Jack Sanford ended his career with 137 wins in 1967–a number that everyone agrees would constitute a successful run in the big leagues.
A darker side of Sanford’s personality also grabbed headlines during and after his baseball career, which wound down with the California Angels and Kansas City Athletics following arm and shoulder troubles.
After Sanford made a World Series appearance, a 1963 Sportmagazine article titled “Jack Sanford’s Grim World” laid bare the pitcher’s on- and off-the-field demeanor, all the while acknowledging his pitching skills. The author wrote that “Jack Sanford is a man of many moods, mostly bad” and that “Smiling Jack Sanford is a blue-eyed blond, somewhat less adorable than Shirley Temple. His blue eyes are hard and cold, shielded by heavy brows, and he squints around them… His jaw is hinged, his face flexible, and he twists it into various expressions, most of them forbidding, defiant, scowling. He saves his smiles for his friends, and he doesn’t make friends easily.” He was nicknamed “Smiling Jack” because he was usually scowling, and he was also nervous and irritable.
Another report, in a golf book, described Sanford as bloodying his own head from whacking himself with golf clubs after particularly bad shots.
In 1954, he was suspended for ten games after refusing to give the ball to his manager as he was being removed from a game.
As longtime readers know, I like to incorporate different facets of life into this blog, mostly from the realm of modern art and literature. It tends to get a bit tedious talking about baseball players and stats and free agency and Bud Selig’s ego and PED’s and Hall of Fame voters and the widening strike zone until I’m blue in the face. We’re getting closer to the Christmas holidays, I drank too much Crown Royal and I’m feeling a bit silly.
John Kilduff was a loco personality. He hosted a “painting show” that I would watch late at night here in Los Angeles while sucking on the hash pipe. I was supposed to be writing a thesis on “Modern Art and Capitalism,” but this show seemed more interesting and vital at the time. I couldn’t tell if the guy was gifted or if he was a charlatan looking to make a buck, (he turned out to be both) and I loved it. Some of his work had titles like, “Hot dog eating a hot dog,” and “African-American titty burger.” All this talk is meaningless, you simply must see for yourself…
I could only laugh when I received these autographs in the mail on the same day…It was uncanny. Both players “played” DH for the Athletics towards the end of their career and both struck out A LOT. These guys struck out so much that both led the league three times. It was enough to make an old school tyrant like Ty Cobb, who preached contact and speed, turn over in his grave. Yet both players also had amazing power and could hit the ball a country mile.
Cust bounced around from team to team and played in the minor leagues for 10 years before getting his shot. He was acquired from the Padres for cash as the A’s needed a DH due to an injury to Mike Piazza. (another horrible position player.) Cust quickly endeared himself to A’s fans by hitting 6 home runs in his first 7 games. “John Joseph” was an effective DH, and had a nice ending to his career from 2007-2010 for the Athletics. You can see why Billy Beane liked the guy from a statistical standpoint as he walked a lot and had a high OBP. This was a very strange dichotomy, and Cust will go down as one of the more unique players in MLB history. (Adam Dunn was another who led the league in both categories, and was also a Oakland DH this season…conspiracy theories anyone?)
Dave “King Kong” Kingman needs no introduction to most baseball fans. He hit 442 tape measure jobs and gave a rat in a box to a female reporter. Kingman wasn’t known for his sunny disposition and had a personality former Mets teammate John Stearns compared to a tree trunk, complaining that “when you talk to him all he does is grunt.” “Dave Kingman was like a cavity that made your whole mouth sore,” said another former teammate Bill Caudill. Ol’ Dave constantly quarreled with reporters and even dumped ice water on one. Another reporter said he was “an unquestionable slugging talent with a puzzling psyche marked ‘fragile.'” Kingman regularly insisted he was misquoted, and he began appearing regularly in the Chicago Tribune as the nominal author of a ghost-written column. Mike Royko, then writing for the rival Chicago Sun-Times, parodied Kingman’s column with a series using the byline “Dave Dingdong.” (A bit of Royko’s parody column…Hi, I’m Dave Dingdong and you’re not. I really don’t have to introduce someone as well known as me. But for those who have been living in a cave, I’m the tall, dark, handsome left fielder who hits those towering homers. I’d be a standout anywhere, but especially in Wrigley Field, because most of my teammates are nothings. . . . You might wonder why I’ve broken my legendary silence. Well, I’m a frank and honest person. And to be frnk and honest, I’ll do anything for a buck, even break my legendary silence. And if you wonder why I’ve been silent for so long, it’s because basically I’m a shallow, self-centered person who has few ideas and nothing to say.Sometimes they boo when I drop a fly ball. Why should dropping a ball be a big deal? Or sometimes they’ll boo when I throw the ball, and that’s really unbelievable. A few weeks ago in Houston, I made a really fantastic throw. It went over the third baseman’s head. Our pitcher was backing him up, and it went over his head too. Then it sailed all the way into the dugout and went up the player’s ramp. Now, how many people do you know that can throw a ball that far? Even the sportswriters said they never saw a throw like that before. But then they criticized me for it – for doing something they never saw before. No wonder I can’t stand sportswriters. They don’t appreciate originality.) Kingman eventually quarreled with his own ghostwriter. Kingman may have wasted his talent and by all accounts he was a jerk, but you didn’t buy a beer when he was due up. Even on the downside he was worth the price of admission. He was entertaining as hell, that’s for sure, even if it was somewhat in the entertaining-the-way-a-car-wreck-is-entertaining fashion.
With a career total of 442 home runs, Kingman was the first person with over 400 home runs not to make the Hall of Fame
It is no secret among my cohorts that my sense of dislocation and fluid relationship to language gave me an extremely strong sense of the arbitrary when it came to systems of communication. In layman’s terms: I can see through the bullshit.
But, before I turn this into a slander against greedy owners, bitchy players, or “literary” based baseball blogs whose editors couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag; I would like to take a short walk down memory lane…. (if you can wade through the labyrinthine stories and digressions)
Jack Kerouac was a “be-bop” writer and one of my heroes as a teenager. I tried to dress like him (khakis, newsboy hat, white t’s) and even did funny things like taking hallucinogenic mushrooms in cemeteries and writing poetry. (anyone who sees this as “wrong” should probably analyze their own connection with a reality based culture in which facts, opinions and lies are interchangeable) Although my admiration had waned for “Ti Jean” by the time I had reached my 30’s, I was astounded when I had learned Kerouac had devised a fantasy baseball game as a child. The game was based on a set of cards that had precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes (“slow roller to SS or 2B,” for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, although sometimes Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions. He collected their stats, analyzed their performances and wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. I, too, had played a similar game as a child, using baseball cards, dice and statistics; (this was how i figured out the E.R.A., an arduous task as a boy) keeping track of careers (this involved ungodly amounts of paper), sending players to the minors (yes, I had minor league systems too!) and conducting drafts. It was sort of therapeutic to find out that one of my idols had done something so cerebral and individualistic with the same obsessive quality that I had. This was a testament to my love for the game and a secret I had held close until now.
Thanks to Jim Nash for the personalized autograph. In the interviews I’ve listened to, you seem to be a good guy and have a lot of hilarious stories to tell.
1) 1979 was obviously a horrible year for you and the Athletics as you had bursitis in the heel and the A’s lost 108 games. How did you deal with the difficulties?
I fractured my left thumb on my pitching hand early in the 1979 Spring training in Palm Springs, CA. I know I did because I received in the mail a copy of the bill from the insurance company the diagnosis from the doctor which state I had a probable fracture of the left phalanx. Needless to say I altered my pitching motion which brought on the bursitis in both Achilles tendons especially the right heel. It was a miserable year after having two good prior years.
2) You were once involved in a brawl with Darryl Porter who later called you a “crazy, immature punk.” Can you talk a little more about the situation and how it came to be?
Our team was on a ten or twelve game losing streak, I told my team mates that I was going to start a fight. Darryl Porter hit a grounder to Dave Revering which he took it unassisted. When I saw that Rev was stepping on first I did a George Atkinson on Porter while he was running down the first base line. I did the act in a very discreet manner which didn’t draw any attention to myself. Porter became enraged an attacked me which allowed the whole Royal team to jump on top of me. Needless to say Porter got thrown out, Tony Armas hit a three run homer, and I got out team back on a winning streak.
3) You struck out Reggie Jackson twice in your 4th M.L. appearance. Is it true that he was enraged at the situation, and what was your approach?
I was a punk, Reggie was classier, after striking him out I yelled a colorful expletive at him which went like this. “Take that MF.” The next day my pal Michael Norris acted as a liaison between me and Reggie.
4) Did you have friction with manager Billy Martin? Why did he refuse to use you in spring training, and is it true that he barred anyone from playing catch with you?
The articles were correct concerning my interactions with Billy Martin. Darryl Porter was correct I was an immature punk and I didn’t handle my interactions with Billy very well. After saying that I will say that Billy was one of the best managers that I ever played for.
5) You are an educator in Arizona today…what do your students think about your playing career past?
They like it, having the opportunity to tell them stories gets their attention. I don’t teach my students’ I promote benefits on being a learner. Once a person realizes that they can do it on their own then I look for more benefits to promote.
At present, I am particularly excited by “bad taste.” I have the deep feeling that there exists in the very essence of bad taste a power capable of creating those things situated far beyond what is traditionally termed “The Work of Art.” I wish to play with human feeling, with its “morbidity” in a cold and ferocious manner.
The 1981 Topps baseball card isn’t a particularly exciting visual affair. The most prominent feature of the card front is the ball cap that’s at the bottom of the card. Player photos have a color outline that gives way to a thin white border with the Topps logo placed in a small baseball in the right corner. Of course, it’s just a baseball card. Most people see them as worthless pieces of cardboard for children. I always get a kick out of people who say, “well, where’s the art in that?” Despite the term “art” being static and self-appointed to each individual, I believe if you have an iota of intelligence and an active imagination, you can find art and emotion in ANYTHING.
Jeff Jones had a rather unremarkable career with the Oakland Athletics, playing 5 seasons and ending with a 9-9 record. There is nothing remarkable about this card from a baseball standpoint, (beside the fact that it’s an Athletic) but what really struck me was the marvelous blue background; reminding me of Yves Klines’ painting “IKB 191.” (right) This color makes me feel a myriad of emotions: the lapis lazuli reminding me of my Catholic school upbringing (Mary’s robes were almost always painted this color because of the brilliance of it; the stone also was semi-precious making it a “must have” for artists of the Renaissance and Baroque period.) and the time in fourth grade David K. told me not to swallow the “Body of Christ,” but to keep it still in my mouth so we could satisfy our boyhood curiosity and inspect it. (In retrospect, I have no idea why this would be interesting.) I eventually brought the specimen back to the pew only to drop the now mushy wafer on the ground because of haste and overall blood rushing to the brain nervousness. Some busy-body ratted me out, and the congregation was stopped as I was dragged to the front of the altar and berated by the priest in a back room. (At least that’s ALL he did. wakka wakka!) There was a closet full of priest robes and between thoughts of the robes looking like Batman’s closet and me getting my ass kicked by my parents, I was just simply embarrassed. Nothing was said to my parents in the end, and I came out of the situation relatively unscathed….. ah, the life of a day dreamer…and the thoughts keep crashing into the shore as one wave leads to another.
P.S. thank you Jeff Jones 1981 Topps.
“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms and Isadora Duncan… The only Church that truly feeds the soul, day in and day out, is the Church of Baseball.” Annie Savoy in Bull Durham
Class structure is a bitch of a thing. It defines who we are from the cars we drive, the television shows we watch, the clothes we wear, the neighborhoods we live in, even the food we eat. I thought nothing about these things as a child, hell, who does? You wake up, go to school, come home, eat a PB&J, play baseball until the sun goes down, and then repeat ad infinitum. ( you can throw in a few ass whippings in there for good measure…i was a rebellious spirit) And like every other red-blooded American boy, I idolized baseball players, never questioning the ethics or morals of my heroes. How could they be so “bad?” I knew nothing about drug use, (Darryl Strawberry, Josh Hamilton) D.U.I.’S, ( Miguel Cabrera, CoCo Crisp, Adam Kennedy) wife-beating, ( Milton Bradley, Alberto Callaspo, Brett Myers) tax evasion ( Darryl Strawberry, Pete Rose) or even murder ( Julio Machado, Ugueth Urbina) These things were done by OTHER people who weren’t associated with me and my family, and never the twain shall meet. I learned quite quickly through the buying and trading of baseball cards about the true nature of the human condition. (of which my parents weren’t exempt) These little pieces of cardboard had taught me deceit, unfair business practices, price manipulation, collusion, restraint of trade, extortions, pay- offs, bribes, plagiarism, and false hype. Soon thereafter, as I entered my early teens I started to understand privilege and advantage as the Yankees had started to define it in ways that were bigger than the world of baseball: old, out of style clothes, pot pies for dinner and late night parental arguments over bills.
I would like to thank baseball for teaching me these valuable lessons. The beautiful game is rich with juxtapositions and historical aspects that go beyond stats, OBP’s, WHIPS, and World Series titles. It is a game that teaches you to slow down, as it can be played in the mind as well as on the field. It is a game of anticipation, a game that erupts in a sudden explosion of action, then slows down again, giving us time to savor what we have seen, and to give us time to think about what we are going to see. It shows you that you are not perfect, and that you don’t have to be. It also teaches you to enjoy your lot in life whether you be a HOF er or a .220 hitter. It teaches you that no matter how much you think you know, you should always learn MORE. It teaches you to love and cherish something that was loved and cherished by a father or grandfather, and that you love and cherish in return. I have long since stopped putting these guys on a gold leaf pedestal, and it has enriched my life in ways no home run ball, autograph, or season ticket could ever match.
As I have mentioned before on this blog, I have been collecting autographs TTM (through the mail) since I was a young boy. This usually involves sending a baseball card or some other piece of memorabilia to the team that the player of your choice plays on. Hopefully, that player takes time out of his busy schedule to scribble his name quickly and send it back in the envelope that you had provided. I find this hobby to be cool, fun, cheap and it always feels like Christmas when you get an envelope from a player in the mail. I wanted to get a ‘graph from Miles Head (a top 5 A’s prospect aquired with Josh Reddick in the Andrew Bailey/Ryan Sweeney trade. Win!) but didn’t have any of his cards. I wrote him a short note explaining the situation. (The only other time being Mike Piazza in 1991, who sent me an autographed Bakersfield Dodgers card!) Miles was nice enough to send me 2 signed cards (one with Stockton (A) and one with Round Rock (AA) Thanks Miles, you’ll always have a fan here. Here are a few quotes about the man and his abilities:
“We’re very optimistic about him. He’s one of the best pure hitters in the system. He’s a very aggressive hitter. He wants to put the ball in play, and he makes consistently loud contact. Defensively, we moved him over to third base last year, the position he played as an amateur. Everybody has more value at third base than at first base. But in the long run, he’s going to be a guy who plays both positions.”- Farhan Zaidi, A’s director of baseball operations
“Miles Head was the most absolutely dominant player I have ever seen. Ever. It became comical at times seeing him shred through opposing organization’s top pitching like they were throwing BP. In case you didn’t know, Head is a hulking corner infielder that was the equivalent of a nuclear bomb to Cal League pitching. Apparently, he’s listed at 215 pounds, but I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. I’ve seen the man up close in person and I’d bet this blog he’s 230+ at least. He is an inhuman giant. And what he did to the Cal League was what would’ve happened in Oakland if Brandon Moss was on steroids and was fathered by a luck dragon.”- The afroed elepant blog.
“Oh, the headlines they’ll write. Miles Head is a powerful and puntastic prospect currently gaining attention in the Oakland system. With 23 homers in 124 games split between high- and double-A last year, Miles is a big boy on a fast track to joining the very young and very potent offense in Oakland.” -scouting book.com
Mr, Head is currently slated to play in Round Rock, (AA) but I expect to see him in Sacramento (AAA) by the middle/end of the season. There is no doubt you will see this guy in an Oakland uniform sometime in the near future.
I’ve got my cheap bottle of vodka, walking down Crenshaw Blvd. behind an older mexican gentleman who absolutely REEKS of marijuana when it hits me right in the forehead: a wave of emotions and forgotten times, thoughts, and practices. I was smack dab in the middle of high school again. You see, my friends and I were always skipping school to skateboard, smoke weed, go to the movies, hit on girls, etc. and we would always stop in this dingy liquor store next to the Greyhound station to buy this certain brand of cheap vodka. (If you absolutely need to know, the brand is Taaka; which is surprisingly distilled in Frankfort, Kentucky, and even more surprising is their slogan, “mixes easy…just add people.”) Now before you get your panties in a bunch, remember that I eventually went to college and am a normal, tax-paying citizen with a girlfriend etc. who just happened to grow up in the 90’s when kids acting like derelicts was somewhat common and fun.
In the typical American fashion, these past-times have turned into big business; as every counter-culture movement is eventually commodified and eventually cynicism and complacency overwhelms your constantly dying brain tissue. (If you are a lucky reader, you were a baby boomer who didn’t have to do shit (not even a college education) except be born in the right era, and you can hang on to the fact that you are “important” despite the fact that you are most definitely a victim of your own glorification of your era, and didn’t actually contribute ANYTHING to the human race except that you are a horrible person with your head up your ass with nothing to offer ANYONE except for jumbles about the, “good old days” as your parents had told you before you decided to become a faux hippy 10 years after it had died as a movement completely.) The generation after saw these actions and acted accordingly. (each generation likes to act as if their “dereliction” was “innocent” compared to the generation after. As I grew up in the 90’s, enough time has passed to claim that innocence) My parents fit well into the dereliction of the era and did a bunch of coke, danced, and has children out of wedlock. I am a product of the “hippy era, ” yet an afterthought. A “test tube baby” of the “rock and roll/capitalism” era before anyone (or very few) knew how to cash in.
The 90’s was known as the “grunge generation” and a particular friend of mine was keen on listening to a band from Seattle called Willard. I thought they sounded like Nirvana, was mildly impressed, even thought some of their songs were better than the so-called “grunge gods.” (who am I fooling?…. all that shit was boring, isolated and well, not punk rock…although some may vehemently disagree) No sooner do I get home when I see this baseball card lying on the floor. Jerry fucking Willard. I smoke a bowl, put on this absolute piece of shit, stained cassette tape a friend had given me that I hadn’t considered for over 15 years. I smile.