Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wally Yonamine 1925-2011

There are several more bespectacled superstars residing in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame than in it's counterpart in Cooperstown, but only one was American born and a former pro football player: Wally Yonamine.

He died Monday at the age of 85. Unlike the bespectacled Hall of Famer on this side of the Pacific, Chick Hafey, whose sinus infections kept him from collecting the numbers he could have, Wally was famous for a hard nosed, rough-and-tumble style of play that made him few friends in Japan's Central League. And as a manager (above) he became the first foreign born manager to win a Japan Series title, balancing that image of the gruff baserunner with that of the bespectacled manager crunching the numbers and filling out line-up cards. After baseball he ran a successful pearl shop in Tokyo, allowing his glasses clad image to finally take over and allow his sensitive side to shine through. Chick Hafey would have been proud. Look here for more information on Wally and his life.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

RIP Ryne Duren

In the NY Times obituary for Duren (left), Yogi Berra said, "He threw fear into some hitters. I remember he had several pair of glasses, but it didn't seem like he saw good in any of them." Leave it to Yogi to clarify, with true depth, the dilemma of the bespectacled pitcher- do you want the hitter to know that you can see, or terrify him into believing that you can't? Ryne was adept at scaring the hitter, sometimes throwing wild pitches on purpose to strike fear into the batter's heart. Not that the batter was too far off- his vision was atrocious, and, on top of that, he was probably about as hung over as you can be. Below is part one of the complete list of four-eyed players from the 60's:

Hair and free love seemingly define the 60's in the USA, an image of the straight laced tossing their horn rimmed glasses off their rosy cheeks into a field of sunflowers and naked bodies. Fortunately for us at the Bespectacled Spectacle, the truth is a lot easier to see- some of the greatest bespectacled stars of all time played during the decade. Below is a near complete list (though it may be a bit fuzzy so please leave comments if you notice an omission) of those greats:

Faye Throneberry
Steve Korcheck
Eddie Kasko
Bob Will
Bob Nieman

Eli Grba (That may be Grba, right, in the small circle, but , thanks to bespectacled discrimination, it is his ‘doppelganger’ Ryne Duren in the larger photo. One cant help but forgive the lowly Topps staffer for finding Grba as hard to recognize as to pronounce, and the fact that he was confused for the one and only Ryne Duren leads one to believe that he/she was the victim of a drunken prank. There is a story in Duren’s autobiography in which he reminisces about shitting himself while running from the police, case of beer held over his head, after drinking and driving- no other bespectacled superstar can claim a feat anywhere near as badass. Of course, Ryne [namesake for actual HOFer Ryne Sandburg] always required that two of his four eyes be tinted, to shade the other two from the harsh, hangover-punishing sun that a ballplayer unfortunately must work with. There are so many stories about Ryne Duren- all revolving around his drinking- that he has earned a special wing in the Four-Eyed Hall of Fame. Even Mickey Mantle, who narrowly missed getting a bottle of wild turkey on his plaque in Cooperstown, tells a story about ole Ryne- two cases into a plane ride at seasons end, his clowning around led to a near catastrophe as Duren threatened to open the plane door high above ground [check out the full story in the great book Whitey and Mickey (leave it to the bespectacled spectacle to talk about reading about drinking- nerd!)] Nonetheless, Duren proved that all four-eyed professionals weren’t spending Friday night [or Tuesday, or Sunday- hell, every night] in the armchair reading Mallarme. Duren eventually gave up and wrote two great books on the dangers of mixing baseball and booze, and at his death his legacy stood more for helping alcoholics than for being one.)
Grba, on the other hand, experienced the highlight of his career along with Ryne, as a member of the 1960 AL pennant winning NY Yankees, but never had a chance to face Maz or Roberto in that stunning series. His career ended at 28, most likely due to a switch to contacts.

Dave Sisler
Dick Hyde
Ryne Duren (see above [get glasses if you need to!])
Earl Torgeson
Jim Baxes
Ray Sadecki
Clint Courtney
Bob Rush
George Crowe
Chuck Stobbs
Jim Brosnan- See an earlier post on Brosnan and his writing skills here. His two books, The Long Season and The Pennant Race, are classics in the ballplayer-as-memoirist field, and they set the bar for all to follow. Four eyes and a lot of time resting between appearances equals authorship any day of the week!

Bill Virdon
Lee Walls
Ken Walters

Ken MacKenzie-The first bespectacled Met, he was in desperate need of focus as the relief ‘ace’ of the infamous ’62 team. However, the bespectacled power paid off, as his 5-4 record was the only winning percentage on the entire team. A Yale grad (go figure), Ken was a Canadian born dynamo who spent '62 in the Mets pen with the likes of future southern legislator 'Vinegar Bend' Mizell and college football hero Galen Cisco- oh to have been a fly on those Polo Ground walls!
Coming soon, more on the bespectacled stars and not-so-stars of the 60's...
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