As this season of Blue Jays baseball has devolved into an fugly festival of underwhelming performance and injuries - don’t they all end up this way? - I’d started to cast my thoughts back, and to think on some of my first fond remembrances as a baseball fan.
One of the first images that always comes to mind is Kent Tekulve, the former closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I was a Pirates fan before I was an Expos fan and before I eventually made my way over to the Jays. I’m sure that much of that had to do with the fact that they were the buzzy team at the end of the 1970’s, with a great lineup and a cool (if somewhat garish) look. “We Are Family”, and all that.
That’s the great thing about being a baseball fan as a kid. You like a team or a player because you like them. No one expects you to commit yourself to one team. Moreover, your reasons for loving that player can be as simple as his look, or his name. Basically, your interaction with these players was that year’s baseball card and maybe you would catch them in a televised game. Maybe.
I probably actually watched Tekulve pitch three times, all versus the Expos.
As an interesting side note, Tekulve only ever pitched in the National League, and only faced 12 teams in regular season action in his entire 16 year career. The only American League team he ever faced was the Baltimore Orioles in the 1979 World Series. He threw 9.1 innings in five games, garnering three saves, striking out 10 and walking three (two intentionally).
I remember emulating Tekulve’s submarine delivery in backyard pick up games, hoping that my sneaky pitching style would be as effective as the master’s. Alas, it was not to be. My underhand pitches were smacked by the older kids in my neighbourhood like…well, like underhanded tosses.