Is hitting zero home runs in the big leagues like being a writer who was never published? Or is it about the experience? The tactile thrill of putting pen to paper and seeing jumbled thoughts form on the page in a cohesive unit without fan-fair, without a record of speech.
Done with love unrequited.
There is a collective, who? from the crowd and a lot of head-scratching. The pitcher sneers, why are you here? this refugee from the bush leagues. The player goes through automated motions before digging in, slicing dirt and skipping pebbles; stepping into the box without adulation. No one scurries from the beer line to watch your at-bat. Persona Non-Grata. No one writes about and examines your life and travels, quoting you endlessly. You are no Joe DiMaggio or Ernest Hemingway or any other black and white face on a postcard. 11 career base-hits. I’ve had more lovers than that. Every one categorized and resonated in my mind’s eye with a dying quail, a check-swing squib, a flare here and there, or a hotshot that juuuuust went foul. Our struggles happen concurrently with everyone else’s — and sometimes done with love unrequited.
Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” poured out of the Mustang in the driveway as Pete and Nick sat on the front porch. They had just torn open a few packs of baseball cards and decided to make a few swaps before the cards were relegated to a rubber band and the back pocket of faded dungarees.
“Ok, you like the A’s right? I’ll give you a Dave Hamilton for George Brett.”
“Are you kidding me! You must think I’m a fucking idiot. That’s not a fair trade; and besides, it looks like he’s taking a shit!”
Pete’s older brother, Craig, stopped washing his black treasure and walked over with kinked hose in hand.
“You turds need to shut the hell up before I hose you down. Besides, I got Amy coming over and you two dumbasses aren’t gonna ruin my chance at getting some trim.”
“You haven’t got a chance in hell,” Pete spat, shoving a brick-hard powdered slab of gum in his mouth.
“Keep talking big mouth and I’ll give both you and your stupid friend knuckle sandwiches. You’ll be spittin’ out teeth for a week”
Craig continued washing his car, alone with the hose, the suds, the black beauty and the privacy of his own young and perverted mind.
“He thinks he’s such a big shot.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait until I get older so I can kick his ass…so Dave Hamilton for George Brett?”
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. —Yves Klein
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 almost 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 Kleins’ 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.)
Long ago, in fourth grade Catholic church, my pal David K. told me not to swallow the thin, wafer-like “Body of Christ,” but to keep it still in my mouth so we could satisfy our boyhood curiosity and inspect it. 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. 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.
Thank you Jeff Jones 1981 Topps.
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.