February 11, 2006

Things You Think About When Going Through One of Those Giant Boxes of Random Cards in the Back of Your Closet

The Inexplicable Ron Hassey

There are a few players whose pictures suggest that perhaps they should not be baseball players. Ron Hassey is the first player I think of when I think about this. His physique perhaps would seem more apt as a mechanic who also happens to don a white jumpsuit and tears up the disco floor on a Saturday night. And yet he caught two perfect games. There is one thing that many people do not understand, especially the poor saps who dope up on steroids thinking it will automatically guarantee them a long and productive career: you don’t necessarily have to be smart to excel in baseball, but you do have to have a certain amount of luck. Now maybe Ron Hassey was a baseball savant, I don’t know. But I can pretty much assume that he did his homework on opposing batters and was lucky enough to ace the test on two different afternoons ten years apart from each other (one with Len Barker in 1981 and with El Presidente and the Expos versus the Dodgers in Montreal, 1991). There have been less than 20 perfect games thrown since the inception of the game (though I’m not counting only the Major leagues and not winter ball nor barnstorming, the Negro Leagues, Olympic or amateur leagues). Many of the games greatest catchers never caught a perfect game.

Berra caught Larsen’s in the World Series, Bob Boone caught Witt’s, Ivan Rodriguez caught Kenny Rogers’ game in 1994 and Jorge Posada caught David Wells’ game. But Mickey Cochrane never caught one. Neither did Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Elston Howard or Roy Campanella, Smokey Burgess, Lance Parrish or Mike Piazza. Ron Hassey caught two.

Fun Moustache Card #1

You have to hand it to Bill Veeck or whoever was in charge of the White Sox in the late Seventies: the uniform Pablo Torrealba sports on his 1979 card is one of the ugliest of the decade—we’re talking Frank Robinson-era Cleveland Indians ugly. But what really makes this card a classic is Pablo’s stache. Someday I’m going to put together a Moustache Gallery (within the Al Hrabosky Facial Hair Wing of the Oscar Gamble Memorial Sports Hair Hall of Fame and Museum). I can think of two other automatic inductees (Rollie Fingers and Pete Vukovich). Torrealba’s moustache is wild; it almost looks fake, like someone glued two Muppet eyebrows to his upper lip while he was napping.

You too can own a piece of fun moustache history! Pablo Torrealba was never a star, so his cards are ridiculously cheap (if you went looking for them). This particular card is his 1979 Topps card, number 242.

Bob Melvin’s White Batting Glove

I’m guessing it wasn’t done on purpose, but when I see this card, I immediately think of the creepy live human being dressed up as a toy soldier who stands at the entrance of FAO Schwartz in New York City. It’s just that he’s tipping his batting helmet with his white batting glove, or maybe he’s taking it off (but that’s not obvious). In this picture he also kind of looks like that guy in the sequined tuxedo who hung out with Liberace. I wonder why the Topps editors chose this image. He appeared in over forty games for the Tigers in 1985, you’d think that they could’ve got something of him in the field, or at least with catching gear somewhere in the shot. Maybe they thought it was cool the way the light bounced off his helmet; I don’t know. I mean, the photo has nice composition, it’s just that it creeps me out that the next time I go to FAO Schwartz I’m going to run into the Tigers back up catcher. I’d much rather run into Lance Parrish. Then I could ask him why he joined the Phillies after his contract with the Tigers ended and I could tell him I always thought he looked like Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.


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Anonymous said...

If Hassey caught Barker's perfect game, why was Bo Diaz on the 1982 Fleer card commemorating the event?

Anonymous said...

Hassey did catch Barker's perfect game:


Diaz was on the bench.

Eric B. said...

Great post, but I have just one correction: Dennis Martinez's perfect game against the Dodgers was pitched in Los Angeles, not Montreal. I know, I was there. (A truly memorable experience, even for a true-blue Dodger fan like me.)

Keep up the great work!