- Monday, January 16, 2012 10:44 AM
- Written By: Andrew Simon
There was a time when I believed my baseball card collection would be a gold mine. That wasn’t the only reason I had one growing up – there also was the endless fun of organizing, trading and reorganizing – but I also figured my spend-all-of-your-allowance-on-cards financial plan would pay off big time down the road.
Now I probably couldn’t even cover my monthly cable bill with the several binders full of carefully stored cardboard rectangles sitting in the closet of my old room. Oh, well.
But that doesn’t mean there is no value to be found in those binders. There is, of course, the powerful pull of nostalgia. Beyond that, there are lessons. What’s that saying? “Those that fail to learn from history will repeatedly doom it.” Or something like that. I might have been half-asleep in class that day.
In any case, as I went through some of my cards while back home for the holidays, I was reminded of some historical facts I had forgotten. Now I share them with you.
Fact #1: Jeff Suppan hungered for baseballs: “Jeff clowns around during Red Sox photo day 2-24-96,” the caption of this 1997 Upper Deck card explains. Sure, that’s how it started – just “clowning around.” But what started as a joke evolved into something darker, a full-blown obsession. Soon, Suppan was gnawing on baseballs by the boxload. The notoriously stingy Pirates dealt him the Red Sox at the 2003 trading deadline, just months after signing him, largely because they discovered his habit was the reason they were going over-budget on baseballs that year. It wasn’t until Suppan signed with the Cardinals in 2004 that Dave Duncan helped him quit.
Fact #2: Popeye had nothing on Ricky Bottalico: A key to Bottalico’s 12-year career was his ripped-beyond-belief left arm, a very useful weapon for a right-handed pitcher. In fact, Bottalico often did curls with his left hand while throwing bullpen sessions. After his baseball career ended in 2005, he joined the professional arm wrestling tour, placing seventh in the overall standings last year.
Fact #3: Matt Morris became the first active MLB player to give birth: The dramatic event, captured on this 2003 Fleer Ultra card, happened suddenly during Spring Training that year. Doctors still aren’t sure why Morris spawned a giant rubber exercise ball, but the “child,” now in fourth grade, can already throw a pretty decent 12-to-6 curve, just like his old man.
Fact #4: Omar Vizquel is one cool hombre: In his long and distinguished career Vizquel has won 11 Gold Gloves, a yellow sports car and most deservedly, 17 MLB Fashion Icon awards.
Fact #5: Brian Rose was a league-leader: Contrary to your impression upon seeing that expression, Rose was not a serial killer. He was simply a mediocre pitcher who lasted parts of five seasons in the majors. But he made his mark in 1998, the year of this Fleer Tradition card, by leading the AL in a metric known as SWORP, or “smile wattage over replacement player.” Rose’s career WAR was -0.2.
Fact #6: Andruw Jones invented the invisible jetpack: That seems like the best explanation for this 1999 Fleer Ultra card.
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