Thursday, April 3, 2014

Card #9: Ron Guidry

Who Can It Be Now?
Ronald Ames Guidry was born in 1950 in Lafayette, Louisiana.  The nickname I recall vividly for him was "Louisiana Lightnin'"; he also had the nickname of "Gator."  Without a doubt, Guidry was one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball in 1982.   By the time this card rolled off the printers, Guidry was already a two-time all-star and a Cy Yount Award winner for his incredible 1978 season: 25 wins against just 3 losses, a 1.74 ERA (and an ERA+ of 208, meaning he was twice as good as everyone else in the league at preventing runs), 248 strikeouts, and 8.2 K/9 innings.  

Louisiana Cookin'
As some of you may recall, it took a good while for people outside of urban areas to get cable TV.  In fact, where I grew up, we did not get cable TV at the house until some time in 1993 or 1994!  What that meant was we watched the over-the-air networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox (later) and any independent TV stations that were available.  

One of our favorite TV shows on a cold Saturday in Milwaukee was watching this Cajun crazy man named Justin Wilson on his show Louisiana Cookin' tell stories and maybe cook something too.  The show came on the air for the first time in 1982.  

Here's a sample of Wilson telling a joke about a prize bull:

In honor both of Justin Wilson and Ron Guidry, if there are any more stories about cooking or food, they will fall under the "Louisiana Cookin'" category.

At an appearance in 2010 in upstate New York near Albany, Guidry told a story about the Yankees playing an exhibition game against Grambling (and see this link for a great story showing that George Steinbrenner cared deeply about things other than firing Billy Martin and confirming that the exhibitions did take place) on campus at Grambling.  

Seeing as that was probably as close to Lafayette as Ron would get that year until after the season, Guidry's parents drove the three hours to Grambling, Louisiana.  Ron insisted that they bring along two frozen rabbits that he had shot and, since Guidry wasn't pitching that day, he and his parents tailgated together and cooked a rabbit stew.  That's when Steinbrenner caught wind of the stew and ambled over.  Here's where the blog from the Albany Times Union takes over:

Mr. Guidry, what are you cooking?” he asked the dad.
“I’m cooking Ronnie up a rabbit stew. Why don’t you sit down and try some?”
Guidry picks up the story …
“Well, every spring after that I had to cook (Steinbrenner) a rabbit stew and bring it to him in spring training. I cooked his rabbit stew for him this year. He had his rabbit stew and it was great that he had his last rabbit stew. … The family told me that the only time that he eats it is when when we cook it. So that was a compliment.”

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
With Card #10 being Guidry "In Action" (despite the fact that his base card looks pretty active to me already), I'm going to save a few thoughts for then.  

That said, one thing that puzzled me for a while after Guidry retired was why there hasn't been a hue and cry for Guidry to be considered more seriously for the Hall of Fame.  As I said above, in 1982, Guidry was certainly one of the top pitchers in the game.  He was in his prime -- aged 30 -- and on a good team in the major media market for the New York team at the time.

Despite all this, Guidry barely hung on at the bottom of the BBWAA ballots from 1994 through 2002 -- never getting more than 8.8% of the vote until he received 4.9% of the vote in 2002 and was dropped from the ballot.  

So what happened?  

There are a few things that happened here.  First, Guidry hit the disabled list several times during his career.  Certainly, with his slight build, that might have been inevitable, but it cost him in the counting statistics during the prime of his career.  

Next, reviewing his complete career stats, after 1982, Guidry enjoyed three more top-notch seasons, two mediocre seasons, and two seasons where it appeared that he was breaking down due to age and infirmities.  Starting at age 33, Guidry hit 200 innings only one time -- his excellent 1985, where he threw 259 innings and won 22 games.  Otherwise, he missed starts fairly regularly with elbow, rib, and shoulder issues.  

The basic problem for Guidry's Hall of Fame candidacy is that he does not have the career stats to make the case to get in, and the BBWAA (and the Veterans Committee) have more stringent standards on career stats these days than they did back in the days that they admitted Sandy Koufax, Dizzy Dean, and Rube Waddell into the Hall.  

Maybe some day it will happen, and if being the best pitcher in baseball for at least 5 seasons can be a qualifying factor, then Guidry should get in.

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