Wall of Shame
**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 8/20/12**
For every fan there are stories that we always go back to and love telling because they are either very special to us or had some significant importance in our childhood. Regardless of sport, we all have connections to our favorite sport and athletes that drew us in and hooked us from that point on. As a child in the late 70’s and 80’s, collecting baseball cards was my hook. I already loved the game, but the ability to collect and trade cards with my favorite players picture on them was the icing on the cake. Not to mention the fact that my father and brother were avid collectors, my hobby was a family affair that enriched our baseball experience.
Living in “the country” without much TV or a local big league team to follow, baseball cards were my connection to the fantasy world of Major League Baseball. My brother and I were not the type of collectors who just went to card shows and bought the yearly box sets and hid them in our closets to later sell and retire wealthy. Rather we loved the thrill of opening each pack and discovering not only our favorite players, but also the beauty and sometimes humor of the card itself. We were fascinated by the silliness of some cards and how goofy these heroes looked, despite being larger than life big league ballplayers. It was this discovery that led to the creation of our Wall of Shame. In our shared bedroom sometime around 1987, we took a single sheet of white paper and wrote the simple line: “Wall of Shame” in crayon and thumb tacked it to the wall creating a working piece of art that would span approximately from 1987 until 1990. We then began searching for what we considered the funniest or more embarrassing cards we could find. To make our Wall of Shame was not a reflection of poor play on the field, but solely stood on the basis of a bad picture. I wanted to take you back and share some of the favorites I could remember from our WOS collection.
The 1987 Mike Lavalliere Fleer update
The Lavalliere collection was more about the body of work and not one card. Each year my brother and I would hunt for rookie cards, superstars, and the current Lavalliere masterpiece (in that order). Mike was a guy you expected to see at the local bowling alley telling you stories about the crappie he caught that morning on the river; not a professional baseball player. He always seemed to have a combination of the bad hair and bad pose issue in his cards.
The 1986 Lee Tunnell Topps
I turned 10 in 1986 and my father bought me my first full set that year for my birthday. The 1986 Topps collection was the pinnacle of my collecting career at that point. You can only imagine my excitement when I stumbled across this beauty. The greatness of Lee is not the Pirates uniform (which will be addressed later), but his Everyman physique. Looking at this card gave my 10-year old self-hope that I could someday be a major league pitcher.
The 1988 Tom Henke Topps
Everything I said about Lee Tunnell applies to Tom Henke in this card with one exception. I knew how good Tom Henke was and really liked watching him pitch when I had the opportunity (which was only during the AS game each summer). I was torn on how much fun I could poke at this card because of his ability on the field, but immaturity eventually won and Henke ended up on the wall.
1986 Jim Leyland Topps
Have I mentioned how unbelievably awesome the 1986 box set I got turned out to be? I was familiar with and liked the Pirates uniforms, but this card would put me in a trance that would hypnotize me for hours on end. I respected and appreciated a guy who could wear the high hat look and pull it off, but Leyland goes to new heights with this card. I saw Jim Leyland this past winter at the Winter Meetings and he stands a modest 5’9 probably, but had he been wearing this hat there is no doubt he would have been a solid 6’4. This card should have come with a warning though because once you lock onto the hat, it’s hard to pull your eyes away.
1990 Pascual Perez Topps
This card was one of the last that made it on the Wall of Shame and was probably the most confusing of my childhood. Growing up in the lily-white fields of Northwest Arkansas, my knowledge of African-American hairstyles was limited. I knew of the jheri curl fad and respected the heck out of it, but I had never seen a curl with such volume and shine. This was a mane, not a head of hair and Pascual Perez was damn proud of it I imagine. The finishing touch on this card was the slightest hint of silver peeking through the mouth, showing off a little early 90’s dental work. But, it was just too awkward not to make it on the wall.
There were more and I am sure my brother would add to this list and include several other stories that I have forgotten, but the memories of the Wall of Shame and the card collecting reminded me of what makes sport great. Not just baseball, but all sports that we grow up loving. You don’t have to be buried knee deep in statistical knowledge or even have a favorite team to really enjoy and appreciate the sport you love, just be passionate about your fandom and treat sports as the entertainment they are meant to be. Who knows, maybe someday the Wall of Shame will be a real place you can go visit and see some of these beauties up close and personal.
Jeff Johnson is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Jeff.Johnson@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @Houstonhog.