Today we'll be looking at some baseball cards featuring one of the forgotten Royals. His name is Luis Manuel de los Santos Martinez, and despite being a second-round draft pick in 1984 and one of the top minor league hitters for several years, he never really got much of a chance with Kansas City.
De los Santos was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in Queens with ten other siblings. He was a tall, lanky first basemen who hit a lot but didn't have much power. He still managed to rack up the RBI, maintain a healthy average, make several minor-league all-star teams, and win the 1988 American Association MVP.
So why don't most Royals fans know who he is? Well, DeLo only played in two short stints with the big-league club in 1988 and 1989, managing a little over 100 at-bats total. His average wasn't great and he didn't hit a home run, but he was still just 22 years old and one of the top players in AAA. In 1988, USA Today ran a piece on DeLo comparing him to Don Mattingly. In 1989, he had a brief moment of glory when his two-RBI hit beat Tommy John in New York against the Yankees. But he didn't get called up at all in 1990, and the Royals released him in April of 1991.
To be fair, the Royals had a good first baseman in DeLo's prime years: future Hall of Famer George Brett. But they also had a lot of other shit first basemen on the big league roster during these years, including Bill Buckner, Steve Balboni, Pat Tabler, and Todd Benzinger (who was the starter in 1991 when de los Santos was released). DeLo could also play third, but Kevin Seitzer was firmly entrenched there. His basic problem was that he wasn't a power hitter at a time when his positions were increasingly determined by home run totals.
Luis de los Santos would play a little bit in 1991 for the Tigers, bounce around their minor league system for a couple of years, then head off into the world. He played for teams in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Mexico, and Italy over the next decade. He came back to the States in 2002 and ended his professional dream with the Rochester Red Wings, Baltimore's AAA affiliate.
"Thanks," you're probably saying, "for making me read 400 words on some loser who has the same number of major league home runs as I do. Very educational. But none of this is funny. Make with the comedy bits."
This is where DeLo's baseball cards come into play.
See, despite all that stuff up there, I didn't know de los Santos any better than you before I did the research.
In fact, I'll tell you why he made a lasting impression on me as a youngster:
HE SCARED THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME.
When I was a kid, my older siblings subjected me to a lot of stuff I shouldn't have been seeing: Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, Small Wonder, you name it. If it was scary or gory or gross or playing on KZKC Channel 62, we were watching it.
And Luis de los Santos was scarier than Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy, Pinhead, and Vicki combined. DeLo looked like a surlier version of doomed character actor Rick Aviles, probably best known as Willie Lopez in the hit film Ghost. I saw DeLo in games on TV some, sure, but he really made this disturbing impression on me with his baseball cards.
Here, have a look at this dude's scowl, his thousand-yard stare, his creepy molestache, and tell me he wouldn't frighten a 1980s pre-pubescent surbanite:
1986 Jennings Southern League All-Stars #9:
1988 ProCards Triple A All-Stars #30:
1989 Fleer #646:
1989 Upper Deck #12:
1989 Fleer Update #37:
1990 CMC Triple A All-Stars #2:
For years, I had nightmares about DeLo slowly murdering me with a Louisville Slugger: his furrowed brow, his clenched jaw, and his jheri curl spattered red with my blood, brains, and entrails.
But hey, apparently he was a pretty good baseball player, too, who just never got his shot.
Go Royals! You're the Best!