The Pictorial Odyssey of Von Hayes

Last weekend the Right Honourable Dayn Perry, Esq. cast a wary glance into the soulful eyes of Von Hayes.  The archetypal quick-aging baseball player, Hayes was finished physically by the age of 32.  His spirit was crushed by the weight of five men and the city of Philadelphia somewhat earlier.  What we see in Von Hayes is the human gamut of emotion, a timeline that encompasses innocence, hope, fatigue, mistrust, despair, and eventually resignation.  In Von Hayes, we see ourselves.

Witness the early years of Von Hayes, ones of unfamiliarity and wavering confidence, the tender mustache worn perhaps to deflect questions as to whether he is Robert Hays.  Even his unibrow reaches tenuously from his forehead, seeking to make its way in the world. Advance to the early evenings in Philadelphia, and observe the brave mask he wears even as he disappoints men and women he has never met. They are unhappy with him because of what he is not. They are unhappy with him because it is not enough to be Von Hayes.

Travel to the mid-80s, and witness a Von Hayes at the peak of his powers, brash and headstrong. His eyes glint mischievously. Yet something pulls back at the corners of his smile, and has already begun to pave the mortar around his heart. As he sits with Dick Perez for his week-long sitting in the summer of 1986, Hayes instinctively tucks his jaw under his shoulder and thinks back to his childhood, that idyllic time when the number five held no special connotation.

Time marches forward, and an older, wiser, more chin-dimpled Von Hayes has rejected the capriciousness of the external world. The smile returns, but the eyes do not follow it.  Dark and heavy, they trace and retrace a path that leads inextricably to disappointment. Hayes’ own accomplishments have by this point little effect on his place in society, and by the time he is painted again, he collapses into an unbroken meditation, aided only by the occasional use of eye drops.

But in the end, even beyond the edge of despair, we see a final human instinct to flail against the inevitability of death and fate. The illusory peace brought by introspection breaks down, and a final rebellious mustache reappears, paired with war paint designed for intimidation.  No one can say whether it was Hayes’ own flawed body that abandoned him, or the bone-crushing fastball of Tom Browning, or his soul-crippling ejection by Joe West in 1990. Whatever it was, the Angels soon learned that they had not traded for the semistar first baseman, but instead for a ghoulish marionette that, in its disjointed and mindless gestures, made a mockery of everything dear about the game of baseball.

It’s a sad end for a man who was painted not once, but twice. A man whose moniker graces not only an indie-rock band but a minor character in a low-rated NBC action-comedy spy-drama.  But it’s the end we all face. Perhaps this is why the world has been so hard on Von Hayes; his eyes are mirrors.




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Patrick Dubuque writes for NotGraphs and The Hardball Times, and he served as former Bill Spaceman Lee Visiting Professor for Baseball Exploration at Pitchers & Poets. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.


5 Responses to “The Pictorial Odyssey of Von Hayes”

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  1. Transmission says:

    Von Hayes has always been one of those random players from my early childhood whom I remembered for no particular reason.

    But I think now that it’s hit me: he always had a very fascinating face, one that matched both his body and his batting stance. His face is very vertical and slender – very upright. I remember his batting stance also being this freakishly angular and upright thing, each matching an unusually thin and long-limbed, angular body. If ever there were a head in perfect symmetry with a body and batting stance, it was his.

    (I say this as an angular, thin, long-limbed and tall-headed guy, myself.)

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    • wallywojo says:

      nice observation. We have a support group in Chicago suburbs for ATLLTHGs

      Von Hayes stuck out for having such a great name as well. Loved the reference in Always Sunny in Philadelphia to him.

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  2. LeeTro says:

    His career was done when I was 6, so the only thing I remember about Hayes is the quote from a Phillies teammate (Dykstra, i think) when Hayes was traded: “Great trade. Who did we get?”

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  3. TheBigDawg says:

    When I saw it was a pictorial, I got kinda excited. When I saw it was of Von Hayes, I got kinda scared.

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  4. Drew says:

    I used to play in a that band!

    We played lo-fi power pop, and, at times, baseball-themed lo-fi power pop. We were moderately successful in the Philly/DE/NJ region, got a fair amount of college radio play in New York and New Jersey (albums were on Rutgers and Princeton’s top 100 of 2008 and 2009), but were repeatedly rebuffed, insulted and scorned by the man himself. We wanted to play the national anthem when he was coaching a minor league (semi-pro?) team in Delaware, which was our homebase, and the only thing that stood in our way was Von. He even slammed us in the press. Ouch!

    Anyway, now that I comment here semi-regularly, I had to respond to this. Too funny. Small world, I guess.

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