If fame's really fleeting, Deshaies will pick it off

Pitcher's Cooperstown bid appears way off base but even farther off wall

Sports Plus

January 07, 2001|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

The Baseball Hall of Fame has two No. 41s (Tom Seaver and Eddie Mathews), a No. 42 (Jackie Robinson), three No. 44s (Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey) and a No. 45 Bob Gibson.

Who's next? Why not No. 43 (Jim Deshaies)?

His induction "would provide the missing numerical link," according to putjdinthehall.com, a tongue-in-cheek Web site devoted to the cause of making sure that a left-handed pitcher with a career record of 84-94 doesn't get shut out in voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

The "One Man, One Vote" site was created by former Florida Marlins publicist Chuck Poole and former New York Mets assistant publicist Craig Sanders on behalf of the most unlikely candidate among the 32 players on the 2001 ballot.

"Our initial slogan was `The Drive for Five.' We were hoping for 5 percent of the vote [to keep Deshaies on the ballot next year]," Poole said. "But that didn't work for Ralph Nader, so we'll settle for one vote."

Deshaies - perhaps most famous for his Chris Berman-coined nickname, Jim "Two Silhouettes on" Deshaies - made it to the ballot by getting the minimum two votes from the six-member BBWAA screening committee. That's two more than he's likely to get in voting announced Jan. 16, but let Deshaies make his case:

"I struck out the first eight batters I faced in a game, which is a record," he said. "I set the record for pickoff attempts to first base in a season, which I think is still standing. And I set the major-league record for most at-bats without an extra-base hit,which I think still stands.

"The Hall of Fame is full of great players. It's high time they put some mediocre ones in there."

Visitors to the Web site are asked to vote for which cap Deshaies should wear into the Hall should he get 75 percent of the vote: New York Yankees, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants or LeMoyne College.

Then there is a Letterman-style Top 10 list on why Deshaies, the pride of Massena, N.Y., (if you don't count Hal Smith, who played town drunk Otis Campbell on "The Andy Griffith Show"), deserves a vote for the Hall:

10. Promises to write clearly at all Hall of Fame autograph sessions.

9. Reputed baseball wit Larry Andersen will give his induction speech.

8. Voting serves as LeMoyne College Alumnus of the Year runoff with Tom Browning.

7. Inspiration everywhere to slow-footed left-handers with minimal bat speed.

6. Always subscribed to the theory that you have to throw hard to have a ball hit that far.

5. Continued easy column note fillers for desperate baseball columnists over the winter months.

4. Vows never to be introduced as "Hall of Fame Nominee," except each night at the dinner table.

3. He might have hung a few breaking pitches, but he'll hang no chad.

2. Free passes to your next trip to the Bowling Hall of Fame.

1. Crucial publicity bounce for upcoming "Principals of Throwing to First Base" video series.

Hall of shame candidates

Though Deshaies holds the record for most career at-bats without an extra-base hit (373) and compiled just an .088 batting average, he might not have been the worst hitter ever.

Randy Tate was 0-for-41 lifetime. Ron Herbel hit .029 in 206 career at-bats. And Tom Oliver batted 1,931 times without homering.

Close your eyes and swing

Deshaies may be retired, but his legacy of bad hitting lives on.

At one point two seasons ago, the Cincinnati Reds' Chris Stynes was hitting .043.

"I don't look at the scoreboard, or I'd cry," he said. "And it's tough to hit when you're crying."

The Philadelphia Phillies' Scott Rolen struck out five times in a game in 1999.

"I've always prided myself on not striking out four times in a game," he said. "And I still haven't."

Not crossing his fingers

Sometimes, hitters will resort to good-luck charms to get a base hit (or a Hall of Fame induction). Not Deshaies.

"I think everyone gets caught up in superstitions," he once said. "But I don't put much stock in them - knock on wood."

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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