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Bucky Dent, Lee Mazzilli and the personification of cool

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.13.18 AMBeneath my son’s bed is an enormous shopping bag, filled with the baseball cards from my childhood. With some exception, the collection is a who’s who of who’s that? I’m talking about John Stuper and Sixto Lezcano and Dickie Thon and Mike Pagliarulo and Ross Baumgarten. Some were good, some were OK, some were bad. Ultimately, they’re images of men that, at best, could fetch $2 at the nonexistent trading card store that only exists in my mind.

While digging through the bundle a few nights ago, I came across the above card. It’s Bucky Dent’s 1983 Topps special, and—to 11-year-old Jeff Pearlman—it just oozed cool. First, obviously, is the eye black. Which, I’m guessing, probably assisted Bucky Dent nary an iota, but looked really sweet. Second, the chill facial expression. Yeah, I’m a ballplayer and you’re not. But … so? Third, he’s now a Ranger, not a Yankee. Which should be awful, considering the 1982 Rangers played in a minor league facility (Arlington Stadium) burdened by brutal heat  and empty stands. The Rangers finished 64-98 and in last place in the American League West, which makes the team sound better than it was. That season, the Rangers were bad in laughable ways. Their double-play combination (pre-Dent’s acquisition from New York) was Mike Richardt and Mike Wagner—a pair of .240 hitters who were noteworthy for being un-noteworthy (though, in his defense, Richardt’s parted-in-the-middle mustache was pretty sweet). Their designated hitter (job description: hit the ball) was Lamar Johnson, who offered a .259 average, seven home runs and 38 RBI. Save for Charlie Hough (16-13), none of their starters had anything approaching a winning record. Rick Honeycutt, an otherwise solid Major Leaguer, went 5-17. Frank Tanana, also solid, went 7-18. Danny Darwin led the team in saves. He had seven.

Wait. So why does Bucky Dent being a Ranger add to the coolness? Easy. Because if you can look cool on a shit team in shit uniforms in a shit stadium, you transcend the very adjective. Let’s put it differently. When Bucky Dent came to Texas, he was dealt for Lee Mazzilli, another semi-iconic New York ballplayer who also defined Big Apple cool. As a Met, Mazzilli was the man. Good looking, sharp, smooth. He was a Page 6 sorta guy, and the women loved him. Then he was dumped on the Rangers, and his ensuing baseball card (cicra 1982) looked like this …

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 10.28.35 AMI rest my case.

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