Sunday, December 11, 2005

December 11th, 1968

Derek Bell Born

Roger Clemens is a reason baseball is a great game. So is Pedro Martinez. Nolan Ryan? Stan Musial? Babe Ruth? Christy Mathewson? All reasons. But people like Derek Bell are reasons too. He was—and no offense intended here Derek—one of the goofiest looking players ever. He had absurdly big ears, an absurdly thick mustache, and until he was banned from doing so by the league, wore absurdly baggy pants. To compliment this, his personality was a bit unusual as well. After being traded from the Astros to the Mets prior to the 2000 season, Bell sailed his sixty-three foot yacht to Flushing Bay and lived on it for the season.

After a .266/.348/.425 season for the Mets, Cam Bonifay for reasons known only to himself and the voices in his head, signed Bell to a two-year, nine million dollar deal. After an injury plagued first season, in which he batted .173 in just forty-three games, he was massively offended by the suggestion that his job as the team’s right fielder was not guaranteed for 2002. So offended in fact that he announced if manager Lloyd McClendon even so much as suggested his job was in jeopardy “then I’m going into Operation Shutdown”. While a name like Operation Shutdown suggests a vast indifference towards one’s play, it's somewhat unclear how exactly Bell planned to distinguish his not-trying self from the trying one that had hit .173 the year before.

In the end, that question went unanswered as the Pirates released Bell and ate his four and a half million dollar deal. So Derek took his goofy face, his Operation Shutdown, his baggy pants, and sailed his yacht down the Allegheny River and into legend.

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