We all know that excitement is a finite, limited resource, easily depleted by September call-ups, teams with poor Pythagorean records, and the tinny, joyous music of the ice cream truck just beyond view. As a cautionary service against emptying one’s self of optimism and retreating into a cynical shell of a man/woman, we travel back to the Magical World of Yesterday, specifically October 1990, to look at the game’s hottest stars, as depicted in ink on shrinkable plastic.
(Said depictions are, as one might imagine, easily embiggenable.)
#1: Ben McDonald
1990 Upper Deck Card: $3.50. (Error card: $32.00.)
Why We Were Excited: He was a pitcher, and he was really tall!
Why We Stopped Being Excited: Synecdoche is an unfortunate reality for pitchers, and America was never able to fall in love with Ben McDonald’s arm as we could his oversized heart.
Career Highlight: Getting on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a baseball in his mouth.
Life Since Baseball: Owns a plantation where you and he can shoot animals with large guns together, as well as listen to fiddle music.
Random Japanese Fact: Visiting bigbenmcdonald.com will transport you to the Japanese webpage of Pitfall of establishment Ltd., which (with the aid of Google Translate) is designed for the betterment of humankind. From their press release: “I make money and the like. Create products to contribute to society, I think many people are thinking of making money. For this purpose, as a means of personal business is easiest. And services such as massage, I think there are a lot of people who have a business idea is not widely spread.” Ben McDonald’s enormous watch is also on display.
#2: Dwight Smith
1990 Upper Deck Card: $.50.
Why We Were Excited: Small sample size hadn’t been invented yet. Also, mustache.
Why We Stopped Being Excited: Went on a local Chicago sports radio show and, choked with tears, demanded of America that we choose between him and Jerome Walton. America chose the wrong one. Also, mustache.
Career Highlight: Never once getting mentioned in Sports Illustrated, holding the record for most pinch hits in Cubs history, teaching the world to sing.
Life Since Baseball: Is apparently known for his public drinking and public expletives.
Random Japanese Fact: Dwight Smith now coaches for the Sports-A-Rama in East Cobb County, Georgia. Among his co-workers are Donnell Nixon and former Yakult Swallow Terry Harper.
#3: Eric Anthony
1990 Upper Deck Card: $1.25.
Why We Were Excited: Lost to the ravages of history.
Why We Stopped Being Excited: As time passes we inevitable become known for what we can’t do, rather than what we can do.
Career Highlight: Hit a home run into the upper deck of the Astrodome. The seat where the ball landed was marked by a star. Unfortunately, because the building now violates several major codes, only maintenance workers and security guards are allowed inside to see it.
Life Since Baseball: Coaches youth baseball teams, having faced off against Anthony Young, Chuck McElroy, and Charlie Hayes.
Random Partially Japanese Facts: There is an Eric Anthony forum on the internet, but to date there have been no entries. Also, as a former Yakult Swallow, Eric Anthony is seen as more of a Gorman Thomas than an Eric Anthony, so there’s that.