Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Classic card of the week
Jose Oquendo, 1988 Topps
Before starring in the movie “Boogie Nights,” Jose Oquendo was on the fast track to baseball stardom. For one thing, he definitely had the look of a pro ballplayer – the oversized hat, wispy ‘stache, and, of course, the uniform. The uniform was crucial. Maybe more important than that though, was the fact that Oquendo had the demeanor of a ballplayer – that special and unique quality possessed only by the select few athletes good enough to make it to the major leagues. Some would describe it as cockiness, that “Clear the way, pro ballplayer coming through!” kind of mentality that makes women – and sometimes dudes - go crazy. In Oquendo’s case, the demeanor was slightly different – sort of a, “Yo, man…What the hell is going on here? Where am I? What day is it? How did I get here? Who ARE you?” aura that seemed to captivate baseball fans. And Jose Oquendo’s connection to the fans was unparalleled at the time. During a Cardinals’ spring training game down in Fort Myers in ’87, a young fan approached Oquendo and kindly asked for his autograph. Not knowing who, exactly, the kid was, Oquendo proceeded to stare at him suspiciously for 18 minutes, at which point the youngster finally went away. It was that kind of accessibility that earned Oquendo the nickname, “Clueless Jo…se.” From a pure baseball perspective, many in and around Major League Baseball believe that, if it weren’t for the fact that position players were required to bat, Jose Oquendo would be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. The back of the card elaborates: He led AA shortstops with 591 Total Chances at Louisville in 1985 season. That’s a lot of chances. And while it remains iffy as to what Oquendo actually DID with those chances, the fact remains that he HAD the chances, which is all that matters, when you really think about it. Offensively, Oquendo did not get many chances, as his 138 total at-bats in 1986 ranked last among Puerto Rican utility players (PRUP). But when he did get to bat, Oquendo made the most of his chances, and by “the most of his chances,” I mean outs. And after every out he made, Oquendo stared at the opposing player who made the out suspiciously for 18 minutes, in an attempt to process what had just happened. Then, manager Whitey Herzog would have to snap him out of it by kicking him in the balls, which made for many a baseball blooper.
Did you know?
Dwight Gooden is the all-time MLB leader in Total Chances.