Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Favorite Cult Baseball Players from the 1980's

Rick "Junk" Mahler
Back in high school, during the summer months, my work mates and I would get done at work and stay at work watching ESPN Sportscenter and talking baseball. Baseball was pretty high on our lists, we would go out to A's games by BART and every so often drive to San Francisco and "The Stick" better known as Candlestick Park. We would talk well into the night about.

We enjoyed all the future Hall of Famers and the stars of the 80's but I remember with pride the odd ball players like Rick Mahler above. Mahler was a journeyman pitcher with the Braves when they were crappy, he would get the ball every fourth or fifth day and do his best. Hey, he had a decent major league career winning 17 games one year.

I have been buying some boxes of baseball cards from the 80's and seeing some of these players brings back a lot of memories. So here are my favorite cult players (Rick Mahler was one) of the 80's:

87 Donruss Joe Cowley
Joe Cowley was a pitcher who couldn't handle the Bronx Zoo and went to the White Sox. He threw a no-hitter against California Angels in 1986 but it is considered one of the worse no-hitters as he walked seven and gave up a run. He never won another game the rest of his career.

89 Fleer Tom Niedenfuer
Tom Niedenfuer was nicknamed Tom "Home Run" Niedenfuer as he would give up home runs to lose games while trying to close them for his team. I kind adopted him as one of my guys and would always look at the boxscores in the paper seeing how see blew another game.

87 Donruss Charlie Kerfeld
Charlie Kerfeld was a flake that had a golden season in 1986-He went 11-2 with a 2.59 ERA as Astros set up man and helping the Astros to the NL West title. He was quirky. He wore the number 37 and asked that his 1987 salary be $ 110, 037.37 and 37 boxes of jello. He gave a famous drunken interview after the Astro's had won the division in 1987. He would wear a Jetson's T-Shirt under his jersey because the dog in the show's name was Astro. Sadly, after that glorious season, he battled arm, neck and weight problems and was out of the game by 1990.

89 Fleer Jim Walewander
Another one of my favorites. Walewander, only had 242 At-bats in the majors, is considered ahead of his time. He covered his windows with aluminum foil, drove HOFer manager Sparky Anderson nuts and was a huge fan of the Dead Milkman (a group I love).  He was cult cool back in the day.

89 Fleer Mickey Tettleton
Tettleton was a catcher that came up with the A's, so I got see him play a bunch while I was in high school. In 1986, Tettleton was released by the A's and ended up with the Orioles and in 1989, he had a break out season by hitting 26 homers and making the AL All-Star team. His huge claim to fame was that he claimed that Fruit Loops was the source of his home run power. My buddy Shannon, started eating the stuff. Tettleton ended up having a good major league career.

89 Fleer Jeffrey Leonard
Growing up in the 80's in the Bay Area, Leonard was an icon with the Giants. He was considered bad-ass. His nickname was "Penitentiary Face" and once he smiled they started calling him "Correctional Facility Face" but the man could play. His performance in the 1987 NLDS was amazing as he batted .417 and hit four bombs. His so-called "one-flap down Cadillac" home trot drew the ire of people in baseball. We just though it was super cool. One of my friends just told me that he knows Leonard and that he is a really good guy and involved in many noble civic causes these days. Now, that is cool.

89 Steve Balboni
They called him "Bye-Bye" because about all he did was either strikeout or hit a home run. Balboni was a masher. Until the turn of the century, there was "The Curse of Balboni" which stated that no team with a player that hit more homers than Balboni's 36 in helping the Kansas City Royals win the 1985 World Series could win the World Series. The curse was broken in 2001 and does not apply any more.

It is weird while writing this and thinking about it, I was pretty lucky to grow up before the Internet and such as we spent a lot of time talking about stuff like this.

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