Am I the only baseball fan in the world who is stupendously annoyed to the point of distraction
by the parlor dance every spring that goes on with a certain Hall-of-Fame-bound pitcher?
I speak, of course, about Roger Clemens, who for several years now has been allowed to bless us with his presence on the Major League Baseball scene at precisely the moment that suits him and his busy schedule.
To answer my own question, I would appear to be, since at least in the newspapers and magazines that I read, hardly a discouraging word is heard about conduct that would have been unthinkable for an earlier generation of ballplayers.
The most compelling, repetitive aspect of spring for me recently has been a stunned disbelief that anybody tolerates the prima donna that Clemens became by virtue of his seven Cy Young Awards and the admittedly remarkable ability to keep his heater humming past age 40.
I have joked that perhaps one of these days he's going to lament that he would prefer to pitch only in odd-numbered innings on alternating Thursdays in cities that conform to specific demographic, sociological and climatological guidelines set forth by Clemens' agent. Gee, sounds silly when you put it like that, but only about 12 percent sillier than the ground rules the pitcher actually tosses out there every spring.
I know that it's customary for older folks to carp about changes that take place over time, and indeed, some of that grousing can be discounted or even ignored based simply on that disclaimer, but the pesky case of Roger Clemens is - ironically - a very special case, perhaps even as unique and exalted as Clemens himself believes. Just not in the way that he believes.
But in this one, the implications for the game that I have loved for more than a half-century are profound. With all the historic changes that MLB has endured since I started paying attention in the late 1950s, the pampered, indulgent treatment afforded Clemens is among the most discouraging because it is, at its core, the most dramatically antithetical to the fundamental underpinnings of a team game.
The staggering salaries that are doled out routinely to players who couldn't make a turnstile spin if their pensions depended on it (fortunately for them, they do not) have turned off millions of fans, but fiddling like this with the team concept and the responsibilities that have traditionally been attached to it is even scarier.
And I am not bitter that Clemens is headed to Cooperstown (he's asked that he be allowed to be portrayed in street clothes on his HOF plaque and that the plaque itself will only be exhibited from June 15 to Labor Day). I was always a Doc Gooden guy, and I used to track their careers, head to head, as I assumed they both would eventually ascend to immortality. I didn't dislike Clemens; I just rooted for Doc.
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One of the cool things that we used to do here in Iola was to hold a special promotion each spring called "Whatzit Day." The idea was that people from the community would bring their collectibles to our offices and the editors from our various divisions would evaluate the material and provide details - including but not limited to potential value - to the collector.
It was always an extremely popular event, and I liked doing it just to see the items that collectors would bring in. The antiques end of things was by far the busiest department, but there would occasionally be some good cards or sports memorabilia that would turn up.
Inspired by that idea (and, obviously, the iconic "Memorabilia Road Show" on PBS), we added a "What's It Worth?" component to our annual SportsFest Show in suburban Chicago. The first edition, held at last year's show in early June at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., was a major hit, with perhaps 150 collectors bringing in material that ranged from the pedestrian to the sublime.
A USA Today writer and photographer also turned up at the show, producing a piece that ran in the paper the following week, with nearly a full page dedicated to the "What's It Worth?" program, including several photos both in the paper itself and on the USA Today website.
So with that kind of history, naturally, we're doing it again, this time at the new SportsFest site at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center, just a hoot and a holler from the former site (about 10 minutes northwest). The show runs June 8-10, with the "What's It Worth?" session slated for 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, June 9. For more information, go to www.sportsfestshow.com.
By the way, the last time we held the "Whatzit Day" program here in Iola, the neatest sports item brought in for examination was a complete set of 1933 Goudeys, all in vg-ex condition, but all from the Goudey files, since each card had a nice, round punch hole squarely in the middle at the top of the card. Not bad for such a small community, eh?
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Ed Tyree is one of the nicest gentlemen I've encountered in this hobby, and that's saying something, because over the nearly 30 years that I've been going to shows and otherwise taking part in the social aspects of collecting I've met and often become friends with a whole bunch of nice people.
I've only met Ed Tyree a couple of times, quite a few years back when we (Krause Publications) still used to run the Tuff Stuff shows in Richmond, Va. But we've talked over the phone from time to time, and he is a frequent contributor to our letters to the editor section in Sports Collectors Digest. And those letters usually have 1980s National League slugger Dale Murphy front and center on Tyree's agenda.
Ed has made it something of a crusade to get Murphy more HOF "cred" than he currently receives - about 9 percent in the 2007 vote - and it's an alternately noble and quixotic undertaking. Tyree has gotten a good deal of newspaper coverage for the Murphy candidacy, and he has frequently written to Commissioner Selig and the Hall of Fame to tout Murphy's numbers, but it has to be disheartening to see such paltry vote totals for a player of such prominence for the better part of a decade.