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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mulliniks’ Moustache #2 – A Note on the Name

Mullinks’ Moustache. It really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

As a subtle nod to one of the most popular Blue Jays-themed blogs – The Tao of Stieb – I decided to (sort of) name my blog after a Blue Jay player of yesteryear. I didn’t choose a great ex-player though; my choice was a little bit more obscure, not quite so obvious, off the beaten path if you will. That ex-player being, of course, Rance Mulliniks: he of the non-prototypical sports body and he of the wonderfully iconic moustache.

I’ve had an odd fascination with Rance Mulliniks for years, and I can’t explain in concrete terms why. I do know that it started very early on in my baseball-watching career, which coincided with the end of Rance’s career, probably 1991 or 1992. How do I know? Because my first memory of Rance Mulliniks is of him coming off the bench to pinch hit. (Fun fact: He was quite skilled at pinch hitting and still holds the franchise record for career pinch hits with 59). The Blue Jays were down, obviously late in the game. The pinch hitter was announced and my eyes slowly crept open in wonderment and awe at this supposed saviour, the Blue Jays last-ditch attempt at offence. What I saw appeared to be a skinny old man, with the most glorious moustache, striding purposefully up to the plate.

My god! I though, His bat is almost the same size of him! How will he even survive, let alone make contact or get a hit? Well, survive he did…barely. I can only assume that he was facing the other team’s closer, a dominant, late-inning specialist, because Ol’ Rance’s swings were something out of a story book, an alternate reality story book from the mind of Seth Grahame-Smith – a turn-the-audience-on-its-head-because-the-hero-sure-isn’t-Casey-At the Bat -this-time-around type story book. Ol’ Rance struck out on 3 pitches. I assume they were fastballs, all right down the middle. Rance was about 10 minutes late on each of them. Pitch, swing, miss. Three times in succession, after which Rance spun on his heels, placed the bat on his shoulder and walked back to his place on the bench.

From that very moment, I was intrigued by how someone of his physical stature could reach the Major Leagues. Every time I opened a pack of baseball cards I was just as happy to see one featuring his glorious mug – the big head, the horn-rimmed glasses, the Adam’s apple, the not-quite-an-athlete’s body – then to see a superstar, a highly-touted rookie, or one of my other favourite players.

But it all comes back to the moustache. It was a thing of beauty. He rocked that soup strainer well before Movember was in vogue. He wore it without even a hint of pointless hipster irony. It was…nay! IT STILL IS, a thing of majestic beauty. In the end, I was transfixed in equal amounts by how overmatched he was, his physical stature and that wonderful, glorious moustache.

So I named this blog in his honour.

As one final note, I would like to interject (…on myself?) and say that it may seem like I’m ragging on Ol’ Rance, but let me state unequivocally and with more than an ounce of envy that he played in the frickin’ Major Leagues, and for a extended period of time (16 years and 1325 games). He played well enough to start on some winning teams and was an integral part of said winning teams. He averaged 120 games per season from 1982-89, during which the Blue Jays really came into their own and started a run of highly competitive seasons. Dude won a World Series!* I really don’t have a right to make fun of this guy, and I’m really not…okay, I guess I am a little.

Check out his stats during the 1985 postseason (the first time the Blue Jays made it to postseason play):

Yes, I know – the dreaded SSS – Small Sample Size, but those numbers aren’t too shabby!

So, if you ever happen to see Rance Mulliniks walking down the street, be sure to let him know about this blog, and REALLY make sure he understands that I’m not making (too much) fun of him.

*Okay, okay, that’s a bit of a technicality – he retired soon after the 1992 season started, but he still would’ve received a World Series ring and is listed as a member of the World Series’ winning team.

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