For the first time in my fourteen month Twitter history, someone other than “Bad Henry” Aaron serves as the avatar for my account. Many in the Twitter-verse change avatars frequently, but I never felt a need for Aaron to leave as the icon for my account. But, my participation in Jeff Polman’s Mysteryball ’58 inspired me to honor Jeff’s effort in some way. So why is it that Vada Pinson follows Henry Aaron?
In October, 1995, Vada Pinson passed away. I never saw Pinson play. But that autumn day as my favorite team was three games away from a World Series victory, I flipped through the sports section of USA Today at work and read about Vada Pinson. I believe it was an article by Tom Weir entitled “Pinson’s Greatness Lost Among Legends of 60’s“. At the time of his death, Pinson was one of four players to collect 2,500 hits, 250 home runs and 250 stolen bases. The other three are in the Hall of Fame: Willie Mays, Joe Morgan and Andre Dawson. Pinson was one of those true under-appreciated superstar players who I enjoy to discover in my baseball simulation replays. However the author continued, sharing a memory from his childhood in which he discovered the local hotel in which the Reds were staying during a road trip during the season. The author made his way through the lobby and found his way to the room of Vada Pinson. He knocked on Mr. Pinson’s door, and then, recounted how gracious Mr. Pinson was to this young fan who interrupted his period of rest. Vada Pinson was one of those people that received and gave respect from all whose path he crossed.
In my mind, I have grouped this newspaper article with other stories that kindled my interest in baseball history. Five years earlier, there was William Nack’s story of Willard Hershberger that appeared in Sports Illustrated. In 1993, there was the secret from the 1925 World Series that Steve Wulf revealed Sam Rice kept to his grave. In fact, that summer issue of SI is a treasure trove of baseball lore. I read about Kenny Hubbs, about a marathon game in 1963 between Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn, and I read about Vada Pinson. These stories led me to books by David Halberstam and Robert Creamer, and as they say, the rest is history.
So why Vada Pinson? Vada Pinson represents the journey to my appreciation for baseball history as well as that overlooked gem from days gone by. Or maybe it’s just that Pinson’s 1958 rookie card fits the film noir feel of Mysteryball ’58 perfectly.