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Duane Kuiper: My Favorite Athlete

I have started a Tumblr blog called Press Passes where I am posting my many press passes through the years along with, perhaps, a little story about the events. It has been a fun project in part because it has allowed me to look again a all of this STUFF I have on and around my desk.

This hat is one of those things. It is Duane Kuiper’s hat. He sent it to my wife a few years ago to surprise me — as if I needed yet another reason to idolize Duane Kuiper. Anyway, seeing this hat made me think of an idea: It might be fun to have people send in 100 words (no more) on their favorite athlete and why. It certainly does not have to be a baseball player. If enough people send one in, we could probably have some fun with that.

Anyway: I’ll start:

When I was a small and unconfident kid, all I wanted was to be a big league ballplayer. Duane Kuiper offered the possibility. He was not big, not strong (he hit one career homer), not terribly fast. But he played in the big leagues for 12 years because he dived for every ground ball, rarely struck out, ran hard out of the box and was a great guy (everybody said so!). He presented this wonderful illusion that if you wanted something enough, if you cared enough, you could achieve it. It’s about the greatest gift anyone can give a kid.

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18 Responses to Duane Kuiper: My Favorite Athlete

  1. David says:

    Link to Tumblr?

  2. Gus Elbe says:

    So I guess you’re saying if you were a 12-year-old kid now that your favorite athlete for the rest of your entire life would be Jeff Francoeur?

  3. Devon Young says:

    Wow, that new poll on the side… Binds & Rose both share 72% right now (984 votes). Interesting how they both have exactly the same amount of voters so far, eh?

    BTW, where do we send in our 100 words? Right here in the comments or an email or a blog post?

  4. BobDD says:

    When I was a grade school boy and my interest turned with white hot intensity to sports, as much as local legend Stan Musial made whole neighborhoods burst with pride, my hero worship fell squarely on Chip Hilton. Aside from his ability to seemingly hit the game-winning HR, or score 50 points in the state championship whenever he wished, he just had the coolest friends that shared uplifting adventures together. I read many of those books late at night under the covers with a flashlight; the safest place to beam with pride and pretentious swagger, pretending the hero was really me. No messy reality to interfere, and in the days before sneering cynicism somehow blighted the land. That time and place has since been buried somewhere under Atlantis, but still flickers dimly in the memory of old farts like me.

  5. EssexBorn says:

    Brooks Robinson epitomized class on a team full of class. When I was 10 I sent an autograped whiffle ball from a backyard batlle. On XMAS eve, 1969 I recieved an autographed postcard. When I was 20 or so I lost it. When I was 40 a former teammate and Negro League player heard my story and said I should write him and get another. By 50 I had screwed up my courage and sent him another letter. Today his framed, personal response sits above my desk. Voila!

  6. EssexBorn says:

    That player was Connie Johnson, who I net at a benefit breakfast in Kansas City!

  7. Nick O says:

    Stephen Curry for reasons that are probably obvious.

  8. daveyhead says:

    Here’s 100 words on the Hammer: (not counting these 10)

    Henry Aaron. Three Cs: Consistency. Clobberin’. Class.

    Aaron never hit 50 homers in a season but averaged 37 every 162 games to reach 755.
    Many of his shots were just ferocious, long line drives that just screamed into the seats.

    After a career spent in the shadows of Mays and Mantle, Aaron was the one to challenge the unthinkable 714, overcoming death threats and breaking the record. “I’m just glad it’s all over,” he said then. No posturing.

    And when Bonds hit number 756, who appeared on the AT&T Jumbotron to genuinely, graciously, offer his congratulations? Henry Aaron.

  9. Tanner says:

    Rickey Henderson was so cool. He was basically winking at the pitcher he was crouching so low in the box. I’d never seen someone flip a bat after contact, or lay it down gently yet disrespectfully on the plate after drawing a walk, or pirouette out of the box when one wasn’t coming back, or snatch a catch, or wiggle his fingers underneath him to tell everyone he was about to steal a base. He was also always nice to this young kid who always tried to talk to him before or after A’s games. He’s a true great.

  10. doc says:

    My favorite athlete, when I was much younger than I am today, is someone I suspect none of you have ever heard of–Lenny Johnston. He played minor league baseball for 16 seasons–12 of those in AAA, and 7 in Indianapolis (1960-1966), my home town. The Indianapolis Indians had one of those “skills” days for kids; we’d go, and players on the team would pretend to teach us things. Johnston was consistently funny, but also interested in us (or so it seemed). He’d joke around, and then say something that (if you really did have some skill) would be helpful. Everyone wanted to be in Lenny’s group. He obviously was not going to be a major leaguer, let alone a star, but he enjoyed what he was doing, and that enjoyment was passed along to us. Also, he made the most amazing catch I have ever seen in person. Victory Field in Indianapolis was essentially a square, and the entire outfield part of the square was in play–about 480′ deep, with a flagpole in play about 10-20 feet from the center field corner. Johnston caught a fly ball *behind* the flagpole. (As it happens, he hung around organized baseball, mostly in th Orioles’ organization, doing minor league coaching and public outreach. As recently as 2010, he worked as operations director for the Bluefield Orioles. And, so far as I know, he still lives in Indianapolis.)

  11. So where does Joe want people to send them? And does he only want famous people to send them in?

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