Jeff Pearlman

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Marc Boerigter

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Great week for Kansas City.

The Royals shocked the Athletics in the Major League playoffs.

The um … eh … Royals shocked the Athletics in the Major League playoffs.

And now—the Quaz.

If you’re any sort of Kansas City Chiefs fans, the name Marc Boerigter means something. He’s your Vince Papale—the little-known, out-of-nowhere wide receiver who, in 2002, arrived from Canada (via miniscule Hastings College) to not merely make the Chiefs but—for four seasons—emerge as a weapon and special teams standout. On December 22, 2002, the man even made NFL history by catching a 99-yard touchdown pass from Trent Green to tie the league record for longest reception.

In short, he’s the classic underdog tale. The guy you root for.

These days, Boerigter lives in the Kansas City area, where he works local radio and is a senior business development associate at Randstad Technologies. Here, he considers the plight of a concussion-plagued Wes Welker, ponders when one should hang it up, explains the NFL hype machine and explains why he’d destroy Willie Gault in an arm wrestler. You can follow Marc on Twitter here.

Marc Boerigter, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Marc, so there’s a question I’ve been itching to ask an NFL wide receiver (or ex-NFL wide receiver), and here you are. Over the past few years, Wes Welker has suffered one concussion after another after another. He’s probably had, oh, eight … nine that were diagnosed. So why is it OK that he’s still playing? Do you get why he continues to throw himself out there? And should players trust that NFL trainers and doctors have their best interests in mind? Or should they worry it’s all about winning?  

MARC BOERIGTER: I have been asked this question a lot lately. At the end of the day it is up to the player to decide to keep his career going by choosing to play after all of the “documented” concussions. I had a few in my day … lots of time my bell was rung and didn’t say a word about it. Why? Because I was afraid to not play. I had to. It was my job and I didn’t want to get Wally Pipped by someone else. I know the struggle, but I also see a lot of guys who are ending early and for good reason. The worst part is none of us (doctors included) really know what is going to happen to us 20 years after playing. We are just now starting to see what the after effects are. I can only hope and pray that my long term effects from playing football will not be too bad.

As far as the doctors and trainers go, that is part of the struggle a player goes through. Are my best interests of health the main focus? For far too long their job has been to get guys ready to play for the sake of winning. That being said, it’s on the player as well. I hope that it is changing on both sides. Hope is not a good strategy though.

J.P.: You’re from Hastings, Nebraska. You played at Hastings College—an NAIA school 99 of 100 Americans have never heard of. How the hell did you make the NFL? And, when you were in college, did you consider it a realistic dream?

M.B.: I moved a whole three blocks away from home to go to school. That’s right—three blocks. I made it as far away from home as possible. I was a real late bloomer in high school. I chose Hastings because I wanted to play. I get asked a lot, “Why didn’t you go to Nebraska?” Look, I’m a Husker fan, but I was not like every other kid in Nebraska who grew up dreaming to play for the ‘Skers. Here’s how I saw it going for me: I would go walk on, maybe get to run down on the kickoff team in the Orange Bowl and pick up the glory of a bowl ring. That didn’t appeal to me.

Here’s what’s fun about Hastings: Dr. Tom Osborne is from Hastings, the first ever night football game west of the Mississippi was played on our home field (A.H. Jones Stadium), Bill Parcells was a graduate assistant and got his coaching start at Hastings College. It was football tradition … where I could play.

My father was the athletic director at Hastings. I was a ball boy on Saturdays from the time I was in junior high. I saw Jerry Drake make it to the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals. The pro football dream was possible from an NAIA school.  Jerry really paved the way for NFL scouts to look in our neck of the woods. After my Junior year I knew I might have had a shot to play professionally.

I just wanted to play. Getting paid to play (work) a game I love was icing on the cake for me. I just went out, worked hard, had some God-given ability and the road opened up for me and an opportunity arose. I took advantage of the opportunities I had. I look back now and played for eight years total professionally. Not too shabby for a kid from an NAIA school.

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J.P.: With as great detail as possible, what does it feel like to be absolutely lit up? Like, to be hit as hard as a human can possibly be hit? And what was the worst hit you ever absorbed?

M.B.: Hahahahaha. This is going to be tough to explain. I’ll start with this.  All the highlight hits you see where guys are getting lit up … those hurt! They all hurt! But it’s the ones you see coming that hurt the most. You tense up when you see it coming. Your body naturally does it as a defense mechanism. It’s why guys alligator arm balls over the middle. It’s unnatural to throw yourself in harm’s way when you know it’s coming.

Whether you see the hit coming or not, you usually end up foggy, no wind in your chest and an unusual amount of snot and saliva all over your face that somehow exited your body.

I was once knocked out by a linebacker while playing in Canada. I was run over by the late Sean Taylor on a crack block (he ran straight over me) and I had to hit the wedge on the kickoff team that felt like my neck shortened by three inches. It feels like they say it feels—like a car wreck every time.

J.P.: I’m gonna ask you a random question only seven people in the world probably care about. You played with a quarterback out of Middle Tennessee State named Jonathan Quinn. The guy had a rifle arm, he was huge, he lit it up in college—and he was an unambiguously bad NFL quarterback. Why? What was missing? And what’s the difference between great quarterbacks and bad ones?

M.B.: Ah, good old J.Q. … love that man. He had one of the biggest arms I have ever played with. He also threw the heaviest ball ever. It felt like catching a 20-pound medicine ball every time. There’s no real reason why he didn’t pan out overall. But then again, he had a nice little run as a backup quarterback in the league. Not everyone can be a starter. He did have the best Billy Bob Thorton impression from Sling Blade, though. “I like them French fried potaters mmmhmmm”

Great quarterbacks have the ability to manage split-second decisions in their heads like nobody else. They have to be risk takers, but conservative. They have to have an arm to throw rockets, deep outs, sidearm screens, finesse change-ups on shallow crosses. A great quarterback has a timer in his head to get rid of the ball. He has to be mobile enough to escape the rush. He has to have the ability to lead men. He doesn’t have to be Braveheart, but a guy who men will follow. You must trust him. He has to manage his teammates. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

At the end of the day, there are only 32 guys starting on Sundays. About five of them are elite. The next 15 are good, and the rest are JAGs (Just Another Guy). By the way, that’s all I ever was—a JAG. But JAGs are still in the league and can play ball better than anyone else trying to be a JAG.

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J.P.: Does playing in the NFL live up to the hype? I mean, people push their kids toward the goal; dream of it; salivate over it. Once you’re there, is it worth it? Why or why not?

M.B.: The NFL is the hype. It is, was and always will be about the hype. Over-hyped? Probably so. It starts from the top. Coaches work way too many hours because of the machismo of saying they work harder than anyone else. Please. Work smarter and hard, not just long. It is big case of penis envy—for the players as well. But once you are there, you wanna stay. The money, the fame. It’s the pinnacle of your profession. I mean, how many people can say that you are one of the 1,600 or so best people at their jobs in the world? Not very many. Was it worth it? Of course. I’ve been lucky. Athletics, specifically football, have taught me so many things about life in general. I will absolutely let my son play football if he so wishes. But people are starting their kids waaaay too young in tackle football. Kids shouldn’t start playing tackle until the fifth or sixth grades. And parents need to know this—YOUR CHILD DOESN’T LIVE YOUR DREAM! Let them be who they want to be. If they are lucky enough to have ability, things will take care of themselves.

J.P.: I’ve long had the belief that being a pro athlete is great; being an ex-pro athlete is the putrid pit of hell. Your prime came in your 20s, you’re always remembered for things you can no longer do, you do autograph signings and 12 people show up. How off/on am I? How was the initial adjustment for you? And has it gotten easier?

M.B.: It is what it is—cliché. Athletes die twice. When our careers end and when we actually die.

There is a lot of glory to be had in the fact that you were a professional athlete. For most of us, that defines us forever … whether in the eyes and hearts of the fans or in the eyes and hearts of our egos.

I am probably in the minority here a little bit in that I exceeded what I thought I would accomplish. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had and that I was able to take advantage of that. That said, I am a usual NFL statistic as well. I am divorced, I don’t have as much money as I should probably have and I have struggled with the loss of not playing a game any longer. You just can’t replicate the competitiveness and joy in a rec softball or sand volleyball game. You find yourself wanting to win too badly instead of enjoying drinking the beer in between innings and having the fun you should have. When it’s over, it affects everyone else around you as well. I feel good, though, that I have found the balance. I was intelligent enough to know the majority of my life would not revolve around playing. Knowing that is a big piece to the puzzle to stay sane. In the transition I have learned to lean on the people I love, and to let them love me. You learn that it is OK to have a bad day. The world will not end. You can get up tomorrow and start over. It’s a constant balance that I feel I have found.

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J.P.: With Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson in the news of late, there’s been a lot of talk about violence in the NFL, and why so many players seem to have issues. What’s your take? Is it a problem? Can we trace this to the violence of the game? To PED? To fame? All? None?

M.B.: It’s a problem. It’s a societal problem first and foremost. Athletics have always been a microcosm of society—the ups, the downs, the violence on the playing surface. Just look at bench-clearing brawls, hockey fights, big football hits. We love that part and glorify those pieces of sports. Which is a start to the problem.

I’m sure that PED and fame also play a factor. I never took anything other than simple protein shakes. But some dudes are putting all kinds of supplements into their system. Even if they are on the approved lists, has anyone actually done studies of what combinations of all of those at one time do to a person’s mind? Think about it this way—you’re a regular person who drinks a few cups of coffee every day. Try going without caffeine for a week, cold turkey. You get irritable, you have headaches and suffer throughwithdrawal. Chemically your body is not used to the changes. I think the stuff guys take make a difference in their mentality.

Ego is a better term than fame for the issue. Everyone has one … and they all grow at different rates and have a popping point. Different people react in different ways to the glory of being an NFL player. The biggest problem I have with most of the NFL punishments is it is and was never consistent. It was “due process” for guys at the top of the roster and immediate cuts for middle-to-lower end players. BS. Total BS. I believe that it’s a privilege, not a right. I don’t care how great a player you are. You are held to a higher standard because of being in the public eye

The thing that baffles me about the NFL’s reaction to the “new” tape coming out: How did that change anything? Did anyone really need to see it? The first one was enough. There is no place for that type of violence toward women or people in general. The game and Shield are not bigger than the rest of society. I mean, guys have played after killing people while drunk behind the wheel. That isn’t right. Guys deserve a second chance to make up for their mistakes and make a living. It just shouldn’t be playing professional football.

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J.P.: You played several years in the CFL—a league I’ve always enjoyed; a league many seem unwilling to respect. What’s the difference in caliber between the CFL and NFL? If a bad NFL team is having its worst day, and a great CFL team is having its best day, can the Canadian club pull off a win?

M.B.: The biggest difference is the overall size and speed of guys. There are tons of NFL-caliber players up north. Most are just undersized for their positions to play in the NFL. Here’s how to view a matchup of CFL vs NFL. Two different styles of game. If a bad NFL team is having its worst day, the CFL would win. I actually think it would be fun to do a home-and-home series. CFL wins with CFL rules. Can you imagine the NFL guys with an extra guy on the field? Bigger field, no fair catch… oh and the ROUGE! Heads would explode. More people should respect that league. Lots of good coaches and players have made the transition to the NFL from there. The players who don’t succeed in the CFL are guys who “just want to get some film” and get back to the NFL. The ones who do respect it and have a great career up there, or head back south for a nice run.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

M.B.: I have a few: My NFL record 99-yard touchdown reception. That’s a club shared by, I think, 13 or 14 of us. It will never be broken unless the NFL goes to the Canadian-sized field, so I can always hang my hat on that one. My first professional catch in the CFL went for six yards. It was a nice way to start a career. The 2001 Grey Cup Championship is another. And lastly, my first NFL game in 2002 in Cleveland. I had zero catches but I made two special teams tackle. It was one of the craziest endings ever to a game thanks to Dwayne Rudd and his helmet toss, and John Tait picking up the ball and rumbling to field goal range.

The worst—the first time I was ever cut/fired in Green Bay in 2006. It’s such a hard feeling to describe. And the 2003 season playoff loss against the Colts, at home, in a game in which neither team punted. What a game … but devastating.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MARC BOERIGTER:

• Different ways your last name is misspelled?: Too many. Most people try to slide an H in there somewhere. I can’t even begin to try to spell half of the pronunciations I have heard over the years either.

• Five reasons one should make Hastings, Nebraska his/her next vacation destination?: Hastings College Campus, Kool Aid Days (Hastings is the where Kool-Aid was invented) The Hastings Museum, Eileen’s Cookies (the original) and Big Dally’s Deli. Oh, and Duncan Field. The baseball field in Hastings has dimensions that are 370, 405, 408, 405 and 367. There’s a lot of history in that park for baseball buffs.

• Five sweetest and five ugliest NFL uniforms?: In no particular order: Best: Packers, Bears (with the black shoes), Jets, Chiefs, Chargers’ powder blues. The five worst: Tampa Bay in a landslide, Saints, Jags, Oakland and Seattle.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Alain Vigneault, designer sunglasses, Theo Huxtable, Wall Street Journal, Wayne Chrebet, Bob Barker, Philadelphia cheese steaks, Ralph Tresvant, people who wear sunglasses indoors, long walks on the beach: 1. Who doesn’t love walks on the beach? I prefer the lake since I don’t live near a beach; 2. Theo Huxtable—Cosby Show was great; 3. Wall Street Journal; 4. Wayne Chrebet—great player; 5. Bob Barker. If this is Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore, he rises on this list; 6. Designer sunglasses; 7. Alain Vigneault—should be higher probably, but look at who he has had in net. 8. Philly cheese steaks—love them, but a ribeye shouldn’t be sliced thin and chopped up. It should be think and on a grill. I am from Nebraska; 9. Ralph Tresvant—New Edition reference! Nice work, Jeff. He probably should be higher, too,but I’m pretty sure he has done No. 10 since he was in an R&B group; 10. People who wear sunglasses indoors—Douche central. Is it really that bright inside? Medical conditions excluded

• You can either have $200,000 or the superpower of never having to poop again. Which do you take?: This is easy … take the money. Every guy in America uses the bathroom to “get away” and every guy has taken a shit that makes you feel like a million bucks afterwards. Might as well take the $200k and feel like a million bucks. Best of both worlds.

• Who wins in an arm wrestling match between you and Willie Gault?: Arm wrestling today? Me! A race on the other hand—Willie. I’d need a Seinfeld-inspired head start to beat him

• In exactly 28 words, your argument for or against neck tattoos: Ummmm, No.No. No. No. No. No. Tattoos are OK. I don’t have any, but why on earth would you put one there? Makes zero sense to me.

• We give you a start—right now—in an NFL game. What are your stats?: One catch for eight yards. Hitch route. Blew a hammy trying to make a move past the corner in addition to the lower back tightness. Left the game after one series.  (out of shape).

• Are you afraid of death? Why or why not?: Yes/No. I pray that I have a lot of time left. I have a lot I want to do yet. But if, for some reason, I don’t, I’m comfortable that I know where I am going.

• Climate change—real problem or big hoax?: Real problem. But I think the damage has been done. We can try to change, but I’m not convinced it will help.

“Your cookies are in the Nugget box.”

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Tonight, while driving across the state of Tennessee, I stopped at a middle-of-nowhere McDonalds. I ordered a drink and two cookies. Total: $2.20.

The drive-thru wait felt eternal. I was in a bad mood, still looking at 100 miles to go, tired and sagging and …

“Your cookies are in the Nugget box.”

That’s what the woman at the drive-thru window said to me. Wait, I’ll write it again: “Your cookies are in the Nugget box.”

I can’t fully explain this, but that’s the friggin’ quote of the century. I actually can’t say it without laughing.

Anyhow, gotta go. My cookies are in the Nugget box.

PS: This replaces my previous favorite quote, which came from a waitress long ago. While eating dinner with Phil Taylor, I struck up a conversation with the woman. “I have very loose vagina lips,” she said—for absolutely no reason.

Mean

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Celebrities are people.

They truly are. I once spoke with Lou Piniella, Seattle Mariners manager at the time, as he smoked a cigarette, ate a hoagie and urinated. It was gross. I’ve been farted on be celebrities. I’ve had celebrities cry in front of mine. I’ve seen celebrities freak out, rage, shout, laugh. Celebrities make tons of money. Celebrities go broke. Celebrities are born. Celebrities die.

In short, celebrities are human.

Really, they are.

That’s what makes the front page of the New York Post so … awful. So … ridiculous.

So mean.

I know the photo was a PR thing. I know the Clintons are political animals. I get it. But the birth of a grandchild is amazing. It’s a beautiful thing, newspaper political leanings be damned. It should be ignored but, if not ignored, celebrated. The 42nd president of the United States and the former secretary of state are now Grandma and Grandpa. That’s fantastic.

The front page, ahem, wasn’t.

But here’s what gets me: Post editors love this shit. They love the angry reaction; love the attention. It’s never about righteousness. Solely about sells and views.

So, congrats, New York Post.

You continue to suck.

On Paul Konerko …

With all the Derek Jeter attention, I almost forgot that Paul Konerko also retired.

Which reminds me of a story …

Back when I was at Sports Illustrated, my editors assigned me a piece on Paul Konerko, at the time a slugging White Sox first baseman leading a hot team toward the playoffs. I was excited—Chicago was a great city, Konerko was a terrific player, nice-guy reputation, etc … etc.

So I flew out to the Windy City, arrived early at Comiskey Park, planted myself by Konerko’s locker and waited for his arrival. When he showed up, I introduced myself, congratulated him on the fantastic season, told him Sports Illustrated assigned me to write a lengthy profile of …

“No thanks,” he said.

Um … what?

“No thanks,” he said again.

I was befuddled—and he saw the confusion on my face. “Honestly,” he said, “I’m flattered. I truly am. But I believe in the team over the individual, and I really don’t want to draw any more attention to myself. It’s nothing personal. I’m sure you’re a good guy. But if it’s OK with you, I’m gonna pass.”

This had never happened before. Never, ever, ever, ever.

I was speechless.

And … dazzled.

Paul Konerko wasn’t being a dick.

He was being a ballplayer.

Jeter. Sigh. Jeter. Sigh.

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This is weird, but I’m pretty sad about the retirement of Derek Jeter.

I’ve never spent much time thinking about Jeter. I’ve been in group interview settings with him, but only had a single one-on-one encounter with the man. It came during the 2000 season. The Yankees were visiting Atlanta to play the Braves. I was covering the series, when my editor at Sports Illustrated, called. “We need you to ask Jeter about his relationship with Mariah Carey,” he said. “There are rumors they’re dating.”

The last thing I wanted to do—ever—was ask Derek Jeter about Mariah Carey. It was a stupid topic that concerned me, oh, not at all. But I worked for SI, and this was my boss. So, when I spotted Jeter alone, I embarrassingly tiptoed up to his locker in the visiting clubhouse. “Hey, Derek, my name is Jeff Pearlman,” I said. “This is embarrassing and dumb and I don’t expect you to answer, but my editor says I need to ask you about Mariah Carey …”

“I understand,” he said. “But you’re right. I’m not gonna talk about it.”

I left, content, dignity somewhat restored.

I digress. That was my Jeter interaction. So why am I down, when ballplayers I’ve covered retire every day … every week … every year? Because, in my eyes, Jeter was youth personified. He was the kid shortstop who lifted the team to shocking heights in 1996. He was the glue in the middle infield. He was born two years after I was, which meant he was younger—but in the same range.

With his exit from the game, it seems pretty official that we’re both old. Which certainly beats being dead, but comes with its own complexities. I remember being a teen, wondering what aging felt like. I remember thinking the same thing at 20 … 21 … 22. I was flexible and peppy and eager. I stayed out late, got up late, played tons of basketball, my body always responded. But 42 isn’t 22. It just isn’t.

And Derek Jeter is retired.

Liam

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Not sure why I noticed this, but Liam Payne—one of the guys from One Direction—is trending right now. Which is crazy entertaining.

The young ladies looooove Liam, apparently. Having witnessed the Michael Jackson phenomenon, the New Edition phenomenon, the New Kids on the Block phenomenon, the Backstreet Boys phenomenon, the Nsync phenomenon … well, I get it. I truly do. Teenage hormones run wild, and all they want to do is meet Liam because, dammit, he would love them and comfort them and (OMG!) marry them.

Here’s what I’d like to see as the next reality show: Just once, I want a girl dreaming of Liam to actually meet Liam. I want her to spend a week with him. She can sit with him as he takes a dump, smell the cigarette smoke oozing off his clothes, see how he blows snot from each nostril. She can listen to his voice in the raw, watch him pick zits from his forehead, absorb his breath after a tuna sandwich. In a way, I went through something like this when I started covering sports. I entered the Major League clubhouses a wide-eyed boy, and exited begging never to return.

It’s the harsh reality of living. That few things—if fully explored—ever meet the hype.

Even Liam.

What about Gerald?

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Um, Gerald, off to the side, please …

So Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium was amazing. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Perfect. I loved everything about it, from the standing ovations to the hits to the final triumphant at-bat.

There’s just one thing that irked me.

If you watched coverage of the game, well, anywhere, you know that Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez attended. They were there, supporting their Yankee brother on the stadium infield, fellow soldiers in the Bronx Bomber baseball army that Jeter helped elevate to extraordinary levels.

Almost no one, however, mentioned Gerald Williams—former Yankee outfield and Jeter’s, ahem closest baseball pal.

He was there. On the field. Alongside the others. He hugged Jeter, just as the others did. He smiled and laughed, just as the others did. Gerald played 14 Major League seasons, compiled 780 hits and 85 homers. Was he an all-time legend? Certainly not. But Williams had some excellent years, including 21 homers and 89 RBI with the 2000 Devil Rays.

So why was no one talking about Gerald Williams? Simple. He didn’t fit the desired narrative. He’s not a household name, not a member of the Core Four, not a managerial guru like Torre. He’s just a friendly dude who loved and admired Derek Jeter.

That should be enough.

Johnny F-ing Appleseed

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Hate to admit this, but I don’t really feel like attending the Johnny Appleseed Celebration and Birthday at my son’s school today.

Does that make me a dick? A bad parent? Perhaps. But it also makes me an honest one. I have tons and tons of work to do. I’m transcribing the never-ending interview. My book deadline is creeping up, I’m away part of next week.

I know kids are cute. I know my son is cute. I love the boy as much as anything in the world. I mean that. But my kids are 11 and 8, meaning I’ve attended, oh, 765,765 similar events. Class, sit down. Class, behave. Today, we’re going to talk about [X]. Class, let’s …

Oy.

And yet … I have no choice. None. I’m overwhelmed, but I’m not heartless. The idea of my son sitting there alone, one of three or four kids without parental representation … well, no. No, no, no. Can’t do.

So I’m going to hear all about Johnny Motherfuckin’ Appleseed.

Expect a full report.

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Graig Nettles wore No. 9. Hence, I think of him.

Graig Nettles wore No. 9. Hence, I think of him.

I randomly typed a number above. Most people probably see it as nine digits. This, off the top of my head, is what I envision …

Roy White

Kerry Collins

Marty Lyons

Al Oliver

Don Mattingly

Glenn Foley

Babe Ruth

It’s a disease. A beautiful, awful, weird, funky disease. The number 33 isn’t, for me, two threes. It’s Ken Griffey, Sr. as a Yankee—after his first season of wearing No. 6. The number 1244 isn’t 1244. It’s Roger Staubach, Reggie Jackson. Or Joe Namath, Lenny Dykstra, Lenny Dykstra. 9988 is Mark Gastineau, Al Toon. Or it could be Wayne Gretzky, Drew Pearson. Or Graig Nettles, Graig Nettles, Michael Irvin. A 7 is almost always Ken O’Brien, but it can be Mickey Mantle. A 0 is Al Oliver. Always Al Oliver. I can’t see 24 and not think Freeman McNeil, unless I see 24 and think Rickey Henderson with the Yankees. Or Ken Griffey, Jr. Or Paul Blair, Paul Molitor. Which is weird, because Derek Jeter has worn No. 2 for two decades. Yet, to me, he never figures in. Or figures.

A 41 is Tom Seaver. Always Tom Seaver. A 30 is Ken Griffey, Sr. in Cincinnati, an 85 Wesley Walker, a 3 Babe Ruth.

When I was a kid, the neighborhood idol was Dave Fleming, who wound up winning 17 games for the Seattle Mariners. Dave wore No. 16 in college, No. 35 in the Majors. Both work.

My house number in New Rochelle was 89—a nod to the great Mark Bavaro. Or Yogi Berra, Drew Brees. Now I’m at 28701, which oozes Jessie Barfield, Mantle, Billy Martin.

Or not if you’re talking Barfield’s Toronto years.

When he wore No. 29

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life