Hopefully some of you watched the first game this season between The Yankees and Red Sox. If you did, you saw an absolutely classic moment in the young career of Brett Gardner, and a horribly depressing moment for me as a baseball fan.
I actually like Gardner. He’s the kind of player every team could use more of. Great defensively, insane amounts of the oft-hailed DISRUPTIVE SPEED, plus the ability to actually get on base and use it (Rajai Davis and Willy Tavaras cry manly tears at this fact). He just didn’t have to steal home on Opening Day is all. What a jerk.
Until Gardner ruined all my fun, Mike Bordick was the last man to ever steal home on Opening Day.
He did so for The Oakland A’s back in 1992 on a double steal of home and second with Rickey Henderson. This was one of the only weird Bordick facts I could hold onto when people asked who my favorite shortstop was, and then asked, “Who the hell is Mike Bordick?”
If baseball can be considered an art form, then Mike Bordick was using oils, and the other shortstops, merely water colors.
Mike Bordick was, without question, the greatest defensive player I’ve ever seen live. He set records for most consecutive error-less games (110) and chances (543) by a shortstop in 2002.
And live he was just amazing to watch.
I’ve never witnessed balls hit to the left of the infield just die like they did for Bordick. He only ever led the league in one thing (in 1998 he led the AL in sacrifice bunts) and he only made the All-Star team once (2000). Still, Bordick gets the distinction of being the player that moved Cal Ripken Jr. (the man who played the most consecutive games in MLB history and most consecutive at shortstop) to 3rd base permanently.
Let me repeat: Bordick was so good defensively that they moved one of the greatest Shortstops of all time, and a former Gold glove winner, to a new position.
I had the pleasure of seeing him play for Toronto in his last two seasons. Although he was usually a back-up player, he always ended up in games that I went to (maybe because Eric Hinske and Chris Woodward attacked ground balls like a pair of serial killers, butchering anything on the left side), and even at 37 the man could cover the whole infield, robbing sure singles and doubles and turning them into easy outs (and covering up for whatever bucket of crap he had to play with).
Bordick also symbolizes the most angry I’ve ever been at a baseball game. Post game I went to the Jays shop IN THE SKYDOME to get a Bordick jersey. He had been on the team over a year and they had none. None. In the team’s home stadium! And it was not because so many like-minded fans were snatching them up like Tickle-Me-Elmos in 1996; no, they just didn’t make any. (Coincidentally, they had about 50 Hinske jerseys that no one has ever worn.)
Stupid Eric Hinske.
If you have any suggestions for future Obscure Players, drop them in the comments.
* – Photo credit: Christine Chew UPI via UPI.com