Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Classic card of the week


Frank Viola, 1991 Score Dream Team

Here is a picture of Frank Viola wearing a black turtleneck and holding up an apple. For further explanation, let’s head to the back of the card:



Frank was “Sweet Music” to the Mets in ’90.

Frank Viola’s nickname was Sweet Music because his last name, Viola, is also the name of a bowed string musical instrument that is part of the violin family. Therefore, many considered the manner in which he pitched to be, metaphorically speaking, as sweet as the music generated from the instrument that bore his name. Hence, an apple.

Throwing what many consider to be the best changeup in the game, he won his first seven decisions and ended up a 20-game winner for the second time in three years.

Changeup is code for apple.

A happy man with a lot of little kid in him

Frank Viola was –- and hey, knowing Frank Viola, which I don’t, probably still is -– a happy fella, which is good to know. This, unfortunately, did not stop Chris Hansen from confronting Frank Viola after misreading that last sentence. Also, apples!

Frank delivers every pitch the same way so that a batter doesn’t know whether he’s getting a fastball, changeup, or curve.

This is an attribute of pitching that is exclusive to Frank Viola, and thus, warrants mentioning. Other major league pitchers at the time were often victims of their own inability to repeat their delivery regardless of the pitch being thrown. For example, Dave Righetti would twist his left nipple before throwing a changeup. Dennis Rasmussen would wear his hat to the side when he was about to throw a curveball. And Viola’s own teammate, Ron Darling, was known to involuntarily yell out “fastball a’ comin’!” before throwing his two-seamer.

The point is this: Even when Frank Viola was pitching an apple instead of a baseball, you would never know it by his delivery. That is why he was so good. That is why he was on the Dream Team. He was also a painter.

"He's an artist," said Tiger manager Sparky Anderson, "I enjoy watching him work."

Frank Viola, as a metaphor: musical instrument, third-grade boy, artist, thrower of fruit.

Did you know?
Frank originally caught the eyes of scouts while pitching for the Long Island Sprockets.

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