Thursday, December 14, 2006

Too Much Tim Blackwell

It's funny (actually, more like "amazing") how the brain functions (actually, more like "wanders" or "drifts") when the Mrs. scores free tix to the Maryland vs. Missouri-Kansas City b-ball affair (actually, more like a pillow fight) and you can't stop thinking about Tim Blackwell when you hear his name announced over the PA.
Sure, it does seem odd that as the Turtle's lead over the Kangaroos was growing to 28, then 33, then 41, every time that Tim Blackwell's name was announced, the mind was immediately overwrought with a steady stream of Tim Blackwell thoughts and Tim Blackwell-related memories.

An unscheduled Tim Blackwell obsession is not confined to the parameters that, on the court during your Tim Blackwell daydream-at-nighttime, the Tim Blackwell who's coming into the game is the lanky white-boy Tim Blackwell guard wearin' #22 who was the Mid-Continent Conference's Freshman of the Year during the '04-'05 season.
Also, this milky-skinned Tim Blackwell was not to be confused with the chocolate-hued Tim Blackwell who put the "black" into "Blackwell" as the oft-injured tailback for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles' football teams of '01 thru '04.
THAT Tim Blackwell, near as you can recall from a number of ESPN Thursday-nighters, wore #23, not #22 as THIS Tim Blackwell was wearin'.

The funny thing is, the b-ballin' Tim Blackwell is probably more like Tim Blackwell No. 3 while the footballin' Tim Blackwell has to be considered Tim Blackwell No. 2 if for not other reasons that maintaining some sort of chronological semblance.
So, if there's a Tim Blackwell No. 2 and a Tim Blackwell No. 3, it stand s to reason that there's a Tim Blackwell No. 1.
Well, there is ... only when Tim Blackwell No. 1 played for the Phillies, he wore #5, not #1.

The crazy aspect of this Tim Blackwell psychosis was a trigger mechanism ... such as a PA announcer at Comcast Center informing everyone that Tim Blackwell (that's "Tim Blackwell Number Three" to you, Mister) was coming into the ballgame.
Suddenly, the imagery was all too familiar ... the recollection of a non-descript 8-year MLB career best characterized as "that journeyman catcher with that moustache as big and bushy as a push-broom and whose cheek was usually crammed with wayyyy too much chaw."
(.228 career average sold separately)

That's how he looks on his 1981 Topps card (#553), as he's decked out in the Cubs' garb of that era -- powder-blue road uni with white pinstripes.
The Cubbies were the only team bold enough to intermingle pinstripes with road powders, but, hey ... it was the late-'70s/early-'80s.
Here's the kicker: The only real full season of Tim Blackwell's semi-brief stint in The Show was that 1980 season which was captured on that 1981 Topps card (#553) ... a season in which Tim Blackwell had 300-plus ABs as the mostly-everyday catcher for Chicago's northsiders ... a job he sometimes shared with backup Barry Foote.
Y'see, when the Phillies traded Tim Blackwell at the '77 trade deadline (back in those days, it was June 15), the deal which was struck with Montreal was Wayne Twitchell and Tim Blackwell for pitcher Dan Warthen and catcher Barry Foote.
It was looking like your garden-variety, pile-o'-crap Phillie trades of the era, considering that Warthen was 2-10 in '76 and had a 7.97 ERA at the time of the swap -- and Barry Foote had become a bit of a Foote-not in Montreal every since the everyday catching job had been handed to a kid named Gary Carter.
Yes, that's "Barry" Foote -- no relation to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Larry Foote.

Philadelphyites woulda been out for blood (errrrr, ummm ... more out for blood than usual) if the Twitchell/Blackwell for Warthen/Foote trade had been the only one the Phils made on June 15 of '77 -- for that was the day in which the Phillie brass dealt Tom Underwood and unproven outfielders, Dane Iorg and Rick Bosetti, were shipped to St. Louis for Bake McBride (who, apparently, was talented, but moody -- and not willing to make nice with mgr. Vern Rapp, who wanted McBride and others to cut their 'fros).

The Underwood trade made sense, considering that Lefty was the corner stone of the pitching staff; Lonborg and Kaat were reasonably-durable veterans; youngsters Larry Christenson and Randy Lerch had oodles of promise; and there was a three-headed, set-up man/closer brigade with Garber, Reed and Tug, not to mention the rook, Warren Brusstar.

Hard to believe it now, but the '77 staff was top-heavy with pitchers, so what was the harm in dealing someone who'd won 24 games total in '75 and '76 for a potential malcontent who was young and talented?

Again ... this is what the mere mention of that name -- "Tim Blackwell" -- does to the brain ... even though he played in only 4 games for the Phillies in '76 and only one game (that's right ... "uno") in '77. One of those games in '76 occurred during the final week of the season ... a game before a tiny crowd at Montreal's Jarry Park when Tim Blackwell went into the game (as a defensive replacement for Johnny Oates) and had an RBI single in the top of the 6th, snapping a 1-1 tie in a 2-1 Phils win.
It was all part of the stretch drive of the Phils reaching the post season for the first time since 1950.

Oddly enough, Tim Blackwell's only game as a Phillie in '77 occurred four days before he was traded, during a zany affair at Atlanta in which Greg Luzinski hit a grand slam in the top of the first for a 4-0 lead and then ripped a 3-run double in the top of the 6th for a 10-6 lead.
Those were back in the days when Chief Nok-A-Homa roamed ol' Fulton County Stadium and the natives couldn't wait for the Falcons' season to begin. Hard to believe that only a little more than a year later, Atlanta's football team would make the playoffs for the first time -- during the new 16-game regular season which would yield TWO wild-card playoff teams.

And, thus, a team (the Falcons) which had never made the NFC playoffs would host a team (the Eagles) which hadn't been in the postseason since 1960. If only the Eagles had The Bull's 7 ribbies as Philly did at Atlanta that mid-June day 18 months earlier.

That 13-10 Phillie victory was significant for Tim Blackwell given that he pinch-ran for Bob Boone in the top of the 8th and scored the Phillies' 13th run.
Tim Blackwell finished out the game behind the dish for the bottom of the 8th and the bottom of the 9th (when the Bravos scored 4 runs to make matters a little dicey).

But, four days later, Timmy N' Twitchy were shipped to Canada for Warthen and Foote.
The Foote-note there, perhaps, was that Wayne Twitchell -- the Phillies' only All-Star from a mostly-sh*tty '73 team (which was only a slight improvement over the 59-95 super-sh*ttiness of '72) -- met up against his ol' mates in the next-to-the-last game of the '77 season.
Twitchell, who was 0-5, when the Phils dumped him, had a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning of that game -- a lead which was furnished when Wayne Twitchell himself singled home the game's first run in the top of the 5th.

However, Wayne Twitchell was unable to protect that lead in the game which brought together the forces of all four players involved in the Twitchell/Blackwell-for-Warthen/Foote deal.
It was an "outside" force -- the Phillies' Jay Johnstone -- who homered off of Twitchell to tie the game, 3-3, in the 8th.
Notwithstanding Johnstone's mighty clout, Tim Blackwell would get his revenge. Depite the fact that he'd taken a called Strike Three! in the top of the 8th and 10th innings, Tim Blackwell came up in the top of the 12th with runners on first and second against Warthen (thanks to a single and an error by Warthen) -- and Tim Blackwell got the job done which he was asked to perform.
Sacrificing himself with a bunt so that his teammates could advance to second and third.

The Expos eventually pushed across three runs for a 6-3 lead and then held on for a 6-5 win as Dan Warthen -- in his third and final game as a Phillie -- took the loss while future Phillies pitching coach Joe Kerrigan got the W with some mostly-shaky relief work.

It's nice to have this catalog of Tim Blackwell Memories when people are hemming and hawwing about th
e mediocre b-ballin' Tim Blackwell or the footballin' Tim Blackwell, who was definitely not of the playmaking caliber, in a big-play sense, as Southern Miss' future NFL stars such as Sammy Winder of Louis Lipps.

When b-ballin' Tim Blackwell is done shootin' the rock and the footballin' Tim Blackwell is done totin' the rock (to the house!), ya gotta wonder if either of those Tim Blackwells will spend their post-playing careers doing what the Original Tim Blackwell did -- coaching the youngsters who are on the brink of pro stardom (or major disappointment as yesterday's can't-miss-turned-washout).

Tim Blackwell has spent a post-MLB career bouncing around to a lot of different minor league teams, which is what happens to so many ex-MLB'ers. Tim Blackwell has visited so many minor-league locales that it was unbeknownst to those of us who wore a High Desert Mavericks cap for Sunday softball skirmishes (mostly because the red logo on the black cap matched our white jersey w/ black pinstripes and a large, red #29 on the back) in the '94-'97 time continuum that Tim Blackwell was the manager at High Desert in '95 -- although how could anyone be expected to remember that whereas High Desert was a co-op minor league team in '94, you had no idea that the Mavs had become an Orioles affiliate in '95.
That's the thing about Tim Blackwell -- when you're a kid, your mental Rolodex of Tim Blackwell Memories is simple and pleasing. As you get older, sometimes the Tim Blackwell memories grow more complex and symbolic -- such as the time when you discovered that Tim Blackwell was one of five catchers from San Diego's Crawford High to make it to The Show.
Actually, that was five catchers within a 12-year window of 1963 thru 1975, beginning with Dave Duncan, Ed Herrmann, Bob Boone, Blackwell and Dave Engle.
Oddly enough, Tim Blackwell was the only one of the five who was not selected for an A.L. or N.L. All-Star team during his career.

The question remains: Was the Original Tim Blackwell a pawn in the twisted maze of Blackwellism? After all, Barry Foote was eventually part of the 8-player deal with the Cubs in which five stiffs were exported for dazzling imports Manny Trillo and Greg Gross.

Warthen was traded straight up for Dan Larson, who never really did much for the Phillies nor did he help unclutter our minds when two months ago, all of the historians were talkin' 'bout the 50th anniversary of Don Larsen's World Series perfect game and some of us tried to track down a Dan Larson card for Don Larsen to autograph for our mother-in-law who attended that W.S. perfecto.

Those Danny Ozark years, jeez ... it's easy to down a jug of bleach than to remember how much of a moron that guy was.

Thanks for nuthin', Tim Blackwell, I, II or III.

Anyway, back inside Comcast, T-Black III clanked two 3-pointers -- and that was his Blackwellian impact on the 101-50 loss. However, more than the Tim Blackwell Factor is something else which could give opponents problems all year.

"Ekene Ibekwe."

A lot of people out there don't remember if Ekene Ibekwe is Obinna Ekeze, the center for the Terps back in the late'90s, or Obi Egekeze, the backup placekicker on the Maryland football team.

In another non-related, non-Tim Blackwell development, Maryland's Greivis Vasquez started, played 26 minutes, had 8 assists and 6 boards ... but he did not take a shot.
The same could NOT be said for Jason McAlpin, the 13th man on Gary Williams' bench. When UMKC missed a shot with 40-something seconds to play, the consensus among the participants and the 27 spectators remaining in their seats was that the Terps would let the clock runBANG!

McAlpin drained a 25-footer at :01, his second one in the final minute -- and Gare looked simply delighted that the kid violated one of b-ball's unspoken rules.

Hold on a sec? Haven't we seen that act before? A team is winning by 78 points in the final minute and the autistic kid named J-Mac steals our hearts with his heroism in the face of autism.

Until he's benched for the next game.

Well, good for you, Jason McAlpin and the way you commemorated the forgottenness of Jason McIlwain.

By the way, neither J-Mac I or J-Mac II is sniffin' any serious PT for the rest of the '06-'07 season, so it's up to you, Tim Blackwell 3!

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