Showing posts with label The Legend. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Legend. Show all posts


Greg Olson, 1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice

Name: Greg Olson (No, not him. Or him.)
Team: Atlanta Braves
Position: Catcher
Value of card: A dirty camouflage snot rag
Key 1993 stat: Four flat tires
The Legend of Greg Olson: Let's face it, catchers are rarely known for being fleet of foot. Greg Olson was no exception. Balding, thick-legged and carrying a boiler that would have made Greg Luzinski proud, Olson was a rock behind the plate and a boulder on the basepaths. So it was that in 1993, Olson sweet-talked the league into a controversial exception: They let him "run" the bases on a four-wheel ATV. Olson still had to bat normally, standing in the box, his gut bulging over the edge of home plate, but when he made contact, he was allowed to hop on the quad (idling next to him during the at-bat) and motor to first. Predictably, opposing managers pitched a fit, but Olson kept on riding      that is, until he ran over poor John Kruk on a bang-bang play at first in July. Kruk, who was also built like an all-terrain vehicle, shook off the accident, but Commissioner Bud Selig finally saw the potential for danger. Selig banned the ATV from the field of play, but still allowed Olson to ride around the diamond on one of his son's Power Wheels.

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Mike Ramsey, 1981 Fleer

Name: Bill Murray, aka Mike Ramsey
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Positions: Comedian, shortstop
Value of card: $2 off a perm at Supercuts
Key 1980 stat: One mistaken trade
The not-so-funny legend of Mike Ramsey: The year was 1980, and Bill Murray was hot. After years starring on "Saturday Night Live," Murray had gained even more fame in soon-to-be classic "Caddyshack." The comedian was so popular that, on a lark, he even signed a contract with his favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs. Murray, playing under the pseudonym "Mike Ramsey," quickly became the team's best hitter, posting a .262 average. Cubs general manager Bob Kennedy was so impressed that he quickly traded Murray to the arch-rival Cardinals in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick and a bag of gym socks. Murray was not amused, and grew out his hair in protest. Of course, everyone thought Murray's man-perm was his best joke yet.


Dave Smith, 1989 Upper Deck

Name: Dave Smith
Team: Houston Astros, allegedly
Position: None
Value of card: Considering it's about as rare as Dave Smith's name, not much
Key 1988 stat: Wasn't actually a professional athlete
The Legend of "Dave Smith": 1989 was Upper Deck's first year producing baseball cards, so mistakes were bound to happen. So it was that Houston Astros superfan Brian Keane ended up in the set      albeit under an alias. Keane, who had won a team contest earning him the right to sit in the Astros dugout for a spring training game, had never played an inning of baseball in his life. The Upper Deck photography team didn't know that, however. By the time the photog got to the dugout, Keane had already donned an Astros warmup jacket over his gray T-shirt. Fooled by the coat and Keane's MLB-quality mullet, the photog got some shots      of course, when it came time to match names to faces, one "player" seemed out of place. Rather than leave the man out of the set, Upper Deck workers slapped on the most generic name they could think of: Dave Smith. Keane still keeps both the card and the mullet framed in his office.


George Scott, 1977 Topps

Name: George Scott
Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Position: First base
Value of card: One tooth filling (composite, not gold)
Key 1976 stat: One instance of signing his name with his left hand and with his eyes closed
The Legend of George Scott: George Scott was a heckofa baseball player at the plate and in the field. He hit for power and won Gold Gloves. But this burly man didn't hone his skills on a neighborhood diamond. He built up the muscles that supplied his power by wrestling grizzly bears, moose and, once, a 1,300-pound manatee with a mean streak. Scott sharpened his reflexes by chasing down foxes, snatching falcons from the air and catching flying fish in his teeth. He didn't take for granted the animals he hunted and killed. He honored their spirits but consuming every part of them, save for one tooth each. After the kill, he'd clean the tooth and attach it to a necklace he never took off, even during games. Over the years, Scott's skills on the diamond tapered off. A few scouts believed this could have been due, in part, to the 70-pound elephant tusk hanging from his neck.


David Robinson, 1992-93 Skybox David Robinson Flagship Series (Heinous Hoops Week No. 4)

Name: David Robinson
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Position: Center
Value of card: Catching the last 12 seconds of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" on the radio
Key 1992-93 stat: One smudge of blue paint
A legend from down under: Few people know that Australian rock band Men At Work used to be David Robinson's favorite music group. Indeed, when the Aussies broke up and stopped touring in 1986, The Admiral was crushed. Robinson, who knew the saxophone part to "Who Can It Be Now?" by heart, took it upon himself in the early '90s to form a Men at Work cover band, called Men at Lurk, in San Antonio. Robinson and his bandmates would play nightclubs and city parks before being chased off by bouncers, police officers, and members of the general public. But everything changed in 1996 when Men at Work founder Colin Hay, while visiting the Lone Star State, heard Men at Lurk covering "Down Under." Hay was so horrified by the poor attempt at his music that he immediately reformed his own band and got a restraining order against Robinson's group. The Admiral, saddened, locked himself in his bedroom and played the intro from George Michael's "Careless Whisper" for the next two days straight.



Claude Raymond, 1966 Topps

Name: Claude Raymond
Team: Houston Astros
Positions: Pitcher, scientist
Value of card: "Value"? Houston, we have a problem.
Key 1965 stat: 48 minutes posing like this for Topps
The Legend of Claude Raymond: The year was 1966. The Houston Colt .45s had been renamed the Astros the previous year after the team moved into the Astrodome (not pictured; great work, Topps). Surprisingly, lush grass wouldn't grow inside a sunlight-depraved indoor stadium, so the Astros brought in German scientist Claude Raymond to create a space-age, synthetic turf for the dome, which had been pegged "the eighth wonder of the world." Raymond and his 12-pound glasses got to work on the project, and after months of toiling he showed the Astros' ownership his invention: AstroTurf, the sorriest excuse for grass the world had ever seen. But it was green, and it had "blades," so the owners loved it. As a reward, Raymond was allowed to try out for the Astros. The scientist's tryout didn't last long, however. Despite being the brains behind the turf on the ground, he always kept his eyes on the sky. Even then, he couldn't catch "popped flies," even the ones on his pants.


Tom Banks, 1977 Topps (Football Friday No. 171)

Name: Tom Banks
Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Position: Center
Value of card: One voided check from Tom's bank
Key 1977 stat: Four families of birds nested in his beard and mane
The legend behind this Tom Banks card: It was May 1977, and the Topps photography staff was scrambling. With its annual set due out in less than a month, the quality control team had realized there was no card for St. Louis Cardinals all-pro center Tom Banks. Apparently, the only photos Topps had of Banks featured quarterback Jim Hart's hands nestled comfortably against the center's nether regions. Rather than ruin Topps' reputation for high-quality, kid-friendly photography, an executive decision was made: The staff's best airbrush artist melded a photo of Santa Claus' torso with a grainy shot purportedly showing bigfoot's head, and then placed the creation on a slate gray background. Crisis averted      chalk up another victory for Topps.


Frank Zupo, 1958 Topps

Name: Frank Zupo
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Position: Catcher
Value of card: 6 ounces of Zupo-brand chew spit
Key 1957 stat: 16 guys made to, hey-oh, you know, disappear
A pretty good fella: The feds were on Frankie Zupo's trail. He was a hardened gangster whose body count was one of the highest in New York, and he didn't hide from attention. But when he clipped a dirty copper, see, and he knew his time was up, see, he made a bold move, see: He changed his name ever so slightly, moved to Baltimore and started playing baseball. Surprisingly, some of his nicknames from his life of crime stayed with him between the diamond's lines.
A few of Zupo's nicknames:
  • Frankie "The Brow" Zupo
  • Frankie "The Monobrow Murderer" Zupo
  • Frankie "Two Mustaches in the Wrong Place" Zupo
  • Frankie "A Cat Died on My Face" Zupo
  • "Spanky" Frankie Zupo



Al Leiter, 2005 Upper Deck

Name: Al Leiter
Team: New York Mets
Position: Pitcher
Value of card: A dead spark plug
Key 2004 stat:1 pseudo-flat-top hairdo
Wait just a darn minute: Baseball fans remember June 9, 1999, when then-Mets manager Bobby Valentine got kicked out of a game only to don a disguise and return to the dugout minutes later. But few seem to recall the bizarre event that occurred six years later, on June 17, 2005, when Mets manager Willie Randolph pulled an even more outrageous stunt. New York was getting hammered by Philadelphia 12-2. Rather than call on his bullpen, which had been exhausted in an extra-innings game the night before, Randolph in the seventh inning sent starter Al Leiter back out to the mound       along with a pitching machine and a carton of balls. It took a few minutes before umpire Ted Barrett, who also was tired from the previous night's marathon contest, realized what was going on, allowing the machine to post a line of two hits, an earned run and a hit batsman in a third of an inning. The Mets signed the machine to a one-year extension the next day.


Braulio Castillo, 1992 Bowman

Name: Braulio Castillo
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Positions: Outfielder, suave pirate
Value of card: Two diamonds (silhouetted against the wall in the background)
Key 1991 stat: 172 swordfights won
Well, hello there: This is Braulio Castillo       athlete, sailor, paramour, rapscallion. He was a man who could sail the seven seas and play all nine innings, and he called no man "master." With a gold bracelet on one wrist and a leather-banded watch on the other, this Dominican Don Juan stole as many hearts as he did gold doubloons, and won nights of passion with admirers of all races, creeds and genders. But when he traded in his sword for a baseball bat in 1991, only misfortune followed. A man who had seemingly never missed before found himself hitting just .188 over the course of two MLB seasons. The Dread Braulio, as he was known on the open water, had become the dead Braulio to Phillies fans. So Castillo did what any sane man would do: He packed up his trunk of booty, put on his puffiest white shirt, Soul-Glo'd his hair to its shiniest and returned to his true love       the life of a playboy buccaneer.


Jerry Don Gleaton, 1991 Topps

Name: Jerry Don Gleaton
Team: Detroit Tigers
Positions: Pitcher, trucker
Value of card: One Gleaton
Key 1990 stat: 365 T-shirts sweated through
The long-haul legend: It was one night back in the spring of '91 when Detroit native and long-haul trucker Jerry Don Gleaton got word over the CB that the Topps photography crew had been spotted winding its way through Florida, stopping at the various training camps to take shots. Rumor was that the Tigers were up next. Gleaton, who was hauling a load of pig iron through Tuscaloosa, Ala., turned his rig around and was eastbound and down, headed for Lakeland, Fla. Gleaton pulled into Joker Marchant Stadium at dawn, put on the knockoff Tigers uniform his lovin' wife had sewn together for him for Christmas, and wandered straight onto the field. The Topps photogs were a little uncertain, considering Gleaton's doughy frame, but after taking one look at Cecil Fielder, they gave the trucker the benefit of the doubt.


Mickey Hatcher, 1986 Fleer

Name: Mickey Hatcher
Team: Minnesota Twins
Positions: Outfield, lower than most
Value of card: One of the tiniest jockstraps ever made, used
Key 1985 stat: Zero pop flies missed
The Legend of mini-Mickey Hatcher: Mini-Mickey Hatcher was born to a caring family that was normal in almost every way, except for a gene carried across generations that halted growth at age 1. Mini-Mickey's mind and motor skills grew, but his body stayed at 1 foot, 8 inches year after year. Schoolmates often made fun of mini-Mickey, but he smiled through it, making friends easily with a personality that focused on fun. One Christmas, mini-Mickey's parents bought him a baseball glove; it was a gift he adored, a gift that changed his life. He kept that normal-size glove with him at all times, often curling up inside it when his eyes got heavy. As he grew older — not taller, mind you — he got better and better at baseball. He drew walks at an astounding rate and never missed a pop fly. He moved from Little League to high school ball to the minor leagues, all the while bringing along his cherished glove, his best friend. When mini-Mickey reached the big leagues, he brought the mitt with him. But on some nights, when he was asked to play catcher, he left the old glove at home. The Twins had given him a catcher's mitt that he liked, too, especially when he used it as a sofa.


Mike Benjamin, 1992 Upper Deck

Name: Mike "Lil' Hands" Benjamin
Team: New York Giants, circa 1892
Position: Second basetender
Value of card: 25-cent Civil War-era fractional currency
Key 1892 stat: 27 "tallies" at home base
The Legend of "Lil' Hands": Mike Benjamin was born in a pepper patch in Monks Hammock, La., to a mother who spit with a Cajun accent and a sailor who died of scurvy two weeks after the birth. Mike grew up chasing metal rings with sticks and catching rodents with only his cunning and the raccoon meat he'd secretly regurgitate after his small supper meals. He also grew up alone. The other children who lived in Louisiana houses of sin and back-country caves shunned him because his hands stopped growing at age 4. Benjamin tried to have fun, playing make-believe games with tree stumps and pretending the regurgitated balls of raccoon meat were his friends. Then, he found a new game, "base (pause) ball," played with a round ball, a round bat and a lot of chewing tobacco. He flourished, despite his tiny hands, often playing rover and hitting many a pluck. But, despite his years of success, a keen eye could still catch Benjamin glancing down at his tiny glove with a single tear in his eye and loneliness close at hand.


Charlie Manuel, 2001 Topps

Name: Charlie Manuel
Team: Cleveland Indians
Position: Manager
Value of card: A dab of jock itch cream
Key 2000 stat: Never heard of the Y2K bug
Let's not be rash: The Cleveland Indians dugout took a turn for the gross in 2000 when skipper Charlie Manuel came down with a case of tinea cruris, better known as jock itch. While it was unfortunate enough that the manager was constantly clawing at his nether regions, it took almost a week for the team to figure out that Manuel was not, in fact, giving the all-too-similar bunt sign to every batter who stepped to the plate. The Tribe went winless that week, but both team and manager soon found relief when the head trainer handed Manuel an anti-fungal cream.


Hal Morris, 1991 Studio (Studio Saturday No. 51)

Name: Hal Morris
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Position: First base
Value of card: Even trade for NKOTB self-titled debut cassette tape
Key 1990 stat: 6,200 hairs that make up one sexy set of bangs
The legend of Hal Morris: Hal Morris grew up in Boston in a sports-crazy family. But he loved to sing and dance and could play the trombone, harp, gong, kazoo, oboe and fiddle. He wanted to become an entertainer, but his father pushed him into sports and forbade young Hal from taking the stage and belting out tunes. This sent the child into an emotional tailspin. By day, he played baseball. By night, he cried. But then he met some new kids on the block: Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jordan and Jonathan. After baseball practice with the jocks, young Hal would tell his father he was headed to the library, but he'd head straight to the studio where he'd practice pop-and-lock dance routines and write catchy tunes. He took his secret career "Step by Step," always "Hangin' Tough" even when adversity got in his way. "Call It What You Want," but everyone knew young Hal had "The Right Stuff" onstage. During this secret double life, he became the sixth member of New Kids on the Block, but, after helping write some of the boy band's greatest hits, young Hal's father found out about the group and made his son promise he would never perform again. Hal was sent to Cincinnati while Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jordan and Jonathan reached 1980s mega-superstardom. By day, Hal played baseball. By night, he cried.


Terry Mulholland, 1991 Studio (Studio Saturday No. 46)

Name: Terry Mulholland
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Position: Pitcher
Value of card: Razor burn
Key 1990 stat: No ointment used
The ol' neck ball: Coming off a season in which he had only 75 strikeouts in 180 innings, Terry Mulholland was stressing out. He had already been traded once, and he knew he needed to do something to keep his career afloat. After a few bad outings in the spring, Mulholland's stress manifested itself in the form of psoriasis on his neck. At first, the southpaw was embarrassed and tried to cover up his unsightly condition. But he quickly realized he could scuff up a new baseball on his flaky neck, giving him another inch of drop on his breaking ball. That year, Mulholland K'd a career-high 142 batters — and skipped 39 doctor's appointments.


Frank Tanana, 1991 Upper Deck

Name: Frank Tanana, aka Scott Summers
Team: Detroit Tigers
Position: Pitcher
Value of card: 16 crumbled sunflower seed shells
Key 1990 stat: 1,274 X-Men comics read
The Legend of Frank Tanana: On a blustery day high above scenic Alaska, a young Frank Tanana and his family were attacked by an alien spacecraft as they flew home from vacation. Tanana's mother saved him and his brother by throwing them out of the plane with the only parachute. The alien attack scarred Tanana in a way that wouldn't show itself for years. As a teen, Tanana started feeling pain from behind his eyes. He visited a doctor, who discovered that only lenses made of ruby quartz could alleviate the pain. Soon after, Tanana's mutant power revealed itself, and he started shooting uncontrollable blasts of optic force from his eyes. With the ruby quartz shades and much practice, Tanana was able to harness his newfound power and make it to the big leagues, where scouts said he always had that X factor.


Joe Wolf, 1991-92 Upper Deck (Another White Ballers Week No. 4)

Name: Joe Wolf
Team: Denver Nuggets
Position: Center, mannequin
Value of card: Not knowing what sport you're playing
Key 1991-92 stat: 10 percent off short-shorts at Macy's
Stiff as a board: How bad were the 1991-92 Nuggets? That April, as the season ground to an excruciating halt, the team pulled out all the stops to keep fans interested. Late in a game against the Dallas Mavericks, coach Paul Westhead substituted in a 7-foot-tall mannequin named "Joe Wolf." During timeouts, Wolf was posed in different ways under the opponent's basket — in the shot above, he is seen looking like a quarterback throwing a pass. While Wolf obviously didn't score any points, he did lead the team in blocked shots that night, thus earning his very own basketball card. He now "works" at Jumbo Joe's Big & Tall in Fort Collins, Colo., wearing the same cheesy uniform seen here.

Card courtesy of


Mark McGwire, 1989 Upper Deck

Name: Mark McGwire
Team: Oakland A's
Position: First base
Value of card: Seven pieces of bark
Key 1988 stat: 7 feet tall (and that's just the bulge)
The legend of Big Mac of the Oaks: They called him Big Mac of the Oaks. He was as tall as a mighty tree and as mighty as lumberjack who chopped down mighty trees. He ate oxen whole and drank rivers in a gulp. They said his mother was a redwood and his father a sequoia. True or not, his legs were tree trunks and the arms the roots of his power. He was a massive man, no doubt, and when he walked from the forest of oaks, baseball bat in hand, throngs of awestruck onlookers came to see the great Big Mac, a man who would slowly drop his chosen maple club below his waist but above his knees, focusing the gazes of thousands upon his most impressive yet obvious feature, his wood.


Harold Reynolds, 1989 Donruss Diamond Kings

Name: Harold Reynolds
Team: Seattle Mariners
Position: Second base
Value of card: Two crayons, melted, shoved in a cow's rectum
Key 1988 stat: 1,652,971,100, 154,729 score on "Breakout"
For love of the game: Harold Reynolds loved baseball, but there was something he loved more: "Breakout." Yes, the second baseman and former ESPN host loved the iconic video game, which debuted in arcades in 1976. It's what brought Reynolds to the big leagues. He spent hours honing his "Breakout" skills while growing up in Oregon, improving his hand-eye coordination until he could catch flies in chopsticks and smash a dozen colored bricks with one animated paddle hit. Everywhere he looked, he saw colored tiles, just like the ones so crudely painted behind him, upside down, in the Diamond King above. He enhanced his competitive spirit in arcades and took that swagger to the baseball field. Realizing he couldn't pay for his "Breakout" addiction with a "Breakout" addiction, Reynolds started on the path to professional baseball, all the while flicking his wrist and bouncing a ball off a paddle in an effort to destroy colored tiles. Soon, Reynolds would become a nationally famous breakout star, but not in the game he held so close to his heart.