In my last post I gave a little hint about who was my favorite ballplayer of all time. The hint was that this player starred in the longest running commercial in cable television history. If any of you out there ever watched ESPN in the last night, possibly watching SportsCenter to see if the outcome of a random Dodgers/Giants game, odds are you seen the Tom Emasnsky commercial.
I haven’t seen the commercial in a while, but I would wager I’ve seen it at least a few hundered times. The commercial is for a series of baseball instructional videos aimed for youngsters. The highlight of the video is undoubtedly the endorsement of “Baseball Superstar” Fred McGriff. The most memorable part of his pitch is the ridiculous hat he wears. I mean, look at the thing…..
It isn’t so much the color or style of the hat, it’s the way he wears it. Why is it so high up on his head? It wasn’t just this commercial, Crime Dog always wore his caps like this….
His endorsement was was one line, “This is the baseball instructional video that gets results.”
According to a rather old ESPN article, the commercial started airing in 1991, and I think it’s still on periodicallly. The article goes on about how the commercial got started, and how Fred doesn’t get much coin for his endorsement, and includes some commentary on some of Fred’s former teammates making jest about his hat.
I didn’t write this blog to poke fun at Fred McGriff, nay, this blog is here to praise the Crime Dog, because, like I said before, he remains my favorite.
I really don’t know why I gravitated towards Fred McGriff. I grew up in Chicago, a die-hard White Sox fan. McGriff never played for the Sox, in fact, he spent a year and a half with the hated Cubbies. I guess I always gravitated towards the under-rated guys, and no one was more under-rated than the Crime Dog.
McGriff was drafted in 9th round of the 1981 amateur draft by the New York Yankees. A little over a year later, he was traded to the Blue Jays. I can’t imagine how different his career would have turned out if he remained in the Yankee organization. With that short porch in right and the New York spotlight, I think he would have been a mega-star. You can’t blame the Yankees for trading him, they had a decent 1B at the time:
Regardless, Freddy ended up in Toronto. He became the starting 1B for the Jays in 1988, and hit 34 homers, in 1989 he led in AL with 36 (really! 36 led the league!) I think this is about the time I started becoming a fan of his. I was 10 in 1989, and I needed someone to root for. The White Sox were terrible at the time. I remeber the A’s being popular with all my friends at school, but I just had a hard time following that team. Canseco and McGwire were great ans all, but didn’t seem….real. They reminded me more like WWF wrestlers than baseball players.
McGriff, however, was all real. The way he slowly walked up to the dish, they way he would put a hand on his back and stretch it out a little, the way he stood as far away from the plate as you could, for some reason it just struck a chord with me.
The best part of a McGriff at-bat, however, was the follow through. I don’t know how he hit 493 career home runs with the swing, but it was frickin’ awesome. Only his right hand would be holding the bat, and it would be straight up in the air. When he hit a homer, he would quickly jog around the bases, never showing the pitcher up, never doing a crazy celebration, even if that home run won the game, which he did 6 times during his career.
The Crime Dog made a name for himself and being one of the most consistent producers in the game. Every year, you could almost guarantee 30-37 homers, no more, no less.
I assume the reason he never became a huge superstar was the fact that he played for six teams during his career. He was involved in a blockbuster trade that sent both him and Tony Fernandez to San Diego in exchange for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. A few years later, the Jays would be winning back-to-back World Series titles, the second of which was one on a Joe Carter homer.
Then before he could make a name for himself with the Padres, he was traded to Atlanta during the 1993 season. McGriff basically carried the Braves on his back that year, overtaking the Giants on the last day of the season to win the NL East.
He has a World Series ring, won in 1995 with the Braves. He performed in the post-season as well, hitting .303 with 10 homers in 50 postseason games.
Then he went to Tampa, becoming the face of a very,very bad franchise, went to the Cubs for a year and a half, then finally spent his final year mostly injured for the Dodgers.
He finished with 493 home runs, just 7 shy. I was hoping he would come back for one more season, just to reach the 500 mark, but I guess injury and declining skill were just too much to overcome.
McGriff is eligible for the Hall of Fame next year. I know he doesn’t have much of a chance of going in next year, but I wonder if he ever will? I like to think so, but 493 home runs isn’t the same as it once was. But maybe do the steroid backlash Hall voters have recently will be of help to him.
If he ever does get in (I certainly hope so), I wonder what cap will be on his plaque? Maybe he throw a curveball and wear the Tom Emansky hat, way up high. After all, he’s probably more famous for that commercial then for anything else.
Thanks for reading…till next time!!!!
PS- This just came to my attention as I was browsing Fred McGriff’s wikipedia page that there was a failed telvision pilot based on Fred McGriff’s life!!!!!!!Apparently the show was about a baseball player who moonlighted as crime-fighter. And it starred the guy who played in the Blade TV series!!!! THIS SOUNDS AWESOME!!!! Apparently there is one surviving copy of the tape, and it is in McGriff’s possesion., given to him by David Wells of all people.
Ladies and gentlemen of the MLB blogosphere, I am making this my goal in life. I MUST WATCH THAT TAPE BEFORE I DIE!!!!!!!!!!! If anyone reading this has any clout with MLB that can get in touch with Fred McGriff, or anyone in the Tampa area, call in to Fred’s radio show. Anything that can help me in this quest, I beg you, PLEASE!!!!!!!