Boy, Vance Worley has sure been fun this week, hasn’t he? Not only has he gone 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in two starts, but he’s a kind of goofy-looking guy who wears rec specs. Now, with Joe Blanton likely coming back from the DL in a week or so, our time with the Vanimal is likely up for now, until and unless injury or need force the Phillies to summon him once more from Lehigh Valley. So, in honor of the former 20th-round pick made good, and his eyewear, and in support of all of those who can’t see the end of their noses without some sort of vision correction (and I’m one of them), here are some stories of great moments in the history of guys who pitch and wear glasses.
Oh, before we get to those stories, I’ll admit that I said Raul Ibanez was done in this space last Friday, before he ended his 0-for-35 slump with a tremendous series against Washington. I’m still not convinced he’s not finished as a regular, but it was a truly incredible three days and he deserves a ton of credit.
Now, on to the good stuff.
Bob Gibson was noted for being perhaps the most intimidating pitcher of his era, known for his deadly fastball, wild windup that caused him to come flying off the mound with every pitch, and for an intense on-mound stare the likes of which modern fans usually associate someone like Randy Johnson or Jonathan Papelbon. Bob Costas said in Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary that you could feel the intensity of Gibson’s stare through the television. Apparently he stared that way because he had bad vision and needed to squint to see the catcher’s signs.
A story is told that Gibson once invited Hank Aaron over to his home during one offseason. Gibson answered the door wearing glasses. A terrified Aaron said [I’m not sure of the exact phrasing, but this is close], “You wear glasses? You better start wearing them on the mound or you’re going to kill someone!”
Another Hall-of-Fame-quality pitcher who wore specs off the field but not on it. Maddux probably avoided that because he got enough “He looks like a [insert goofy white-collar profession here]” jokes even without them. Still, even though he spent most of my formative years dominating the Phillies, Maddux remains one of my favorite athletes of all time, for his intelligence, his artistry, and the hope he gave me that even someone with a paunch and a baby face could win a Cy Young award one day.
The 2002 Angels Bullpen
The Anaheim Angels won a World Series in part because they had Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, and Tim Salmon, partially because David Eckstein, Scott Spiezio, Jarrod Washburn, and Adam Kennedy had career years, and in large part because they had one of the best bullpens ever assembled. And you know what the crazy thing is? Their best four relief pitchers all needed glasses. Troy Percival (40 saves, 10.9 K/9, 1.92 ERA) went the Bob Gibson route and squinted. Brendan Donnelly (2.17 ERA, 1.027 WHIP) and Ben Weber (7-2, 78 IP, 2.54 ERA, 1.179 WHIP) wore the kind of racquetball-goggles-style modern Rec Specs you see athletes sporting today, while Francisco Rodriguez (5-1, 1.93 ERA, 28K in 18 2/3 innings in the postseason) would take to wearing the Donnelly/Weber-style glasses within a few years.
The 2002 Angels were the Elvis Costello of baseball teams, kind of a reminder that you can be nearsighted and still be really cool.
With that, best of luck in Lehigh Valley, Vance, and we hope you’re back soon. As long as you’re not back because Roy Oswalt is out for the season with a torn labrum or something like that. Now that would be something to see.