On the 40th anniversary of “The Bad News Bears,” I tracked down once-chubby catcher Mike Engelberg for his observations on the “Fat Panda” controversy with overweight Boston Red Sox star Pablo Sandoval.
You can read my interview at The Hall of Very Good baseball blog.
In the classic movie, Engelberg got melted chocolate all over his uniform and the ball. 12-year-old actor Gary Cavagnaro wound up losing 70 pounds and gave up his movie career. The producers didn’t think a skinny catcher would be “funny” in the sequel.
Cavagnaro, now a 52-year-old sales manager for a multinational electronics company (we all have to grow up), is a fascinating guy!
P.S. I recently defended the besieged Sandoval in a WBUR column, “We Are All Fat Panda.”
P.P.S. The awesome 1977 Mike Engelberg baseball card at the top of this post was designed by the Dick Allen Hall of Fame blog.
Consider this: Every time that Erik and I have posed with the Dustin Pedroia height chart at Fenway Park, he has gone on the disabled list. Mere minutes after this photograph was taken, the Sox second baseman pulled his hamstring.
Granted, this has only happened once, but I wonder if we might be bad karma for the 2015 last-place Red Sox?
I say this despite once having the following riveting conversation with Pedroia in a hotel lobby:
Me: “Hey, good game tonight!”
Pedroia: (Making direct eye contact) “Thanks.”
That historic moment was documented on CNN if you’d like to learn more.
I was a Red Sox fan growing up, but how could I NOT love Kansas City Royals closer Dan Quisenberry, the guy who led the league in saves throwing underhand!
Handwritten letters are endangered species.
About the only places they live on are birthday cards, thank you notes and summer camp letters, which kids are forced to write because nostalgia keeps their parents signing those checkbooks (another endangered medium).
On the occasion of one of my favorite childhood baseball players, Dan Quisenberry, missing out on the Baseball Hall of Fame, I just wrote a column for The Atlantic reminiscing about the thrill of receiving a two-page letter from him in 1981. (“How Athletes Ensure Immortality: Not all greats make the Hall of Fame. Not all Hall of Famers are remembered. But a player who forges personal connections with fans with live on.”)
You can read the story here, but I’d also like to share the full text of the letter for the benefit of the world’s Kansas City Royals fans — or anyone who still cherishes the power of handwritten letters.
The idea of a professional athlete, let alone the American League’s best closer, taking the time to write a two-page letter to a kid he thought was “creative,” is unfathomable to me as a jaded adult. Sadly, Quisenberry died of brain cancer at age 45 — younger than the age that many of the kids watching him pitch would be now.
Here’s Dan’s letter for you to read for yourself:
Dan Quisenberry Letter – Page 1 of 2 (Double click to enlarge)
** Continue reading
Just stumbled across this advertising masterpiece in my 1975 Boston Red Sox souvenir program, the same precious archive that stores the Bob Montgomery denim leisure suit from Jordan Marsh.
Strangely, I never knew the real origins of Bill Lee’s “Spaceman” nickname. But it’s the “cool guy” hat (reminiscent of Rudy from Fat Albert) and the turntable that make me smile.
Bill Lee has long been a media darling for saying what’s on his mind, demonstrated on this autographed baseball below:
Former Red Sox star Bill Lee sometimes autographs baseballs “Yankees Suck Pond H2O.”
I caught up with Lee recently for an Atlantic Magazine story on the waning Red Sox-Yankees T-Shirt War.
This quote from our conversation has nothing to do with stereo speakers or 1970s fashion, but it sums up life:
“Without rivalries, there is no game,” Lee adds. “You have to respect your opponent, but when your opponent is down, you must step on them and never let them get up. You want to make sure the enemy isn’t still breathing.”
CLASSY AND CONFIDENT: Yankees Captain Derek Jeter humors Red Sox fans at Fenway Park. (Photo courtesy of Sully’s Brand)
I grew up with a homemade “Official Yankees Hater” poster in my childhood bedroom.
But I never understood Red Sox fans who hate Derek Jeter, who probably has taken the brunt of the mockery on Boston’s raunchy souvenir t-shirts over the years.
Turns out that these kind of crass souvenirs don’t sell well in Boston anymore, but they are selling like hotcakes in the Bronx.
I explore the fascinating reasons why in The Atlantic:
Bronx t-shirt vendor “Bald” Vinny Milano shows off his wares after a Yankees-A’s game. (Double click to read the story)
Like all NY Post coverage of landmark events, this Khadafy farewell is an instant collector's item. (Click pic for more info)
There are now doubts as to who actually killed Moammar Gaddafi, but the accuracy and brilliance of the subhead cannot be challenged.
Two more thoughts on the drama:
1. Khadaffy (we’re using the different spellings to take advantage of SEO options) died like a villain in a Carl Hiaasen novel. As his killers (who could be as mean as Gadaffy) put it, he lived his last moments like a rat in a sewer pipe.
2. A damn shame that President Ronald Reagan didn’t take Khaddaffy out in his reprisal strike after the Berlin disco bombing. Then the Libyan dictator would have been offed by a Chicago Cubs fan.
For more “Culture Schlock” Libya coverage, see Khadaffy’s earlier vow not to surrender “like a woman.”