Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hal Laycoe

Not a ball player, per se, but the bespectacled spectacle does not discriminate. You have to have a lot of pucks to play ice-hockey without a helmet- and even more to place two glass discs a few inches from your eyes. Hal sold cars in the off-season, but on the ice...

I am sure he could see forever, see every minute detail of the puck as it was flying towards his face. Determined not to live up to the nerd image, he also reportedly got into a fight with hockey hall of fame bruiser Rocket Richard that eventually led to a riot in Detroit.

No Yale or MIT degree, but he exploited his own braininess as a coach in the Western Hockey League as well as the NHL. Hal died in 1998- see his obituary in the NY Times here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Relic

As was mentioned at the start of this thing, some players make it here because they are great, and happen to wear glasses; others just happen to wear their glasses great. A small contingent in the Bespectacled Spectacle belongs to those pairs of glasses that made it with no help from man.

I imagine that these things (left) were forged in the fires of creation, worshiped by medieval peasants, maybe sought by Mr. Indiana Jones.

One thing is for certain- they made it to the majors without the assistance of Jim Breazeale. The back of this card points to his most storied accomplishment- he was back-up first baseman to Hank Aaron. Not that making the majors is some small feat, but I can only imagine that it was the power of those two ton frames, forged from meteorites consisting of unknown metals, that willed him from the minors to the majors.

In the end, I can completely understand his deal with the devil- I would wear those even if they brought me regional softball fame, or, even if they simply could stay on my face and guide me through the day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Inductee #43

Dave Sisler is one of the most suave, good looking, custom cool men to ever slap on a pair of frames in the big leagues. Unlike the patron saint of the bespectacled ballists, Chick Hafey, Sisler wore his like a Cadillac wears it's chrome.

6'4" and lean, the son of Hall of Famer George Sisler (who was cut from that tough old stock, suffering from a similar sinus ailment as Hafey, but coming back from it to have an all-star second half of a career), Dave pitched for Boston and Cincinnati as a starter and a reliever, but never had as much success as his father or brother. He did have a great rookie season with the Red Sox, going 9-8 with 98 K's in 1956, supported by Jackie Jenson, Jimmy Piersall, Micky Vernon and Ted Williams.

However, despite the size and the looks, Dave still possessed some of the traits we admire at the Bespectacled Spectacle- he was a trained engineer with a degree from Princeton (class of '53), and he had a similar link to literature as Dave Hilton- his brother, Dick, was the focus of a conversation between the young and old fishermen in The Old Man and the Sea:

"They lost today," the boy told him.
"That means nothing, the great Dimaggio is himself again."
"They have other men on the team."
"Naturally, but he makes the difference. In the other league, between Brooklyn and Philadelphia I must take Brooklyn. But then I think of Dick Sisler and those great drives in the old park."
"There was nothing ever like them. He hits the longest ball I have ever seen."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Inductee #13

Specs are often associated with intellectual pursuits, and though the connotation of nerdiness is derived from this association, the results of such intellectual activity are not relegated to the passive- think violence (atomic warfare) and action (3-D); think baseball. However, the need to read was the mother of invention in this case, and the link between literature and sport is nowhere better represented than in our next honoree:

Dave Hilton

A rookie for the Padres in 1972, he played a few seasons as a utility infielder for a San Diego team that featured Dave Winfield and Nate Colbert, as well as a young Leron Lee, who would later play a long career with the Lotte Orions in Japan. And in Japan it was that Mr. Hilton reinforced the pesky relationship between glasses and literature- in April 1978, Haruki Murakami was in the outfield stands for a Swallows game, when in the bottom of the first Hilton slammed a double into left field. At that exact moment, Murakami decided that he could write a novel- up until that moment he had been running a jazz club, and though he continued with the club for some time afterwards, he began writing his first novel as well. Write he did, and after producing such classics as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka On The Shore, he is still composing.

The grand irony- Dave had lost two of his four eyes when he put on the Swallows uniform:

It's possible that Dave never took the glasses off- they became his eyes while his bat became a weapon for literature, sending the extra eyes into the left field bleachers where the Murakami's were waiting. Too bad he could never have done that in San Diego.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


This site is meant to honor not only the greatest ballplayers who ever donned a pair (of glasses), but also the greatest glasses to adorn a ballplayer. In addition, we (and all of our eyes) will try to cover some of the history of glasses in baseball and baseball in glasses.
The first honoree is a natural one- the only bespectacled Hall of Famer (well, you can count Reggie Jackson, but Reggie fits more with the glasses-jet-set. See below). Chick Hafey is not only the only multi-eyed HOFer, but he is probably the nerdiest on many fronts. For instance, one can't imagine that any other enshrined member was forced to cut his career short due to a chronic sinus infection. Bill James has included him in his list of those who entered the Hall due to the supposed cronyism of Mr. Frisch in the early 70's- if so, I am very glad, as otherwise OUR Hall of Fame would have one less credential.

On to OUR Hall of Fame- that is, the Glasses HOF. As mentioned above, inductees require either great play + glasses or great glasses + play, or maybe both (all HOF's are somewhat vague in their rules, right?). The first entry (below) is Chuck Hartenstein, who looks as if he drove his truck straight to Toronto from Spring Training in FLA. Chuck was apparently from the same small Texas town as Freddy Patek, who was, for a time, the shortest player in the big leagues.
Chuck falls into a special category of the Hall- those that wore sunglasses, as opposed to those who wore the more square (as in melvin), non-tinted specs. Reggie, if he were to accept, would be in this wing as well. The honorees to come will fall into both categories, but coming soon will be a few from the clear spec set. Near sighted or far, they avoided playing it cool in favor of seeing the ball clearly. Go figure.
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