So I’ve become pretty friendly with Ellis Valentine, who many know best from his time as an All-Star outfielder with the Montreal Expose.
Ellis is a great guy, and I’ve been meaning to buy my son one of his signed bobblehead dolls. However, when I visited Ellis’ old website it was gone. I DMed him, and he directed me here.
Now, alas, I can’t leave.
Yes, I have work to do. Places to go. Things to see. But … hoooollllllllly shit. I feel as if I just took a headfirst dive into my boyhood. The randomness. The quirkiness. The … strangeness. Or, put this way: For a mere $8, Benny Ayala will sign whatever you send him.
Benny Ayala! Benny Ayala! C’mon, you remember! The 10-year Major League backup whose lifetime .251 average and 38 career home runs scream … well, I don’t know what the numbers scream. But would I happily rock a Benny Ayala-autographed T-shirt with this image …
… on the front?
The names are just dazzling. Phil Bradley! Mike Norris! Rafael Landestoy! Marvin Freeman! I can smell the baseball card with each utterance. A couple of my favorites …
• 1. Randy Johnson
Why: Because it’s Randy Johnson! Only, eh, not that Randy Johnson.
• 2. Terry Bross
Why: Because I grew up a die-hard, die-hard Mets fan, and I’ve only heard of Terry Bross because, well, I grew up a die-hard, die-hard Mets fan. His career numbers: 10 games, 0-0 record.
• 3. Junior Ortiz
Why: Because there are many sentences I never thought I’d read in my life. And one of them is, “Junio is available for autograph sessions.” But—Junior is available for autograph sessions! And here’s the thing: Were I at a Junior Ortiz autograph session, I’d be psyched. To 12-year-old Jeffie, Junior Ortiz personified cool.
• 4. Al Oliver
Why: This is where shit gets personal. Back in 1985 or 86 a bunch of us took a walk to the antique store in downtown Mahopac. The shop had a big crate of old baseball cards, each one $1. I found Al Oliver’s 1969 rookie card—the one that featured Big Al pictured alongside Richie Hebner. That night I looked inside a price guide and saw the card listed at, like, $80.
“Eighty bucks!” I said. “I’m gonna be rich!”