Normally if you get an unsolicited package in the mail from a group called “The National Ethnic Heritage Foundation in partnership with the Order of Sons of Italy in America,” you’re going to want someone else to open it. I got such a package today, but figuring that I have neither told anyone what I was thinking nor gone against the family recently, I figured I was pretty safe. And I’m glad I opened the package.
Inside: a baseball card set called “Italian American Baseball Heroes.” Rather than photos, the cards have oil portraits. More than just the obvious subjects — DiMaggio, Berra, Rizzuto — the cover just about every paisan who hurled or hit the horsehide. Don Mossi, as you can see to the right, was in there. So was Joe Pepitone. And Kevin Tapani and Bart Giamatti and Leo Mazzone and a bunch of other dudes. I’ve never seen a Leo Mazzone card. Guess he didn’t stop rocking long enough for anyone to take his picture. There are 100 cards in the set. For every DiMaggio there’s like, five Tom Pagnozzi-level guys, including Pagnozzi. The randomness of seeing middlin-at-best players given the same reverent treatment as DiMaggio and Berra is what I love the most about the set. You can see all of them here.
I’m assuming they were sent to me so that I’d promote them. And normally I wouldn’t. I don’t do payola. This is a professional outfit here, and if you want to get advertising, you have to pay Mr. and Mrs. NBC to do it. These cards, however are (a) kind of adorably ridiculous, so I want more people to know about them in the same way Joe Posnanski wants people to know about Snuggies; and (b) they aren’t being sold commercially. As best I can gather, you can get them here or here in exchange for a donation of some type.
And you can do that if you want to or not. I don’t care, and I don’t endorse. I just want people to know that someone spent some quality time doing an oil painting of Don Mossi that going forward, will be prominently displayed on my desk.
After 16 years in the majors, longtime Tigers DH Victor Martinez capped his career with one final start at Comerica Park. Although there are seven games remaining in the club’s regular season schedule, Martinez said he felt he owed it to the fans to record his final at-bat at home. He’ll still cheer the rest of the team on from the dugout when they hit the road for their last six-game stretch on Monday, though he’s not expected to slot into the lineup at any point during their back-to-back away series against the Twins and Brewers.
In order to commemorate the occasion, the Tigers arranged a pregame ceremony to celebrate the veteran infielder’s seven years with the team, during which they presented him with Topps baseball cards, a recliner, a pair of boots, and a saddle, among other honors. Martinez also put in a special request to play first base, a position he hadn’t manned in over two years.
The 39-year-old didn’t waste a single minute of his final start in the majors. He deftly handled an inning-ending out in the top of the first, then laced a rare infield single to short in his first and final at-bat of the afternoon, beating the throw to first and advancing Nicholas Castellanos to second base in order to set up the Tigers’ first run: a two-out RBI single from Niko Goodrum that brought Castellanos home to score.
“I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career,” Martinez told reporters after the Tigers wrapped a 5-4 win over the Royals. “I had to sweat it out. I had to sweat it out the whole way. I had to grind it. That was my whole career.”
Following the hit — and the standing ovation that greeted it — the switch-hitter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez, who subbed in at second base in the top of the second while Goodrum shifted from second to first base. Taking Saturday’s performance into account, Martinez polished off his big league career with a lifetime .295/.360/.455 batting line, 423 doubles, 246 home runs, 1,178 RBI, and 28.4 fWAR across 1,973 games and three separate stints for the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. His accomplishments at the plate have been decorated with five All-Star nominations, two Silver Slugger Awards, and the designated hitter-exclusive Edgar Martinez Award following a career-best campaign in 2014.