The Tools of Ignorance...But at What Cost? by Me, Rob Neyer
One of the great names of baseball history has passed away; Mickey Owen, a great catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, finally got the thumb from the Great Umpire in the Sky, at the age of 89. Sadly, most people only remember Owen for his biggest mistake: a dropped third strike in game four of the 1941 World Series that allowed Tommy Heinrich to reach base and eventually score. This is one of the saddest truths about baseball: sometimes the thing you're known best for is the thing you don't WANT to be known best for. No matter that pitcher Hugh Casey had thrown a spitball on that pitch, making it well-nigh impossible to catch in the first place; no matter that the real crime in that game was Pee Wee Reese's ill-conceived notion to try to take third base on a pop foul by Jimmy Wasdell...no, it is Owen who was immediately goated, and it is his name that survives even to this day.
You know why? Because he was a catcher.
Catchers are, basically, the unluckiest of baseball players. In the most visible, naked sport in the world (well, except perhaps for basketball, and soccer, and maybe swimming or bicycle racing), they have to wear heavy equipment and a mask, and toil in the hot dirt of the noonday sun, trying desperately to hang onto 100-mph heat from pitchers who can take off most of a week between starts.
Maybe that is why the worst things happen to catchers. One, Cincinnati Reds' second-stringer Willard Hershberger, filling in for injured star Ernie Lombardi in 1940, committed an error to lose a game for his team, and then actually committed suicide in his hotel room after the game. This was for a World Series-winning team! Can you imagine a player feeling that way after an error in this modern era?
And there are plenty of examples around us, to this very day. Was anyone else as disturbed to the very pits of their soul as I was, watching poor Mike Piazza attempt to "rock out" onstage with Alter Bridge before the All-Star Game? Piazza smashed more than just a cheap cymbal during that skit -- he smashed his legacy as well. It's sad, really; really, really sad.
But that isn't even #10 on my list of All-Time Stupid And/Or Horrifyingly Disgusting Things Done By, And To, Catchers. Get ready, people, because this one's gonna get a little R-rated, for language, violence, sexual perversity, and consumption of drugs and alcohol. Plus, a Piazza-related story that will change the way you look at this former superstar...FOREVER.
10. The Ritual Self-Mutilation of Johnny Bench, and How the Media Covered It Up