Men of IronJanuary 11, 2007
Crossposted to Blue House Diaries
Cal Ripken, Jr. in the mid-1980s
I don’t have much use for the Baseball Hall of Fame. I’ve never been there and I have no real desire to go. To me, it’s a fake. It’s marketing hype engineered by that unholy alliance of baseball management and sportswriters, based on ignorance, greed and hubris. On the other hand, the players themselves appear to take it seriously. For those players who are gifted enough to be considered for the Hall, this is their last professional competition – truly their Last Hurrah.
In spite of my dislike of the Hall, I was happy to see Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn elected. They were prominent figures in the baseball landscape of my youth. Ripken was a favorite of mine. Even before The Streak got going, he radiated a highly-focused intensity and seemed to be following some higher calling. As was much-ballyhooed at the time, his tenacious devotion to duty was old-fashioned, a throwback to a bygone era. If Howard Pyle were to return from the dead and write a book about chivalrous ballplayers, the hero would be Sir Cal.
His point of honor with the consecutive-game streak was to play the entire game, or at least most of it, never making a token appearance in the game just to extend the streak (as had been done on occasion by the first “Iron Man”, Lou Gehrig). Over time, his dedication showed a hint of obsession. As The Streak ground on and he played through some serious injuries, the strain began to show on Ripken’s face, his features becoming more gaunt, a mask of stoicism, his pale eyes glowing ever more brightly with some inner torment. He was no longer a courtly knight – he was turning into one of those crackpot ascetic saints who lived on top of a column for years to prove some obscure religious point. The whole thing was getting dreadful. I wanted to scream “Stop it, already, we get the message! Just STOP IT!”
When the The Streak finally came to an end, it was a relief.
Tony Gwynn, from the same time period
Tony Gwynn’s persona seemed more normal. He was blandly handsome and looked like he smiled a lot. And why wouldn’t he, when he was such a great hitter. I never liked the Padres but he was someone I liked to watch even though he always hit the crap out of my dear Mets.
In the late ’70s, when the Mets were in the cellar, it was possible to get good seats at Shea. One weekend I scored a box seat near home plate and watched the Cardinals play the Mets. The game was unmemorable but I’ll never forget the sight of the Cardinals’ heavy-hitting catcher Ted Simmons behind the plate. He was a big guy, but not that much bigger than any of the other players. What set him apart was his big presence. He carried himself with great dignity. The expression on his saturnine face was aloof, almost contemplative. With his helmet off, his long hair falling almost to his shoulders, his catcher’s armor gleaming bright red in the sun, he was quite a sight.
He wasn’t pretty enough or elegant enough to be King Arthur’s favorite knight, but he might have been the best at kicking ass.
However, Ted Simmons isn’t in the Hall of Fame. In spite of his 21 years of major-league service and his stellar offensive stats, the voters deemed him unworthy, and after his first year of eligibility he was dropped from the ballot. For discussions of why this is a miscarriage of justice, see here:
This is one of the reasons I think the Hall of Fame is a crock. Baseball isn’t about who gets the bronze plaque with the poorly-sculpted likeness on it – it’s about who the fans remember.
Which lesser-known ballplayers do you remember?
Future baseball articles on Feminist Supervixens will include profiles of players from the little-known history of women’s baseball.
— H.R.H. Supervixen