Saturday, February 13, 2010

Roger needs to come out of his shell

Kevin, from the always thoughtful and frequently amusing Orioles Card "O" the Day blog, posted a card of Roger McDowell a couple of days ago.

There was nothing unusual about the card, except for one thing: there was nothing unusual about the card.

Just about every collector knows that McDowell liked to show his goofy side. A lot. And card companies couldn't get enough of McDowell showing his goofy side. Card company employees would wait in the bushes for that moment that McDowell wore an article of clothing inside-out, and then snap away with their disposable camera, or whatever they used back then.

Most of McDowell's wackiness on cardboard took place when he was a member of the Dodgers. He was well-established as zany when he was with the Mets and Phillies, but his four-year stint with the Dodgers coincided with card companies' trend in showing the lighter side of ballplayers. So, lucky me, I have a whole bunch of cards of McDowell being a cardboard cut-up.

In fact it's almost more difficult to find a Dodger card of McDowell in which he's merely pitching.

For example, here is a simple, ugly 1992 Donruss card of McDowell in work mode. No wacky hijinks here. But then you flip the card over to the back:

Oh, no. The headband. This was McDowell's signal that zaniness was about to commence.

Here is another card of McDowell acting relatively under control. Although you can tell the wild-and-crazy guy is just dying to get out.

There's wild-and-crazy now, on the back. Somehow McDowell made it all the way from Dodger Stadium, where he is on the card front, to Wrigley Field, where he watered down some Cubs bleacher bums.

Here is McDowell doing his best Darren Daulton imitation, from the catcher's pose, to the hair, to the shades. I think he was hoping to land a Hooters' girl. Topps didn't like to get too wacky during McDowell's early years with the Dodgers, so it let Stadium Club do its dirty work.

This is the famous moment mentioned on Kevin's post when McDowell took the mound wearing a tool belt, with sandpaper and nail files sticking out of his back pocket. The umpires look very serious in this photo. It's a joke, guys! Roger is funny. Don't you get it?

OK, back to the headband. McDowell had a definite obsession with the Ralph Macchio look. Did he like karate? Did he have a thing for Elisabeth Shue? I need to know.

I'm thinking that this photo was taken about a second before or after the photo on the preceding card. Or McDowell stood in that same spot, in that get-up, always with a lollipop, day after day. And that would cross the line into scary.

Everyone's favorite McDowell card. What do you think the cafeteria is like at Lasorda U.?

Here, McDowell has confiscated one of the card company employee's disposable cameras. Sometimes, I thought McDowell could focus more on his pitching and less on how many ping-pong guns he could stuff down his pants. His pitching stats were not that great with L.A.

OK, Roger. This is an official cry for help. After Mardi Gras is over, you're supposed to throw those things away. We love you, Roger. Really we do. Don't try so hard.

In 1994, McDowell was 0-3 with a 5.32 ERA for the Dodgers. He played a year for Texas and then a year for Baltimore, and then the master of the hot foot was done.

It was the perfect storm for McDowell. Upper Deck had shown that collectors would buy cards of players doing "un-player-like" things. Other card companies caught on, and a star was born.

A wacky, zany star. With props. And a headband.


  1. Buahaha, how come I've never seen these before? Man... I am out of touch.

  2. Wow. I knew he was a bit silly but this is ridiculous.

    He's like the Carrot Top of baseball. A road trip requires a whole suitcase of props.

  3. Roger was the poor man's Jay Johnstone. Both former Phillies.