July 04, 2012

Salute to an American Rock

Tim Raines, 1988 Fleer Superstars

This card is a proud member of Fleer’s beautiful 1988 Superstars series. Did you have any doubts this card was produced IN AMERICA? You did not. But if so, here’s this:

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Go back to Taiwan, Topps! The color scheme also goes perfectly with the red, white, and blue of the Expos, one of many proud, American franchises. And hey, you know what goes great with red, white, and blue, aesthetically? Yellow. Yellow screams, “This is our country, you yellow-bellied commie bastards!” This series is a regular cornucopia of American-based colors, and I for one salute it.

Standing front and center today is Timothy Theodore* Raines. Part of the reason he is front and center is because Fleer has cleverly grayed-out his anonymous friend and baseball companion as if this were a Facebook profile picture. Status update: single.

Raines also appears curiously old and up-to-something. I can’t say that I trust him. What have you been up to, Tim Raines? Why the wry smile? YOUR HAND IS IN THE COOKIE JAR! There’s no telling what Raines and his grayed-out partner in crime have been plotting, but if I had to guess I would say: a hot foot. Or, murder.

Raines was famously nicknamed “Rock,” often rumored to be a result of rocks of cocaine falling out of his back pocket while sliding into second base. Wikipedia squashes this notion, stating in a footnote:

Raines received this nickname at an Expo rookie camp when he was seventeen, based on his physique.

This seems more believable. I always found it rather outlandish that baseball players, notoriously discreet amongst each other regarding illegality, would name a fellow player after drugs. It’s a wonderful, heartwarming anecdote to tell your grandkids, but I remain skeptical. Assuming the physique thing is true, it’s safe to say that Tim Raines in no longer “Rock,” but what fifty-something former ballplayer and should-be-Hall-of-Famer amongst us really is? (Those who are, please leave shirtless pics in the comments. Ben’s idea, not mine.)

Of course that is not to say that Raines did not have problems with drugs at one time. According to Wiki:

Raines's performance dipped in 1982, as he hit .277 with a .353 on base percentage. At the end of the season, Raines entered treatment for substance abuse, having spent an estimated $40,000 that year on cocaine. To avoid leaving the drug in his locker, Raines carried it in his hip pocket, and slid headfirst when running the bases. He used cocaine before games, in his car, after games, and on some occasions, between innings in the clubhouse.  Raines would later testify at the infamous Pittsburgh drug trials, in September, 1985.

I enjoy the detailed account of where Raines would use drugs, which reads like some demented Dr. Seuss book.

I do cocaine before a game
I do cocaine in my automobile
I do cocaine after a game
Then a base I will steal!

But I don’t want to make too much of that. Old news. People recover from their mistakes and go on to succeed. It’s the American way, and that is the type of story Tim Raines’ career appears to have personified. Raines was a switch-hitter with a career .385 on-base percentage and 808 steals. In ’83 he scored 133 runs; he hit with decent power for a leadoff hitter, leading the league with 38 doubles in ’84; he won titles with the Yanks in '96 and '98; totaled 279 bases in ’87; and those are just a few highlights from a consistently great and long career.

Someone should crop out the biased, nonsensical tendencies of a select group of yellow-bellied, entitled old men and elect Tim Raines to the Hall of Fame. He should get in on stolen bases alone. This is, after all, AMERICA, and if there’s anything more American than stealing, I’ve never heard of it.

“It’s the rock in the building,” – Jay-Z, rapper, baseball Hall of Fame suggester



NickL said...

Still the best things on the internet.

mkenny59 said...

Hey thanks, Nick!