Breakfast with a Big Leaguer

Players of the 1970’s and 1980’s are so familiar to me. I recognize their faces way more than I do those of current players. It’s not a rare skill. My guess is that everyone who reads this blog has the same ability. Because of that connection, it’s more exciting to meet a non-star from that era than a star from today. (Maybe. I’ve never met Bryce Harper or Mike Trout).

I met David Jordan a few years ago at Bergino Baseball Clubhouse when I did the first big event for Split Season. David’s a cool dude and we both have baseball and finance as major interests. In 2015, David was working on a book that would become Fastball John, the autobiography of ex-big league hurler John D’Acquisto. Both guys were in Cooperstown on Wednesday and, since I had a meeting on revising tourist accommodation laws (being Mayor isn’t all glamorous), I wasn’t going to make their author’s event at the Hall of Fame. Instead, the three of us met for breakfast at Doubleday Café.

I went on a search for doubles to bring. I’m not above getting stuff autographed, when appropriate. (I never never do that at Hall parties, for example. That is uncool.) I had no interest in finding John’s 1974 rookie card, where he gets ¼ of the real estate (the other ¾  are Bob Apodaca, Dick Baney and Mike Wallace). I didn’t have an extra 1975 or 1976, but I did have a spare 1977.

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It’s de rigueur to mock Topps’ airbrushing skills. The usual vandalized photos are atrocious, but look at this card. It’s amazing. D’Acquisto, still a Giant, the Candlestick Park setting the giveaway, has been repainted from head to toe. Unlike every airbrushed monstrosity I can think of, the cap, the colors, the letters and numbers are perfectly in proportion. No giant bowl for a cap, no electric neon uniform colors that no team has ever worn. I’m impressed. Is there a better airbrushed card out there?

We chatted for over an hour about baseball, Cooperstown, trading, Doug DeCinces, and more. John talked about going from worshipping your heroes to knowing them and, in my small way, I could relate. Most famous people I’ve met have been great, but there are a few I wished I hadn’t encountered face to face. Not John D’Acquisto. He was all sorts of awesome to sit down with. He signed my card and I bought the ebook of Fastball John as soon as I got home.

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Walking from my house to Main St., I found, in a too perfect Cooperstown moment, a baseball on the sidewalk. I brought it with me to breakfast, figuring I’d give it to some kid on my way out. John asked if I wanted it signed, but I told him it wasn’t necessary for me, I was going to get rid of it. But, I thought it might be neat if he wanted to sign it and give it to some 12-year-old. As I left breakfast, I saw ex-big leaguer John D’Acquisto, talking to a family, probably explaining who he was. Maybe they believed him.

Author: Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.

6 thoughts on “Breakfast with a Big Leaguer”

  1. Did D’Acquisto. say anything about the airbrushing or any of his other cards? 1977T is a much better choice for an autograph then the 4up RC.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s never occurred to me that D’Acquisto’s ’77 Topps card is airbrushed, but so it is! (He played all of 3 games for the Cardinals). A fine job for the time.

    I get a huge kick out of talking to players from my childhood and it is a much bigger thrill than talking to a current player. I once interviewed former Cardinals/Blue Jays pitcher Tom Bruno, who was participating on a pro fishing tournament at the time. Even though he never appeared on his own Topps card (he did in OPC), I recognized him immediately from his ’79 rookie card (the one better known as the Terry Kennedy rookie card). I had a great time talking to him, and I think he enjoyed it, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is definitely a cool post (I am so envious of your locale, Jeff, of course), and, my gosh, that is the best airbrushed card I have ever seen. There must be a story behind how Topps had it done, and, yes, you’d assume it’s likely others in that set were done well, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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