Forgotten Players of the Moment – SHOOTY BABITT & KURT BEVACQUA
Shooty Babitt & Kurt Bevacqua
(by Ed Agner)
I fear coming across as an overly-nostalgic old geezer but the reason I picked these two as co-forgotten players of the moment is the pure and simple reason that they both exemplify the aspect of colorful player-personalities in baseball that I fell in love with as a kid – something that really seems to be missing from the sport now. There’s no good reason to remember the two as players – both having truly forgettable careers – but as characters, as something beyond the ordinary as INDIVIDUALS the two have stuck with me. When you’re not a very good player, sometimes it’s all about style: REAL style, REAL character; not put-on flakery and buffoonery like, say, Turk Wendell, or that hokey BS that the maudlin types love to get all weepy over like, say, Moonlight Graham. I miss style, REAL style – so much style and it’s wasted.
As a kid, reading through all kinds of baseball books, I was always attracted to the colorful names: the Dizzy’s, the Daffy’s, the Ducky’s, etc. The long list of colorful names actually seemed to have drawn me to the sport as much as anything, to be honest. Nowadays, with practically every player having a name that sounds like a doomed mall store or a member of Garcia Lorca’s firing squad, the absence of the Shooty’s and the Blue Moon’s and the Catfish’s and the Oil Can’s depresses me. And no, Chipper doesn’t count. And don’t even start me on the general inability of players to give each other nicknames that isn’t some variation of their names or the first initial-first syllable of the last name. Grr. See what happens when you raise athletes to be moronic automatons?
Babitt – and his almost even cooler real name is Mack Neal Babitt – I honestly know next to nothing about other than he played for the Billy Ball Oakland A’s of ’81. I have no recollection whatsoever of Shooty as a player (probably because, from the looks of his stats, he wasn’t very good: hitting .256 in 156 AB’s with a .615 OPS, 5 Steals in 9 attempts and a Fielding Percentage of .972) or as a person or anything other than a name and image that’s stuck with me from my youth – and that’s just fine with me, to be honest. All I really know about Shooty is that when I got his baseball card as a kid – complete with a photo of a man in those bright gold A’s unis, looking ecstatic beyond belief to have his picture taken for a bubble gum card, with a smile completely filling his face (a bit of a rarity for the time when most star players looked like they’d rather be on death row than waste a second for the Topps company) – I thought Shooty Babitt was one of the coolest names ever. I still do. Shooty and Rudy Law – and I STILL contend that Rudy Law would be a great name for a ska-punk/imitation-Clash band.
So anyway, that’s Shooty – my most favorite player whom I never saw play. There’s nothing much to offer other than I am amused by shiny things.
Bevacqua (whose name comes up in Microsoft Word spellchecker as being incorrect, with the closest match being “evacuate”) is sort of a San Diego folk hero, both because he came up with a couple of big homers in the ’84 WS – that didn’t prove to help the Padres much in the end – and because he was a bit of a notorious flake. As a player, he…wasn’t…really…good. Baseball-Reference.com has Steve Lyons as his second most comparable player, if that helps you. Just a utility player with a touch of pop and a just-soft-enough-not-to-be-cast-iron glove. I’m assuming he was really damn good in the clubhouse to stick around for 13 years. On the bright side, he was traded for Oscar Friggin’ Gamble once, so he can brag about that. Or not. I would if I was him, anyway.
I think I first learned about Bevacqua from a piece that ran in Sports Illustrated that I probably read in a doctor’s office as a kid or something. I seem to recall it was a story on Bevacqua and his flakiness and all I really recollect from it was that he was called the bubble blowing champion of major league baseball – complete with photos from some sort of actual bubble blowing championship. Recently, I saw a Bevacqua piece on an old This Week In Baseball that ESPN Classic reran where Bevacqua was shown catching a baseball dropped from a tall building in downtown San Diego . That’s all I really have on Bevacqua – the lovable flake reputation that I somehow dug more than I should.
I guess my point in picking these two is that baseball – aww hell, ALL of sports – have really worked way too hard over the past 20 years or so to get as corporate as possible and weed out all the flakes and all the color. With young athletes being programmed to be married to their sport and their sport alone with no time for outside interests, sports are now filled with kids that are too incredibly drab and bland and dull – aside from the more annoying Leon-esque flamboyant clowns that serve only to irritate and self-promote…and…well…I guess there’s the felonious element too but…let’s not go there for now – and the sports are becoming far too nice and clean and neat and…boring.
Yeah. Back in my day.
Anyway, this is to Shooty and Kurt and ugly old uniforms and bad haircuts and big bubbles and huge smiles and big, hairy guys who shouldn’t ever have wore double-knit.
Now get the hell offa my lawn.