Forgotten Player of the Moment – MIKE PAGLIARULO
(by PHIL RIPPA)
Ah, the blinders of youth. When I was in Middle School, we had a variety of projects that we endured – the rocket kit, the crappy car with CO2 cartridge, the make a bizarre object out of wood while keeping all limbs attached (It took me till I was basically a father of my own to realize that maybe letting 12-year-old boys use jigsaws and drill presses might not have been the smartest thing in the world. Oh yeah. I still remember the day the jigsaw blade snapped. Mmm… shrapnel. At least, I always knew where the eyewash station was. Oh yeah – the sights and sounds of my teacher frantically trying to prevent boys from pulling the chain on the eyewash station in the hopes of drenching the hot girl so they could see some boobies. Oof… we are a shameful gender.)
Now one safe (relatively) project was designing our own T-Shirts. At this point in time, I had been a Yankees fan for only about five or six years. I did try to absorb as much as I could about their history but I was drawn to the current squad more than any of the legends. Of course, I understood who Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio were but it was the guys who were appearing in comical poses on my Topps Trading Cards and Topps Sticker books. It was those losers that I fell in love with. My feeble brain conjured up a shirt were I just listed the numbers and names of past and present Yankees who were supposedly “the greatest ever” or whatever idiotic tagline I put on the bottom of the shirt. (Mind you, since I had asked my Mom to buy me a plain T-shirt in Yankee blue so I could do this, I ended up with a powder blue one that might as well come with coolots.) My drooling fanboy prose might as well have said “Nicole 4 Evar”. I went through and listed all the numbers of retired players (at that time). Then I started adding my favorites.
Of course, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield and Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph and Rickey Henderson and Dave Righetti and… yes… sadly… Mike Pagliarulo. I wish I could claim that I was drunk. Or that I could stick my own head under the belt sander.
I am uncertain why I liked Pagliarulo so much. It could be that he was Italian. It could have been that I thought it was cool that he wore #13. Of course, my idea of what is “cool” even to this day has been quite suspect. It might have been that I transferred my enjoyment of Graig Nettles to the next third baseman that came along. Of course, in that theory, I would have been all over Toby Harrah, Dale Berra and Andre Robertson and I wasn’t that naïve. At least, that is what I tell myself at night.
Pags was as ugly as the day is long. I mean he was someone that Willie Magee would look at and say “Yeah… that is not a pretty face.” Giant nose and amazingly creepy mustache aside… Pagliarulo… wasn’t that good. He could hit for power, including 28 and 32 home runs in 1986 and 87 respectively. Which were solid totals from a third baseman in the 80s. A third baseman who batted lefty. So this was getting him work for a long time when he didn’t deserve it. Pay no attention to the strikeouts or the fact that he couldn’t hit above .240
The Yankees finally gave up on Pags in 1989 which is kinda saying something since this was the bleak Yankees years. (God, my childhood really was miserable). Pags wasn’t good enough to stay with the bad bad Yankees – a team that was willing to give Joel Skinner more than his fair share of at-bats. So off he went to the Padres as part of the Walt Terell deal. No seriously… how did I ever love this team?
Anyway, Pagliarulo hung around for a while with the Twins, got himself a ring there, played a season in Japan and then headed back to Massachusetts to be the MVP of a kickball league. As for my T-shirt, I hit my growth spurt the following summer, quickly making it (the T-shirt, not my growth spurt) worthless. I am sure some Sally Struthers feed child is wearing it as a dress now.