Thursday, July 22, 2010

Four Eyes + Three Swings = Eleven Runs

Shigeya Iijima was seeing double (or quadruple) on the evening of October 5, 1951- dizzy from hitting his second grand slam of the night. Add to that a three run homer, and the bespectacled slugger of the Daiei Stars could claim 11 rbi for a days work. With all four of his eyes he saw 22 runs cross the plate- not bad for someone who didn't even get started until he was 28 years old- either because of the war or due to bespectacled discrimination. His success, including both his duel grand slams and his three all-star game stints, came when he was in his thirties- this delayed gratification is similar to that which you will feel when you finally get to read the next segment of our attempt to list all glasses clad warriors in MLB history. The great four eyed stars of the 60's are coming soon- relocation to another city has occupied much of the Bespectacled Spectacle's time, but the glasses are back on!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Does that ump need glasses?

It's a question that has been asked for a long time. And I don't think Jim Joyce would look too bad with the right frames (some aluminum frames would look killer with that southern highway mustache).

Obviously it was a boner of a call; and everyone, including the ump, knows it. But I don't think it's time to start radically altering the sport with instant replay because of a bad call. Umps have made bad calls since there have been umps- and they have always needed better and thicker glasses (and have been reminded of this fact by crazy and casual fan alike). How many perfect games have been ruined by a bad call in the first inning? Because it is so much less dramatic, and because it is impossible to say how many possible perfecto's were ruined by an early bad call throwing off the pitcher's rhythm, no one has ever kept track. There have been hundreds of one hit performances- how many of those can be attributed to a bad call or break?

The solution? If every MLB player chips in a hundredth of a percent of their salary, the league will have enough bread to buy the thickest, most performance enhancing glasses there have ever been. The answer is always thicker lenses. Spread 'em around.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Butch Edge

The Bespectacled Spectacle was recently featured in a short post in the excellent Number 5 Type Collection. Matthew (the author) also left an amazing comment on a previous Bespectacled Spectacle post featuring Mr. Mark Lee, the sun bleached bespectacled beach bum with the most prized pair of frames this side of Bogota.

The story of Mark Lee's mid-inning retirement features one of our favorite four-eyed mound-bums: Butch Edge.

A former 1st round pick for the Brew Crew, Butch had only a sip of coffee in the bigs- winning 3 and losing 4 for the Blue Jays in 1979. From the looks of his card, he did not take a shower during that entire stretch. It's possible he was just living up to his name- second only to Evil Knievel in pure bravado. Were the glasses just a front, to throw off those who might suspect his second life as a daredevil ne'er-do-well and man of the range?

By the time he was replacing the retiring Lee, one can imaging that he looked even shaggier (and were they sharing glasses at that point?). In our bespectacled minds eye (or eyes), heaven can be found in the bullpen of the Portland Beavers in 1982- Lee and Edge and pray for rain (to clean their lenses).

Whatever happened to Butch seems to be a mystery- a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a vest wrapped in turtle shell. More than likely he is a lion tamer in Burkina Faso, or a planet hopper in pursuit of Buckaroo Bonzai, maybe just a bartender in Williamsburg, Brooklyn- we may never know.

Coming soon- the long awaited list of Specs from the Sixties...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Rebel; the Professor

More from the 50's...
Very few ballplayers become writers. Even fewer writers turn into ballplayers. Jim Brosnan was the latter, though he didn't know he was a writer when he stepped on his first Appalachian League rubber in 1947. He was already half-way there, sporting a pair of specs that could write their own novel.

After a few lackluster years with the Cubs, Jim was traded to the Cardinals where he aced the second part of the 1958 season, going 8-4 with 7 saves in 33 games. It was enough to convince new manager Solly Hemus keep him around for at least the first part of '59- but his 1-3 record led to his swift removal to Cincinnatti where, once again, he excelled. The length of that season, the drama, the move- everything went down into his notebook.

From there, into a book unlike any baseball book that came before it- one that would shed light on the everyday, behind the scenes baseball life that many thought should remain part of the mystique of the Major League Baseballist.

Though published in 1960, The Long Season was a chronicle of baseball life in the tail end of the fifties, by a bespectacled bookworm commonly referred to as "The Professor"- a stereotype not often found in 50's baseball but almost always in the four-eyed scene. Not as controversial as the book it inspired, Ball Four, it did have it's critics. But there was no breaking down of the Mantle Myth, so no threats from Elston Howard.

They could have seen it coming- but one can guess that, because of Jim's four eyes, the presence of a pencil and paper seemed normal. Add to that the events of the previous year: his skill had already been recognized by several in the sports writing world- enough to get him several offers to cover the Cards while he was touring Japan with them in October and November of 1958 (see A Noboru Aota Fan's Notes for more on the tour and his articles).

His best season was with the '61 Reds, who hung onto him long enough to get a 10-4-16 season and his assistance to the World Series against the M & M boys (fresh from their 115 home run season), where he tanked in his only relief appearance. It wasn't all bad- that winning season proved to be excellent fodder for yet another book- Pennant Race.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The 1950's

The Project begins- our attempt to chronicle every player who donned a pair of specs in the history of the MLB. To start with, the first real four-eyed decade: the 50's. After WWII, advances in eye wear technology, along with the GI Bill, led to the first bespectacled decade. Below is a list of all those brave warriors to make it on to a line-up card- or, at least, we hope it is. One goal of this project is to fill in any gaps that may exist, so please leave in the comments section any names that should be on the list:

Dom DiMaggio
Bob Dillinger
Bill Rigney (Nicknamed 'specs' when he was with the Oakland Oaks, Rigney [below] had a decent career in the infield for the Giants, though his most productive years were prior to 1950. However, he will be remembered for his managerial work, leading the first Giants of the San Francisco bay. The team consisted of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and other greats, all who would sing his praises for years to come.)

Jim Konstanty
Walt Masterson
Earl Torgeson
Thurman Tucker
Don Richmond
Clyde King
Hal Erickson
Tom Gorman
Dick Cole
Clint Courtney
Dizzy Trout
Al Sima
Ed Blake
Joe Ostrowski
Harry Elliot
Jim Bolger
Ernie Oravetz
Ray McMillan
Dave Sisler
Lee Walls
Charley Thompson
Jim Brosnan
Don Bessent
Del Ennis
Eddie Kasko
George Crowe (Starting at first base for the Braves in their last year in Boston, Crowe [below] was the first bespectacled African American in the Majors. Like George Mikan before him, he excelled at basketball [in college, of course- those four eyes needed to study as well as play ball], but baseball was his true calling. He played in the Negro Leagues as well as in pre-integrated professional basketball with the Harlem Rens, but made his mark in the majors as a pinch hitter. He set the record (since broken) for pinch hit home runs, and had his best season with the Reds in 1957, when he hit 31 homers and had a .989 fielding average [think about playing first with a piece of glass less than an inch from your eye]. George is the last living member of the Rens, and we hope he keeps on going for a long time, glasses and all.)

Dick Hyde
Roy Smalley
Whitey Herzog
Carl Sawatski
Mel Roach
Chuck Coles
Steve Korcheck
Bob Nieman
Howie Nunn
Jim Baxes

Coming next- the 60's, as well as some more 50's profiles. Please comment if you see any errors or glaring omissions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Pictured right is Greg Briley setting back the "bespectacled-ballplayers-don't-have-to-be-nerdy" cause several years. And I thought Upper Deck had a more thorough vetting process for images.

On a more serious note, bespectacled catchers, like Greg here, are rare. A recent request seeking to confirm that Clint Courtney (a real scrapper who did nothing but advance the cause mentioned above) was, in fact, the first four-eyed backstop (and no evidence found so far contradicts that fact) has led the Bespectacled Spectacle to begin a project- to chronicle every spec-ed up pro since the dawn of the major leagues. This means catchers, pitchers (the majority) and everyone else.

Staring soon, we will begin listing those hallowed individuals by decade, asking (pleading) for any comments or additions to the list. The first decade to be covered will be the 50's, so stay tuned...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blurring the Mendoza Line

George Brett: Bully. Leave it to Mr. Perfect (didn't the comparison between George and Curt Hennig always seem too easy?) to pick on the eternal baseball 'nerd': the good field/no-hit infielder. And in this case, a no-hit infielder with glasses: Mario Mendoza. Could Mario even see his own line?
Mario was not the worst hitting player in history (that title goes to Bill Bergen [.170 min. 2500 AB] and George McBride [.218 min. 5000 AB]), but it was his misfortune to be at the bottom of the stat line during the Brett era. Hence, the Mendoza line. Now the internationally recognized term for the lowest a pro ball player can go before finding the red ticket in the locker, the line stems from a 'compliment' Brett gave to Mendoza in an interview. After all, those players below the Mendoza Line are the ones who can't cut it, right? So Mario stands for the worst of the best, not the worst of the worst. Thanks George. Like most bullies, he was not original in his analysis: the term was really coined in the clubhouse, by Mendoza's own teammate Tom Paciorek. However, it took Brett, the star, to popularize it.

Mendoza, born in Mexico and now back in his home country after managing in the Mexican League, didn't need a strong bat to be a great ball player. His golden glove and razor sharp vision (possibly the product of his 'performance-enhanced' eyes?) even robbed bully Brett of the elusive .400 mark late in the 1980 season, and those soft hands earned him a place in the Salon de la Fama.

He joins Cookie Rojas as yet another crossover Hall of Famer in our Glasses Hall, blurring the Mendoza line to the point that even Brett needs some specs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lil Prof

Dominick DiMaggio's nickname, the Little Professor, exemplifies the studious perception of the bespectacled ballplayer. With this obvious advantage in IQ, Dom was one of the best center fielders of all time- a seven time all-star in a war shortened career. He finished his stay in center Fenway with 3859 putouts in 4,095 chances, giving him a career average of 2.98 chances per game, tops for all AL outfielders. He led the league in games and putouts several times, and his intelligence in the lead off spot earned him a .383 OBP (in the top 50 all time for right handed batters) and over 1000 runs scored for his career, even after missing three full seasons due to the war (he led the league twice). I am guessing that, as a Navy man, he was frequently sea sick.

Historically overshadowed by his mythical brother, Dom nonetheless made it into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, a place his brother will never invade. Dom always seemed like the more professional, but less successful brother, who was still one up on the problem child (Vince, the "Prince of the Minor Leagues"). Bill James rates Dom as the #24 best center fielder of all time (to brother Joe's #5), but includes this ditty in his Baseball Abstract:

"Total Baseball ranks Joe DiMaggio at +51 runs as an outfielder- but rates Dom at +101, Vince at +71. 'How can he be the greatest center fielder of all time,' asks Bill Deane, 'if he's the third best center fielder in his family?"

Though Dominick was never as mythologized as Joe (who ever was?), he was just as popular (in a more regional, Boston v. NY, sense), and was able to propel those advantages into business success in his post-baseball career: he didn't need Mr. Coffee or Paul Simon to add to the interest in the bank as an owner of the NE Patriots.

And Joe thought he was so cool with that 56 game hitting streak- well, Dom had a 34 game streak in 1949, good for a tie for 10th longest of all time. Take that, Joe. He was also the only bespectacled star of the 40's, and had no real competition for that title until Bill Rigney showed up. Still, Rigney was only a part-time four-eyes; Dom was the real deal, a true blind base-ballist star.

Monday, January 25, 2010

PSA rates these frames a 7, but we here at the Bespectacled Spectacle rate them closer to a 5.5- a clear tone and basic shape that have class but lack pizazz. Bob, a Kent State grad, was kind of the same way; he hit a home run in his first two at bats in the majors, and rates (according to Bill James) as the 119th finest left fielder in the history of the game. He came close to an MVP once (7th place), but was never an All-Star, just like those flairless frames. Coming soon- more graded glasses...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Are Glasses Performance Enhancement?

Oh, Days of Wine and Roses....

Now that we have entered the Hall of Fame season, it is time to announce the newly elected members of the Glasses Hall of Fame, where performance enhancers are a requirement. But first, a look back at another established member- Cookie Rojas.

As has already been mentioned, the only cross-over member of our Hall of Fame as well as the one in Cooperstown is Chick Hafey (though Reggie and some other sun-glassed greats are on the periphery). However, we do have an additional dual-membership, not in Cooperstown, but in Cuberstown:

Octavio Rojas, who was a 1982 inductee to the (phase 2 of the post-revolucion) Federacion de Peloteros Professionales Cubanos, or the Hall de la Fama for Cuban born baseball stars. With Cienfuegos Cookie was part of a stellar double play combo (along with Chico Cardenas), but it was with Bobby Wine in the Phillies infield that we witnessed the "plays of Wine and Rojas", or, according to the 1966 Baseball Digest "greatest plays", the "daze of Wine and Rojas".

A second baseman who hit over .300 twice in his career, he was primarily known for his glove. In his best years he was competing with either Bill Mazeroski or Bobby Grich for the gold glove- stiff competition that reasonably resulted in a gold-less career. He did turn 953 double plays in his career, not so far behind Mazeroski (1706 ) and Grich (1302), but he must get credit for turning-two with four eyes: Multiplied by two, he had 1906, by far the most - did he have an unfair advantage because of his glasses? Definitely- those performance enhancing frames were built for nothing but speed. Why else was he named, in 1969, as the greatest Phillies second basemen EVER?

Our newest inductee is Pepperdine alum Mark Lee, who obviously spent a bit too much time in the Malibu sun. Is there a Bloomingdales in Malibu?- if not, I am guessing that the Padres, nervous that the harsh landscape of San Diego would scare those fragile eyes, softened from years of beach-squinting, outfitted him with performance-enhancing dazzle. However, the only performence enhanced was his modeling career:

He had one winning season, for the '78 Pad's, aided by the runner up for Rookie of the Year Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield and, of course, Oscar Gamble, who must have been into Mark's frames more than anyone. Congratulations to Mark and his super powered hydro-vision.

End Game.

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