By the time this card arrived in '84, I was a certified fan.
You aren't really a fan until you know misery. Disappointment. Heartbreak. Deflated expectations. Disgust. All of it.
I was fortunate in that I selected a favorite team at the same time that team was going pretty good (by coincidence, I swear). By the time I had fully invested myself into this thing called "baseball," instead of simply collecting cards, my favorite team was making regular trips to the World Series. Back-to-back trips, in fact, in 1977 and 1978.
But then I began to find out exactly what being a fan was all about.
It wasn't merely rooting for your team, and seeing it do exactly what you wanted it to do -- win.
It was about this:
- Crushing World Series losses (1977 and 1978).
- Disappointing seasons full of unrealized expectations (1979)
- "Special playoff" eliminations (1980)
- Ballplayers striking in the middle of the season (1981)
- A failed pennant race (1982)
- (*sigh*) Well, at least the Dodgers always win every NLCS that they're in ... (uh ... 1983)
While all of this was going on in the early 1980s, the Dodgers I knew and loved were departing. Steve Garvey left through free agency. Ron Cey was traded. Reggie Smith free agency. Rick Rhoden traded. Don Sutton free agency. Doug Rau arm trouble. Tommy John free agency. Davey Lopes traded.
To prevent myself from panicking, I'd reassure myself that everything was all right by looking to the desert southwest. You see, while major league ballplayers were not playing in 1981, I became captivated by the Albuquerque Dukes, the Triple A team of the Dodgers.
If you're not familiar with the '81 Dukes, they absolutely annihilated the Pacific Coast League that year. They went 94-38 with a lineup that was a red-and-gold version of Murderer's Row.
Candy Maldonado: 154 hits, 94 runs, 40 doubles, 21 homers, 104 RBI, .335 avg, .996 OPS
Gary Weiss: 114 hits, 82 runs, 30 stolen bases, .294 avg
Rudy Law: 133 hits, 75 runs, 56 stolen bases, .335 avg, .996 OPS
Jack Perconte: 155 hits, 107 runs, 26 doubles, 45 stolen bases, .346 avg
Ron Roenicke: 130 hits, 100 runs, 23 doubles, 15 homers, 94 RBI, 110 walks, .316 avg, .976 OPS
Bobby Mitchell: 106 hits, 63 runs, .311 avg
And a couple of pitchers:
Ted Power: 18-3, 3.56 ERA, 111 Ks (and 103 walks! But let's not pay attention to that)
Ricky Wright: 14-6, 4.24 ERA, 112 Ks (90 walks)
Damn fine numbers all coming off one team. And you can see why a Dodger follower might be reassured by those numbers. You also can see why a Dodger executive might be OK with dealing away established players knowing what was on the way.
But, as you can tell by the names, none of them had more than mediocre major league careers. Because they weren't in Albuquerque anymore. Playing for Albuquerque was a good way to inflate your ego. Everyone could hit in Albuquerque. The ball flew in the dry air and at high altitude.
But I lived in New York state. On relatively flat ground. Breathing humid air. What did I know?
Besides, Mike Marshall was going to be the greatest hitter who ever existed. No question.
Marshall was on that 1981 Dukes team, too.
Here were his numbers that year:
174 hits, 34 HRs, 137 RBI, 21 SB, .373 avg, 1.120 OPS
Garvey, who? Smith, who? Let those guys play for those other little teams. Been nice knowing you, fellas. But you're no Babe Ruth.
God, what an idiot I was.
Looking back on Marshall's career now, it doesn't look all that bad. Eleven fairly decent seasons. A few 20-homer years and 90-RBI years.
But he frustrated the hell out of me. For one, he struck out a ton. Second, it was obvious that he just didn't have the baseball skills of the players who had left. Third, he certainly didn't put up the numbers that he did in Albuquerque.
My apprenticeship was complete.
- Disappointing minor league prospects (1983)
I was a fan.
As if to make certain I really WAS a fan, the Dodgers brought up Greg Brock, whose 1982 Albuquerque numbers were just as crazy as Marshall's (44 HRs, 138 RBI, .312 AVG, 1.094 OPS). He was supposed to be the successor to Garvey. It didn't quite work out.
Then there was the disaster of '84, the heartbreak of '85, and a bunch of mediocrity that followed.
After years of being surprised by failure, I came to expect it, as anyone who is a fan does.
This is the reason why I have such an issue with front-runners. It's not the full fan experience if you root for a team that wins ALL the time.
The Dodgers are now working on 24 years without a World Series championship. Hell, 24 years without a World Series appearance. But I'm still dedicated to the Dodgers. I haven't wavered once.
By the way, this '84 Donruss Marshall card was provided generously by Jeff, who has sent me several '84 Donruss cards.
He also sent another '84 Donruss need:
Ah, Kevin Gross.
The man known to Dodger faithful as the pitcher who threw a no-hitter the year that the Dodgers finished dead last. (1992).
I got a real BIG fan badge that year.