Thursday, April 14, 2011

Classic card of the week

Bobby Witt, 1990 Fleer

Part of the reason why I find the “Did you know” on the back of baseball cards so darn enjoyable is because it often strains to highlight the good, even if the player featured is/was not very good. For example, let’s say a hypothetical player—we’ll call him “Luis Castillo … son;” yes, “Luis Castilloson,” is not very good, but still plays baseball professionally. His “Did you know” can easily avoid this fact. Hypothetical example:

DID YOU KNOW? Luis was MVP of his seventh-grade Little League team … batted .301 during a seven-game stretch for the Cornsville Cornballers in ’96 … has three daughters with wife Jill … only 5th player in MLB history to hit a double with both shoelaces untied, 6/23/07 … counts eating steak among his various hobbies.

See? Easy. So it’s a bit surprising and confusing when a card, rather than draw from the well of arbitrary statistics and random personal accomplishments and interests, opts instead to focus on like, reality. Enter Bobby Witt:

DID YOU KNOW? Had highest ERA among starters …

And we’re off! By one statistical measure, I am viewing the card of the worst pitcher in baseball. Got it. Sweet! How much is this card worth? One hundred dollars? Probably.

Walked 100 or more batters for fourth straight year …

If I am person who, oddly yet feasibly, is learning about baseball only by collecting and studying baseball cards, and I am reading the back of this Bobby Witt card, I am thinking to myself, “Why do the Texas Rangers employ Bobby Witt to play baseball for them?” Then again, I suppose I could draw a similar conclusion by watching him actually pitch, but maybe this would reveal that he is a good chemistry guy with grit and heart and scrap and all those things can’t be captured with “statistics” like “Did you know?” words.

In 1987 tied ML record for most strikeouts in an inning with four …

And there’s my answer to why the Rangers love him—for quirky major league records! Not mentioned is that during this inning, Witt walked 12 batters and gave up six earned runs. Still, it was worth it.

Led AL in wild pitches in 1986 and tied for the lead in 1988 …

Wikipedia notes that many in Arlington began to call him “Witt ‘n Wild” as a play on the waterpark Wet ‘n Wild, which was located next to Arlington Stadium. I think I would have understood that reference even if the park wasn’t next to the stadium, but that the park was next to the stadium is pretty awesome, and actually improves that nickname by at least 60-percent.

All American at Oklahoma in 1985 … Member of 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team …

Now c’mon—why you gotta go and mention things like that for? Geez, give the guy a break.

Struck out in only ML at bat.

That’s better. Hey, did you know this American League pitcher, who was a pitcher and not a hitter, struck out during his only at-bat? Ha, ha! What a loser! Honestly though—why is this even mentioned? It’s like someone is being malicious at this point.

Granted, this is not the most negative back-of-the-card tidbit ever produced. Not by a long shot. But still. I mean, sure—Bobby Witt had come control issues, obviously. But isn’t there something endearing about a guy who throws hard as heck but just can’t seem to harness it? I mean, not if he plays for your favorite team, but ya’ know … otherwise?

Anyway, I’m going to finish with a positive “Did you know?” This one’s for you, Bobby.

Did you know?
Struck out 160 in 143 IP in ‘87, which = bonkers … Nickname “Witt n’ Wild” rumored to highlight a nightlife that was envy of teammates … recovered from previous lone strikeout to hit a home run in 1997 … saved the rainforest, literally, by himself.

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