hitting team, with eventual Rookie of the Year Jose Canseco leading the way. Dave “ King Kong “ Kingman was playing his last season and the natives were getting restless, so a change needed to be made……Bring in one Anthony “ Tony “ LaRussa to guide this team of rookies, scrap heap rejects and players who’s better days have long been in the rear-view mirror. La Russa, who had spent 7 years managing the ChiSox was a great pickup by the Athletics after the ChiSox axed him three weeks earlier and he proved it in his first game as manager. The Athletics were in Boston to play the RedSox and he chose seldom used long reliever Dave Stewart to start that night against Roger Clemens and of course Smoke beat that ass!!!!! He started a trend that night that Clemens wished he was never part of…….NO LUCK AGAINST THE ATHLETICS OR STEWART……
LaRussa has a Degree in Law and I always thought of him as a smooth snake in the grass lawyer as to how he managed the game….he always seemed in control, no matter what the situation was, and he always seemed classy in doing it. He was just what the Athletics needed at that time in their history…..after it was all said and done in Oakland, LaRussa was the winningest manager in Oakland Athletic’s club history with 798, one World Series Championship ( 4-0 Sweep against the sorry asses from across the Bay ) and two Manager of the Year Awards. He is 3rd on the All Time wins- list with 2,728, behind only John McGraw and All Time Leader Connie Mack. Not bad Athletics fans, some of us have had the good fortune to see one of the greatest managers of all time!!!!!
LaRussa will forever be linked to the shady past of the game of baseball known as the Steroid Era……It was during his watch that the Athletics clubhouse exploded with brawn, and it seemed that he did nothing about it…..you might as well put ALL of MLB’s managers, front office personnel and the Commissioner in that boat too because NO ONE did a damn thing to stop it from happening. It’s not the first time in this games’ illustrious history that there been a shadow cast on it and it won’t be the last either. It’s not LaRussa’s fault……but the haters will hate… oh well, get in line because he’s in the Hall of Fame now. He made it easy for me, a life long Athletics fan to follow him and the St. Louis Cardinals after he left the Athletics when Walter Haas, Jr. passed away.
So CONGRATS Tony, I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch you manage this game I truly Love…….
Dave Henderson has always been one of my favorite players and is one of the best TTM (through the mail) signers on the planet! His son suffers from a rare genetic disorder, and he humbly asks that you donate 3-5 dollars for his autograph to the ANGELMAN SYNDROME FOUNDATION. If you would like to write Dave for an autograph his address is: Dave Henderson, 2213 Halleck Ave SW, Seattle, Wa. 98116. Thanks Dave for being classy and always looking out for your fans! Oh, and don’t forget to include a self addressed stamped envelope.
Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley has some interesting opinions about his fellow inductees. Enjoy!
On Rod Carew: “ I had this thing with Rod Carew. I had thrown at him or something, knocked him down, and he took me deep the next time and yelled at me around the bases. At the All- Star game in 1977 he came up to me and said, “What’s your problem?” I didn’t like him. I don’t think he liked me, either. A year later I had an 8-0 shutout in Boston in the ninth inning with 2 outs, and he steals second base. asshole. Next guy hits a ground ball between the second baseman’s legs and Carew scores and yells at me from home plate. Coming from a superstar like him, I wondered why he would belittle himself. I guess I got under his skin. Typical.
On Carlton Fisk: Guys in Boston would tell me, “you’re just a .500 pitcher.” You are what your team is, as a starter. Pissed me off. My control was better, I was spotting the ball. Fisk made me throw all my pitches and stop trying to be just a strikeout pitcher. Which was smart. Writers used to go and ask him, ” How come’s Eckersley is successful?” and he’d say, ” Well I’ve got him throwing his change outside, and I’ve got….”
He’s got me doing this. He’s got me winning 20 games. Well, he’s got me doing shit! I got to throw it! He helped alot, but don’t take credit for everything! Used to PISS ME OFF. He had the locker next to mine so I would hear it everyday. Maybe that’s why I got irritated after awhile.
As I pull this baseball card from the pile it takes me on a long forgotten trip back to 1990 and the bottomless pit of purgatory known as Jr. High School. Everyone was growing into themselves, girls were getting boobs, fashion was suddenly important, and guys were suddenly sporting the haircut that concocted the term “business in the front, party in the back.”
The mullet was a popular hairstyle in the early 90’s as it was worn by everyone from rock stars, movie stars, wrestlers and even baseball players. With the 90’s being the cultural dreg that it was; it was the perfect time for the white-trash aesthetic to finally be embraced by the main-stream. Celebrities who rocked the hairstyle included John Stamos, David Bowie, Billy Ray Cyrus, even George Clooney! My cousin had his mullet for YEARS complete with an army style flat-top. I still give him shit for it to this day.
I remember when a friend of mine from Jr. High, Michael, would constantly run a comb through his dirty blond mullet while wearing his ever-present Guns N Roses t-shirt complete with naked girl on the back. (seems a bit extreme for a Jr. High kid today, seemed normal then before Generation X started having children and treating them like snowflakes.) Michael was sort of known as the dick of the neighborhood and would always try to steal other people’s “valuable” baseball cards. He lived in a ramshackle house, his mom was slutty with a new biker boyfriend every other week, and his baby sister always looked dirty with a bunch of shit on her face. It was depressing. I soon outgrew baseball cards and Michael.
The 1990 Oakland A’s were no exception to the rule as Storm Davis and Jose Canseco had flowy, rockstar-esque mullets. Back up catcher Ron Hassey and second baseman Glenn Hubbard had their weird, curly, seemingly permed neck-fro’s. I’ve got to believe thet the most famous baseball mullet of all time goes to the great pitcher and ultimately most white-trashy looking player of all time…Randy Johnson. Today’s players, being forever trendy yet always a step or two behind hip fashion sport the hairstyle in a “post-ironic” way; these including Nick Swisher and Tim Lincecum.
Junior High was a crazy, fucked up, depressing and confusing time for me. I got into my second fight (and third), got my first girlfriend and discovered heavy metal, porn and keg parties. Thank you Storm Davis for bringing it back. I had almost forgotten.