9/17/13

Christopher Wuensch - Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire: Trend Setters

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mets - christopher wuenschEvery Sunday, Christopher C. Wuensch will retell Mets’ and baseball history using the thousands of baseball cards and other memorabilia that he’s tasked with organizing in his basement.

 

If any positives can be derived from baseball’s steroid era, it’s that the definition of what a Major League ballplayer should look like has forever been altered.

Bonds McGwireEven if performance-enhancing drugs are eradicated from professional sports tomorrow, the image of a portly, hot-dog chugging, homer-knocking schlep is one of a bygone era.

Players today are more brawn (Braun?) than they are Balboni. They’re more “young Tony Gwynn” than they are “late-career Tony Gwynn.”

That’s evident while sifting through a shoebox of baseball cards dating back to the 1980s — where, ironically, you’ll find the rookie cards of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.

Kruk BalboniOr as they should be known as: “Skinny Barry” and “Skinny Mark.”

Skinny Barry and Skinny Mark were intertwined in many ways other than their alleged performance enablers. They grew up eight months and 30 miles apart in the greater Los Angeles area. They both attended Pac-10 (now Pac-12) schools; Skinny Barry at Arizona State and Skinny Mark at Southern California. And both have family lineages that extend between the white lines of professional sports: Barry’s dad Bobby clubbed 332 home runs in 14 Big League seasons. McGwire’s younger brother Dan took snaps in the NFL as quarterback of the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks.

Good or bad — hall-of-fame worthy or not — Bulked-up Barry and Big Mac fore2ver changed baseball style.

As former San Diego Padre and Philadelphia Phillies’ first baseman John Kruk famously lamented: “I’m not an athlete, I’m a baseball player.”

Time was, an over-weight or bespectacled athlete could only play baseball. There’s simply too much running and body contact to play football, hockey or hoops in glasses — Kareem Abdul Jabbar being the exception.

In this era of in-and-out Lasik surgery and on-call dieticians, if a player wears glasses that he doesn’t flip down when looking into the sun, then he’s likely a relief pitcher. Former Dodgers’ closer Eric Gagne and journeyman reliever Kyle Farnsworth, both modern-day pitchers, and their gaudy “rec specs” come to mind.

Glasses PlayersReggie Jackson might be the best bespectacled hitter since St Louis Cardinals’ outfielder George “Specs” Toporcer broke baseball’s eyeglass ceiling and became the first position player to benefit from vision enhancers. Jackson needed four eyes to hit 20 home runs less than McGwire’s 583 dingers and 199 less than the 762 long balls slugged by his fellow Arizona State alum Barry Bonds.

Another Cardinals’ outfielder, Chick Hafey is regarded as the only other glasses-wearing player enshrined in Cooperstown.

Whether or not Skinny Barry or Big Mark ever receive their own plaques in Cooperstown, remains to be seen. Regardless, they’re no doubt they changed the game. You can see it with your own eyes.

Wait a minute...glasses? Baseball? Why does that sound so familiar?

Glasses Dork


Oh. Right. That's why.


 

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