“How do you trade Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps!?”–Frank Costanza, Seinfeld
Ken Phelps has the look of the quintessential “80’s dad,” bringing to mind my cousin’s father-my uncle through marriage-who was known to wear a beat-up, snap-backed San Francisco Giants baseball cap, and on special occasions a cowboy hat with a feather band not unlike a member of Charlie Daniel’s raucous honkey tonk band. Now every time I see this archaic piece of Americana I can almost imagine the beer bottles breaking against the protective fence set before the band in some small, backwoods shithole in Texas not unlike the scene in the brilliant Patrick Swayze flick, Roadhouse.
I had been to his dad’s home on a few occasions and we would play Nintendo or try to quench our biological imperative and devilish curiosity by looking for his porn stash in the grease-caked garage. When that sticky-page endeavor got boring we would play baseball among the cow patties and various livestock in the fields. (His father lived on a farm in a very rural area) My cousin would get a kick out of me slightly touching the electrical fence, giving me a sudden jolt whereas I would balk at “pissing on it” to his dismay. I was always a bit saddened to disappoint his infectious and sophomoric sense of humor, but an electrified dong just didn’t sound appetizing in any event.
When you take a look at the last 2 N.L. MVPs (Bellinger and Yelich) you see a couple of baby-faced guys who you might partake in a doobie with at a keg party–they bear no resemblance to Phelps, who looks like he should be either dishing out benevolent fatherly words of wisdom while gutting a fish, flashing ass crack while under the hood of a classic car, or arresting fratboys outside the aforementioned kegger for possessing a bag of recently purchased purple kush strain of mar-eee-wanna. He doesn’t look like he survived in the league on any sort of pure talent, just the ability to use “grown man strength” on the occasional mislocated fastball.
Phelps had only had 12 hits for the Oakland ballclub as he was an aging DH who was nearing the end of his career (until being sold to the Cleveland Indians for a bag of nickels) and had lost the only valuable asset he had–occasional power. Phelp’s baseball life was coming to an end as my pre-teen years were just beginning, and thus far was relegated to a baseball card that was never really examined or loved and tossed into a box. Forgotten until unearthed.