Tuesday, February 17, 2009

25 Things

Shysterball had an interesting idea today, applying the Facebook 25 random things meme model to baseball. He writes, "Don't feel the need to do it yourself, but if you do, I'd like to read it, whether it be in your own writing space if you're a columnist or blogger-type, or simply in the comments or in an email if you're a civilian." Sounds like a great idea to The Common Man, who is desperate for some excuse not to have to watch ARod's press conference. So here goes:

1) The Common Man grew up in Minnesota, and has a deep and unabashed love for Kirby Puckett. This love was tested when Puckett explored free agency after ’92 (or was it '94?) and seemed poised to go to the Red Sox, but was reinforced when Puckett decided to stay. It was tested again when the news broke that, frankly, Puckett was not a very nice man and did some inexcusable things to his wife, girlfriend, and random waitresses. However, The Common Man ultimately decided that the joy Puckett brought to his life for twelve seasons means more to him than the sad downfall of a troubled and flawed man, and that he’ll let the good times overshadow the bad.

2) The first time The Common Man saw the Metrodome was when he and his parents were driving on 35W, past downtown Minneapolis. The Common Man must have been 5 or so. When he saw a neat looking building with a colorful chimney, he pointed to it and asked his mother if that was the Metrodome. Mistakenly thinking her son was pointing to the big white baggy behind it, she said yes, it was. And that’s how, for 2-3 years, The Common Man thought the Valspar Paint building was the Metrodome.

3) Similarly, when he was little, The Common Man thought Kirby Puckett was a tall white guy who played right field, and Tom Brunansky was a short, black man who played center. His favorite player was Tom Brunansky, but he still doesn’t really know whether he meant the real Tom Brunansky (because his name sounded awesome) or the fake Tom Brunansky (who really was awesome).

Now, who wouldn't make that mistake?

4) The first game The Common Man remembers going to was on June 28, 1989. Frank Viola faced off against Dave Stewart and pitched a shutout. The Common Man knows he was there for games in ’88 though, because he has the programs (and scored the game in them).

5) The Common Man was taught to score by his grandfather, for whom The Boy is named. However, his grandfather taught The Common Man to score wrong (according to everyone else who’s been consulted on this matter). Nevertheless, The Common Man scores games the same way still, since no one but he will ever get to see all those programs and scorecards (except for The Boy, who will be taught the system by then).

6) The Common Man’s best friend since sixth grade, Bill, had season tickets with his family in the ‘90s, and they used to take The Common Man to the game a half-dozen times a year or so. The Common Man has felt indebted to his friend ever since and one day, when he’s rich and famous, The Common Man is going to give his friend a pair of season tickets for a year.

7) The most fun The Common Man has ever had at a baseball game was April 24, 1993, when the Detroit Tigers beat the Twins at the Dome 17-1. Pat Mahomes gave up 10 runs in 2 and 2/3 innings. Bill and The Common Man kept rooting for Rob Deer to get up and strike out (he never did, but Kirk Gibson K’ed three times. The game started with 34,504 fans in the stands, and basically ended with two, The Common Man and Bill. It’s amazing how fun baseball can be even when you stop caring about the outcome.

8) The Common Man has been to eight major league stadiums, the Metrodome, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, PNC Park (Pittsburgh), Safeco Field (Seattle), US Cellular Field (New Comiskey, Chicago), Miller Park (Milwaukee), and L’Stade Olympique (Montreal). By far the nicest park was PNC. By far the best experience was sitting in the RF bleachers for a Yankee/ Red Sox game (“Knoblauch is such a troll. How do you pitch to that f-in’ troll?” and “O’Neill is GAY!” were some of the tamer things The Common Man heard that night.). A close second is in Montreal, where The Common Man had an entire section to himself in leftfield, and he and the other 8,000 fans would make noise by slamming the empty seat next to them down as hard as they could.

9) The Common Man has visited 11 minor league stadiums in Tuscon (Rockies), Scottsdale (Giants), Mesa (Cubs), Midway Stadium (St. Paul Saints), Beloit (Twins), Erie (Tigers), Williamsport (Pirates), State College (Pirates), Portland (Red Sox), and Elmira (Elmira Pioneers), Binghamton (Mets). The best experience was in Elmira, where he and Bill were two of, like, 12 people in attendance and knew the players could hear them. Meeting Steve Balboni in Erie is a close second.

10) The back yard of The Common Man’s boyhood home was huge and was vaguely baseball field shaped. Every summer in elementary school, The Common Man and James Watson would put out some bases, a plate, and a pitching rubber, and play two-man baseball all day long. Usually, The Common Man let James be the Twins, while he’d be the Cubs (because The Common Man liked to hit like Jerome Walton). The Common Man would get crushed every time. For some reason, James would start Al Newman at 2B all the time and invariably James as Al Newman would hit, like, three homeruns. Anyway, as time went on, and The Common Man grew more powerful and sophisticated, The Common Man and Bill took to playing home run derby with tennis balls in the back yard. Any ball that hit the branches of a tree on the fly or left the yard altogether was a homer. Anything else was an out. Again, The Common Man generally got clobbered. But there are a lot of pine trees in that back yard with a lot of tennis balls stuck in their branches. Someday, those trees will come down, and the landscapers are going to be bewildered by the old, cracked tennis balls rolling around on the ground.

11) The Common Man was a clubhouse manager for a couple of years for a minor league team. It was a tremendous experience and he hopes to write a book based on it some day (without violating anyone’s confidence). But the book will prominently feature a tall Dominican reliever who enters the clubhouse every day yelling “Hellooooooh beeetches,” drinks in the bullpen from a mysterious nalgene bottle of clear liquid, and pees on the groundskeepers’ shack.

12) As a result of the Clubhouse gig, The Common Man is really good at doing laundry, but will die before he scrubs another dirt and grass stain out of a pair of baseball pants. Takes…for…ever.

13) Also as a result of being the clubhouse manager, The Common Man has sung the National Anthem twice at a minor league game.

14) As previously mentioned in this space, when he was at TwinsFest, The Common Man got Bert Blyleven to call and talk to his grandmother on a cell. She is still talking about it. Thanks Bert.

15) In Little League, The Common Man always thought he’d make a hell of a shortstop (probably because he was so short. Sadly, a complete inability to hit (and a reluctance to even swing the bat) made that career path unlikely. Still, The Common Man was a hell of a fielder, and actually a good baserunner (when he did get on base). During one glorious summer, The Common Man managed to hit .300 and have an OBP somewhere north of .400. He stole every base he could, including home on several occasions when the catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher.

16) That trick didn’t work as well in Babe Ruth League, where daring and exciting plays became disappointing baserunning blunders.

17) The Common Man also thought he might be able to pitch a little, but never had anything approaching a talent for it. Still, The Common Man remembers one moment of glory when, after loading the bases with two outs, he dropped down sidearm to get a called third strike on a surprised Brian Giguere (ha, ha, suck it, Giguere!). Of course, this convinced The Common Man that he’d found a new trick, and he proceeded to try to mix in the sidearm. However, repeated attempts to drop down sidearm led to several walks, hit batsmen, hit baseballs, and general suckiness. Experiment unsuccessful.

18) The Common Man missed most of the 1987 World Series because his parents made him go to bed. He’s still bitter. All he remembers seeing was Lawless’s home run. As a result, the first real “magical” baseball moment he remembers seeing was Gibson’s homer in ’88. The Common Man was rooting for the Dodgers because he didn’t like the A’s, who his parents were rooting for (“because it will make the Twins look better”).

19) The Common Man stayed up for every freaking inning in 1991, no matter how late Game 3 went. The most exciting single moment of The Common Man’s life (that did not involve The Uncommon Wife or The Boy) was Puckett’s homerun in Game 6. Number 2 was Larkin’s hit in Game 7. Speaking of which, if Hrbek says it was an accident, who is The Common Man to doubt him?

20) Part of The Common Man feels responsible for the Twins’ big win in ’91. In the basement, he found a bunch of old, long-necked, 16 oz. glass bottles of Coke just before the series started. So, during each game, he would sit and drink one (and only one) while it was going on. He wouldn’t move from the lucky spot on the couch in the family room, no matter how badly he needed to pee. And the ritual paid off. Logically, he knows he didn’t do anything, but still… Thank God it was a comfortable couch.

21) Like most of you, The Common Man collected baseball cards in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. His first set was the ’87 Topps with the wood borders. He kept getting Topps until ’93. He’s also got a couple Fleer and Donruss sets. And he’s got the first three sets of Upper Deck. In all, he has more than 13,000 baseball cards in his basement that The Uncommon Wife would love to get rid of but tolerates because she loves her man.

22) The Common Man never traded a baseball card in his life, nor sold one. He thought he might get into that a while back, and bought the ’86 Fleer set with Bonds’ rookie card the year Barry was chasing the single season record, and a 2nd year Pete Rose card in good condition the year Rose put out his confession book. He figured he’d capitalize on the publicity and make a profit on the backs of a couple of players he didn’t particularly like. But, like the rest of his stuff, once The Common Man had them, he couldn’t let them go. So they’re in the basement too.

23) The Common Man has played in OOTP leagues, DMB leagues, and a couple of traditional fantasy leagues in his day. He’s currently cut back to just one DMB league, but wants to ramp up to more next season. He prefers DMB, but really likes the realism of OOTP.

24) There is still a framed poster of Frank Viola hanging on the wall of The Common Man’s bedroom at his parents’ house. It was purchased in 1989 right before the trade. Oops, lesson learned.

25) The Common Man has two Twins jersey-ish t-shirts. One has Mauer’s name and number on the back, the other has Santana’s. When The Common Man is happy with the Twins, he’ll wear the Mauer shirt. If he’s unhappy with the Twins, he’ll wear Santana.

So that's it. The Common Man is interested to read everyone else's too.


tHeMARksMiTh said...

I would like the 1991 World Series trophy back. You all cheated by putting on the air conditioners at the appropriate time. CHEATERS I SAY!!

No grudge or anything.

Nice post.

BikeMonkey said...

Lemme tell you something, you WILL be scrubbing baseball pants again. I give you maybe 4-5 yrs tops...

Oh and ARod? Pathetic! Man it UP guy!

Ron Rollins said...

I've got mine up, if you want to look at it. I think you have the website.

I would just like to add in, Hrbek pushed him off the base. It was clearly obstruction.

Ron Rollins said...

Good list. I meant to add then, considering you're a Twins fan.

lar said...

Good stuff, TCM. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

Must have been a pretty decent time in Minnesota to be growing up. Two thrilling, out-of-nowhere World Series wins only 5 years apart. not bad.

I remember the 1991 Series pretty well, for an 11 year old kid in California, at least. I remember listening to Game 6 on the radio (for some reason), and then the power went out right before Puckett's home run. It came back on when the crowd was still cheering. it was kind of like the time we were recording The Natural off of HBO and then the power went out right as he was swinging the bat at the end. Pretty weird timing for the power to fail, huh?