Friday, May 19, 2006

Match game

It's time to step into the TATB Way-Back Machine for one more round of everybody's favorite game show . . . Guess That '70s Ballplayer!

And now, here's the host of your show . . . Gene Rayburn! . . .

The master of the malaprop (not to mention the mid-brawl cheap shot, according to Bill Lee), he once remarked to a certain egomaniacal teammate named Reginald Martinez Jackson, "Your first name is white, your middle name is Mexican, and your last name is black. No wonder you're so (bleeped) up."

Tied that Reginald Martinez Jackson guy for the AL lead in homers in 1980 with 41; came up with the Red Sox but lacked the can't-miss status the Gold Dust Twins and Dewey Evans and was traded after the '73 season.

Another young ballplayer the '70s Red Sox were too quick to swap - hmmm, there must be a common thread here - he batted .352 for the '80 Brewers, and still finished 38 points shy of the AL batting leader.

Beat out Eddie Murray for the 1977 AL Rookie of the Year award. And you know what? After batting .307 with 21 homers and 42 steals, he deserved it, even though Murray became a superstar while he fizzled out quickly.

All or nothing slugger once sent a dead rat in a gift-wrapped package to a female sports writer. Yeah, he was all chivalrous like that.

Two-time MVP in the early '80s who apparently had a bet with Jim Rice to see whose talent could erode faster. Let's call it a dead heat.

He jumped straight to the majors from Arizona St. and walloped 23 homers in little more than half a season for the Braves in '78. Contrary to his appearance, is not and has never been Amish.

Manages the Mets like he's still employed by the Yankees.

After a particularly painful loss during the '81 World Series, brought a George Steinbrenner locker room tirade to stunning halt by blurting "Shut the - - - - up, George." I wonder if any of the current Yankee "leaders" would have similarly large cojones. I think we can probably cross Giambi off this list for starters.

Won 25 games for the '80 Orioles; won four more the rest of his career.

"Terry Crowley's lucky he's in (bleepin') baseball . . . " (And if you don't know what I'm referencing here, well, our little PG-rated site can't link to it for NSFW reasons. But a Google search for "Terry Crowley" and "tirade" should lead you in the correct, and hilariously vulgar, direction.)

I never for a moment considered this curveballer a likely Hall of Famer when he played . . . but damn, his numbers make almost a foolproof case (just check out his Similar Pitchers list). Also, in a completely unrelated clue, his real first name is Rik and his middle name is Aalbert. Dork-in-wooden-shoes alert!

This underachieving fireballing lefty's son is currently an overachieving junkballing righty for the Mets. The karma gods have a sense of humor, you know.

Apparently had an irrational bias against marshmallow salesmen, but then he was open-minded enough to give . . .

. . . this speedster a tryout with the Tigers, despite his having been sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for armed robbery.

Nicknamed "The Mad Hungarian." Nope, I just can't see it. He looks like "The Friendly Armenian" to me.

Once hit three homers in a game at Fenway, an impressive feat for a jacked-and-pumped slugger, let alone a pipsqueak of a shortstop listed at 5-foot-5 and 148 pounds.

"Jeezus, just take the damn picture so I can finish smoking this cig, okay?"

I'm pretty much convinced that if he came out of retirement to play for his former team today, at age 53, he'd immediately become their best player. (And by the way, the fact that this superstar of my youth is fifty-freakin'-three makes me want to go swig a gallon of Metamucil mixed with lighter fluid. Damn, I feel ancient.)

One of the most obscure batting champions of all-time, he won the '74 NL title by hitting .354 for the Braves.

Married to golf legend Nancy Lopez. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing she didn't quite click with the rest of the baseball wives.

Three questions any sportswriter worth his mustard-stained shirt should ask him:
1) Does Krylon still guarantee no runs, no drips and no errors?
2) Do you still hang out at Little League fields with Tommy Lasorda and the San Diego Chicken?
3) Was Pete Rose always such a $&$*#&#&&@&?

This alleged genius hit .199 with no homers in 176 big-league at-bats. Too bad he didn't have teammate like Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire to give him some, uh, pointers.

The photo is hazy, but the clues should make his identity clear:
1) Scored major league baseball's 1,000,000th run. (No, wise guy, all 1 million did not come in the third inning today against Lenny DiNardo.)
2) Batted .337 for the '79 Sox after coming over in a deal with the Astros, then signed with the Yankees the following winter. (Hmm, I wonder if he got booed upon returning to Fenway.)
3) Has been sticking it to the Sox ever since, first as the Yankees GM (Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera developed on his watch) then as MLB's czar of discipline (even Terry Francona has questioned his motives when it comes to his particularly harsh punishments of the Sox).
4) "Let . . . them . . . play! . . . Let . . . them . . . play! . . . "

I mentioned to my wife the other day that this former relief ace and current Sox TV analyst looks great for his age. My best girl's reply: "He'd look better if he got a haircut and shaved off that mustache. Someone needs to tell him the '70s are over." Now, I can forgive her for this for many reasons - she's a thoughtful wife, a patient and loving mom, she brings home sandwiches sometimes without me asking, she puts up with my slobbering and blabbering about Pam from "The Office" . . . all sorts of sweet things, really. But mostly I let this comment pass because she simply does not understand the Essence of the Ec . . . well, hell, you know this is Eckersley. Who doesn't? I mean, c'mon - this is the look he had when he pitched a no-hitter for the '77 Indians, won 20 for the '78 Sox, helped pitch the '84 Cubs to the playoffs, and re-defined the closer role for the late-'80s A's. This is the look he had during his Studio 54 youth, when he was inventing his own lingo, throwing yakkers during the game, then drinking oil and licking beef and living the high life after one more inevitable victory, and it's damn sure the look he's going to have into his mid-50's if he can pull it off. Don't listen to the haters, Eck. You are pulling it off, and those of us with graying scalps and expanding bellies salute you. Now go lick some beef, kid.

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