Thursday, October 02, 2008
Classic card of the week
Alvaro Espinoza, 1990 Donruss
This week marks the beginning of baseball’s postseason. Noticeably absent from this years’ playoffs are the New York Yankees. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be heard from this October. Because I have a blog.
In honor of my favorite team, I proudly present to you: Yankee legend Alvaro Espinoza. (Mr. Espinoza was unable to attend the pregame ceremonies during the final game at Yankee Stadium because he had a dentist appointment. And also because he was not invited.)
Let me tell you something about Alvaro Espinoza: Every single time a Yankee fan of my generation starts talking to another Yankee fan of my generation about how big of a Yankee fan they are, and that they were a Yankee fan before the Yankees started winning all those World Series, the very first name that comes up when these two people start reminiscing about the leaner years is Alvaro Espinoza. I don’t know what this means -- it’s just a fact of life. (And also extremely annoying.)
Anyhoo, since Derek Jeter took over as shortstop in late 1995, the idea that players other than Derek Jeter once played shortstop for the New York Yankees seems odd, and in Alvaro Espinoza’s case, somewhat comical. But aside from their ethnicity and physical stature and overall production, Espinoza and Jeter weren’t all that different. For example, as you can see from the above card, both players exhibited that classic inside-out swing, the only difference being that Alvaro Espinoza’s swing was 80 mph slower than Jeter’s, and that Espinoza was apparently as happy as a clam to weakly groundout to the pitcher, whereas Jeter would be typically disappointed with such a result.
But what else with regards to Alvaro Espinoza?
Took over as Yankees’ regular SS in ’89 after not even being included on their 40-man roster in spring training…
I am unsure if this is a result of Alvaro Espinoza’s subsequent solid play and/or stick-to-itiveness, or the fact that the Yankees burned through eight shortstops before settling on one that wasn’t a complete and total embarrassment to the entire organization.
Became an immediate sensation with his fielding, bunting, and timely hitting, finishing season with 23 sacrifices (2nd in maj. lgs.)
Some sample back-page headlines from the 1989 Daily News included: Hundreds flock to Stadium to watch fielding, bunting sensation and Led by Espinoza, Yanks sacrifice bunt their way to fifth place.
Of course, the career of Alvaro Espinoza wasn’t without its dramatic milestones. For more on this, please check the “Milestone” section of his Wikipedia page. Or, just read below:
Espinoza joins Ruppert Jones, Ricky Lee Nelson, Dave Kingman, Jose Canseco, and Kevin Millar as the only players in MLB history to hit a fair ball that got stuck in a stadium obstruction.
In the hierarchy of milestones, hitting a ball that randomly gets stuck in something falls somewhere in between Cal Ripken’s consecutive games played streak, and the 500 home run club. Regardless, such an achievement really hits home for me, as my two proudest days in life were the day I graduated from college, and that time I got a tennis ball stuck in cockatoo’s nest during a game of home run derby.
Did you know?
In 1992, Alvaro Espinoza -- one of a handful of players to wear glasses and eye black -- consolidated the two into a product called “Glass black,” which was simply a pair of glasses with black permanent marker drawn at the bottom of each lens.