March 02, 2011

Ontiveros Shocks the World, With Finesse

Steve Ontiveros, 1996 Pinnacle

Now this is what a baseball card should be. Quality color action shot on the front; glam shot on the back. No clutter, but a simple gold pyramid thingee draws the eye, and my heart (I heart gold pyramid thingees). Short tidbit on the back is professionally executed, yet silly enough to allow me to bleed out yet another pointless post. It’s all there. So let’s go there.

A finesse pitcher

TANGENT ALERT! Ever try your hand at one of those “test your pitching speed” things on the boardwalk down at the Jersey Shore or whatever crappy beach you grew up near? Me too. Never a good idea, especially if you are with other people (although, worse idea: going to the boardwalk alone). I think one time I topped out at 49 mph. I always walk away from those things blaming the speed gun for not working, even though I threw the ball three times and each time it registered the same exact speed.

Another great time is going to the batting cage and upping the ol’ speed meter to “medium,” and by the time you finally get your timing down enough to foul a few pitches off, the reserve high school shortstop waiting behind the netting for his turn is making fun of you to his skanky girlfriend. It seems you have failed to convince yourself and others that you used to play sports. The good news? You look great in your cargo shorts and oversized batting helmet.

Anyway, Steve Ontiveros is classified as, first and foremost on his very own card, a finesse pitcher, which is a nice way of saying he doesn’t throw fast. This seemingly runs contrary to the picture on the front of the card—I’m not impressed by much, but his hand is a blur! In all honesty, Steve Ontiveros probably topped out in the high 80s to low 90s (I could probably look that up, but I don’t feel like it). The point is, that is hella fast. Yet, it is considered slow by major league standards.

This is why I love baseball. We’ve all played, and we all think we’re pretty good, and some of us have achieved success on the lower amateur ranks (the “Great Effort” Little League trophy sponsored by Vinnie’s Pizza was the goal of many a boy in East Brunswick, NJ). Yet no matter how old we get, we stand in awe of those who are only thrown off when they see a pitch slower than 90 miles per hour; by those who throw harder than we could ever imagine, but who have to change speeds just to survive.

who survives by changing speeds,

In the movie Speed 3: Ontiveros at the Wheel, Oakland A’s pitcher Steve Ontiveros drives a bus hijacked with an explosive, and must constantly change the bus’ speed from 55 mph to zero or else everyone on the bus will die, including him. Does he fall in love? You betcha.

Steve surprised the world by posting the AL’s best ERA in 1994.

The headline of the Beijing Gazette on the morning of September 14, 1994 read: World, Including Us, Shocked: A’s Ontiveros AL ERA Champ of Strike-Shortened American Season. Subtitle: 2.65 Mark Almost Run and a Half Higher Than Previous Career Best, Minimum 100 Innings-Pitched. All of this was written in Chinese. The Russian tabloids were much harsher. Blared the Soviet Herald: Steve Who? AL ERA Title, League Loses Credibility. Subtitle: Country Obviously Vulnerable; Now Could Be Time To Attack. This was written in Russian.

The world renown honor of hoisting the American League ERA trophy of a strike-shorted season (the gold-plated plastic pitcher on the trophy has no torso, so as to signify the shortened season) was not lost on Ontiveros, who used his worldwide fame to, according to Wikipedia, become the pitching coach for the Chinese National Baseball team in the Beijing Olympics. Ontiveros, who was born in New Mexico, was granted citizenship and a spot on the national coaching staff after the Chinese government discovered that Ontiveros had listed China as second in a Nickoldeon "Kids & The Pros" survey which asked him to the list the top three countries he'd most like to visit.


Nathan said...

haha, great post

LoCoDe said...

I wonder if his favorite player growing up was Steve Ontiveros, the 3B?

Batboy said...

The great shame about this baseball card is that the world likely would have even been more surprised - "shocked," might I say? Yes, I'll say "shocked" - to know that in his epic 1994 season he also led the league in WHIP.
Its a shame because:
A. Everyone would be in awe at such an awesome sounding baseball stat, and
B. Pinnacle could eliminate the stupid "BSRN" statistic, which I can only presume from my searching on the interwebs that he was a member of the Baseline Surface Radiation Network, measuring "radiative fluxes at the Earth's surface." (Really, check out