ESPN Classic is running old This Week in Baseballs, quenching humanity's thirst for decade-old T.W.I.B. notes about Doyle Alexander. Though spring training has started, there really isn't much video coverage to be found. If you aren't in Arizona or Florida, you're just reading the daily notes in the paper. Running the old shows is great to get our fix right before the season is broadcast to us.
There were a couple of Giants-related bits recently. One show centered around the 1993 All-Star Game, with brief cameos from Barry Bonds and Robby Thompson. When Juan Gonzalez hit a homerun in the Derby, there was a shot of the reaction from the dugout. Other players were cheering, but the camera was magnetically drawn to the flowing, majestic mane of Rod Beck. It was like the cover of a romance novel. And yet, not. For closers to be even considered for my all-time team, they would need to have a Look. Beck qualifies like no one but Rollie Fingers, and he had one heck of a season in '93.
The older T.W.I.B. I caught was from 1978, and actually had a feature on the Giants. The team was a surprise contender, and the profile revolved around the pitching staff. After interviews with John Montefusco and clips of Jim Barr, there was a bit of attention paid to Vida Blue. Ol' Vida Blue. As an ex-Giant, he just isn't talked about enough.
The quick clips shown confirmed Vida had to wring the charisma dripping from his clothes throughout the day. A comebacker nearly decapitated him, and he caught it, rolling around on the mound several seconds after the play was over just for entertainment value. Another shot showed fans cheering, and Vida on the field, manically playing up the audience before that sort of thing was de rigueur. And, of course, he had just his first name on the back of his jersey. Way ahead of his time.
My personal story with Vida dates back to 1985, a year that found people freebasing cocaine and fiddling with Rubik's Cubes for hours on end. And that was just the bleachers. Another fad was the Cabbage Patch Doll. One of the other seven season-ticket holders for the '85 season made knockoff Cabbage Patch Dolls of Giants' players. My mom got one, but not after an internal debate as to whose likeness it would be of.
The '85 Giants were some kind of wretched, and the decision was made that only Vida Blue had any guarantee of being remembered twenty years in the future. In retrospect, a Hac Man doll would probably be cool enough to serve as a ringbearer in my wedding, but the Vida decision was the correct one. We approached Vida before a game for an autograph. He looked at the thing, and yelped, "Now you ain't going to be sticking pins in this thing are you?" It seems like an obvious quip, but it came so unexpectedly, and both the timing and look were perfect. The doll still roams the house to this day.
His career was filled with ups and downs, and he'll always be remember primarily as an Athletic, but he was one of my favorite Giants growing up. Does anyone else have Vida stories?