Monthly Archives: March 1994

Future Stars


Over break, when I wasn’t watching Rikki Lake, I spent a good amount of time in the attic of my house flipping through shoebox after shoebox of old baseball cards. The sheer quantity of cards up there is mind-boggling. Tens of thousands of them, some in plastic sheets, most in carefully labeled boxes with cryptic inscriptions like “Doubles, triples, and quadrooples.” In a market where some cards are worth upwards of $1000, my ongoing quest was always quantity, not quality, and if I don’t have a Nolan Ryan rookie in there somewhere, which I don’t, you can be damn sure you’ll find at least five ’82 Jerry Dybzinskis.

If a picture says as much as everyone says it does, a baseball card says even more. Cards mirror styles of the times: just as “867-5309 (Jenny)” sizzled its way on up the Billboard charts, the ’82 White Sox unveiled their flashy new uniforms, the ones with “SOX” in huge white futuristic letters strewn across the chest. The ’79 San Diego Padres are dudded out in brown and mustard yellow, while the Cleveland Indians of the same year favored hot pink jerseys and pants, accessorized with red-white-and-blue wrap-around belts—both ensembles would fit into an episode of Starsky and Hutch quite nicely.

Then, of course, there are the hairstyles. Gigantic afros on athletes of all races (Oscar Gamble, Warren Brustar, Nino Espinosa). Handlebar moustaches (Rollie Fingers). Absurd sideburns (Rich Gossage). Quite often, all of the above (Ross Grimsley). Embellishment is provided by beads (Kurt Bevaqua), enormous gum bubbles (Kurt Bevaqua again), gold ropes (Jose Rijo), sweatbands with the player’s face embroidered on them (Eric Davis). We live in an incredibly bizarre country and baseball players are not about to let you forget that.

And then, of course, there are the future star cards. The Topps card company prints these because rookies are always the most valuable cards in a set; by putting three or four rookies on one card, Topps triples—or even quadrooples—its chances of producing a card that people will want to buy. The downside of this is that the company stands to embarrass itself if it promotes, say, Marty Bystrom as Future Star God-boy (which it did) when Marty Bystrom looks and pitches like the guy in Blue Lagoon (which he did).

Thus we run into a problem when we learn that in 1980, the Future Stars, the New York Yankees’ soon-to-be proverbial meat of the order, the guys who give 110 percent and keep on givin’, the double-fisted, power-punchin’, almighty super dooper friggin’ FUTURE STARS are Bobby Brown, Brad Gulden, and Darryl Jones.

Kids have to learn about failure somewhere along the line, why wait until pre-algebra? Baseball cards present the perfect forum for a little lesson on the American tragedy. In fact, this particular card presents all the information anyone could possibly need surrounding the Yankees’ metamorphosis from a pennant-winner in 1981 to a team that straight-out sucked in 1982.

Conveniently, the tragedy of the future stars worsens from left to right, so from left to right we shall proceed. Bobby Brown actually put together a decent season once: in 1980, he hit .260 with 14 home runs and stole 27 bases. The following season he saw less action and apparently more curveballs and slipped down to .226 with nary a dong and four stolen bases. The season after that, Bobby found himself as far away from New York as he could possibly be, shagging flies for the Seattle Mariners, having been swapped for Shane Rawley, a ’75 Gremlin, and a box of Fig Newtons. Shane Rawley, naturally, was eventually traded for…shudder…Marty Bystrom. Brown was later sent to the San Diego Padres to model their uniforms; from there he went on to form New Edition.

If you look at Brad Gulden’s lifetime statistics, you can pinpoint in seconds what was without a doubt the best day of his life. In 1980, he had one hit in three trips to the plate. It was a home run. With a .333 batting average (better than Rod Carew) and a home run percentage of 33.3 (better than the Babe), you can just bet Brad Gulden was one happy guy as he trotted those bases in front of thousands of adoring fans. His incredible stats that year just ended up getting him traded, though, again to the Seattle Mariners, this time for Larry Milbourne and a copy of Having Fun with Elvis on Stage. Needless to say, Milbourne was soonafter traded for Butch Wynegar, who no doubt hung out with Marty Bystrom and who later suffered a nervous breakdown at the hands of the merciless New York fans. Brad Gulden was only heard from again in small peeps, finishing his seven-year career with 435 at-bats, a perfect .200 lifetime average, and a videotape of his 1980 home run which he no doubt watches nightly in his trailer back home in Carver, Minnesota.

Darryl Jones, sadly, saw his career both begin and close in 1979, when he hit .255 with six runs batted in in 47 big league at-bats. By now he’s most likely coaching somewhere or another. He has kids who probably don’t laugh at him. He might even go out and have a couple beers with Marty Bystrom every once in a while.

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Last Monday I was sitting in LC 101 taking a midterm, minding my own business, happily humming to myself as I filled in my IDs, when suddenly I was hit with a Question of such immense proportion, of such vast cosmic importance, that I simply had to stop writing. I put my pen down, I took a deep breath, I considered the Question in all its forms and knew that the previous night’s crammed knowledge of Henry James and Louisa May Alcott was going to be of no use whatsoever to me here. For this was a Question that no one in history had dared ask nor ventured to answer, and to me it was far more important than “Discuss the role of the individual in the works we’ve read up to this point.”

The Question was this: How many Skittles would it take to fill up LC 101?

Naturally the Skittles would have to be loose, so that if you opened the lecture room’s door you’d be inundated, maybe even knocked over, by a flood of candy. And how many packs of Skittles would that be? How much would it cost to buy them? How much would all the candy weigh?

Though I have yet to carry out the plan to completion, I now know what it entails should I decide to try one day. First, one pack contains 63 Skittles. (For the record, I use only standard, red-bagged, “Fruit” Skittles, as opposed to neon green Tart n’ Tangy, or the heinous mauve Wild Berry and orange Tropical.) Two packs, totalling 126 Skittles, fill an eight-ounce container. Eight ounces is 236.6 cubic centimeters.

Now then. My foot is 25 centimeters long, and it took 76 heel-to-toe paces to walk the length of LC 101, 51 to walk its width, and 18 to walk up the wall. (Actually, I guesstimated on the wall part.) The room is vaulted, so it has more volume than cubic multiplication might indicate; but I suggest that the stage in the front of the room and all the desks adequately displace whatever’s gained by the vaulting.

Multiplied out, the dimensions of the room are 1900 cm by 1275 cm by 450 cm. That makes for a volume of 1,090,125,000 cubic centimeters. Now all we need is a little division to conclude that in order to fill LC 101 to the gills with Skittles, you’d need 580,539,941 of them. That’s 9,214,919 packs. At 55 cents per, the running WaWa price, you’d have to shell out $5,068,205.83 (Ernie would probably have a fit)—but don’t forget that the 6% Connecticut sales tax would set you back another $304,092.35, so in the end you’d spend $5,372,298.18.

Once you bought the Skittles you’d have to figure out how to carry them the one block from Wa’s to LC; remember that you have more than nine million packs, which at 2.17 ounces each translates to 625 tons. Fortunately, there’s Valley Sand and Gravel out in North Haven: you could park a fleet of 31 three-axle, 20-ton capacity dump trucks along York Street to do the job.

Imagine now that all the Skittles have been paid for and transported. LC 101 is full. What happens next? Do the half-billion odd Skittles simply go to waste? Shouldn’t somebody eat them? I think we can all tell where the argument is heading. Thus the second major question: What would happen if you ate nothing but Skittles for an indefinite period? Would you die?

For this part I consulted Health & Fitness Works in Milford, Dr. Suzanne P. Quintner, head honcho. Though Skittles do contain 30 mg Vitamin C (50% of your US recommended daily allowance), all in all they really aren’t very good for you. The biggest problem is that they don’t have any protein. If you ate Skittles exclusively, you’d sink into Protein Deficiency Syndrome, or kwashiorkor. The first symptom is apathy: you’d no longer care about your tragic predicament, you’d stop looking for ways to escape LC, you’d forget to vote.

Then your muscle mass would begin to break down, so physically, your body wouldn’t be able to keep up with the energy rushes the Skittles would provide. You’d get weaker and weaker. Standing up would bring about tremendous head rushes. At this point you’d probably stop having enough energy even to brush your teeth, so you’d be a victim of profound mouth rot and cankor sores as well, not to mention severe sugar-induced acne. This process would take many weeks, and you’d spend most of your time sitting, carving things into the desks, if you could even manage that.

After a few more weeks of the Skittle Kwashiorkor Diet you’d start to notice that your new hair and skin was being produced without pigment because of protein deprivation. Eventually your weakness and apathy would shift into anemia. Here’s where things start getting bleak. Your blood would lose its ability to clot, production of digestive enzymes would become severely limited, you’d start to suffer from fatty liver and constant diarrhea. At this point almost anything, with the possible exception of scurvy, could knock you out for good—a cold, skinning your knee, dehydration, dysentery. As you breathed your last you’d curse the bite-sized candy that bit you, and hope that the ambrosia flowing in the afterlife doesn’t come in strawberry, grape, lemon, lime, or orange.

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