- Luis Salazar - IF - Chicago Cubs. Infamous for: Making me eat my words. The first inductee has to be Luis Salazar, who was just a journeyman infielder for the Cubs in the '80s and '90s with a penchant for coming up large when you least expect it. When watching games over the phone with Jason, we developed a little game trying to predict when a player was going to fail. If someone came up who we thought would make an out, one of us would say: "If (player X) gets a hit, I'll (do something painful or embarrassing)." And the bigger the spot, the higher the level of pain or embarrassment. Well, Mr. Salazar came up with runners on one time, and I just knew he wasn't going to come through, so I exclaimed, "If Luis Salazar hits a home run, I'll...run my nuts through a cheese grater!" I had barely gotten that sentence out when WHAM!! Salazar destroyed the ball and put me on the spot for a wager unfulfilled that Jason still reminds me every now and then. His Wikipedia shows that, unfortunately, Salazar will probably be best remembered for being on the bad end of a Brian McCann line drive foul ball as an Atlanta Braves coach which resulted in the loss of his left eye. But for me and Jas, he's responsible for the loss of my own body parts, if bets made when one is 13 or 14 can be ruled legally binding in court.
- Neifi Perez - SS - Colorado Rockies. Infamous for: Costing me a lot of money and giving me a big headache. Light-hitting infielder Neifi Perez didn't do a lot during his career, but one swing indirectly put me in position to lose a real wager, and as a result Perez is forever on my shit list. The Chicago Cubs had not made the playoffs but twice in my lifetime when in 1998, I worked with a man named Jerome who was a major Cubbie fan. He also liked to gamble, and he and I had many side bets on nightly sporting events. But somehow he had such confidence in the Cubs that he bet me $200 straight up that they would make the playoffs that year. This bet was made about halfway through the season, so it wasn't like they were a few games away from clinching a spot. They had a long way to go and a lot of history against them. I happily agreed to the wager. Fast forward to Sept. 27, 1998, the last Sunday of the regular season. The Cubs were tied with the San Francisco Giants for the one (and only back then) Wild Card spot, and I was leaving a bowling alley when I heard on my Walkman that the Cubs had just lost, giving the Giants the Wild Card if only they could beat the lowly Rockies. The local Chicago sports station I was listening to was now nervously watching the San Fran-Colorado game and giving halfhearted play-by-play. The game was tied 8-8 in the bottom of the 9th, and the Giants sent their closer, 100-MPH throwing Robb Nen, to keep the game in reach. Leading off for Colorado was light-hitting Neifi Perez. Similar to how Luis Salazar boned me right after I declared that I'd mutilate myself if he homered, I hadn't stopped chuckling at the thought of puny little Perez facing big strong Nen when the sportscasters excitedly started yelling and wowing. Turned out little Neifi (and his at the time 13 career HRs) turned around big Robb and jacked a walkoff HR to send San Fran to a one-game playoff versus the Cubs at Wrigley Field the next night. I didn't watch the game because I knew the Cubs were going to win and fuck me over, and they did. And losing that unlikely bet to Jerome cost me even more because I was so angry that I upped the ante to $500 as we bet on who would make the better picks for the upcoming NFL season, which he also won. All because of--grrrrr--Neifi Perez.
- Aaron Rowand - OF - Philadelphia Phillies. Infamous for: Displaying his hustle and grind regardless of walls or common sense. Being a White Sox fan, it would be very easy for me to induct guys from that 2005 World champion squad, just as it's very easy for me to find a hero from the '85 Bears to induct every chance I get. So I won't put everyone from '05 in, but I have to put in Rowand, and it's not even for something he did with the Sox. Yes, Rowand began working on his reputation for going hard in everything he did as a member of the Pale Hose, wiping out on a dirt bike in 2002 and breaking his shoulder blade not long after making the majors. And he continued running into walls and playing recklessly throughout his White Sox career. But what he did as a Phillie on May 11, 2006, makes him forever infamous as the perfect example of how not to help your team. He ran down a catch with such abandon that he plowed face-first into the wall and broke his face. I refer to it as the "kiss the wall" play because Rowand was going so damn fast that it looked like he intentionally ran up to the wall and jumped up to kiss it. Seriously, look at this guy and tell me it doesn't appear that he was attempting to smooch the padded wall:
Rowand may be fondly remembered as a go-all-out guy, but I'm inducting him as the poster child for guys who turn their brains off when they play. It may be how fans imagine they want their supermen to act, but it's just country dumb.
- Dickie Thon - SS - Houston Astros. Infamous for: Leaking brains out on the field after a beaning. So I'm researching my inductions last night when Jason text me that an Astros player named Colin Moran just had his face exploded and that it looked really nasty. I saw slo-mo of the play, in which Moran managed to foul a ball off his eye socket, and I got nauseous. I also had flashbacks of another Astro suffering an awful head injury, and I knew I had to induct the most famous beaning of our childhood. We weren't around for the Tony Conigliaro drilling which destroyed his career and ultimately his life, but we were very young fans when Sunday night, April 8, 1984 occurred. Thon, coming off an All-Star season and thought of as one of the better middle infielders in baseball, was hit in the head by the Mets' Mike Torrez. Like Moran, Thon suffered a fracture, but Thon's was to his left orbital bone, and he didn't play again that season, nor did he ever return to his former greatness as a player. He never approached the career-highs in HRs and RBIs from 1983 or in SBs from 1982. I know every time I saw Thon play after that, I rooted for him to succeed, and he had a career after he returned, playing until 1993. But at the dawn of sports highlight shows and repeat airings of gruesome injuries, the most infamous pitch off the dome of our lifetime belonged to poor Dickie Thon.
- The Two-Way Pioneers - Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson, and Brian Jordan. Infamous for: Excelling in baseball and the NFL. I'm inducting these three men as a trio because they embodied imagination and living without boundaries, and they inspired me as a young adult. I don't think we will see guys trying to play in the NFL and MLB maybe ever again because there's so much money to be made if you become very good at one sport that no one wants to risk taking attention away from one by playing the other. But the money wasn't stupid yet in the 1980s and '90s, and several tried, but these three were by far the most successful at performing our two favorite sports at the highest levels. They adhere to our rule of not being a Hall of Famer in their field, although Neon Deion turned into an NFL Hall of Fame cornerback. Some stats to show the versatility of these three awesome athletes: Sanders swiped 186 stolen bases during his 9-year career including 38 in 1994 between the Braves and Reds, all while doing a little something I like to call becoming one of the most feared cover corners in the history of football. Jackson is the only man to be named All-Pro in football and an All-Star in baseball, joining the 20-20 club in HRs and SBs twice for the Kansas City Royals in 1988 and '89 while steamrolling tacklers as a Raiders RB. Jordan managed to lead the Atlanta Falcons in tackles and was named a Pro Bowl alternate as a DB in 1991, but walked away from football to begin a 15-year career in the major leagues, including an All-Star campaign in 1999, which saw him put up 23 HRs, 115 RBI, 13 SBs, and 100 runs scored. These three are a throwback to when being a badass in two sports didn't have to result in a choice to quit one before reaching the top levels like Jeff Samardzija. They did both, and they did it well, and as it turned out, they were a dying breed.
And there you have my Hall of Infamy Class of 2017 in baseball. Tune in live to hear our induction show, or catch the podcast version on iTunes or your favorite podcast app. And be sure to come back for Jay's football Hall of Infamy inductions in a couple of weeks.