Classic card of the week

Derek Bell, 1999 Topps

This is Derek Bell during Phase One of Operation Shutdown. For those who may not recall, Bell rather infamously created “operation shutdown,” as a term for exactly what he would do if he, ya’ know, felt like it. Actually, let me be honest here – this is Derek Bell shutting down before (or, in preparation OF) Operation Shutdown, as the term itself would not be coined until a few years later, as Bell’s threat to the Pittsburgh Pirates in response to the team not blindly awarding him the starting job in right field. Quoth Bell: “If there is competition [for the starting job], they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they're going to do with me. I ain't never hit in spring training and I never will.” Considering that Derek Bell was coming off of a season in which he hit .173, he was also refusing to hit during the regular season as well, which greatly complicated things for the Pittsburgh hierarchy. Besides giving up at the slightest hint of competition, Derek Bell was famous for many other things, including arriving out of his mother’s womb as a 41-year old man. Derek Bell made Greg Oden look like Freddy Adu. But back to the above photo. One could easily assume that this is a shot of Derek Bell right after being called “out” after a slide into home plate. That assumption would be false, however. In fact, Derek Bell had just flied out to shallow right field and, in lieu of wasting energy by pointlessly running it out, Derek Bell dusted off home plate, sat down, and watched the opposing team run back to their dugout. The Astros’ batboy then had to run out onto the field, take Bell’s helmet off, hand him his hat and glove, and cool him off with a giant handheld fan for 45 seconds, or until operation shutdown was deemed complete. Quoth Bell after the game: “I ain’t never run to first base when I didn’t have to, and I never will.” But Derek Bell was not just a representation of all that is wrong with overpaid, American athletes – he was also a fashion judge. The back of this card explains: In 1996, Derek was a judge for People magazine’s 10 Best and Worst Dressed Celebrities issue. Bell, however, would only name three celebrities for each category before declaring Operation Shutdown, a result of People magazine’s refusal to let him use the women’s bathroom.

Did you know?
In 2002, President Bush declared “Operation Shutdown” a success, even though it is still going on today.


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