April 17, 2008


Why Duane Kuiper is my hero (Joe Posnanski, April 16th, 2008)

Fortunately, growing up in Cleveland, I was never really given the Tom Seaver dilemma. There were no stars (unless you consider the manager, Frank Robinson, or the aging Boog Powell). The Cleveland Indians pitcher with the most victories during my five formative years (1975-79) was, in fact, the aforementioned Rick Waits. With 51. The team was dreadful those five years — not the 100 loss dreadful, which steals your hope, but a team splashed with mediocrity (three of those five years, they finished within three games of .500) which gives you false hope.

Still, no matter how bad the team, you need a hero. Everyone who would care knows that my favorite player of that time and all time was Racine’s own Duane Kuiper, Cleveland Indians second baseman from 1974 (22 at-bats, 11 hits, a spectacular debut!) through 1982 (traded for, ugh, Ed Whitson, who lasted only a year in Cleveland but did at least in his future life did break Billy Martin’s arm in a hotel fight). Duane Kuiper. Number 18. A .271 lifetime average with one home run, windblown, to right field, off Steve Stone in 1977, when I was 10 years old. I can keep going a while, if you like. Gemini. Five hit game off Catfish Hunter and Sparky Lyle in ‘76. Was drafted five times before finally signing with Cleveland out of Southern Illinois. Walked almost as many times (248) as he struck out (255) and he really hardly ever walked. And so on.

People always seem to think that I love Kuiper ironically, or that I’m somehow being a wise guy about this whole thing, but in the words of that noted philosopher Mike Gundy, that ain’t true. I loved Duane Kuiper when I was 10. And I love him now. He has always represented something important to me, something I did not really understand when I was young. Duane Kuiper was the player who brought the game closer. He was the one who said that you don’t have to be supremely gifted and impossibly strong and touched by God in order to get where you want to go.

Back in the 70s, a buddy and I were at Yankee Stadium during batting practice--you could still get down to the field level then--and happened to be standing next to a young lady who was sort of a cross between Selma Hayek and Cameron Diaz, so Reggie Jackson came over to chat her up. My friend waited for a pause in the line of patter and asked the World Series MVP and highest paid player in baseball if he could please go get Fred Stanley.

While I pretended not to know the obvious escapee from a lunatic asylum, Reggie sputtered in disbelief and roared: you've got Reggie "F****in'" Jackson standing in front of you and you want Fred "M*****F****in'" Stanley instead!?! What are you, some kind of f*****in' weirdo!?!

Said friend proceeded to reach into his wallet and remove a Fred Stanley baseball card that looked like he'd run it through the dishwasher after his dog chewed on it and protested: "No, I just want him to sign my card! I carry it everywhere, all the time!"

Reggie snatched the card away and raced to the dugout, hooting and hollering. He brought back a befuddled Fred Stanley, holding the card much the way you might a dead mouse: "What's with you kid, you some kind of homo or somethin'?"

[By the way, there were 72 peanut shells under the second row of seats, as I can tell you because I was desperately trying not to look up throughout this whole awkward scene.]

At any rate, the utility infielder with the lifetime .214 average and 10 homeruns did eventually sign the card, so my buddy was happy, and Reggie more than likely dined out on the tale for at least a couple of nights. Me? I'll never figure out how you get that close to a Hall of Famer like Reggie and don't have him at least get you Cliff Johnson.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 17, 2008 9:17 AM

Classic Reggie. Was it Reggie or Chicken though who asked if your buddy was a "homo?"

I might've asked Reggie to bring Oscar Gamble over.

Though I could've gone Brian Doyle as well.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 17, 2008 10:07 AM

I'll admit to being the guy with the luck Chicken Stanley baseball card.
It wasn't that I was a Stanley fan, but the card was lucky. I picked it
up off the floor walking into a high school math test I hadn't studied
for and ended up acing the exam. I attributed my results to the card.

OJ also got his wish come true that day at the game as well, as Cliff
Johnson hit a pinch hit homer.

It was Reggie who made the "homo" comment.

Oscar Gamble was gone...they dumped him when they signed Reggie.

And, sometime ask Orrin about the boy crush he had on Clark Gilles of
the Islanders.

Posted by: Foos at April 17, 2008 10:41 AM

They both questioned his sexuality, as did the look of the hot chick.

Lucky Mike Bossy, getting to be between Gillies and Trottier.....

Posted by: oj at April 17, 2008 12:43 PM