Sometimes when I read the backs of these cards, I am like, WTF, what the what, the ladylike, just like me? Yeah I don’t get my brain sometimes either.
I’m not even real sure where to start with this. I’ll go ahead and get the obvious typo out of the way – I don’t think Wasdin “hel opposing hitters…” I’m guessing he held them, held them tight with his clarineting and saxaphoning.
But, let’s dig into the massive factual inaccuracies on the back of the card. I really believe the narrative on the back was written about someone else and they simply assigned it to Wasdin.
I can find no evidence that Wasdin was a classically trained saxophonist or clarinetist. In addition, it’s hard for Wasdin to be a mound Maestro in 1995 given he appeared in just 5 games (and 17.1 IPs) for the Athletics. He didn’t even pitch particularly well: 4.67 ERA and 6.10 FIP. Moreover, he didn’t record a single save in the majors until 1999 and only recorded seven in his major league career and just four in the minors. He might have ranked among the save leaders of those pitchers who appeared on June 11, 1999 – but that’s it.
The actual vignette had to be written about one of a select group: Randy Myers, Tom Henke, Heathcliff Slocumb, Todd Worrell, Roberto Hernandez or John Wettland – as they finished in the top 10 in saves and all had K rates near nine. I couldn’t find any references to Myers, Henke, Slocumb, Worrell or Hernandez. Then, I hit pay dirt (I mean you had to assume it was Wettland, given his first and last name, right?).
Googling John Wettland’s 1996 Topps card leads to this link: http://mikekenny.blogspot.com/2010/07/classic-card-of-week_08.html. So we’ve got a culprit.
Poor John Wasdin, not even good enough to have the anecdote on his rookie card right. And it’s not as if John Wasdin was some career journeyman…yet. He was the 25th overall pick in 1993 and progressed nicely in the minors: before the 1995 season, he was the #53 prospect. The following year he was the #84 prospect.
Unfortunately he could never pitch like Wettland and crisscrossed the country during a 12-year career. In 1997, Wasdin (and cash!) was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Jose Canseco. He played four years for the Red Sox, earned $1.5 million and was worth 1.7 WAR. He was bitten by the Green Monster a lot: 1.4 HR/9, leading to the nickname “Way Back Wasdin” a riff off Jerry Trupiano’s signature homerun call.
Having lived out his welcome in Boston (after two miserable post-season performances against the Indians in 1998 and 1999), Wasdin (along with Jeff Taglienti, Jeff Frye and Bran Rose) was shipped to the Colorado Rockies for Rolando Arrojo, Rich Croushore, Mike Lansing and cash.
He stumbled around from there, pitched a perfect game for the Nashville Sounds that only 750 people saw, and ended up in Japan.
It’s odd to think that the most memorable aspect* of Wasdin’s career is the erroneous back of a baseball card. I certainly never would have investigated his career had I not been initially stunned by the verbiage.
*As Bill Parker, who writes awesomely and uncommonly for the Platoon Advantage, points out: John Wasdin’s change-up in one of the late 90s version of Triple Play was randomly clocked at 120 MPHs. If I knew this, I forgot, if I didnt, I’m ashamed.