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.

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

The Chicago Cubs, Back to the Future and Blue Pyjamas

Well, a lot of what I believed in came crashing down around me today. See, today was the day Marty McFly got to the future in Back to the Future Part 2. It’s now October 21, 2015. We don’t have hoverboards. We don’t have flying cars. We don’t have self-drying jackets or self-tightening shoes or fax machines in every room of our houses… which is the one thing I was really counting on. Above all else, the Chicago Cubs will not win the 2015 World Series, so the predictions of Robert Zemeckis et al were just hollow and empty.

I’m left alone in the dark, shattered, wondering what it all means, and I lost a lot betting on the Cubbies. That Gray’s Sports Almanac is full of shit.

1981 Topps - Ivan DeJesus
1981 Topps – Ivan DeJesus

Like anyone else, I usually try to find the silver lining in the dark clouds. That silver lining is the baby blue pyjamas that the Cubs wore in the early 1980’s. The best part about these pyjamas is how high you can wear the pants. You can see here how Ivan DeJesus is doing everything he can to pull those elastic waist paints up to his nipples, just like Grandpa would. Another silver lining is that in January 1982, DeJesus would be traded by the Cubs to the Phillies for Larry Bowa and some kid named Ryne Sandberg. I guess that turned out alright.

Bottom line is it’s good to see the Cubs back on the map of successful teams in baseball. They’re being built well and they’re going to be around for a while this time, I think. And I’m rarely wrong.

Brendan Shanahan, New Jersey, Toronto, and Useless Facts

1988-89 O-Pee-Chee - Brendan Shanahan
1988-89 O-Pee-Chee – Brendan Shanahan
2009-10 O-Pee-Chee - Brendan Shanahan
2009-10 O-Pee-Chee – Brendan Shanahan

In light of today’s announcement regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, I thought we’d look at a little Now and Then of the man, Brendan Shanahan, who just hired the man who drafted him, Lou Lamoriello.

Shanahan began (in 1987-88) and ended (in 2008-09) his career with the New Jersey Devils. Even though there were four other stops in between, the connection is obvious.

A few things to note about Shanahan’s career between the bookends above:

-His signing with St. Louis as a free agent led to Scott Stevens being awarded to the Devils as compensation… that turned out pretty well for Lamoriello, I’d say.
-He was one of the first Canadian members of the Triple Gold Club after his Olympic gold medal win in 2002
-His request for a trade out of Hartford led to Paul Coffey being traded to the Whalers, where he played all of 20 games, which is more than he played for either the Boston Bruins (18) or Chicago Blackhawks (10). Useless fact, sure, but why else are you here?

We’ll see how this goes for the Leafs this season, but who wouldn’t pay money to be a fly on the wall for some of those conversations between Shanahan, Lamoriello and Mike Babcock? This is going to be fun.

Pete Vuckovich, Moustaches and Underrated Franchise Legends

1986 Topps - Pete Vuckovich
1986 Topps – Pete Vuckovich

In exciting news, pitchers and catchers reported for the Toronto Blue Jays today, February 22… along with the Minnesota Twins, they were the last team to report to Spring Training.  Which means the injuries to their pitching staff will take place just slightly later than all the other teams.  That counts as win number one, I’d say.

Now, speaking of Blue Jays pitchers, we need to talk about someone important.  He is the man who saved the first win in Toronto Blue Jays history – you might recall a snow covered plastic field and a win over the Chicago White Sox (the team that let him go in the Expansion Draft) – and who also pitched the first shutout in Jays history, a 12-strikeout masterpiece over the Baltimore Orioles.  I’ll bet there aren’t a ton of guys with stats like that.  His name is Pete Vuckovich.

Vuckovich, now a Special Assistant to the GM with the Seattle Mariners, despite his contributions to Blue Jays history, should be most famous for his facial hair, and slightly less famous for his regular hair.  He perpetuated the former image of “Toronto the Good” with his clean-cut, preppy image during his brief time in Toronto, but later, blew that shit out of the water when he decided to look like he did on the card above, a little bit in St. Louis, and then a lot with the Milwaukee Brewers.  Put the moustache, the bowl-cut mullet, and the “I’m going to kill you with a hammer” facial expression together and you’ve got yourself a legend.

Maybe a team that went 54-107 in their first season should have tried to keep this guy for another year or two, even if they didn’t know he’d end up with the moustache.

Russell Martin, Ernie Whitt’s Moustache, and Canadianness

2012 Topps - Russell Martin
2012 Topps – Russell Martin

So, the Toronto Blue Jays have signed a Canadian catcher to a five year contract worth about eleventy billion dollars.  His name is Russell Martin and he does not usually have a moustache.  He is pretty good at baseball, but I think they signed him because they thought it would be easier to just sign a Canadian catcher rather than spend years trying to convert one.

1986 O-Pee-Chee - Ernie Whitt
1986 O-Pee-Chee – Ernie Whitt

Let me explain.  They used to have a catcher named Ernie Whitt.  Ernie Whitt definitely had a moustache.  He may have, in fact, been born with one.  By 1989, he was also the last player to play for the Blue Jays that started when they first took flight (see what I did there?) in 1977.

An internet search leaves things a bit murky as to whether Whitt actually ever became a citizen, but the Blue Jays fought the good fight for years, and eventually Whitt was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.  Citizenship or not, mission accomplished.

Also, moustache accomplished.