Twins Porn 3/25/13

In last week’s Twins Porn, we took a look at a MLB opener played in the snow, actor Kurt Russell‘s career as a minor league baseball player, and a kid named Alex George who played his entire MLB career before turning 17. Today, we’ll take an ESPN The Magazine MLB player poll and go off on a tangent, look at the minor league career of the guy who founded ‘Pizza Pizza,’ and pay homage to the man who invented the high five.

Forgive me if you’ve read something along these lines too many times, but in the current ESPN The Magazine MLB preview, a player poll found that five percent know gay players. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Hell, the only thing that might be surprising is that the number is so low.

The poll reminded me of another article I read last year where incoming NFL rookies were asked about how they would feel about a gay teammate. Nothing but support and empathy. You can debate how much of an education a lot of college football players actually get, but the fact remains that these are young, self-confident, educated men that have spent the past few years in relatively liberal environs. It would be surprising if they felt differently.

It’s a nice, heart-warming article, but if you read between the lines, there seems to be an undercurrent of, “well, I think a lot of athletes would have a problem with it, but I certainly wouldn’t.” But the Torii Hunters and Tim Hardaways of the professional sports world seem to be the exception to the rule. So why haven’t we seen an openly gay player in any one of the four major sports, let alone MLB?

The conventional wisdom seems to be that a star-caliber player would have to be the torch-bearer for visible, openly gay players in major sports, a player their team could not do without. A player just trying to make the roster, this reasoning goes, could easily be jettisoned. The star would force the team’s hand.

I think that’s a crock. The players that have come out of the closet publicly have all done so after retiring, and it’s hard to imagine a star player suddenly professing his homosexuality at the pinnacle of his career, unless some sort of scandal forced his hand. We’ll see an openly gay player in MLB sooner rather than later, but it’s going to be a kid who spent a couple of years playing college ball. Anyway, that’s the way I see it.

Mike Ilitch Played Baseball

He’s the founder of Little Caesar’s Pizza, and owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, the Twins Opening Day opponent. But before becoming filthy rich, Ilitch got dirty playing four seasons of minor league baseball.

A native of Detroit, Ilich spent four years in the military after high school and was offered a contract by the Tigers upon his return. He played mostly second base in the Detroit, Yankees and Washington systems, before a knee injury forced his retirement. He never hit more than one home run in a season, but he did twice hit over .300, including .324 in his second-to-last season.

The photo at the top of this post is of the Miami Beach Flamingos, a team that Ilich played for, although the photo is undated. Yes, they played in shorts.

Glenn Burke Invented the High Five

He was also the only openly gay player to his teammates as far as we know, and the first to announce so publicly after his retirement. But we’ve talked about homosexuality in baseball enough for one day, so let’s focus on the high five.

Burke dominated the minors, hitting for average and decent power, and swiping as many as 63 bases in a season. He came up with the LA Dodgers in 1976, the same season that Dusty Baker joined the club. The following year, in the final game of the season, Baker hit his career-high 30th home run. Burke ran out to congratulate Baker, enthusiastically holding his hand high above his head. Baker didn’t know what to do, so he just slapped it. Burke came up and knocked out his first MLB home run, and Baker returned the favor. The rest is history.

There are plenty of other claims to the first high five, but this is definitely the one that popularized it and made the celebratory greeting a cultural staple, so that’s the one that counts in my book.

This Week’s Number: 7

That’s the number of days left until Twins Opening Day.

This Week’s Fact: Ted Williams had at least one hit in all 14 Opening Days he played in.

Here’s Ilitch in a Little Caesar’s commercial from the early 90s:

Pizza for a buck? And if I listed all of the philanthropic work this guy has undertaken, I’d be writing a much, much longer article. He seems like an alright guy, even if he does run the Tigers.

It looks like the Twins roster is almost set, with just a couple of bullpen spots up for grabs. The next few days will be make-or-break for a few players. We’ll take a look at how the bullpen competition has played out tomorrow.

 

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Topics: Glenn Burke, Mike Ilitch, Minnesota Twins

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