I have waxed rhapsodic in the past (in my book, on this blog and for The Hall of Very Good) about Dave "The Cobra" Parker and his deadly cannon arm. But as Montreal Expos fans — and any baseball fan who was paying attention in the late 70s — can tell you, there was one outfielder whose arm might have been even deadlier than The Cobra's: Ellis Valentine.
In 1978, a year after Parker gunned down 26 runners from right field, Valentine nailed 25 — and took home a Gold Glove Award for his troubles. As if it wasn't enough that the dude was 6'4", could hit for power and average — .293 with 28 doubles and 25 homers in 1977, followed by .289 with 35 doubles and 25 homers in '78 — and looked (at least on his '77 Topps card, above) like Jim Kelly's beefy younger brother, the man had a Howitzer hanging from his right shoulder. Dig this awesome 12-second clip of the Ellis arm in action:
The late-70s Expos' outfield of Valentine, Andre Dawson and Warren Cromartie may not have been the greatest of all-time, but it sure was the most badass OF trio I can think of; I wasn't an Expos fan, per se, but those three guys were exciting as hell to watch. They brought the funk to the dreadfully un-funky Olympic Stadium — literally as well as figuratively, as it turns out. Check out "Ellis Valentine's Infinite Playlist," a piece I helped Instream Sports put together, wherein the music-loving Mr. Valentine picks (and holds forth upon) his ten favorite party jams of the era. Need some funk for your weekend? EV will provide! (The funk-loving folks at Deadspin apparently dug the piece, too, and boosted my Amazon sales numbers by calling me "The leading chronicler of 70s baseball." Thanks, y'all — beers on me!)
And speaking of music, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who came out last Friday night to my "AOR Demolition" event at Liar's Club in Chicago, where I read from the new paperback edition of Big Hair & Plastic Grass, and then took a sledgehammer to a stack of crappy rock records from the 70s (and a few from the 80s, just on principle), thereby redressing the lingering karmic and musical imbalance caused by the destruction of so much sweet funk and disco wax at 1979's "Disco Demolition Night" at Comiskey Park. I'd also like to thank the Liar's Club folks (esp. Herb Rosen and Mike O'Connell) for the hospitality, DJ John San Juan for expertly spinning the 70s AM gold, and Sarah from The Book Cellar for schlepping and selling copies of BH&PG. I love the above photo (taken by the lovely Miss Katie Howerton), which makes it look I'm sacrificing the wax to the Disco Ball God — which, in a sense, is exactly what happened. (Click HERE to see actual "AOR Demolition" footage. It's not for the faint of heart, or REO Speedwagon fans.)
The whole Chicago trip was fantastic, if far too short. We saw a ton of old friends, ate a ton of great food, and somehow managed to dodge most of the inclement weather that's troubled the Midwest. And thanks to my friend Rich Doherty, who kindly donated his kick-ass seats to the cause, we even managed to squeeze in a game at Wrigley Field — and were even treated to a "rare as hen's teeth" Cubs victory, to boot. It had been seven years since I last set foot in Wrigley, and I'd been gone so long I'd almost started to believe the "Wrigley is a dump" rhetoric. But the place looked absolutely gorgeous (even if I coulda done without the Under Armor ads on the outfield walls), and remains as glorious a place to watch a major league ballgame as I've ever been. Fuck the haters; may the old park stand for another century, at least!
In a moment of magical serendipity, my buddy Eric were nursing our post-AOR Demolition hangovers Saturday afternoon with a leisurely trudge through Lincoln Park, when we stumbled upon an old-timey, er, VINTAGE baseball game in action. There was something thrillingly surreal about the whole affair, which included an umpire who looked like Dr. John in a top hat, and who was perched upon a stool 20 feet to the right of home plate. Made me want to find a similar league to play in on my home turf; alas, I can't seem to find one in Southern California...
Speaking of the Windy City, I'll be talking live with the great Chicago sportswriter Steve Rosenbloom today (Saturday) at 11 am CST on WSCR-AM 670, aka "The Score". I remember having a great on-air chat with Steve when BH&PG first came out in 2010, so I'm looking forward to another round. Click HERE to listen online. And via the modern miracle of the telephone, I'll also be on the air in Philadelphia this Sunday evening; I'll be talking 70s baseball with Phil Allen, who's possibly the world's biggest Bake McBride fan, a little after 6 pm EST on 97.5 The Fanatic.
Okay, gotta boogie. But check back soon, 'cuz I've got some good news regarding my next book that I'm gonna lay on you in the not-too-distant future. 'Til then, keep the glide in your stride like Arnold Ray McBride...