One Of These Things Is Not Like the Others

One Of These Things Doesn’t Belong

The year was 1997. I was working for a company (that shall remain nameless) that was having a big tailgate party fundraiser at one of the Padres/Rockies game at Jack Murphy Stadium. Cheap tickets and free food? I’m so there.

Coincidentally, there was a baseball card show at one of the Mission Valley hotels (Either the Sheraton or the Hilton, not that it matters.) that would be having both Ken Caminiti AND Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson signing autographs.

Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson

Ken Caminiti

Ken Caminiti

One of my coworkers had decided to take his next-door neighbor’s kids to the Padres game. Seeing as he didn’t (and, as far as I know, still doesn’t) drive, I volunteered to borrow my mom’s mini-van and take the whole gang. The one stipulation: They would have to go to the baseball card show prior. No exceptions.

My brother went as well, deciding that he only wanted Caminiti’s autograph. In what can only be described as a severe case of brain diarrhea, I clearly remember him saying, “Frank Robinson? What has that guy ever done?”

Yes, he couldn’t recall what that Frank Robinson had done. It’s only in the last couple of years that he has acknowledged what a huge mistake he made in not getting Robinson’s autograph as well.

I spent the majority of the afternoon explaining to the neighbor kids not only why we were not going right away to the stadium, but also who Frank Robinson is. They barely even knew who Ken Caminiti was. But, they were young. At least one of them decided to get Caminiti’s autograph on the fly. Sadly, none of them decided to get Robinson’s.

IMG_20130408_175903

Cut to the tailgate at the stadium. I saw another one of my coworkers, Terry, who just happens to be a big baseball fan and autograph collector. Also, Terry is a native New Yorker. Still has the accent and everything. And Terry loves to collect autographs from players who played for his childhood team, the Yankees. He’s not one of those guys you see at every signing around town or camped out at the players’ entrance. He only tries to get autographs before the game on the field. I have nothing but the utmost respect for his dedication to his hometown team.

But, sometimes, his unwavering support of all things Yankee would come back to bite him in the ass. This day, it turns out, was one of those times.

“Hey, Terry! Look what I got today,” showing him the Robinson ball. “Frank Robinson. Pretty sweet, huh?”

IMG_20130408_175853

Without so much as a pause, an acknowledgement, or even a hello, Terry replied, “I got Vinny Castilla.”

Vinny Castilla

Vinny Castilla

I just stood there. With my mouth agape, I’m sure, because I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

My brother was standing behind me. All I heard from him was — with an air of utter disgust — “Aww, shit…”

Vinny Castilla?

Did he just…? Is he comparing…? Am I having a stroke?

Mega+Facepalm+Gif.+For+your+reaction+folder+needs_c266b1_3384407

My only response was, “Umm… That’s super, Terry. Did you get anyone else’s autograph?”

“No. Just Vinny’s,” he replied with childlike glee.

To this day, I’m still amazed by both the situation and my response. Surprised because I didn’t rip into him right then and there.

What are you talking about, man? I just said I got Frank F**KIN’ Robinson! Only person to win the MVP in BOTH leagues? World Series champion? Triple Crown winner? Hall of Famer? ONE OF THE ALL-TIME GREAT BASEBALL PLAYERS?

And your comeback is, “I got Vinny Castilla”?

You gotta love Yankees fans. Wait–love is the wrong word. What’s the opposite of love?

 

So, were you able to guess which thing was not like the others?

That’s right.

Frank Robinson never played for the Padres.

***

Follow the Ghost, @GhostofRAK, where he harasses Ben Higgins on a nearly daily basis in a futile attempt to get named Tweet of the Day.

You can also occasionally find him Instagraming his Google+ on the Facebook.

You are encouraged to comment using an exisitng Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. Upvote comments you find helpful, and only downvote comments that do not belong. The downvote is not a 'disagree' button.

  • Great story. Though I gotta say… On the one hand, sure it’s Frank Robinson, Hall of Famer, and a baseball fan should appreciate that enough to get the autograph (assuming he wasn’t charging $200 like some dudes do), but at the same time, you gotta give it to the fan who’s so devoted to his team that a Vinny Castilla autograph makes him feel that happy. The only two autographed baseballs I own are a Heath Bell and a Philip Rivers (yes, baseball). And I love them not because either of the dudes is going to be in the Hall of Fame, but because of the memories they hold for me.

    • This was before the days of the $200 autograph. If I recall correctly, Caminiti was charging more than Robinson.

  • Gloccamorra

    If you told that story to Frank Robinson, he’d probably get a kick out of it. He’s actually used to it. An interviewer asked him, when he was managing the Expos/Nationals, if any of his players asked him for tips or advice. He said one of his players actually asked Robinson if he’d ever played in the show! Robinson just shrugged it off and told the kid, “Yeah, I played some.”

    • Gloccamorra

      By the way, Robinson has another record most people don’t know about, shared with three others: Yogi Berra, Leo Durocher and Casey Stengel. They’re the only players in major league history to get thrown out of major league baseball games in five different decades.