My participation in Movember this year means–for the first time in my life–I have a mustache. The scratchiness on my upper lip is one thing, but the feeling that I somehow resemble John Wayne Gacy is something else, entirely.
But rather than sharing my facial developments with the world, I’d rather tell a story about somebody else with a mustache. The question is where to start. Nearly all of the Cubs ballplayers I grew up with in the seventies sported a ‘stache: Dave Kingman, Bruce Sutter, Rick Reuschel, and many others I can’t think of at the moment. Instead of commenting on their facial follicles, though, I want to give some recognition to one Denny Lewallyn, My guess is that few, if any, are familiar with his story. That’s what I’m here for, I suppose.
Denny Lewallyn broke into the majors in 1975 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He appeared in two games that year, which is two more games than I and everyone else reading this will ever appear in. It must have been exciting for Lewallyn to think about what lay ahead.
Over the next four seasons, from 1976 through 1979, Lewallyn always pitched in a game or two with the Dodgers at the major league level, after spending the large bulk of the season in the minors. He pitched 17 innings in 1976, and 17 more in 1977, but in 1978 he saw just one two-inning outing for the Dodgers. If a September call-up is a “cup of coffee” in baseballspeak, this isn’t much more than smelling the coffee fumes as they float through the air. But it must have still smelled sweet, all the same.
In the late 1970s, being a marginal big leaguer–as Lewallyn clearly was–didn’t get you anything, from a baseball standpoint. If appearing on a baseball card indicates anything, Lewallyn was never afforded that opportunity with the Dodgers. He went to the Rangers for a year, where he appeared on an insert card for Keebler cookies for the 1980 baseball season..
When his first Topps card appeared in the 1982 Topps set, Lewallyn had big-league service in seven different seasons. Granted, those seven seasons totaled about the same as a six-week stretch for an established big-leaguer. But again, stepping onto a major league field in the first place is something that I can only imagine how it feels.d.
This Denny Lewallyn card is a window into another time and place, where a player had to earn his way onto a baseball card, and where thinking of these things in terms of monetary value was unheard of. I grew up in these times, and I refuse to conform to the thinking that has come into play since then.
I’m offering this early Denny Lewallyn card as an acknowledgement of his major league career (which ended not long after this card appeared in 1980), and as a testament to a time where a baseball card was nothing more than a piece of cardboard with a picture and some numbers on it.
In the spirit of Movember, this post is dedicated to all who have been afflicted–in any way–by prostate or testicular cancer. May all forms of cancer someday become even more rare than Denny Lewallyn’s baseball card.