Sunday, July 25, 2004

Thank you, Eck

I’ve come to realize that the late 80s and early 90s will forever been remembered as the great, nostalgic times of my life.

There were no worries. No bills to pay. No girlfriends to drive me mad. I could eat 5 cheeseburger and not have any consequences. There was only baseball. Thinking about it all day. Watching the games on television. Spending countless hours recreating the games on my Strat-O-Matic game board. Remember the The National? The first all-sports daily newspaper in the U.S. The boxscores even including a little scorecard of the game.

How happy was I to seeDennis Eckersley inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. The memories of his dominance as an Oakland Athletics' reliever brought me back to 1988.

He looks now and he did then as somebody straight out of a 70s discotheque. His long, straight, brown hair and Burt Reynolds-type mustache looked no different in 2004 than it did in 1978 when he threw a no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians.

Lon Simmons, said yesterday, that baseball is a national game played at a local level. The beautiful thing about baseball is the passing of memories down to another generation of fans. We all remember the well-known highlights, but the innocuous memories are what make the game magical and passing them on almost spiritual.

Do you remember Dickie Scott? (He played 10 games, I think) Remember when Rick Fox hit that homer against Minnesota? Didn’t they trade Jose Rijo for Rickey Henderson?

How am I going to explain to my son or my nephews how dominant Dennis Eckersley was as a reliever? They can read the stats: 197 wins, 390 saves and allowed only three walks in an ENTIRE season, but the aura of the Eck walking to the mound in the ninth inning is hard to describe in words. Let me try.

The game was over when he made the walk from the bullpen to the mound. His intimidation had nothing to do with his physical stature but by the aggressiveness of his heart.

He pitched those ninth innings like a naïve teenage pitcher would dream of. First pitch strike. Second pitch: weak foul. Third pitch: a feeble swing and a miss. Sit down! It was like he was throwing magic. His pitches didn’t seem have much mustard nor did his slider have much slide, but when he was done with you, he told you to sit down like an adult chastising a child and the child didn’t dare mess with the Eck. The ubiquitous point and stare at the downtrodden hitter followed by a quick twirl of his index finger pointing him to the direction of his seat on the bench. Oddly, very few opposing hitters took offense to this gesture. They were too baffled by this guy with wild, flowing hair making quick work of them.

The Eck’s dominance might have stemmed from the fact that he had mastered the craft of pitching. How else could a pitcher threw just 3, 4 and 9 walks in consecutive whole seasons. That’s masterful. That’s genius! No wonder he had an un-Godly 0.61 earned run average in 1989. How could a hitter perform when the other guy could throw exactly where he wanted to and when he wanted to? He was something every kid wanted to emulate.

I recall watching a game on television when the A’s color commentator, Ray Fosse, noticed that Eck pitched with one eye close. What?! Sure enough, closer examination showed that indeed, the Eck closed his right eye when delivering his pitch. No wonder he had such control. He was like a champion dart thrower hitting the bullseye at will. Surely, there were many broken windows in many streets and parks due to one-eyed flame-throwers imitating the amazing Eck. I know I did. And you know what, it worked! It did feel like you could hit any location that you wanted.

Wait, I know what you’re thinking. Don’t even try to compare the Eck to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ stopper, Eric Gagne. Not the same. First off, the Eck didn’t need the scoreboard blaring “Game Over” when walked to the mound. Second, the Eck played on good time with more important chances on the line and third, the Eck scared hitters, not because he was big, crazy looking and/or threw heat, but because he was so good.

It was a pleasure watching you all those years

Thanks, Eck.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah.....what he said!!!

MrYosemite said...

Hall schmall. Until he has a bobblehead, he's nobody.

pryncess711 said...

you said life was better in that period of time.. but i can honestly say you sure act like a 16 year old sometimes!! love ya:)

p.s. that poor strat-matic board is sitting at the bottom of the landfill at the dumps on davis st:(

Pops said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wonderbread74 said...

Yes, Pops, and this is from somebody who just learned Shooty Babbitt isn't the current A's second baseman.

Pops said...

I'm waiting for the return of Picciolo- everyposition but pitcher and catcher- dem was da days. He's only 41- I think he's got a shot at the show again.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/p/picciro01.shtml

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work
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