Classic card of the week
Lonnie Smith, 1990 Score
One of the great poets of our time, LL Cool J, used to say: Back seat of my jeep, let’s swing a episode. Now, I don’t know what the hell that means, but that song is nasty! But another thing that LL Cool J used to say, which is more relevant to the point I am trying to make here is: Don’t call it a comeback!
It doesn’t look like it here, with Lonnie Smith flailing away at an off-speed pitch as the crowd looks on in abject horror and amazement, but Lonnie Smith was in the midst of something great:
Lonnie was a cinch choice as NL Comeback Player of the Year in ’89.
Well, they called it a comeback. Sorry, LL & Lonnie! I’m just the messenger. But what, pray tell, was Lonnie Smith coming back from?
Considered washed up a year earlier,
Oh. He was just coming back from not being good at baseball anymore? Good for him! How did he do it?
he rebounded with elan and ranked high in most offensive categories all season long.
elan \['E]`lan"\, n. Ardor inspired by passion or enthusiasm; i.e., “This passion I am feeling is inspiring me to have more ardor. Elan!” I don’t know about you guys, but for me, rebounding with elan is the best kind of rebounding.
Nevertheless, this card is rather vague regarding the circumstances that predicated a Lonnie Smith comeback. For the truth, there is only one source:
Smith continued to play well during 1983, batting 0.321, but in just 130 games, to again draw some MVP votes.
You don’t need a zero before a batting average, and also that sentence has my head spinning. This Wikipedia entry was obviously not written by poet laureate LL Cool J.
However, this baseball season was struck with his first bout with illicit drug abuse, and that sidelined him for a month at mid-season - though nobody but Smith knew the real reason at the time.
I enjoy how the season is struck with Lonnie Smith’s first bout with illicit drug abuse, as if the season is a person, and as if this person known as “the season” was more adversely affected by Lonnie Smith’s drug abuse than Lonnie Smith himself. The point is: Lonnie Smith had drug issues. There.
In July 1987, Smith told the Kansas City Times that under his agreement with the Commissioner of baseball he was supposed to be tested six to eight times per-year but had not been tested so far during 1987. More so, he strongly disagreed with Commissioner Ueberroth that professional baseball was free from illicit drugs.
Let me get this straight. Commissioner Ueberroth –- who does not believe illicit drugs exist in professional baseball –- agrees to test Lonnie Smith -– admitted user of illicit drugs and also player of professional baseball –- for illicit drugs six to eight times per year. Lonnie Smith -– who disagrees with the Commissioner’s assertion that illicit drugs do not exist in baseball, because he uses them, so much so that the same Commissioner has been forced to test him regularly -– has become frustrated that the Commissioner has not followed through on his promise to test him, which is, I can only assume, causing Lonnie Smith to more freely continue his use of illicit drugs. Do I have that right? Yes? Good.
Following the 1987 season, Smith had trouble finding a new team to play with,
and he came to think that the Royals General Manager, John Schuerholz, had blackballed him from the other baseball teams.
New York Mets: Hi John. Hey, what can you tell me about Lonnie Smith?
John Schuerholz: Hard worker. Fast runner. Plays with a lot of elan.
New York Mets: Elan?
John Schuerholz: Yeah, ya know…ardor inspired by passion and enthusiasm?
New York Mets: …
John Schuerholz: Good defensively, too. Also, he uses drugs a lot.
New York Mets: I think we’ll pass.
Lonnie Smith (in the corner of the room, picks up head from a mound of cocaine Tony Montana-style, to John Schuerholz): You’re blackballin’ me, bro!
By his own account, Smith was depressed and also high on marijuana, when he considered murdering Mr. Schuerholz, and had even purchased a pistol for that purpose. However, Smith then had second thoughts about committing such as serious crime, and he dropped that idea entirely - fortunately for both him and Mr. Schuerholz.
Yes, I would say that was fortunate for both men, most notably for Mr. Schuerholz. Kudos do go to Smith as well however, for his ability to corral those infamous marijuana-induced murderous urgings.
Anyway, now there is some light shed on exactly what Lonnie Smith was coming back from entering the 1989 season, which would be, in order of importance:
1) .237 average in limited playing time in 1988
2) Rampant drug abuse
3) Serious and legitimate thoughts about killing John Schuerholz, a result of the paranoia induced by the aforementioned drug abuse
You know what? I’m gonna call that a comeback.
Did you know?
In retrospect, using the late 80's/early 90's Mets as an example of a major league team that would have found drug use a valid reason to reject a player was a regrettable choice.