Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12- Arizona Diamondbacks

My original post today was going to consist of a Chicago White Sox hat used from 1976-1981; however, there was one specific moment in the history of that hat that prevented me from writing about it tonight. Instead, you’ll have to way until July. Sorry. Needing a new hat to write about, I had to jump on the bus back to my house on the south side of Eugene; a process which took way longer than it should have. After that I had what felt like a million other things to do on account that all of my finals are taking place this week. Hence the late post. So, without any further issues, here we go.

I wore this cap a few times throughout 2012; the most notable day coming on February 20th when I was featured in the University of Oregon campus newspaper The Daily Emerald because of my MLB Fan Cave campaign. The actual interview itself was kind of interesting, mostly because the writer conducting it was someone I was taking a Feature Writing class with at the time. Even though we had been talking on a near-daily basis for almost a month about the Fan Cave process, it still took him and the newspaper that long to care about the story. I mean, I’m a journalist at the school and a bunch of other student journalists didn’t really see the news value in my story. OK? Anyway, the interview was done over the phone; another thing I thought was weird because, as I said, we had class together. What was really funny about the interview, at least in my opinion, is that I was in the bathroom the entire time, throwing up in between each question because of a wicked stomach flu I was fighting. The questions varied around the lines of who I am, why I did this and then ended with a slew of baseball trivia questions. Despite my health, I answered all but one question correctly. That question? Who won the World Series in 1974? I had said the Cincinnati Reds, who did in fact win the Series in 1975 and 1976, but somehow I had spaced out on my team, the Oakland Athletics, taking it in ’74. It happens. Personally I blame the lack of electrolytes in my body. Meh! With the interview over I went to bed, but was interrupted by another call from him asking if it was cool if they took a few photos the next day. I obliged and passed out. The next day I met with the photographer and he took a series of photos of me with my shirt off. In keeping with the theme of heading to Arizona for the Top 30 a few days from then, I decided to roll with this hat to the photo shoot.

For those of you who didn’t all ready know; yes, I’m totally that dude with all the MLB tattoos you may have read about on Yahoo or Deadspin. I was also featured in an MLB tickets commercial which ran quite regularly throughout the season, but I’ll get to that in a different post.

The Arizona Diamondbacks only used this hat for one season in 1998, their inaugural year. They rarely wore it as it only served as their alternate road cap and therefore didn’t really build a long historical standing within the franchise. Which is a  shame considering the fact that it’s a pretty sweet hat. When the article ran on the 20th the physical copy of the Emerald was printed in black and white; however, the online copy was printed in color (as seen above). I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was just happy that my school finally took the time to help me out with a bit of publicity.

When I moved back to Eugene at the start of 2013, I immediately started school on January 7th. As the days moved on I started to take notice at all the new faces around campus, as I had been gone for almost a full year. One thing about me is that , when I saw someone wearing a New Era cap I always look to see what team they’re wearing. I suppose that has mostly to do with being such an avid fan of the company and the game itself. For me, it’s a good conversation starter; however, as I walked around campus I started to notice a common hat amongst the sea of faces. This hat.

Back on February 2st1 I wrote about the Montgomery Biscuits alternate cap, and within it I mentioned that a lot of kids started rocking the cap not too long after they saw me sporting it. Prior to the interview I did with the Emerald I never saw anyone on campus wearing this cap. Today, and for the last two and a half months, I’ve noticed five to six people wearing it every single day. And not necessarily the same people each day. Am I missing something? Does this cap carry a secret meaning amongst the kids that I’m not aware of? Or did I start a new hat trend…again? These are serious questions. I mean, I don’t really mind being a trend setter, but I’m just confused why this hat seems to be the “ish” in Eugene; especially considering that it had such a short shelf life in the Show.

This, and many other New Era related unsolved mysteries, are things that I will hopefully be able to get to the bottom of by asking these questions. Hell, it worked for the Monte Irvin Los Angeles Angels post I had. So if you have any insight, please feel free to hit me up. Because until I hear or discover any other logical explanation, I can only assume that the kids of Eugene were inspired by my shirtless photo in the paper. Which is kind of cool, I guess.

Like a few other posts I’ve written, this Diamondbacks cap was the only one I ever had intentions on buying. Therefore, when I marked it up I used numbers which were personal to me, not necessarily about the era in which the cap was used.

#9- Matt Williams oddly enough was on the 1998 team, so I totally lucked out with that one. Williams was drafted by the San Francisco Giants with the third overall pick in 1986 and made his debut with the club in 1987. Despite my loyalty to the A’s, I always liked watching Williams play. From ’87-’89 Williams peaked right around the Mendoza line (.200) and was sent back to their AAA affiliate in Phoenix repeatedly. In 1990 it all came together. Williams hit .277 with 33 home runs and 122 RBI, which gave him a respectable sixth place finish for the National League MVP vote. In 1993 he finished sixth again, but in 1994 he finished in second place behind Jeff Bagwell despite having crushed 43 home runs before the players strike ended the season. At the end of the 1996 season the Giants opted night to resign their consistent-hitting third baseman and instead spent 1997 in Cleveland with the Indians on a one-year deal. In ’98 Williams found himself on a brand new team, literally, as the Diamondbacks were assembling a team with as much veteran talent as possible. For third base, Williams was their guy. He spent his final six seasons with the organization, going .278/99/381 in 595 games. During his tenure Williams set the single-season franchise RBI record of 142 in 1999, but most importantly, he helped the team win their one and only World Series in 2001. He finished his career making five All-Star teams, four Silver Sluggers awards, four Gold Gloves and one World Series title. Not too shabby.

#20- Gonzo. This is where I screwed up on my numbering. Luis Gonzalez spent the 1998 season in Detroit in his one and only year with the Tigers after spending eight years with the Houston Astros and two years with the Chicago Cubs. In 1999 the Diamondbacks rolled the dice and traded Karim Garcia to the Tigers for Gonzo; and the rest, as they say, is history. History’s sake consisted of Gonzo tying Williams’ 142 RBI record in 2001, the same year he crushed a career high 57 home runs and won a World Series ring. And not just any World Series ring, a ring against the New York Yankees. And not just any Yankees team, a team with Mariano Rivera closing the game out. And of course when I say closing the game out, I mean Gonzo tagged a Series-winning single up the middle practically off of his wrist. That hit alone can pretty much get him a free table and steak anywhere in Phoenix. Gonzo spent eight solid years in the desert going .298/224/774 during that stretch. A decent story I have about him came during our time in Arizona for the Top 30 interviews.

One of our assignments was to interview a player “randomly” selected by the executives. The person I was paired up with was Ryan “Tatman” Roberts. Shocker. I’ll get to that story another time though. As we were walking around Salt River Fields at Talking Stick I noticed a familiar face roaming around in a golf cart throughout a few of our interviews. He was wearing glasses and had a little bit less hair than I had remembered, but I could still spot that it was Gonzo. After we wrapped up our interviews we headed up to the perimeter of the executive offices for lunch. I was talking to a few of the other finalists when I noticed Gonzo out of the corner of my eye. He was about 50 yards away from me, asking Kyle Thompson if he was plying pool on either of the two tables in front of him. Kyle had elected to eat lunch by himself, and I could tell from the distance I was at he had no clue who he was talking to. Gonzo had merely gone over to ask about the pool tables because the covers were off. Kyle told him he wasn’t playing and proceeded to help him put the covers back on. It was at this time I started walking over to go strike up a conversation with him. It was also at this time that everyone noticed where I was going, and then noticed who I was going to talk to, at which they all decided it might be a good idea to follow. I introduced myself and one-by-one so did everyone else. He spent a good 20 minutes chatting with all of us; telling jokes, answering questions and just being an all-around good guy. He then said he had to head back inside to work at which I told him about the tattoo I had which is a tribute to his 2001 team winning the World Series (which is true and why I went with their classic colors). Gonzo took a quick peek and asked me to wait a minute before he walked back inside. About 15 seconds later he emerged with his phone and asked if it was cool if he could take a picture. That was by far one of the coolest moments of my life to have a big leaguer ask for a picture of me, even if it was just one of my tattoos. He then asked about the history behind it and when I got everything done before he finally headed back inside to more than likely sit around the office and continue being an awesome dude.

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