Cooperalls, CCM ProPacs, and (Finally!) the Cooperall Cup

1983-84 O-Pee-Chee – Darryl Sittler

For a brief time in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the long pants known as Cooperalls ruled the hockey world.

Well, not really, but looking back through the rosy lenses of nostalgia (which I love, of course), they were pretty damn cool.

1991-92 Upper Deck Heroes – Brett Hull

They were even sported by a young Brett Hull when he played with the BCJHL’s Penticton Knights, though I’m not sure what’s more impressive, his pants or that haircut.

While Cooperalls were popular in the Junior and College ranks, the Philadelphia Flyers (1981-82 and 1982-83) and the Hartford Whalers (1982-83) were the only NHL teams to sport the long pants before the league banned them for being unsafe. Apparently they caused players to slide really quickly when they fell on the ice, which I guess isn’t ideal.

However, the Flyers and Whalers didn’t actually wear Cooperalls. They wore the CCM “ProPac” version. But just say Cooperalls. Don’t be weird about it. It’s like saying Kleenex, or Walkman, or even AstroTurf. They’re Cooperalls, don’t ruin it for everyone else.

1983-84 O-Pee-Chee – Risto Siltanen

During that magical 1982-83 season, the three most significant games were obviously between the Flyers and Whalers as they battled for the Cooperall Cup, a trophy which should have existed in the first place and which I will now create and award retroactively.

The games were played as follows:

December 12, 1982 – Hartford, CT: Whalers 7, Flyers 4
January 8, 1983 – Hartford, CT: Flyers 7, Whalers 4
January 9, 1983 – Philadelphia, PA: Flyers 8, Whalers 4

Therefore, with a 2-1 record and 19 goals scored in the three game series, the Philadelphia Flyers are hereby declared the first – and only, at least for now – champions of the Cooperall Cup.
Congratulations, Flyers. Everyone’s proud of ya.

1983-84 O-Pee-Chee – Bill Barber

And thank you, Cooperalls, for your brief but brilliant existence.


Ol’ Jimy One M and the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays

1988 Topps - Jimy Williams
1988 Topps – Jimy Williams

On this date in baseball history, May 15, 1989, the Toronto Blue Jays fired their manager, Jimy “One M” Williams, replacing him with hitting coach Cito Gaston.

You might recall that the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays were 12-24 at the time of Williams’ firing. That didn’t put them in last place, because the Detroit Tigers were in the division, and they were awful, but it put them pretty close.

You might also recall that the Blue Jays won the 1989 AL East title by going 77-49 the rest of the way. Sure, they got thumped by Jose Canseco and the Oakland A’s in the ALCS, but just getting there was impressive after a start like that.

Ol’ Jimy One M went on to a pretty successful career as a coach and manager in the majors. Although he was also fired mid-season by the other two teams he managed, the Boston Red Sox (2001), and the Houston Astros (2004), his career record as a manager is 910-790, a .535 winning percentage.

He did win the 1999 AL Manager of the Year award with Boston, and was the bench coach for the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the World Series in 2008.

No explanation has ever been given for why he only had one “m” in his first name.

George Bell, Josh Donaldson, MVP’s, and Purple Butts

Today, Josh Donaldson was named the American League Most Valuable Player, making him the first Toronto Blue Jay to win the award since George Bell in 1987. I decided to share a few quick facts about each of these great players, to help give us all a better understanding of two of the most significant players in team history.

There are some similarities, some differences, but overall, you’ve got some dudes that can do baseball things really well and cause some shit at the same time.

1987 Fleer - George Bell
1987 Fleer – George Bell

George Bell, 1987 AL MVP:

1. Was called Jorge Bell until about 1985.
2. Feuded mightily with Jimy “One M” Williams when the manager tried to make him a Designated Hitter against his will.
3. Apparently had a purple butt that he wanted fans to kiss.
4. Was a 5.0 WAR player in 1987, his AL MVP year.
5. Stolen from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 Rule 5 Draft

2015 Topps - Josh Donaldson
2015 Topps – Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson, 2015 AL MVP:

1. Played the majority of his games at catcher until 2011
2. Became a legend when he said, “this isn’t the try league, this is the get it done league. Eventually, they’re gonna find people who’ll get it done.”
3. Apparently wanted the Anaheim California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they’re called, to suck his cock.
4. Was an 8.8 WAR player in 2015, his (first) AL MVP year.
5. Stolen from the Oakland Athletics for a Canadian fellow with a lot of tattoos and some other stuff.

There, now you know.

Mike Krushelnyski, Cartoon Airbrushing and a Simpler Time

1988-89 O-Pee-Chee – Mike Krushelnyski

Cards like this beauty of Mike Krushelnyski bring me back to a simpler time. A time when we knew which photos were altered and which ones weren’t. Things are a lot more complicated, photo-wise, now. Just go on the Internet and look for anything, you’ll understand.

In 1988, there was no Photoshop, and I think the public was generally assumed to be pretty dumb, which is in large part why O-Pee-Chee was able to get away with this. 

A lot of times they stuck to head and shoulder photos for their airbrushing “magic,” so you might not notice what they’d done right away – like with Jimmy Carson below. But with Krushelnyski, they basically made him into a cartoon. I know they wanted to show off the fancy new Kings jerseys, but this might not have been the best approach. 

1988-89 O-Pee-Chee - Jimmy Carson
1988-89 O-Pee-Chee – Jimmy Carson

That said, if you’re looking for me, I’m going to be in the basement, airbrushing old pictures.

Knocking Hockey Hall of Famers Down a Peg or Two

There’s a lot of talk today about the class of 2015 being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight. And sure, it’s a great group. Among NHL stars Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Chris Pronger, there is US National Team star Angela Ruggiero as well as builders Peter Karmanos and Bill Hay.

All are clearly deserving inductees, but I’m not here for that. I’m here to knock them down a peg or two.

1997-98 Score - Sergei Fedorov
1997-98 Score – Sergei Fedorov

Sergei Fedorov: I’m not sure celebrating a Stanley Cup win with the Detroit Red Wings is reason enough for that shirt, and those pants, even if it was their first title in 42 years. Hall of Famer yes, Fashion Icon no.

1992-93 Score - Phil Housley
1992-93 Score – Phil Housley

Phil Housley: The Gretzky Jofa is a legendary classic. The one that Housley sports here, even on his way to 97 points, was a disgrace to the game. You can be better, Phil.

1991-92 7th Inning Sketch - Chris Pronger
1991-92 7th Inning Sketch – Chris Pronger

Chris Pronger: Someone on the Peterborough Petes’ staff was clearly angry at Chris in 1991-92, which is why they gave him the biggest helmet and visor combo they could find, like ever. Tough to make a 6-6 guy look tiny, but they found a way.

1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Nicklas Lidstrom
1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom: I actually don’t think it’s possible to make fun of Nicklas Lidstrom. I’m not even mad at him for being Swedish, or playing for the Empire of Evil in Detroit his whole career. Let’s just appreciate this Red Wings retro jersey from before the time when retro jerseys were cool.

Congratulations to the inductees.

Now, If only this baseball superstar, Canada’s Bo Jackson, was going into the Hockey Hall of Fame too:

1990 Score - Eric Lindros
1990 Score – Eric Lindros

Joe Torre, Playoff Droughts and Being Uncomfortable on Photo Day

1981 Fleer - Joe Torre
1981 Fleer – Joe Torre

With Game 5 of the World Series going tonight at Citi “I Wish They Still Called It Shea Stadium” Field, I thought I’d talk about the Mets a little. And in this case, someone that a lot of people forget was a Met for a while.

Joe Torre, who looks wildly uncomfortable here on 1981 Fleer cardboard, transitioned directly from being a player with the Mets (1975-77) to being a manager, and actually spent 18 days as a player-manager before retiring as a player. I think Joe’s discomfort on photo day that year comes from the fact that he knew he’d end up being a legendary Yankee manager someday, and the Mets uniform felt unnatural. I don’t even like the Yankees and I know that’s probably a cold hard fact.

Torre actually played the sixth most games in baseball history without ever making it to the playoffs, and then managed another 1,901 with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals before finally being part of a playoff team with the Yankees in 1996, when they won their first World Series in 18 years. That’s over 4,100 Major League Baseball games before getting to the playoffs even once. That’s the equivalent of over 25 seasons. 

If that doesn’t give you hope, you’re probably a Cubs fan.

Doug Jones: Closer, All-Star, Moustache.

1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Doug Jones
1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Doug Jones

There is a lot of 1992 to discuss here. I’ll start with the moustache. Thick and rich, getting in the way of food and drink… that’s what a real man’s moustache is supposed to look like. I’m told that he looks “like a vacuum cleaner.” I had to have that one explained to me, but think about it, it kinda makes sense. It would literally take me 17 years to grow anything close to that.

There are also the sunglasses. If you were into baseball in the early 1990’s and you didn’t want a pair of sunglasses like those, I’ll bet you didn’t even care about life. The strap on the sunglasses, you’ll notice, holds them securely in place while a glorious mullet is allowed to flourish. The sunglasses were for the business, and the flow was for the party.

Along with great fashion sense, Doug Jones was actually one of the best closers in baseball for a time, a five-time All-Star, and finished his career with 303 saves, playing for seven teams, most notably Cleveland, Houston and Milwaukee.

The card above (O-Pee-Chee Premier… classy) shows him when he was about to have the best season of his career with Houston in 1992, after his worst season with Cleveland in 1991. He had lost his closer’s job and got sent to the minors for a bit. But then he came back in September, started the only four games of his career, and was pretty decent (3-1 record) before being released and signing with the Astros in the offseason.

He also pitched in the Major Leagues until he was 43 years old. Could he have done that sans moustache? I doubt it.