During two separate "we've-just-been-inducted-to-Cooperstown" press conferences (held on opposite coasts) by Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn yesterday, two obvious questions sprang to mind.
1) Why is Ripken's face somewhat puffy and mis-shapen?
2) And who stole Cal's eyebrows?
OK ... so both of those questions focus heavily on the Iron Man's facial features and, as such, don't deal with the heaviness that is Tony Gwynn.
Nevertheless, somebody shoulda asked Cal if he's on Prednisone or something.
He's starting to look bizarre -- and we don't mean "bizarre" in the dignified, chain-smoking manner in which Cal Sr. aged.
Cal's balloon face and Gwynn's blimp-ish physique notwithstanding, a physical characteristic such as "enlargement" is why one big body won't be a trio inducted to Cooperstown in late July.
Mighty Mac -- or whatever it is they called that aircraft carrier from the late '90s -- won't be enshrined this summer (or possibly ever), all because hypocritical fat slobs w/ frighteningly-jagged teeth named "Bill Conlin" have decided what is good for America.
And, as always ... for America's children.
All kidding aside, the only difference between Bill Conlin and John Wayne Gacy is the number of murdered boys' corpses in the crawl space under the house and, oh yeah ... John Wayne Gacy was a sloppy dresser, but, on his worst day, he was 15 times more-nattily attired than Bill Conlin on Bill's best day.
We at This Planet have done our best to not so much "attack" but, rather, "scrutinize" the circus freak show which is the voting body for the Pro Football Hall of Fame ("U-Shaped Logic," Jan. '06) and the douches who cast ballots for The MLB's Hall of Fame -- character assassinations revealed in "Whole Hall Overhaul: The Eviction of Eppa Rixey" (8/7/06) and "Tall Tales" (9/24/06), the latter, a fun-filled adventure with bonus "Rips On Rixey" thanks to a modern-day Baltimore Sun writer who tried to enlighten America about a pitcher who retired more than 70 years ago.
For reasons outlined in those three blogs which captivated America, the HOFs in Canton and in Cooperstown are uncategorically null and void. In other words, the Winter X Games Hall of Fame (which exists "here," he said, pointing to his head) is more legit.
Seriously, how can it be a Hall of "FAME" when numbnutted dumbsh*ts are doin' the votin'?
Cooperstown "enshrined" Cristobal Torriente last summer (as part of the 17 Negro Leaguers who were ushered in ... while Buck O'Neil was not), but that pencilneck Mike Stupidca (who moonlights on The World's Strongest Man Network) forgot to inform America if Cristobal Torriente was a boozehound who once stabbed a man while he was raping that man's wife.
That's the word on the street.
The thing is, claiming Mark McGwire gobbled up 'roids has as much basis in fact as implying that Bill Conlin -- with his jagged teeth and five rolls of flab under his chin -- had a habit of lingering for a very long time near the Phillies' shower room any time Gregg Jefferies was in there.
"Is that a Bic pen in your trousers, Bill, or are ya just glad to get an interview with me?"
We don't know if Mighty Mac mainlined 'roids or HGH -- and, as far as that "circumstantial evidence" is concerned, well ... do we have to re-visit the "Gacy v. Conlin" paragraph again?
The BBWAA ... playing computer solitaire on their laptops during the 5th inning of another Brewers-Royals interleague game.
Yup, America definitely needs those decision-makers determining who receives baseball, as it were, "immortality."
Hell, yes ... McGwire deserves to go in.
That's based on a combination of factors: A) Who's already in and B) Who's doin' the votin' nowadays.
Too many shady characters already call Cooperstown home -- and, on top of that, 98.3 percent of the guys who vote were all cut from their JV baseball team in high school.
They are still sooooo very bitter about that.
So, when Bonds goes yard, the undercurrent is, "How dare he!"
For some of us, the fact that McGwire, Bonds and Canseco all were likely unfaithful to their wives at some point is a greater offense than being a junkie, given the fact that the Bible (New Testament or Old, either way) is a higher authority than any collective bargaining agreement which -- "sing it together!" -- never tested for anabolic steroids, etc ...
Moreover, maybe more influential than "performance enhancers" at The MLB level during the McGwire/Bonds/Canseco era were: A) Expansion B) Bats filled with weapons-grade plutonium C) Balls filled with uranium
Factor "A)" is not to be dismissed. Once the Marlins, Rockies, D-Backs and D-Rays opened for business in the '90s, what it created was 40-45, major-league-level openings for pitchers with minor-league-level talent.
That's just the basic math.
Or didja forget the 50 homers hit by Greg Vaughn in '98?
And, to reiterate a common-sense theme, it might not be a bad idea to de-enshrine anywhere from one dozen to two dozen ballplayers with hilarious, make-believe stats -- overrated stiffs such as Old Hoss Radbourn, who, with the 1884 Providence Grays, was 59-12 (with 73 starts and 73 complete games), but, with the 1886 Boston Beaneaters, was 27-31.
Don't get too comfy, great-great-grandchildren of Pud Galvin. Your great-great-grandpappy really put up the numbers for the ol' Buffalo Bisons (46-29 with 72 complete games in 1883 and 46-22 with 71 complete games in 1884), but that 16-26 record in 1885 can’t be ignored.
The papers for his UNduction are being drafted right now.
Which takes us right back to the most-difficult choice amongst the de-enshrined UNductees ... our pal, Eppa Rixey.
We already know about his simply MEDIOCRE won-loss record for the Phillies (an average won-loss record of 9-11 in nine seasons) and the Redlegs (an average won-loss 17-13 in nine seasons).
But, the fact that Eppa Rixey died in Feb. 1963 means that he might've learned about his election, but passed before the induction ceremony.
And, now, he's not here to defend his flimsy stats with during this painful UNduction process.
Maybe he shoulda thought about that before he blew Game 5 of the 1915 World Series against the Red Sox when, while pitching in relief, was entrusted with a 4-2 Phillies lead -- only to surrender a game-tying, 2-run homer to Duffy Lewis in the top of the 8th and then serving up the tiebreaking solo homer to Harry Hooper (his second of the game) in the top of the 9th, thus clinching the World Series title for the team from the Fens.
Sure, Harry Hooper is a Hall of Famer (for now ... until we de-enshrine him, maybe next year ... or the year after that ... in the class of UNductees with Phil Rizzuto and Tommy Lasorda), but Eppa Rixey couldn't lay off the hooch long enough to make quality pitches to Harry Hooper.
Prior to that fateful Game 5, Harry Hooper had hit only two homers all season.
Now, before anyone thinks we're playuh-hatin' on Eppa and Old Hoss and Pud, let's think about enshrining Gavvy.
Exactly ... Clifford Carlton Cravath -- everybody called him "Gavvy" (or "Cactus") -- had one helluva 1915 season for the Phillies. In the Triple Crown categories, he had 24 HRs, 115 ribbies and a .285 average. Two seasons earlier, his Triple Crown numbers were 19 / 128 / .341 ... quite excellent, given the deadball era in which he played.
In fact, six times in the seven seasons of 1913 thru 1919, Gavvy Cravath led the N.L. in homers, so, yes ... we can say that he was baseball's first legitimate longball threat.
It was Gavvy's career record for homers (119) which Babe Ruth broke during his second of back-to-back monster seasons in 1920 and 1921 ... during the lively ball era.
Like Eppa Rixey, Gavvy Cravath died in 1963 -- only he must've smoked too much reefer and banged too many under-aged boys because the Bill Conlins and Mike Stupidcas of that era didn't extend him any HOF love.
The Bambino could've fornicated with a goat in the Yankees dugout because, well ... he's the Bambino.
"Mr. Ruth, will you sign my goat?"
Luckily, Ripken saved The MLB in '95 when he broke Lou Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive game streak, but it was Mighty Mac and Sammie Sofa and their Home Run Derby of '98 which "re-saved" the sport and made the children re-connect with the Bambino.
And Stupidca gave an intense tongue bath to Mac's balls long enough to rake in some $$$ for writing a book about those Homer Wars of '98 re-saved the sport.
That is, until the Yankees (in conjunction with the NYPD and the FDNY) rescued the nation with the '01 World Series following 9/11.
Until the Red Sox re-re-saved the sport with their '04 breaking of The Curse.
The two moments of Ripken's career which will last the longest in some of our minds are his 400th HR and his final game and the final AB which never happened because of Braindead Anderson.
For those of us who sitting there in a field box in Section 18 (we think ... free tix, so what the hey, right?) on Sept. 2, 1999, we remember not so much that Cal, in his second AB, lined a fastball (we think) from Tampa Bay's Rolando Arrojo into Section 76 in LF -- but rather that the ball glanced off someone's hand and into some guy's face, breaking that guy's nose.
And, that guy did NOT wind up with the milestone HR baseball.
That was amusing enough, but our funny bone was tickled further when we read the Sun's account of the milestone HR the next day.
There aren't many things better in journalism than when an athlete says something and the quote is printed differently in the "gamer" than the way it appears in the "sidebar."
Typical of the Sun, Ripken's quotes got mangled (that particular sports section is in a box around here somewhere), so the reader never knows if when Cal says, "I was happy to get a clutch hit at that point in the game," if it'll appear in print as "I'm pleased that I hit the ball well" or "What a delight to homer in that situation."
Good sh*t ... great reading.
For when you're seated on the throne ...
Odd thing about the quotable Ripken ... he had a penchant for referring to himself in the second person.
No, not the third person with something like, "Cal Ripken was happy to get a clutch hit at that point in the game."
More like, "You're always happy to get a clutch hit at that point in the game you're playing."
Or if he's describing the pitch he hit, Cal might say, "You're looking for a fastball right there when you're ahead in the count, so when you get it, you're happy that you hit it well."
Cal took that "No 'I' In Team" maybe a bit too far.
As for his farewell game, it was the final game of the '01 season. The O's were getting handled by the Red Sox, 5-1, with one out to go, a runner on base and Braindead Anderson in the box with Ripken on deck.
Bosox pitcher Ugueth Urbina ran the count full to Brandy, but, for those fans in the ballpark or those of us watching at home on TV, we all knew that if there was a borderline, two-strike pitch, Brandy could keep the bat on his shoulder because there was NO WAY home plate ump Eric Cooper would ring up the batter on a called third strike with the stadium abuzz with the thought of Ripken coming up for one final AB.
Well, we don't call him "Braindead" Anderson because he's a heads-up player.
He swung and missed to end the game.
Apparently, Braindead had to hustle over to GNC to get some "supplements" so he could do 5,000 curls and 1,000 leg-presses before bedtime.
Then, it's time for a shower ... maybe skim through a few pgs. of Playgirl ... and then it's lights out ...
Speaking of vintage, season-ending strikeouts, there's one of Mighty Mac which'll stick with America for a long time.
It was in Game 5 of the '01 NLDS ... a loser-go-home scenario ... and, in the top of the 9th inning and a runner at first in a 1-1 game against the D-Backs, La Loser pinch-hit for McGwire, who had struck out in each of his previous three trips against Curt Schilling.
Kerry Robinson was summoned to bunt the runner into scoring position.
The D-Backs, though, won the game in the bottom of the 9th.
Surely, La Loser spent a few minutes on the postgame show discussing, "We needed to move the runner up, blah blah, blah ... Mark's a little banged-up, blah, blah, blah ..."
And, Tony Gwynn? That guy could roll out of bed and go 4 for 4.
Unless he felt like going 5 for 5.
Quality baserunner, great defensively ... damn shame, though, that we didn't get to see Gwynn could hit .400 in a season because The MLB walked out on us ("it's for the children ... and for their children's children") in Aug. '94 when Gwynn was batting .394.
In an exerpt from his '93 biography, "I Ain't An Athlete, Lady ...", John Kruk (as told to Paul Hagen) described one of his minor-league experiences thusly:
"I ate when it was time to eat. I ate when I was hungry. I ate and kept on gaining. I never really thought it was a problem until after my second year at Triple-A in Las Vegas; that's when they told me that if I didn't report to spring training the next year at 190 pounds, they weren't going to let me do anything until I had lost the weight. I'd be there, but all I'd do would be to work out with the trainer.
"So I stayed in Las Vegas and worked out at this clinic. I didn't eat anything. I starved myself. When it came time for the physical and the weigh-in, I was at 190 pounds exactly. They let me do what I had to do. I left for Yuma, Arizona, and spring training with Tony Gwynn; he'd had to lose weight, too.
"And we stopped at Wendy's on the way and had two big double cheeseburgers."
The question is: Was that two big double cheeseburgers EACH?
The reason we ask is because when he goes to Wendy's, Bill Conlin orders three big double cheeseburgers (two-and-a-half for eating, one-half for spilling on his shirt and necktie).
Makes ya wonder what it was like for Eppa Rixey when he was with the 1922 Redlegs and he was on road trips with catchers Bubbles Hargrave and Ivey Wingo and fellow pitcher Cactus Keck.
They didn't have a Wendy's back then -- but, surely the cooks at the local diner fired up as many double cheeseburgers as Eppa, Bubbles, Ivey and Cactus could consume.
He had to go a lunch counter when they served "dem cull-uhh-ed boys."
If only there'd been androstinedione back then.
Not to mention Civil Rights legislation ...