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.
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.
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?”
Without so much as a pause, an acknowledgement, or even a hello, Terry replied, “I got 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…”
Did he just…? Is he comparing…? Am I having a stroke?
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?
Frank Robinson never played for the Padres.