Saturday, June 24, 2006

Three random 1989 Donruss baseball cards

I'm in the midst of banging out a Pedro epic for Monday/Tuesday. Let's just say I don't quite get the damn fools who think he deserves to be booed at Fenway, and so I'm really hoping to do this one right. In the meantime, a trio of cards for your perusal:

Man, look how skinny the Iron Sheff was then. He really must have worked hard (coughcoughcreamcoughcough) and spent hours throwing around weights in the gym (coughcoughclearcoughcough) to become the jacked and pumped slugger of recent seasons (coughcoughI'm gonna kill you, R. Kelly!coughcough).

Did you catch ESPN's all-day "countdown clock" to the Rocket's season debut Thursday? It was an annoying gimmick with no redeeming qualities beyond promoting the network. In other words, it's guaranteed ESPN will be hammering us over the head with it the next few months, at least until they come up with something even more obnoxious. (I'm pretty sure I just described the career trajectory of Stephen A. Smith in that last sentence there.) If they absolutely must give me a countdown clock involving Clemens, how about counting down the days until the Rocket hobbles out of a crucial game in the third inning with a groin injury and a 6-0 deficit? Now that's worth looking forward to.

It's been a somber few days here at TATB headquarters. First, we rehashed the Len Bias saga, a more emotional trip in the Way-Back Machine than we expected. Then, just a few days ago we learned that Ron Jones, a star-crossed former Phillies outfielder, an ex-Maine Guide, and an original TATB Hall of Famer, died at age 42 of a brain hemorrhage. Turns out he passed away a couple of weeks ago, but we only learned about it when seeing his name under the In Memoriam header on the homepage; after a quick Google search, I was dismayed to discover his death barely warranted a mention in the Phillies notebooks in the Philly papers. In the scattered items I've written about Jones on this site and elsewhere, I spent most of my words touting Jones's gifts as a hitter. He batted .371 once in the minors, and his sweet lefty swing and stocky physique drew comparisons to Tony Gwynn. But I'd like to think that in at least one article/post, I emphasized that as good a player as he was, he was an even better guy. During his season and a half in Old Orchard Beach, Jones made a habit of hanging around in the parking lot after Guides games, sitting on the hood of his pickup truck, enjoying a beverage or two, and shooting the breeze with anyone who wanted an autograph, to talk baseball, or just to say hi to a ballplayer. My dad and I got to know him well enough that he'd greet us by name when he ran into one of us at the ballpark or around town. (He lived at a hotel just a few dunes down the beach from our house, and I can't count the times I saw him playing pinball at the downtown arcade.) Jones was just a kid then, 21 or 22 years old. Baseball stardom seemingly was only a few line drives away, and yet he was content being a regular guy, another friendly summer resident in a small community. That impressed me, and after multiple knee injuries aborted his big-league dreams, I always hoped his uncommon humility helped him accept the way his career ended. Sadly, that wasn't the only thing that was over much too soon.

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And because we always try to end on a happy note here at TATB, a bonus card:

That right there is the innocent smile of a young pitcher who has not yet heard of one David Americo Ortiz Arias.

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