July 3, 2012

Royals vs. Cards III: The Time of Great Giving

I have to come clean about something.  In my last Royals vs. Cards post, I told you I collected POGs and pornography.  That was sort of a lie. I never really collected POGs.

Anyway, today we'll be looking at some cards featuring former Royal stud closer, Jeffrey Thomas Montgomery.  Monty pitched almost his entire career for the Royals, only appearing in 14 games for the Reds in 1987 and coming over to KC in '88 in a trade for Van Snider. Since I don't know who the hell Van Snider is, I'd say the Royals got the better end of that deal. Mongomery was an extremely effective closer for Kansas City for nearly a decade, appearing in three All-Star Games, tying Quisenberry for the team's season record for saves in 1993 with 45, and winning various awards, such as the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, Sporting News Fireman of the Year, and Royals Pitcher of the Year. He even garnered a couple of AL MVP votes in 1993.

But it wasn't all sunshine, lollipops, and moonbeams for Monty.  He also struggled at times in the closer role.  He led the American League in blown saves in the 1990s with 66. In 1999, Monty completely lost his stuff, and became maybe the most hated player on that team, blowing seven saves before losing the job. Monty openly questioned manager Tony Muser's decision, saying, "I had a chance to go other places as a setup guy for a heck of a lot more money. Tony has never been on a major league mound and doesn't know how it feels not to be sharp. But he's the manager, and we'll do what he says." Monty retired at the end of the year with a 6.84 ERA and only 12 saves. The Royals would sign Ricky Bottalico to be their new closer, with predictable results.

Jeff Montgomery was later inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame and has returned to the team in recent years as one of the analysts on the FSKC Royals Pre- and Post-Game shows, and occasionally spelling Rex Hudler in the booth.  While Rex is loud and overconfident, Monty is quiet and awkward, leading to a sharp divide in the fan base over which color man sucks more.

Now let's take a visual look at Monty's career, through the magic of baseball cards.

1989 Donruss #440:

Younger Royals fans may not know this, but Joakim Soria was not the first prominently unibrowed closer for the team. For the first few years of the 90s, Monty would stare down the opposing batters looking like one of the McPoyles.  Truly frightening.

 1998 Topps #184:

This is clearly a take on the whole "Fireman" nickname for closers.  But I'd have to say Topps took it too far here, as Monty looks more like a Hot Cop, a Magic Mike, a dong-flashing stripper, if you will, than a fireman.  I mean, check out the vinyl vest.  Looks like something you pick up at Priscilla's.  And the way he's holding the extinguisher?  The only fires he's dealing with are the ones burning in the loins of homely, overweight, middle-aged women with no shame.

 1995 Topps Stadium Club Members Only #148:


 Here we have another shot of Monty as a fireman, holding the hose with a look of determination on his face.  
But look out, he's about to be flattened by that runaway ambulance!

I guess here is as good a place as any to stop and rant about something. I've always taken issue with this "Fireman" nickname for closers.  The point is, I guess, that they come in and put out fires.  But rarely is that what a closer does. Most of them come in at the start of an inning with no men on and a lead of one to three runs, which is hardly a fire.  The other issue I have with this principle is that the other big metaphor used for closers has them throwing fire or heat.  Which is it?  Do they put out fires or throw fires?  As Emil Brown would say, "Get a clue, Based Balls!"

Which leads us to the counterexample I was just talking about,
1996 Topps Laser #124: 

Of course, Topps has gotten the fireballer imagery all wrong here, as it looks like a giant, flaming baseball has burst forth from the mound, done a 360 in the air, and is about to blow Monty to smithereens.  Also, what the hell do fireballs have to do with lasers, Topps?  Lasers appeal to sci-fi nerds and flames appeal to douchebags who like to paint stupid shit on the side of their cars.

1991 Topps #371:

Topps caught Monty in an awkward moment here.  First, he's wearing a visor, which tells me he's just come from his other job as a blackjack dealer or from the set of a 1980s teen movie as the nerdy friend in love with Molly Ringwald. Second, he has yellow headphones from a Walkman dangling around his neck.  I'm guessing he was just listening to some C + C Music Factory, it being 1991 and all.

1997 Metal Universe #95:

Give me lasers, fireballs, and rubber hoses any day over whatever the hell is going on here. I've looked and looked at this card and can't figure out what I'm seeing.  I guess his pitching arm is a giant metal blur?  Or is it an arm gun, like in the much-maligned 1978 sci-fi turd Laserblast?

This poster is a million times better than the movie.

 1992 Studio #190:

We'll wrap up with this lovely card. The Studio brand is the baseball card equivalent of a senior photo for the yearbook. Here we have Monty seated awkwardly, turned with his hand against his face, his mulleted tresses delicately laying on his shoulder.  It's like he's saying, "Have a K.A. Summer! Stay sweet! L.Y.L.A.S!" 

Go Royals!  Stay Sweet!


  1. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Man, that visor in the '91 card. Flash back there. It was a give away item one year and the white plastic part of the visor could be taken off leaving just an uncomfortable blue headband with cardboard and metal snaps.

  2. Anonymous12:27 PM

    Watch out for the guns. They'll get ya.


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