Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Countdown to 2017 Topps #08: Pagan Feasts

The following post originally appeared on my since-retired thecardchop.wordpress blog. The only thing that has changed is the card (the original featured Pagan's 1977 Hostess card) and a little revision in the text...

They say that food plays an important part in the pagan festivals- of which there are eight. I don't know much about the festivals, nor the rituals- and I don't really care, either. What I do care about, however, is cardboard. We're now only eight days from feasting on new baseball product; to be more precise, we're eight days from 2017 Topps 1.

I also want to mention another part of ancient pagan culture: the, um... *face blushing*... orgies. This practice was about the cult of fertility and the gods associated with the cult. The participants thought that by copulating on the ground, the fertility of the soil would improve, ensuring good harvests. I don't know if the practice is still going on in modern neopagan cults or not, and the only thing even remotely close to these orgies in our modern day (that I can think of, anyway) would be the 'swingers' and wife-swappers of the 70s.

I can't help but think that upon his arrival in the Bronx Zoo, Dave Pagan felt as if he were in a completely different world. Originally from a small farming community in northeast Saskatchewan, Canada, Pagan arrived in the major leagues in July of 1973- just months after Yankee starting pitchers and roommates/best friends Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson announced they had swapped wives families during the 1972 season.

While Kekich was no longer with the Yankees by the time the small-town boy arrived in New York (he had been traded to Cleveland), it appears that many fans didn't know the free spirited Kekich had left town. Pagan was given the former Bomber's number 18 to wear, and because the team didn't place the player's last name on the back of the uniform, many fans mistakenly thought Pagan was the wife-swapper- and let him hear about it, too.

Unfortunately for Pagan, a torn rotator-cuff (coming in his first major league win) would prevent his career from possibly great things. Yankees manager Ralph Houk once told journalist Dave Perkins that Pagan was "going to be the next Bob Gipson." Instead, he became another player that leaves people asking, "what if?"

The Yankees eventually dealt the Canadian righty to the Orioles in the 1976 mega-deal which involved Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May and Scott McGregor for Ken Holtzman, Doyle Alexander and three other players. New York, looking to make the postseason for the first time in more than a decade, sought after veteran pitching and Holtzman had plenty of postseason experience with the Oakland A's during their glory days (although, manager Billy Martin never used the lefty during the '76 postseason. Holtzman watched from the bullpen).

Baltimore left Dave unprotected in the major league's expansion draft following the 1976 season, and he was drafted by Seattle in the 29th round- bringing him back to the area where he played college ball. Dave's time in the Emerald City would be short lived, however. In High and Inside, the memoir of Seattle's first-ever GM, the late Lou Gorman, Pagan is mentioned as a pitcher whom Pittsburgh GM Pete Peterson coveted. The Pirates were contending for the N.L. East title with eventual East champion Philadelphia Phillies and were looking for a veteran pitcher who could help the team in their stretch run. Without much time to agree on players, the two executives agreed that Dave Pagan would go to Pittsburgh for a player to be named later. That player turned out to be Rick Honeycutt, who went on to a pretty solid major league career. Pagan, on the other hand, only had one more major league game in him- throwing three shut-out innings against the Mets on July 27, 1977.

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