Classic card of the week

Steve Balboni, 1990 Bowman

For the seventh consecutive season, the New York Yankees are not going to win the World Series. Joe Torre’s reign as manager may be over, most of the fan favorites of the late 90’s teams have since retired, and many of the remaining veterans are at a crossroads. Also, A-Rod and blah, blah, blah.

I spent most of the past week or so feeling down and out about the Yanks, and wondering what the future holds. Then, while flipping through some old cards and trying to come up with a winner for “Classic Card,” I stumbled upon this.

Sometimes in life, a little perspective is all you really need. Here I am feeling sorry for myself about the current state of affairs for the Yankees, and it occurred to me that I had forgotten where I came from (New Jersey). For in the vast realm of history, it wasn’t too long ago that this guy was providing the bomb for the Bronx Bombers. Yikes.

I, along with many other like-minded kids of my age, I think, used to call Balboni “Steve Balboner.” I think this was mainly thought up as another excuse to throw the word “boner” out there, but also because most of Balboni’s at-bats ended with boners, which was another word for “strikeout,” but only in the context of Steve Balboni, if that makes sense. Anyhoo, Balboni also had a more popular nickname -- “Bye, Bye” Balboni -- which referenced his prodigious home run power, but was also what opposing pitchers would mutter to themselves as they watched Balboner walk back to the dugout after striking him out 166 times in 1985 (while with Kansas City, but you knew that).

So while I am wondering if our uber-athletic, pretty-boy cleanup hitter -- arguably the greatest player ever -- is going to opt out of his $252 million contract for a $400 million contract, it was not even 20 years ago when I was wondering why a guy who looked like an overweight version of the “Time to make the donuts!” guy was at the plate in a big spot. Seeing this card again made me realize how I’ve taken for granted the past 15 years of my Yankee fandom.

Then again, I kind of miss those days. Friggin’ Balboner, right?! Also on the 1989 and 1990 Yankees squad was Mel Hall, who infamously made a young Bernie Williams’ life miserable, and who is currently being brought up on sexual assault charges (though not by Bernie Williams). Good times! And managing by the end of the 1990 season was the 7,000 lb Stump Merrill. Man, if nostalgia isn’t dreaming of Balboner, Mel, and Stump, then call me insensitive. Which reminds me, where’s Buster Olney’s book on that dynasty?!

Oh, by the way, I mentioned that Balboni was a member of the 1985 Royals (a season in which he hit 36 home runs), who went on to win the World Series that year. In that series against the Cardinals, Balboni hit .320 with three RBI, and, according to his Wikipedia page, displayed uncharacteristic solid defense. So, in conclusion, Steve Balboni has one more World Series ring than Alex Rodriguez, and, as it stands, was infinitely more clutch. Hmmm, I smell a new nickname!


Did you know?

Steve Balboni played Mike Seaver’s best friend on “Growing Pains.”