Friday, July 07, 2006

July 7th, 1995

Al Unser Dies

Earlier this year, I did an entry on Terry Bradshaw the mediocre baseball player as opposed to the Hall of Fame quarterback. Today we come to Al Unser, the mediocre ballplayer as opposed to the all-time great race car driver. (Having done some research, I can report that Unser is actually a member of not one, but two racing Hall of Fames, so I guess he can be described as Hall of Fame race car driver.) Baseball Al Unser was actually a pretty decent minor league player, winning an MVP for the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association in 1951 but as a Major League player he simply wasn't very good. Playing in the World War II years, Unser managed just a career .251 average and 90 OPS+ across almost four hundred plate appearances.

Al Unser is nearly the only prominent racing name to occur at the highest levels--shocking, I know, that there has never been a Major Leaguer named Arie Luyendyk. There was a Jessie Lee Petty, who shared his middle and last names with the patriarch of NASCAR's Petty racing dynasty, but he went by Jesse instead of Lee. The man some consider to be the best "natural racer" of all-time, Scotsman Jim Clark, shares his name with three highly mediocre players, but he represents the exception rather than the rule. The ultimate example of that exception, however, remains Al Unser.

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