First of all, my funky friends, I realize that I must apologize for searing your retinas with this image of a BVDs-clad, appendix-scarred Earl Weaver — but this is far and away one of my favorite baseball photos of the 1970s. Because other than Oscar Gamble's afro, nothing says "70s Baseball" quite like a couple of cans of Schlitz, a lit cigarette, a crappy Coke clock, a TV (probably black and white) with a single antenna, a shirtless Weaver, and a sweaty, shaggy-haired Don Stanhouse in a "Stan The Man Unusual" t-shirt. I can pretty much guarantee that you will never see anything approaching this tableau ever re-enacted in a major league clubhouse...
The pic was taken in 1979, at the peak of Don Stanhouse's career. Stanhouse had kicked around for several years with the Texas Rangers and Montreal Expos as a part-time starter and occasional long reliever, before coming to Baltimore in the same December '77 trade that sent Joe Kerrigan and Gary Roenicke to the Orioles in exchange for Rudy May, Randy Miller and Bryn Smith. Given a shot as the O's closer, Stanhouse went on to post the two best seasons of his career (6-9 with a 2.89 ERA and 24 saves in '78, followed by a 7-3 record with a 2.85 ERA, 21 saves and an All Star team selection in '79) ... and give Earl Weaver several minor heart attacks in the process. Weaver, in turn, inadvertently gave Stanhouse the nickname "Fullpack," after grousing to reporters that he consumed a full pack of smokes every time Stanhouse — who typically walked more batters than he struck out — took the mound.
Stanhouse, dubbed "Stan The Man Unusual" by the late Mike Flanagan, was one of the more colorful characters of 70s baseball (and believe me, that's saying something). The cat's crown of curls would have made Harpo Marx honk his horn in jealousy, while you could have probably squeezed at least half a pint of beer (and god knows what other substances) from that moustache on any given occasion. Fullpack loved Cadillacs and ladies ("Tell me one person in the world who doesn't like women," he once quipped to the Baltimore Sun. "My trouble is that I like too many of them."), he kept a stuffed gorilla in his locker, and his pre-game ritual included scaring the shit out of anyone in earshot with primal screams. He also drove opposing hitters nuts with his agonizingly slow windup and delivery — a movement so glacial, his teammates would often tease him about falling asleep between pitches.
Unfortunately, a back injury drove Fullpack out of the game just a few years after he helped take Weaver and the '79 Orioles all the way to the World Series, where they were beaten in seven games by the "We Are Family" Pirates. He's bounced back nicely in the business world since then (as detailed in this excellent Baseball Savvy article), and he's also popped up on the Big Hair & Plastic Grass Facebook page, where he occasionally leaves comments under photos of his former colleagues (such as "Roscoe P. Foreskin" under a pic of Ross Grimsley).
I've also had the pleasure of hearing from him via email on occasion, including the time he jokingly (I think) threatened to sue me for accidentally misspelling his name as "Standhouse" in the first edition of Big Hair & Plastic Grass. And now, alas, I appear to have inadvertantly bummed him out again.
"Can't believe you dicks forgot my birthday!" read the email I received from him this morning. And while we did give him birthday props two days ago on Facebook, I must admit that I was too swamped with deadlines that day to give him a proper shout-out on this page. So, Happy Belated Birthday, Fullpack — sorry we missed it. Hope it was a most unusual one, in the best possible way!