In what’s already been a momentous month, I reached another milestone of sorts on Sunday. I was quoted, and this website was mentioned, in a mainstream media outlet for the first time. The San Jose Mercury News published a column by San Francisco Giants beat writer Dan Brown about the odd careers of the Giants’ minor league coaches. Sound obscure? Well, Brown starts his article with a mention of Mario Mendoza, and within a few lines has worked his way (up? down? three steps into the hole?) to Fred Stanley and Lenn Sakata. In other words, he’s in the Futility Infielder’s wheelhouse.
Brown had an idea for a lighthearted article on the coaches a couple of weeks ago, and hit this article of mine while Googling Fred “Chicken” Stanley. We exchanged a few emails on the likes of Stanley and Sakata (who’s due for a Wall of Fame entry on the basis of this photo I took in 1986 and the story behind it) before he called me last Wednesday. We spoke on the phone for about 15 minutes, touching on Mendoza, Stanley, and Duane Kuiper (former second baseman and current Giants announcer who hit 1 homer in his 3600 career plate appearances) as well as players at the other end of the talent spectrum.
My site and I get two mentions in Brown’s piece, the first a few paragraphs down in the article’s introduction:
“I think people relate to players like that because they know how hard a game baseball can be,” said fan Jay Jaffe, a 33-year-old New Yorker. “Most of us are more like the Mario Mendozas of the world. We can identify with a scrappy middle infielder more than we can with a superstar like Reggie Jackson.”
Jaffe, a graphic designer, put together a Web site two years ago called Futilityinfielder.com. It celebrates the little guys such as Stanley, Mendoza and Luis Sojo in a veritable Disneyland of overachievers. It’s the scrappiest place on earth.
Further down, under Stanley’s profile, Brown writes:
Jaffe, whose Web site salutes the offensively challenged, describes Stanley as “an exemplary member of the infielderus futilis classification.” Stanley never hit better than .238 in any season in which he had at least 50 at-bats. He never drove in more than 20 runs in a season. (A’s shortstop Miguel Tejada had 20 RBIs in a month five times in 2002).
Brown gets into the swing of things as well, referring to Stanley’s defensive prowess (“a free-range Chicken, if you will…”) and showing a general appreciation for niches these coaches occupy in baseball history.
Anyway, being interviewed by a real reporter was a lot of fun (Brown told me that our conversation took place between ones with Kuiper and Peter Gammons), and seeing my name pop up in front of several thousand unsuspecting readers might yield a few interesting replies from far-off places. “The scrappiest place on earth” has all the makings of a good slogan for this site. So thank you to Dan Brown, and thanks to any of you who stopped by this site after reading his article. And to Lenn Sakata and Chicken Stanley, on the infinitesimal chance that you’re reading this, thank you for exemplifying the spirit in which this site was named.