Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #20 (Article 5)
My favorite player… Graig Nettles.
It’s kind of cool that Nettles’ regular card comes up so quickly in this set with such a low number. The best players had the low even numbers, right?
I remember getting this card (or so I tell myself) and being in awe.
I remember wondering what it might be like to be a Big Leaguer and to have your own baseball card. I can’t quite explain it, but there is something different about one’s favorite player that makes him different than all the others. Somehow there is a connection between that player and yourself.
Even though I didn’t know Graig Nettles, and he didn’t know me (I was just a kid after all), I still related to him on a more personal level. When he succeeded, I did as well. When he failed, I did too.
It’s like that with our heroes…
As a kid growing up, I tried to be like Graig Nettles as a fielder, if not as a hitter. (I was a small kid, very small, I didn’t hit with any power. Truth be told, I didn’t hit with any sort of regularity at all – power or not. I couldn’t emulate Nettles in the batter’s box, but I could sure try with the glove.)
Most readers will accuse me of exaggerating here, but this story is 100% truthful. The kids I grew up with, and my family would attest to it’s accuracy…
We had an unfinished basement in our house that had a poured concrete floor. The one wall down there became a prime place for me to throw a ball and catch it. I used all sorts of balls, the “pinkie” style balls were the best for this, but any rubber ball that was somewhat close to baseball size worked as well. In a pinch (because I always seemed to lose the balls), tennis balls also worked, but they just didn’t have the same bounce to them.
It was in that unfinished baseball, with cement block walls and the poured concrete floor that I tried to become Graig Nettles. I’d stand as far to my left as possible and throw the ball hard to my right so that it would try to zoom past my right hand side. As the ball flew through the air, I’d dive for it, just as Graig Nettles would, and then crash to the floor. Yes, there were times I’d go completely airborne.
Over the years, I got good at this. In my basement, I could be Graig Nettles. I made diving catches all over the place. Over time, I could dive to the left and to the right, but diving to my right became my specialty. The funny thing is that this never truly translated to a real game, with real players, on a real diamond. (It’s harder to react when you don’t know that the ball is coming – and baseballs are hit harder, go faster, and hurt more when trying stunts like these.)
Amazingly (and this is what might amaze the readers), I must have dove across and onto that hard floor thousands and thousands of times.
I never got hurt.