I've been doing fairly well adapting to life without baseball games to watch.
At the beginning of this pandemic, I was like every fan, trying to get my fix with old games on youtube and the MLB Network. Then those reruns lost their thrill and I settled in for a long, boring summer.
But it hasn't been that bad. I haven't moaned about missing baseball much at all.
The one time I did miss it, noticeably so, was last Sunday, Father's Day. To me, Father's Day IS watching baseball games on TV. That's about all there is to that day. Pop open a beer and watch the game. Then watch another and another.
Beer and baseball viewing go together exceeding well, as you know. And, damn, I was missing that combination dearly one week ago.
Beer and baseball combine so well that I once compiled my own All-Beer Team. And here's another illustration of how well beer and baseball go together:
There are some baseball players for which you remember them because of their association with sudsy goodness. In fact, if you had to come up with one fact off the top of your head about one of these players, something having to do with beer would probably be in the top five of the first things you utter. In some cases it would be the first thing.
Here's one example of that:
A lot of people these days haven't heard of Al Smith. He was a solid-enough player for the Indians and later the White Sox who was noted for his fielding above all.
Above all, except for one particular moment:
That's the famous photo of Al Smith being doused by a cup of beer while looking up at a home run by the Dodgers' Charlie Neal in Game 2 of the 1959 World Series.
Smith was drenched accidentally by a fan who was attempting to shield the ball from his boss' wife, according to this story. The photo, taken by Ray Gora, was picked up across the world and Smith became an instant celebrity for nothing but having beer splashed in his face.
To this day, that's what people first remember about outfielder Al Smith when outfielder Al Smith's name comes up. And really, his name should come up more often.
Here is another example of a player who immediately immerses fans into a beery haze.
The very first thing that I think of when Tom Hilgendorf's name comes to mind is 10 Cent Beer Night in Cleveland. That's the famed game between the Rangers and Indians in June of 1974 that ended in a forfeit because of a riot involving fans and both the Rangers and Indians on the field.
Many players received the brunt of the chaos, getting pelted with all kinds of things from the stands, but Hilgendorf received the worst by getting beaned by a metal folding chair because fans were actually throwing METAL FOLDING CHAIRS.
The first Hilgendorf cards I ever saw as a kid were his cards from 1975 and 1976 Topps. In each example I thought he looked at least 48 years old. It's no wonder. He was recovering from getting bashed by a metal folding chair! 1974 Topps Tom Hilgendorf has no idea what's coming.
Another example and the third straight Indians card I've shown. What's that all about, Cleveland? Hmmm.
I've already written about this particular card. But if you weren't around then, let me fill you in:
The scoreboard behind Joe Charboneau on this card reads "This Bud's For You".
The scoreboard is serenading Super Joe Charboneau, who was known during the height of the rookie frenzy about him in 1980 as an eccentric chap who, among other things, enjoyed opening beer bottles with his eye socket. He also could drink beer through a straw from his nose.
My goodness, 14-year-old me was thoroughly impressed.
Many years later, when Charboneau's name comes up, that's one of the thoughts immediately surging to the front of my brain. The guy opened beer bottles with his eye socket! I can't even open a beer bottle with my hand sometimes!
Until about, oh, seven or eight years ago, all of the stories about Wade Boggs and consumption revolved around chicken.
That's all we heard about during his playing days. Boggs ate chicken every day during the baseball season. It helped his batting average, he said. People started sending him chicken (who does this?). And he earned the nickname "The Chicken Man".
But then, a few years ago, people began to tell stories about Boggs' beer drinking. Depending on who you talked to, they said Boggs told them he drank anywhere between 60 and 107 beers in a single day. One Hundred Seven.
Once I heard that, the chicken, the Hall of Fame career, riding onto the field on a horse, Margo Adams, all of it faded into the background, drowned out by a wave of 107 beers.
OK, maybe not exactly. Boggs is no Al Smith or Joe Charboneau. He's still one of the best hitters I've ever witnessed. And doing it while consuming all that chicken and beer may be the most impressive career feat ever.
I don't own this card. I don't know who he is.
But until I do, Seth Beer will make me think of beer first.
I'm a little surprised I haven't heard him mentioned. Beer started appearing on cards with Panini's USA sets and he's started popping up in Bowman, first with the Astros last year and now with the Diamondbacks. He played in Double A ball last year.
Beer's top skill is hitting for power, which sounds promising for someone named Beer.
My introduction to Marv Thronberry didn't come when he was with the Yankees, as shown on the TCMA card on the top of the post. I wasn't alive then.
It didn't come during his futile ways with the 1962 Mets. I still wasn't alive.
No, I first heard the name Marvelous Marv Throneberry watching the Game of the Week on NBC on Saturdays and viewing this comical man on Miller Lite Beer commercials.
Miller Lite introduced me to so many sports oldsters. Folks like Ben Davidson, Joe Frazier, Tommy Heinsohn, Bubba Smith, Dick Butkus and Nick Buoniconti were introduced to me through Miller Lite commercials.
Since Throneberry's appearances on beer commercials, I've come to know more about his career, I will always think of the beer commercial first before anything he ever did in the field, legendary bumbling or not.
Billy Martin's Miller Lite Beer commercials are perhaps the most famous of all the Miller Lite commercials of that era.
But I knew who Billy Martin was before those commercials and I knew about all of his non-beer exploits (and perhaps some beer-fueled exploits) on and off the field since those commercials.
Then Martin was killed in an auto accident on Christmas Day about seven miles from where I grew up. He was coming home from a bar with a friend. To this day, there are conflicting beliefs in who was driving the vehicle when it crashed. But either way, drunk driving was probably involved.
And so beer -- I'm assuming it was beer -- became forefront in my thoughts when I think of Martin.
Kind of a sad way to end it, I guess.
But there are probably other, happier, player associations with beer that I missed. So if you know of any others, shout them out!
Meanwhile, I'll hit "publish" on this post, which is a bit disappointing just because this is kind of fun: