Friday, January 25, 2013

Fifteen minute heroes

By now, I'm sure most of us have heard the famous Andy Warhol quote.

"In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."

For some reason, that saying has always captivated me. It's comforting to wonder about a world where everyone gets their time in the spotlight.

On top of that, I've always had a deep fascination with people who were actually famous for those proverbial "fifteen minutes".

Especially when dealing with the vast history of baseball.

A search through the game's history results in quite a few players of the sort. Guys who enjoyed their brief time on top of the baseball world, but are all but forgotten in today's day in age.

Before I went on the "hunt" for cards to feature in this post, I never much thought of building a specific collection geared towards this little obsession of mine.

Now, though, I'm actually half-thinking about chasing down more of these "fifteen minute heroes" for my collection.

In a way, I guess I've been doing it for years. I just never took the time to actually give it an appropriate label.

So, here they are, folks.

Here are a few of my favorite "fifteen minute heroes".

The first names that came to mind were Don Larsen, Harvey Haddix, and Bucky Dent.

While none of them enjoyed terrific careers, I wouldn't quite put them in the "fifteen minutes" category. After all, their names are still widely revered in the game today. I doubt their "fifteen minutes" will ever truly expire.

Guys like Geoff Blum are more what I had in mind.

Seeing as how I had school the next day, I didn't stay awake long enough to see his pinch-hit, game-winning dinger in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. 

Truthfully, I didn't even know who the heck Geoff Blum was before that.

Although he did play in the bigs for 14 years, Blum was pretty much the epitome of a "career utility man". 

Ever since that homer, though, he's been one of my favorite "fifteen minute heroes". 

Blum wouldn't even get another at-bat in the '05 World Series. Although he retired after 17 games with the Diamondbacks last year, he hadn't had a card issued since 2010.

Sadly, I think Blum's time in the spotlight is over.

His "fifteen minutes" were up a few years ago.

Here, we have another "fifteen minute" hometown hero.

Mr. Dewayne Wise.

Interestingly, he's the only player I'll be showcasing in this post who hasn't yet warranted a spot in my binders. 

He's also probably the only guy who's still enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame.

Much like Geoff Blum, I missed Wise's moment in the spotlight.

I was out with some friends when he made his unbelievable perfect game-saving catch in 2009, one that would cement Mark Buehrle's name in the record books.

Needless to say, I still regret it to this day.

Ever since "The Catch", though, Wise has been an expendable player for quite a few times. He has played for four different teams in the three years since his "fifteen minute" moment, even finding his way back to the South Side near the end of 2012.

If ever happen to come across one of the cards that document his famous grab, then I really wouldn't have much of a choice.

He'd have to become part of my binders at that point.

I'm crossing my fingers.

When dealing with the greatest catches in baseball history, though, one name always seems to come to mind.

Willie Mays.

His famous grab in the '54 Giants-Indians World Series is one that will be replayed over and over again forever. I've probably seen the clip around a hundred times, and I still can't help but be amazed at the heroics of "Say Hey" Willie.

But, obviously, Mays is nowhere near anything resembling a "fifteen minute hero".

Vic Wertz, on the other hand, is.

If he's remembered at all in today's game, it's because of his role in the historic catch. After all, the ball did come off of his bat.

Although he was a big leaguer for 17 years and a four-time All-Star, this is one of just six cards I own of Mr. Wertz.

Even so, he was far from the first "fifteen minute hero" in Indians history.

As far as cardboard goes, Bill Wambsganss is criminally underrepresented.

This is one of just two cards I own of the guy. The other is a Conlon Collection piece as well, for the record.

Still, most casual fans of the game probably have no idea who he is.

In the 100-plus-year history of the World Series, he's still the only player to pull off an unassisted triple play, doing so on a line drive by Dodger pitcher Clarence Mitchell in Game 5 of the 1920 contest.

You'd think turning an unassisted triple play in the freaking World Series would shed someone of the  "fifteen minute hero" status.

But, in the case of Bill Wambsganss, I don't think it has.


Unlike the other players in this post, Zoilo Versalles isn't a "fifteen minute hero" because of a particular moment in time.

His moment in the spotlight actually lasted an entire season.

The 1965 season, to be specific.

Although he sported one of the coolest names in baseball history, Versalles might well be the most obscure player to ever take home an MVP award.

His '65 campaign with the Twins basically came out of nowhere. After hitting just .259 the year before, Versalles led the AL in at-bats, runs, doubles, triples, and total bases in 1965, winning a Gold Glove in the process.

Just three years later, he'd hit .196 in 122 games with the Dodgers. Versalles was out of baseball by 1971.

I've collected Versalles for as long as I can remember based on his fifteen minutes of fame. Luckily for me, they've come pretty cheap.

My sparkling copy of his epic '61 Topps "Zorro" rookie card only set me back about fifty cents.

Still, Versalles, Wertz, and Blum all take a backseat to my favorite "fifteen minute hero" in baseball history.

To me, this conversation begins and ends with Chris Shelton.

Heck, I devoted an entire post to his fifteen minutes of fame back in the day.

Whenever I find myself thinking about the spring of 2006, two things come to mind.

A captivating end to my freshman year of high school and Chris Shelton.

But mostly Chris Shelton.

After hitting nine homers in the first 13 games of the '06 season, people thought Shelton was the so-called "next big thing".

Several members of this hobby banked on that train of thought. I distinctly remember seeing autographs and rookie cards of his trading hands at mind-blowing prices.

Obviously, all those "investors" took a monumental loss.

Shelton has been out of baseball since 2010.

He'll always have those "fifteen minutes" to cherish, though.

As anyone who reads this blog probably knows, I collect a lot of different players. A whole lot.

However, I can honestly say that Chris Shelton is one of my favorite guys to collect. Something about his "fifteen minute hero" story has always intrigued me.

I'm only now starting to see what that "something" was.

The sheer absurdness the hobby went into after Shelton's "fifteen minutes" probably played a part in pushing me towards the more "low-end" side of this hobby.

It showed me just how crazy the whole memorabilia market could get. Around that time is when I shifted my focus towards base cards and dime boxes.

I guess I've always collected Chris Shelton to thank him for that.

Without "fifteen minute heroes" like him, I don't know that I'd be the type of collector I am today.

The stories of the Chris Sheltons and Geoff Blums in the world mean a whole lot more to me than some little piece of fabric ever could.

A whole lot more.


Ryan M said...

Francisco Cabrera and Jerry Willard are two names that will always have their 15 minutes of fame. Most everyone will remember Cabrera for his walkoff hit that scored Sid Bream to beat the Pirates, but Willard had a sac fly in the 1991 World Series that won a game for Atlanta.

hiflew said...

I was going to say Francisco Cabrera as well.

I think there should also be a mention of such people as Al Downing, Ralph Branca, Steve Trachsel, and Mike Bacsik for surrendering memorable home runs. Warhol never said the fifteen minutes would be because of something pleasant.

Backstop Cards said...

Blummer is one of my favorite post 90s Padres, and I was totally stoked when he had that homer for the Sox. He didn't retire in 2010 - he was on the Diamondbacks roster at the beginning of 2012, but he had been injured for a while and finally got released mid-season.

According to his wikipedia page, he's going to be a part time color commentator for the Astros this year, which is pretty cool.

My favorite fifteen minutes of fame Friar would probably be Sterling Hitchcock, who won the NLCS MVP in 1998 when he went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in both of his games against the Braves.

Great post!

RayFranchise said...

I could list pitchers who have pitched no-hitters but have average careers or battled injuries. Bud Smith, Dallas Braden, Phillip Humber to name a few.

The Underdog Card Collector said...

Loving the Zoilo Versalles card.

Never being a Twins fan, but eternally a fan of diverse ball caps, I think I may just need to add one of those timeless woolies to the collection this season...