Classic card of the week

Dan Gladden, 1989 Donruss Diamond Kings

There have been Diamond Kings before, but none as feisty and throwbacky and pesky and Diamond Kingy as Dan Gladden. To wit:

Dan Gladden is a throwback to the old timers who played on the Gas House Gang Cardinals of the 1930’s.

Let us, for a second, ignore the fact that the term “throwback player” is reserved exclusively for white players with a reputation for hustle, which is offensive to almost every current player not labeled a “throwback” in its insinuation that they do not hustle, and also inaccurate in its assumption that players from the good ol’ days hustled all the time and serve as the standard for how to play baseball properly. Yes, we shall ignore that.

What is rather amazing here is the specificity of this throwback statement. Because Dan Gladden wasn’t a throwback in a general sense –- he was a throwback to the Gas House Gang Cardinals. When people watched Dan Gladden play, they immediately thought of the Gas House Gang Cardinals, even though they were watching the Minnesota Twins. That is how much of a throwback Dan Gladden was. But what about these Gas House Gang Cardinals we speak of? Wikipedia?

The Cardinals, by most accounts, earned the nickname from the team’s generally very shabby appearance and rough-and-tumble tactics. An opponent once stated that the Cardinals players usually went into the field in unwashed, dirty and smelly uniforms, which alone spread horror among their rivals.

In this context, Dan Gladden was a throwback in that he was smelly and used questionable tactics to attain results. More:

He’s a feisty player, always hustling and fighting to win.

Dan Gladden makes David Eckstein sound like Milton Bradley. Also, one of my favorite things in the world is when baseball is presented as a sport wherein you can use your will and brute force to succeed. How does one, exactly, fight to win a baseball game? Regardless, we know that Dan Gladden was a throwback, and feisty, and a hustler. But the question remains: Was he pesky?

Gladden, a pesky hitter


would get on any way he could

There are eight traditional ways to reach base. They are: 1) a hit, 2) a walk, 3) an error, 4) fielder's choice, 5) a hit-by-pitch, 6) a dropped third strike, 7) catcher's interference, and 8) fielder's obstruction. Dissatisfied with these limited methods and determined to remain pesky, Dan Gladden would sometimes -- if he knew he was overmatched while facing a particular pitcher -- simply drop his bat and hustle to first base before a pitch was even thrown. Any umpires or opposing players who questioned this tactic were challenged to a fight by Dan Gladden, but none accepted, as Gladden’s roughness-and-tumbleness were well-documented throughout the league. And that is how one fights to win a baseball game. I stand corrected.

and taunted pitchers with his speed.

Dan Gladden: (standing on first base) Hey pitcher!

Pitcher: Yes?

Gladden: Check out this speed!

Dan Gladden darts to second base.

Pitcher: Hey! Stop that! What do I do?

Shortstop: Throw the ball to second base!

Pitcher: Okay. Wait…he’s there already!

Dan Gladden: (dusting himself off from sliding even though he didn’t have to slide) How’d ya like that speed? Your mother liked it last night!

Pitcher: (shaking fist angrily towards the sky) Curse you Dan Gladden!


Dan was plagued by injuries last year,

Making him, apparently, a Diamond King?

but knowing him, he’ll be back for more in 1990.

He’ll be back for more injuries? That’s weird.

His .295 average coupled with his 23 doubles and 23 stolen bases are good omens for the Twins.

Those are not omens. They are things that Dan Gladden did that were already realized directly by the Minnesota Twins. Unless they are saying that, while he was injured, Dan Gladden hit .295 with 23 doubles and 23 stolen bases in the comfort of his own home. In which case, yes, that would be a good omen for the Twins.

Did you know?
Because the term "throwback" hadn't yet been invented, the first hustling baseball players were often compared favorably and oxymoronically to Caucasian blacksmiths.


Bill said…
So many things to love about this post. Specifically putting Gladden on the 1930s Cardinals (but not quite going far enough to choose one specific season, what gives Donruss?). Being "pesky," "feisty," and always "fighting." Things that were documented in the past being omens. This card really has it all.

I didn't think the Eckstein-type love existed in 1989. Now I wonder how far back their origins really go. Your "Caucasian Blacksmiths" theory has merit, and I'll add to that my belief that the first use of gamer-like terms began in the early 1900s, when they started letting those darned Irish and Italians into organized ball, and there instantly became a need to describe the grit of the non-Irish and non-Italian players.
Bo said…
Dan Gladden didn't just fight on the baseball field - ask Steve Lombardozzi!
mkenny59 said…
Bo, that is awesome! Never knew about that, and it would have been great to add as hardcore proof of Gladden's feistiness and roughness and also tumbleness. The lesson, as always: You don't mess with a Diamond King. Although Lombardozzi should be commended for his Italian gritiness as the instigator and for having a hard enough face to damage Gladden's finger.
mkenny59 said…
Also, considering the article alludes to the fact that the fight happened on Gladden's front lawn, and because I can only assume that Dan Gladden's front lawn was, in fact, a baseball field -- how else could he have performed so well while injured? -- it remains to be seen if Dan Gladden did indeed fight off the field.

Nevertheless, I think that fight was an omen to the bad blood that would exist between Gladden and Lombardozzi.
Bill said…
This conversation has eerily come full-circle, as legend has it that 1930s Gas House Gang Cardinal Daffy Dean once brawled with Steve Lombardozzi's great uncle on Dean's front lawn. They settled it like men - gritty, feisty men.